Yeadon Veterans’ seven-match winning streak is down to organisation, vision and hard work not simply luck. Lee Sobot reports.
After a perfect seven wins out of seven, Yeadon Veterans might be sorry to see the end of 2014 when the clock chimes 12 tonight.
Yet the Vets are champing at the bit for 2015 – with dining at the top table of the Leeds Combination League next on the thriving team’s radar.
Formed in 2008, Yeadon Veterans were put together to give ‘oldies’ aged 35 or over a regular game of football. Six years on they’re one of the most progressive clubs in Yorkshire Sunday league football, with topping the Wharfedale Triangle League hoped to be just the beginning. In their second stint and sixth season in the Wharfedale Triangle League, Yeadon have conceded just six goals from seven league games this term and blasted in 29. A repeat of both 2011-12 and 2012-13 looks on the cards, seasons in which Veterans were crowned Premier Division champions after losing only three matches in total.
Seeking a new challenge, the thriving team chanced their arm in the powerful Leeds Combination League last term with the club placed in the second tier – the Premier Division. For once, Wharfedale District Cup runners-up Yeadon were denied a divisional title – by Pudsey Liberal Club – and one year on Yeadon are back in the Wharfedale Triangle League.
But the unbeaten team remain determined to make their point in the Leeds Combination League, secretary Rick Hartley acknowledging that the Combination presents the ultimate challenge for Sunday league Yorkshire football, and a challenge Yeadon are likely to rise to in 2015.
“After winning the Wharfedale Triangle League two years in a row the decision was made to join another league so we play at a better standard,” explained Hartley.
“We were successful in applying to become members of the Leeds Combination and placed into the Premier Division and we finished runners up to Pudsey Liberal Club by a point.
“The club then had a players’ meeting in which they voted to return to the Wharfedale Triangle League due to lack of changing facilities when travelling to away matches in the Leeds Combination. But having been involved in local football for over 30 years I can honestly say the Leeds Combination is the best-run league I have been involved with, and the committee and the referees are all first class. “This season has seen us win our first seven league matches, plus we are still in two cup competitions. But a return to the Leeds Combination is not out of the question and a place in the Jubilee Premier would be sought if we applied to return. The players are good enough to compete at this high level. We have made good progress in the last year or so, although the Wharfedale Triangle League standard is way below the premier of the Leeds Combination. But we have maintained a high level of commitment from the squad and if we can recruit one or two quality players then the Jubilee Premier would be a major consideration for 2015.”
Whatever the new year holds, there’s no denying the lightning-fast progress at a club formed in 2008 by current manager Paul Murray and Craig Auton with the idea to give players aged over 35 a regular game. After two seasons finishing mid-table in Division One of the Wharfedale Triangle League, Murray made the decision to incorporate younger players with talent to learn from the senior players and that decision formed the basis of today’s squad. Yeadon also benefited from the folding of Wharfedale Triangle League Premier Division outfit Clothiers Yeadon in 2010 with a large influx of former Clothiers players joining the Veterans revolution.
The Vets set their sights on gaining Premier Division status which was achieved by gaining a runners-up position in Division One as part of a season that also featured three cup finals – Yeadon winning the Wharfedale Triangle League Cup on penalties after a 0-0 draw against Red Lion Guiseley but losing narrowly in the WRCFA Sunday Trophy 4-3 to Pak Rangers and again chinned 4-3 in the Wharfedale District Cup Final to Ventus United.
But back-to-back Premier Division titles followed though again cup heartache was on the agenda with Midland Bingley the 2-0 victors in the 2011-12 Wharfedale Triangle League Cup and Ilkley Dynamo 3-0 winners in the following season’s Wharfedale District Cup.
That season’s Wharfedale Triangle League Cup joy provided cup compensation and Yeadon certainly signed off in style from the Wharfedale Triangle League with a record 16-0 hammering of Yeadon Athletic in the spring of 2013 which took striker Craig Nicholls’ goal tally to an amazing 68 strikes in 31 matches.
Nicholls, 22, who also plays for Silsden AFC on a Saturday, has since reached 150 goals for the last three seasons, and Yeadon also benefit from the services of 48-year-old Auton – in is 33rd unbroken season having scored more goals than any other player in the history of the Wharfedale Triangle League. Yeadon’s club captain Lee Poole also played for Guiseley AFC in the late 90s and remains the driving force in central midfield at 38. Hartley admits that if his side do have an Achilles heel it is Father Time. The secretary explained: “The older ones in our team are aged 38, 40 and 46 in Darren Auton and the ones that arrived from Clothiers are now about 30 years old.
“Our youngest player is 22 but there is a concern as long term the older players can only have one or two seasons left in them, in my opinion.
“They have all played Saturday and Sunday for a long time at a decent level and injuries take longer to recover from. To compete in the Jubilee Premier of the Combination we need players of a high standard and they are not easy to find.”
Therein lies the challenge presenting itself in 2015 which will now be seen in when the clock chimes 12 tonight. Yeadon Veterans have recently moved to a new headquarters at the Albert Inn, Yeadon but Hartley, aged 50, insists there will be no wild club party for New Year’s Eve.
“There’s nothing planned and we had a Christmas outing in Harrogate in December,” said Guiseley-based Hartley.
“We’ll all meet up next time a week on Sunday for our next league match.”
Based on a season that’s begun with seven wins out of seven, it’s a fair bet they’ll still be celebrating all the same.