Manchopper in….Silsden

Result: Silsden 2-0 West Didsbury & Chorlton (NWCFL Premier Division)

Venue: Angel Telecoms Stadium (Saturday 26th April 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 127

The final day of the NWCFL season presented me with a chance to visit the one Yorkshire club who play in the North West Counties. Silsden, who for some reason aren’t in the NCEL present many of the teams with a bit of a journey they otherwise don’t get in a league which is, in general, rather close-knit in geographical terms.

Silsden, as I’ve hinted is another new ground for me, and this time I was to take advantage of the club’s team coach, on which I was kindly offered a seat by the club, and more specifically Rob McKay, West’s press officer (and a few other posts I’m sure!). So, at the stroke of midday, I had taken a place on the coach, and with beer in hand, kindly supplied by Rob, we were rolling towards Yorkshire at a relatively good rate of knots. After a conversation, and teaser about a club’s name which I can’t quite remember what it was (it was quite stupid) we were soon pulling up on the road alongside a cricket pitch and just on the far side of the boundary a sign bore the words “Home of Silsden AFC” on the back of a stand. Entrance was gained via the turnstiles at the side of the ground, and a programme was purchased at the cost of £1.50. Now, I don’t wish to be too harsh on the people who do programmes, but having seen a few higher up this season, it was rather, bland shall we say.

The sun was beating down on the ground and its rustic style of clubhouse, which today was doubling up as a cricket pavilion, the border of which appeared to be designated by some tape hanging from chairs. There were no whites in sight however, as the cricketers had been kept inside by the wet outfield brought on by rain the night before,  though before long they were underway. The footballers were now on the field and warming up, as were the reserves on a pitch set behind the football ground and alongside the cricket pitch. The Silsden-West Reserve game had been rescheduled to be a double header, I guess to cut costs for West’s travel, so the coach was carrying two teams for the day. They were playing on a field which was pretty much designated by some farmer’s field walls, which created a strange sight.

I headed outside with kick-off now only a few minutes away, having watched the end of a Burnley game on the TV in the clubhouse. The sun was still out,  defying all forecasts for the day which predicted diabolical levels of rainfall and it was rather balmy. Silsden’s Angel Telecoms Stadium is a small quaint ground, featuring two stands, both of which stand on the near side touchline. One is an older all-seated covered stand and alongside it nearer the far end goal is a small covered terrace. In between the two is a small food hut, which was serving an array of hot foods on it’s menu. I made a mental note to sample something at the break. The other three sides are open standing with the clubhouse and dressing rooms standing behind the near side goal, and the dugouts standing on the far side. The sides were now making their way out onto the field of play, which was Silsden’s original home before they moved out and became something of a nomadic club. But they had now returned to their home, and after that intro, now seems a good time to delve into their history and see just where they have been housed and more.

History Lesson:

The first Silsden AFC was formed in 1904, and a field adjacent to the rugby pitch on Keighley Road (the current venue) was hired. Their first season saw the club win the Keighley Charity Cup and they went on to enter the Keighley & District League which was first won in 1909, before joining the Bradford & District League for a short time. The club won the Charity Cup for a second time in 1914, before the outbreak of WWI disrupted the next season, but not Silsden’s success as they won the Keighley League again.

In 1921, the club absorbed neighbours Silsden White Star, and a few other clubs and lifted a third Charity Cup that same season, and retained it the next. They then became founder members of the West Riding County Amateur League. After winning the Airedale & Craven League, a hat-trick of Charity Cup successes followed between 1934 and 1936, the former of those being joined in the trophy cabinet by the A&C League Cup and the Keighley & District FA Cup. At the end of that season, Silsden resigned from the A&C league to join the Bradford Amateur League and they won the K&D FA Cup for a second time in 1938, and another Charity Cup in 1940 after rejoining the Keighley League.

After WWII, the club joined the Craven League and soon stepped up to the Bradford Amateur League again before again switching leagues to the Wharfedale League in 1951. A further Keighley Cup was won in 1952, and a Wharfedale league and cup double arrived in 1954-55. 55-56 saw a treble, as the Wharfedale League and Cup were won as well as the Keighley Cup. In 1959, the club replaced their reserves in the Craven League and struggled for a while until 1964, when another League and Cup double arrived and the club were invited to join the West Riding Amateur League’s top division and celebrated this with another District Cup win in 1965.

The 1970’s proved highly successful. The club inherited the defunct Keighley Shamrock’s team and went on to lift seven Keighley Cups (70-71, 71-72, 73-74, 74-75, 75-76, 76-77, 77-78)  the Keighley Supplementary Cup (1974) West Riding Amateur League Division One Cup (1977) and both West Riding and West Yorkshire League Division One & Premier titles (1974, 75, 78) & (1976), before the club were forced to relinquish their ground and facilities after a third league expulsion in ix years for poor behaviour. Silsden United were installed as tenants, and took the name Silsden AFC. Reforming their Saturday team, Silsden went back to the Craven League for 80-81. and to the West Riding Amateur League in 1983, and within a year had won yet another Keighley Cup. In 1986 they won promotion to the WRAL Premier before in 1988, the club resigned and folded.

