Back home in Manchester it had been an odd week. The infamous Mancunian Way sinkhole had reappeared, leading to my mum declaring that United Utilities should have appointed a structural engineer to oversee proceedings; I’m sure this will be taken on board. A day later, a convicted murderer defiantly stayed on the roof of Strangeways Prison for three days, before being coaxed down with the promise of a pizza and coke. Meanwhile, locals with nothing else to do flooded to the scene where they performed a mass macarena, closing off the road in the process.
I felt it was time to leave Greater Manchester and head back to Yorkshire where life appeared to be a bit calmer and more straight forward. There was also the small matter of starting my second year at University in York on the Monday morning. At a push I could have stayed at home and travelled with Colls to Runcorn Linnets on the Saturday, but with a room to organise, a wasps nest in the kitchen and squatters next door I thought I should head to my new house to get settled.
Admittedly, over the summer I had been living the high life. I was on the pitch for the first match at FC United’s new ground, for their match against Benfica. I told Neil Lennon that pink really suited him, before he told me to stop it. A spontaneous appearance on BBC Radio Manchester with Jack Dearden made me a bit giddy, but I was brought back down to earth when I arrived back home and my Dad said I “sounded very Boltonian on the radio”, not a problem if you ask me.
We then had a free day out at Mansfield Town courtesy of Nicky Hunt, before going on to have pre-drinks in the Hilton in Nottingham. Did it stop there? No, I then rounded off a great summer with a free ticket to Manchester City v Juventus in the brand new 93:20 section; I do love a cushioned seat at football matches.
A moment of realisation hit when I was on my way back from the match. Having just seen the likes of Gianluigi Buffon and Kevin De Bruyne battle it out in the Champions League I was back down to earth with a bump. I was on a Northern Rail bus replacement service which got me back into Atheron shortly before midnight. I wasn’t posh. I wasn’t able to carry on living the high life. My behaviour over the summer wasn’t me. I was, as much as it pains me, quite normal and Northern Rail bus replacement services were part of me. How did I cheer myself up? A late night conversation between Matt and I resulted in us deciding to head to Yorkshire Amateur v Worsbrough Bridge Athletic.
The main reason for this trip was simple; I had never been to Leeds in my life. Arguably the last main city in the North that I was yet to explore. I had changed train there and had a brief pitstop at Elland Road meaning that the prospect of seeing the city centre always intrigued me. Regular readers of mine and Matt’s blogs will know that our ethos is to turn up in a town centre having not researched anything before walking around spontaneously visiting pubs and guessing our way to the ground.
For this trip, at least, the ethos was thrown out of the window. Recently we had grown a bit of an obsession with hipster bars and hipsters pubs. In truth, we’ve traditionally visited these places, but only recently realised there was a true title for places that sell strange beers and house quirky items such as photo booths, coffins and canal barges. Matt had a busy week at work, while I was sat twiddling my thumbs at home, all of which meant I was given the opportunity to plan an itinerary.
In the days leading up to the trip, we appeared to have quite a little posse joining us. Colls fan and groundhopper Sean would be making the journey up, while Ollie would be coming along with me. My housemates Samantha and Katie were more than up for the day out, but too many consecutive nights out during Freshers killed the female faction of our party. Another no show was Matt’s mate Tom who was obviously still recovering from our day out in Knaresborough at the end of last season.
I was feeling relatively fresh on the morning of the match. Ollie and I had been out for a couple of pints the evening before as the Rugby World Cup kicked off at Twickenham. I haven’t watched Rugby Union since the last World Cup, but the England v Fiji match had received a huge build up in the media and with nothing else to do we thought we would tick off a couple of new pubs. The Snickleway Inn and the Cock & Bottle were fantastic local pubs in York, but the match didn’t do it for me unfortunately.
We caught the 10:16 train from York down to Leeds. Only a short 20 minute journey which felt a bit odd considering some of the places I head to getting my football fix. Ollie sat with two female West Ham fans who were already on their second bottle of wine as they headed down to Manchester City. I informed them that they would win and they looked at me as if I was on some sort of strange medication. Of course, West Ham won 2-1. Meanwhile, I was sharing a table with a strange couple who kept reading extracts of Roald Dahl’s BFG to one another, who said romance was dead?
“Has your train derailed?” was the text I received from Matt as Ollie and I walked aimlessly around Leeds Train Station trying to find the Wetherspoons. Eventually we found the rather small ‘spoons in the corner of the ticket hall and found our Welsh mate stood near the door already sampling some of Yorkshire’s finest ales. There was nowhere to sit, so I grabbed a quick cup of tea before I made the call to head to another Wetherspoons for our breakfast.
Heading up the slight hill into the city centre we found Beckett’s Bank on the left hand side. This time it was a huge Wetherspoons meaning we could finally grab some breakfast. I wasn’t really a fan of any of the beers on offer and I thought it was too early to delve into the world of Brewdog’s Punk IPA so I had yet another cup of tea. I don’t like tea; honest!
We were now a bit bored of Wetherspoons so it was time to hit one of the hipster bars that was planned. The first of such bars was North Bar. The folk here claim that they are “Leeds’ coolest haunt for lovers of great drinks, music and art”. I think I like drinks, I like The Smiths and I like LS Lowry, I appeared to tick all three boxes. The Observer have even awarded this bar the title of “The Best place to drink in Britain”. It doesn’t stop there though as North claim to have introduced beers such as Erdinger and Brooklyn to the UK. Okay, nobody likes a show off.
I think the vast range of strange foreign drinks that were available was confirmed when Matt said “Out of all of those, Brooklyn Lager appears to be the least hipster and least appealing.”
