Sunday Service: Chapel Allerton FC were formed from the ashes of a work team Civica FC, but have continued to make progress as Rob Conlon reports.
Seven-a-side football can be a time when grown men live out their childhood dreams.
A strong tackle, pinpoint pass or classy finish can’t help but make even the most scornful of men quietly pretend they are gracing the Elland Road turf alongside their heroes.
Alex Lyons, alongside his fellow employees at Civica, were left so encouraged by their performances in the intense battle of their company’s internal games, they decided to form a team to make an assault on Leeds’ Sunday League.
Not only a hotbed of local footballing talent, Civica is a provider of specialist IT systems and has offices worldwide in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, North America and fittingly, Leeds.
Civica FC, now Chapel Allerton FC, owes its formation to 14 workmates trying to convince themselves that they are professional footballers.
Reminiscing on those smaller side company games, which are still talked about today, Alex modestly concludes: “Legendary.”
While player-managers are somewhat of a dying breed, when taking on the responsibility of forming the club, Alex became chairman, secretary, manager and player all at once.
Oli Allan was also there at the inception, helping out as treasurer, assistant manager and most importantly, penalty taker.
Speaking of the challenges they faced at the beginning, Alex says: “The cost of running the club was a shock but we gained sponsorship from the company and the lads pitched in.
“We stuck with Civica for four years but parted with the name when most of us left the company and sponsorship was no longer available.
“We took the opportunity to rename ourselves Chapel Allerton Wanderers as there was no team using the area’s name.
“Wanderers was due to our home pitch not being anywhere near Chapel Allerton!”
This year the North Leeds team have been able to drop the Wanderers moniker after basing themselves locally at Potternewton Rec and playing their games at Scott Hall Park.
Reflecting on the changes Alex says: “We hope to become more involved in the community with this move.
“Most of the players live either in Chapel Allerton or close by.
“The pitch is round the corner for me so it’s really handy.”
On the pitch, the team have enjoyed a steady, if unspectacular start to life competing in Division Two of Leeds Combination League.
The league is known as arguably one of the strongest of West Yorkshire’s Sunday leagues and Chapel Allerton have done well to record a third place finish, as well as reaching a cup semi final in their first six years as a club.
However now they have established themselves, they are no longer content with mediocrity.
Brimming with restaurants and bars, the area is known as a thriving suburb of the city, and Alex is determined the football team live up to its vibrant surroundings.
Alex says: “This season we’ve managed to secure some really good players after struggling for numbers last year. There are around seven new faces joining us and we’ve only lost three people so things are looking good.
“With this in mind our ambitions are to win something this year, failing that promotion.”
The club have got off to an impressive start this season, thrashing Horsforth Saints 7-0 at home thanks to a David Martyn hat-trick and a brace by Phil Cross.
Jordan Jefferys and Danny Whincup chipped in with the other goals as Chapel Allerton made a real statement of intent to the rest of the division.
In their second game of the campaign they played out a thrilling 4-4 draw at Oulton Athletic with the lethal David Martyn adding two more goals to his tally for the season.
For a man that works as a project manager for William Hill, Alex has refused to gamble with the future of the club and is sensibly try to raise as much money for the club as possible.
Despite a number of the players working alongside their gaffer at William Hill, they have been unable to secure sponsorship from the company for the 2014-15 season, meaning they have had to look elsewhere in order to raise funds.
Alex says: “Off the field we’re looking to work creatively to raise as much money for the club as possible.
“The pressure is on us to come up with more money ourselves.
“We’ve organised poker nights, will be attending car boot sales and have signed up to an online money making scheme which provides donations to the club when money is spent with online retailers.”
A number of others have also helped out along the way.
Player-coach Andrew Duffy is described by Alex as “one of our best players and an extremely valuable asset”, although the manager admits with a laugh that he does “disagree with some of his training methods sometimes.”
If the club were to achieve their goal of promotion to Division One they would be able to lock horns with their Chapel Allerton rivals, the creatively-named Waterintobeer, who also play at Scott Hall Park.
Quick to bring up the recent 8-2 pre-season success over their neighbours, Alex begrudgingly points out that their opposition were missing a host of players, though he is excited at the prospect of competing on a more regular basis.
Emphasising the impression that the rivalry is a of a friendly nature, it is perhaps unsurprising given the name of their rivals, that both sets of players often share a drink with each other.
Alex says: “They’ve always been more successful than us so we’ll be hoping to catch up with them this season.
“I regularly talk to their secretary about how they are getting on and we often see them in the pub.
“They’re definitely a good set of lads.”
To help the club with their fund raising visit www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/chapelallertonfc.