Reforming in 1996, the club rejoined the Craven& District League and were promoted from division 1 in 1998, they then won the Premier the first season and joined the WRAL, winning both the Division 2 and 1 titles in successive seasons (99-00 & 00-01) and county cups in both the latter of those and the season after.  They finished as runners-up in the Premier Division the next season, but lifted another County Cup, before lifting the Premier Division title & County cup in both 2003 & 2004 before joining the North West Counties and being promoted from Division 2 in 2005 before winning their last Keighley Cup in 2006. After returning to Keighley Road in 2010, last season the club just avoided relegation from the NWCFL Premier.

Today’s game was a real end of season affair with no real tempo to it. I had decided to join Rob and a couple of the West contingent in the small covered stand, which also gave a view of the reserve game going on behind. West had the better of the first half, going close on a number of occasions Richmond Botchey just unable to force the ball in after a low shot was parried and Rick Gleave poking over after a corner. It looked as though only one side were in it leading up to the break, with the home side not really in it, but the teams went in goalless at the break, and I went in, in search of food.

The food I decided on was a tray of chilli & chips priced at £2, and they were very, very good. A decent sized portion for the price and fresh, hot chips. You don’t get better than that really, and they were soon devoured within the clubhouse, as the scores around the country were summarised by Jeff Stelling and the Soccer Saturday Team, before the two sides were soon crossing the white lines to restart the game.

The second half was an almost polar opposite, with Silsden being on top for the vast majority of it, and the game always felt like it would only take one goal to win it. And as it was, it was the home side who got the breakthrough when the dangerous and wonderfully named Tom Sowerbutts seized on a poor error by West ‘keeper Conrad Betton to poke the ball away from him and finish into the empty net. Silsden made the result safe a few minutes later, when a poor error in midfield allowed the home side to break swiftly, and Josh McNulty coolly slotted past the stranded Betton to seal a relatively comfortable win. West then lost one of their main threats, the tight shorted Tre Baldwin-Willis to injury, and this only hindered them further in their quest to gain something from the game, which wasn’t to come and never looked like arriving as Silsden held out for a well earned three points to end their season on a high, although I’m sure West would have taken their mid-table position at the start of the season, no question.

After the game, it was back into the clubhouse to await the players and to catch the final few results coming through, as well as watching the opening stages of the Manchester United game, I think it was Ryan Giggs’ first in charge? Anyway, with cricket still going on,  we skirted around the edge of the boundary and onto the coach for the journey back home, with both sides in decent spirits, after the reserves had ended a long win drought by recording a 2-1 win in their game on the farmers field pitch. That also signalled the end of the life of the NWCFL Reserve Division, which will be disbanded. RIP. Despite waiting for some  trains to cross the road for what seemed like an eternity (it took 5 minutes from putting the barriers down to a train appearing) we were soon back in Manchester and the players could take a few weeks rest before it all starts again in June. Enjoy it fellas!

My Silsden M.o.M.- Tom Sowerbutts

My West M.o.M.- Scott Mason


Game: 6- usual end of season affair, not bad but quite bland

Ground: 7- Nice quaint ground, with quite a lot of character to it.

Programme: 4- There wasn’t anything to it other than the history and away club details.

Food: 8- It was top quality stuff, recommended!

Fans: 6- Was the final game, and they were quite becalmed.

Value For Money: 7- Not a dear day out at all.

Referee: 6- Think I remember him missing a couple of penalty shouts?


SILSDEN: 1.Edward Hall, 2.Matthew Moses, 3.Ben Crabtree, 4.Daniel Gleave, 5.Daniel Fagan, 6.Andrew Hall, 7.Tom Sowerbutts(1), 8.James Nettleton, 9.Nicholas McNally(1), 10.Zach Dale, 11.Dale Feather. SUBS: 12.Kristian Hargreaves(p), 14.Josh McNulty(p)(1), 15.Ben Geary(p) 16.-. 17.-.

WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON: 1.Conrad Betton, 2.Callum Jones, 3.Alex Baird, 4.Callum Schofield, 5.Mark Rogers, 6.Anthony Potts, 7.Danny Summers, 8.Scott Mason, 9.Tre Baldwin-Willis, 10.Rick Gleave, 11.Richmond Botchey. SUBS: 12.Steve Settle(p), 14.Tyler Ferguson(p), 15.Mark Woodcock(p) 16.-. 17.-.

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