Rangers getting ready to make step up

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TEN YEARS have passed since Kirk Deighton Rangers dipped their toes into the West Yorkshire League.

TEN YEARS have passed since Kirk Deighton Rangers dipped their toes into the West Yorkshire League.

A brave foray following the turn of the millennium failed to go according to plan.

But ambition burns brightly at Barr Field with chairman Dan Jones intent on returning to the West Yorkshire set-up and this time staying there.

Formed way back in 1948, Deighton are the reigning champions of the Harrogate League Premier Division and a club with much more to boast about than just silverware.

Because as well as a 66-year-history, Rangers also own their own ground at Barr Field thanks to an important purchase for £500 in the 1970s.

A clubhouse followed in the 1980s and three decades on, 42-year-old former Rangers junior Jones is the man at the helm having taken over as chairman from Steven Kilpatrick in 2011.

The sales development manager is deeply proud of Deighton though admits even keeping the club afloat and paying the monthly £400 Barr Field overheads is far from easy.

Yet there’s no denying both the ambition and potential of the Harrogate League’s top dogs whose chairman admits a second crack at the West Yorkshire League is inevitable with confidence high that this time the move will be for keeps.

Jones told the YEP: “I think for the standard of football we play at, owning all our own facilities is something that we’ve very, very proud of.

“Sometimes it can be a little bit of a hindrance around your neck because before you start every month we have got to find £400 to keep the place ticking over if you like and it’s very, very difficult to keep it solvent on a monthly basis. “But we always manage just to keep our heads above water and it’s my driving force to see the club back in the West Yorkshire League. That’s the ultimate goal.

“I think it’s a place where we need to play our football and you’ve got people like Wetherby and Bardsey around you that are all playing West Yorkshire League football.

“For us to progress as a club on the field, I think we need to be in the West Yorkshire League. It’s very, very difficult to pull in that next calibre of player when you are playing in the Harrogate Premier League and that’s no disrespect to it. It’s just you’ve got your Wetherbys, Bardseys and Knaresborough Towns all within quite close proximity to us and if there’s a new player in the area looking for a decent standard of football we find it very hard to compete.”

Jones can well remember the club’s last foray into the West Yorkshire which came at a time when today’s chairman was manager of the Saturday reserves side. That team were promoted to Harrogate League Premier Division as the Deighton firsts left that division to embark on a new challenge in Division One of the West Yorkshire.

Jones says having too many youngsters and no strength in depth proved the masterplan’s undoing.

Jones explained: “We were quite a young side and we lost a lot of players to university. Trying to field two teams – one in West Yorkshire and one in the Harrogate Premier Division, we just could not get two sides that were competitive.

“It ended up with the West Yorkshire side being relegated into Division Two and we just found it a struggle for numbers.

“After we got relegated and I think we had a season in Division Two and ultimately the decision was taken that we just could not field two competitive sides.

“We maybe did it the wrong way round and maybe we should have walked away from the Harrogate League and stayed in the West Yorkshire League but we had a long standing affinity with the Harrogate League. I think that’s why we I did it.

“But today I’ve no doubts in my mind that we would be competitive in the West Yorkshire League.

“The last two or three years we have been approached every year by the West Yorkshire League but I would say let’s look at defending the championship this year and then seriously look at moving next year.”

Last year’s league triumph was particularly poignant for Deighton whose club stalwart and former midfielder Mark Trower died playing football aged 49 in the spring. And there’s no hiding the close-knit nature of the Barr Field outfit whose current chairman Jones is a one-club man, as is first team manager Dan Marshall.

Treasurer Dean Buckle and his wife Mally are two other long standing Deighton die-hards. Jones is deeply proud of his club’s history and family feel but admits last year’s title triumph was long overdue.

“We had a great spell in the late 90s – we won the league in 99 and the year before that we won the treble but since then it’s been a bit of a lean patch,” said Jones, married to independent financial advisor Sarah and dad to 18-month-old Ellis.

“I think for a club of our stature, 15 years was probably a little bit too long to have no league success really even though we’d been knocking on the door.

“The previous year we only lost out by one point to Beckwithshaw and we’ve always been there or thereabouts but you’ve had teams like Garforth Town, Sherwood, Thackley and Eccleshill – really big established clubs that have got first teams that play at a higher level.”

The chairman is particularly pleased with the blossoming relationship with Grange Park-based Kirk Deighton Juniors which already looks a likely future stomping ground for young Ellis.

Jones reasoned: “We’ve got some good youngsters coming through and we’ve got established first team players that are in their early 20s as well.

“Kirk Deighton Juniors is run almost as a separate entity and they are pretty self sufficient and do their own bit but we’ve built up a really good relationship with a lady called Nicky Holliday and her husband Steve.

“Nicky is the vice-chair at the juniors and she is a very big supporter of the club and she’s actively promoting the juniors going into the senior football because her son plays for the Saturday first team as well.

“Dan Marshall’s young lad Freddie is down at the juniors at the moment in the under-7s and they do a kiddies’ section down there as well. Fingers crossed Ellis will take to football and one day I might be coaching at the juniors!”

Expect the seniors to by in the West Yorkshire by then – and staying there.

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