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Thursday 5th April 2012 ko 7.45pm

Northern Counties East League Division One

YORKSHIRE AMATEUR 1 (Craig Heard 45)

HEMSWORTH MINERS WELFARE 3 (Crapper 11 Williams 19 48)

Att 179

Entry & Programme Hop Ticket

Badge £3

“Leeds Pale” Bitter £2.50/pint

This was a long day! From Long Eaton, Chris and I set off for Staveley Miners Welfare to pick up 3 sets of programmes for the inaugural NCEL hop. From there it was further up the M1 to the Cedar Court Hotel in Wakefield, our HQ for the weekend. There we were joined by League Committee member Karl Blackburn with the other sets of programmes. It took around 90 minutes to put together the 100 or so programme packs for those who’d pre booked their tickets.

By that time it was around 1.30, so Chris and I started the shuttle runs to the various rail stations of Wakefield to pick up the public transport using hoppers. Included in that throng was the towering presence of Ari, the chairman of the Scarborough FC Norwegian supporters club, which has 60 members!

After a strong coffee, it was soon 5.45 and our coach, driven by Godfrey arrived. It took around an hour to reach Leeds and Bracken Edge, home of our first club Yorkshire Amateur. On the way we had a phone call from Central Midlands League Bonanza organiser Rob Hornby to wish us luck. Considering that there’s friction between the CMFL and the NCEL it was a wonderful gesture from a class act.

From there on in it was a bit of a blur for an hour, as programme packs were distributed, friends reaquainted and officials met. It was a bit of a relief when we could all go and watch some football!

The “Ammers” are club with real history. They were founded in November 1918 but only began playing matches in 1919. In those early days, the club’s fixtures largely consisted of playing friendlies at Elland Road following the demise of Leeds City FC, on the orders of the Football Association, after irregularities were discovered in their accounts. However, in 1920 the club decided that the ground was not suitable for their needs and sold the lease to the newly formed Leeds United AFC for the sum of £250! They moved to their present headquarters at Bracken Edge in 1922 after using several other grounds, including sharing with Harrogate Town.  in 1932 a record crowd of 3,569 paid gate receipts of £160 to see the 5-2 Amateur Cup Quarter Final replay victory over Wimbledon. This was after a 2-2 draw at Plough Lane before a crowd of 12,000. The “Ammers” had demolished the holders, Wycombe Wanderers, 4-0 in the previous round but lost to Marine in the semi final.

Since then life has been a struggle, living in the shadow of the far bigger professional clubs in the area, but is a remarkably spick and span ground that sadly these days sees gates in the teens. For all that, the clubhouse has been refurbished and the club worked incredibly hard serving up hot food and specially purchased real ale to the hoppers.

On the pitch sad to say, Amateur were no match for their visitors from mid-way between Barnsley and Pontefract proved to be far too strong for their hosts. Ryan Williams was the pick of the players on show collecting a brace, but the scoreline could easily have been crueller on the hosts.

As organiser, I’d have liked to have seen a few more at the game, but given the appalling traffic on the M1 and on a working day, I’m probably just being hard to please. On the way out of the first ground on each hop, I’ve got into the habit of quietly listening to hoppers’ impressions of what they’ve just seen. They were all positive, so I allowed myself to breathe, and after returning to the hotel, we found a local boozer, with acting Fareham Town FC secretary Paul “Splodge” Proctor, and relaxed.