Leeds City Musings from Andrew Carter

A Tribute to Sunday League Football in Leeds – Part Two


Midway through my Kirkstall Crusaders career, we were joined by a new coach, a portly, peculiar but jovial Irishman who wore a faded baseball cap that was far too small for his large head. He had some unconventional coaching methods and if you didn’t understand or were caught mucking around, he would shout, ‘OH, SIT DOYN NOY!” in a thick accent which made it difficult not to chuckle.
If you were caught laughing, you too had to sit down, which ruined your morning and put your place in Sunday’s squad in jeopardy. He was also prone to chucking in catchphrases and sayings that were often lost on our young ears: “OH, if you swing on those goalposts, it will be Goodnight Vienna!”

For all his idiosyncrasies, he was a good guy and it was under his stewardship that we had our most successful spell, although this was in-part aided by fielding a number of ineligible players, often at my expense. As I mentioned last week, I’m fairly sure that identity fraud was rife in the Sunday leagues at the time so it didn’t feel too untoward, although this was Lance Armstrong’s reasoning wasn’t it?

It was with a heavy heart (and a growing fondness for drinking cheap cider in parks) that I left Kirkstall, aged fifteen. I departed with many fond memories, three goals to my name (one a penalty in a friendly) and a ‘team member’ award for each of my seasons there, to proudly put on my mantelpiece. I was admittedly disappointed at never picking up any of the more prestigious awards, I’d thought I was a shoe-in for ‘Most improved player’ one year.

After a season out, I returned to football in Year Eleven, joining Lawnswood YMCA. My weekend’s had freed up after splitting up with my first proper girlfriend.

I tried to reinvent myself as a central midfielder and was fortuitously given an opportunity after my friend, one of the best players, received an eight match ban for swearing at an antagonistic opposition manager who had been hurling abuse at him all game. That this was a footballing injustice to rank alongside Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany didn’t bother me; I was in the starting eleven. For eight games anyway.

Again, our manager was a bit of a character, offering some strange ideas. Before games, he would ask our left winger, and only ever him, to carry out a ball test, which consisted of him dropping footballs on the floor from a set height. No-one was ever sure what this test was hypothesising.

A vivid memory from the season was a match against Pateley Bridge. I, alongside the rest of our midfield and our right-back, had been camping in Otley the night before and had come straight from the tents to the pitch. I hadn’t slept, was covered in woodchip and was still inebriated. You wouldn’t have thought this was the best pre-match routine but for some reason, Pateley Bridge had a squad of eight players and I managed to score my first goal for the team. (That it came as a result of an inexcusable goalkeeping error is by the by.)

Delighted, we cruised into an eight nil lead only for one of their players to, selfishly, break his arm, leaving them with seven players and the referee with no choice but to cancel the game, which in turn chalked off my goal. Gutted.

It was an excellent season though and we won the league title which was a fitting end to my Sunday league career.

Until recently.

A friend of mine runs a kid’s football club and last season I agreed to manage the under elevens. On the first game of the season, there had clearly been some confusion in my selection policy as about twenty kids had turned up for a nine-aside game. This included a couple of players who were definitely too old and one eight year old. I had forgotten to sort out a referee and the goalposts I’d got were too small, leaving the opposition manager, quite rightly, unhappy. As many of the players’ ID cards still processing, some of our starting line-up had to pretend to be other people. I had to ask the subs to run the line. We lost eight nil.

With the large volume of players at the club, in training, I soon had to divide the group into the first team squad and the rest. With coaching resources limited, one of the kids’ older brother’s had to take charge of the rest.

Any of this sound familiar?

Andrew Carter