I opted for a stein of the bar’s very own Transmission. It was £5.60 but it’s not every day you get to drink a beer named after a Joy Division song so I decided it had to be done. Matt, once again, had a peach beer, although he claimed he’s never had such a thing before – evidently all beer on these trips blends into one. After writing our names on the chalkboards in the toilets (with chalk), we headed over the road for a spontaneous visit to the Horse & Trumpet which was coincidentally next to the bus stop we needed to get to the match.
Chelsea v Arsenal was on the large screen over the bar that served beers at extortionate prices. I wasn’t the only one who nearly started crying when paying for a drink; do not bother if going to Leeds. It didn’t take long to finish my bottle of Punk IPA before quite happily I left the pub with the others to catch the bus northwards.
We were able to jump on the 12, 13 or 13A bus up to the Harehills area of the city. It cost £4 for a day ticket and took around ten minutes to reach our stop. A quick stop in the bookies followed before we began the ten minute walk uphill through a residential area, arriving at the ground just after 14:00. It was £5 for me to get in as the club don’t offer student admission. This usually really gets on my nerves, but the club won me over and I didn’t mind in the end. I already had a programme as Sean had kindly picked one up for me when he arrived at the ground around 45 minutes beforehand, when they only had three left. It was a poor effort of a programme, but the £1 price reflected this, and as we say, any programme is better than no programme and all efforts should be respected.
I liked Bracken Edge straight away. Yorkshire Amateur have played there since 1930, spending the first 12 years of their existence playing at two other venues. The first of these was in fact Elland Road, the very place that Leeds United call home. When Amateur were founded in 1918 another local side named Leeds City became defunct meaning there was a spare pitch to play on. Kolin Robertson – who founded Yorkshire Amateur – gained a lease for Elland Road and the club played friendlies here. Two years later, the club sold the ground to the newly formed Leeds United for £250.
Amateur became founding members of the Yorkshire Football League in 1920 and ground shared with Harrogate Town. The following year they became the first British club to tour countries such as Latvia and Estonia. A move to Bracken Edge followed and this coincided with the club’s most successful period as they performed well in the FA Cup in 1931. They reached the First Round, going out to Carlisle United. They also performed well in the FA Amateur Cup reaching the semi-final, beating holders Wycombe Wanderers in the process in front of a crowd of 3,569 at Bracken Edge. A strong crowd, but not as impressive as the 12,000 who witnessed Amateur draw at Wimbledon in the next round.
In 1982, the club became founding members of the Northern Counties East League where they have remained ever since. They currently compete in the second tier of the league and had made a mediocre start to this campaign having finished 10th last season. They were up against Barnsley based Worsbrough Bridge Athletic with the two sides level on ten points, sitting 12th and 13th respectively.
I had no idea what to expect of Bracken Edge and Yorkshire Amateur as a club. It seems a shame that a club who are so friendly and have such fantastic facilities average crowds of around 40. The clubhouse is up there with the best in the NCEL and NWCFL with only Staveley Miners Welfare beating it off the top of my head. Dotted around the walls are a large variety of Premier League shirts, with the likes of Ashley Young, Arjen Robben and Scott Parker represented. It later transpired that chairman and joint manager Lincoln Richards is the father of Micah meaning a collection of shirts have been handed to the club by the current Aston Villa defender.
The rest of the ground needs some love. The only stand is in desperate need of a clean. Nettles and spiders attack any spectator who has the courage to fight their way over into that corner of the ground. This though only adds to the charm of a place that is half surrounded by grass banking. At the other end, a large European style mesh fence stands to stop wayward shots travelling into neighbouring houses.
As the two teams were preparing for kick off we emerged from the clubhouse with our pints of Fosters that only cost us £2.50. Nice Fosters it was too. Yorkshire were in white while Worsbrough were in blue, which led to Matt trying to convince me it was like watching Bolton v Wigan. This couldn’t have been any further from my favourite Lancashire derby if we tried any harder.
The match was a belter. Both sides had unbelievable skill and a fantastic first touch that was consistent throughout the match. Yorkshire Amateur played some fantastic football they truly were a joy to watch. It could also be noted that both sides looked very young, which would surely bode well for local Evo-Stik sides in the coming years when the lads bulk up a little bit and hopefully make the step up.
Amateur took the lead on the half hour mark when Adam Shaw scored his first of the afternoon from close range. I felt sorry for the Worsbrough goalkeeper who had had a good laugh with me before the match. Unfortunately my new mate was picking the ball out of his net again a minute before the interval. A diagonal ball across field was well controlled by Shaw who took his time and curled the ball into the right hand corner from outside the area. What made the goal better was the fact we watched it from the top of the mount next to the pitch.
At half time we headed back to the clubhouse where I was now feeling hungry after having a few pints. I bought a lovely cheeseburger and headed back into the bar to buy another pint. Things had escalated by the time I met back up with Matt as club officials Sean and Mark had given him an old Yorkshire Amateur shirt. I was slightly jealous, but I would be banished from Atherton if I ever wandered around with such clothes on at home. A very nice gesture from the club and I’m sure Matt will cherish the shirt that he ended up wearing on the bus back into the city centre.
We missed the first five minutes of the second half (a sign of a good clubhouse with good beer). By the time we headed back out Amateur were rampant and on the attack constantly. They deservedly added a third to their tally on 52 minutes when Joel Hughes slotted past the goalkeeper.
Worsbrough were still making a contest of the game despite the scoreline. Neil Spruce, or t’Lionel t’Messi as I named him, pulled a goal back for the visitors on 66 minutes. He wound through various challenges and skipped into the area before beating the goalkeeper one-on-one. Carl Heard wrapped up the win for Amateur with two minutes to spare when he finished a cross in from the right; 4-1 the final score.
We said our goodbyes to Sean and Mark and went to catch the bus back to the city centre. I retrieved my betting slip from my wallet to see if I had won anything. This was the difference between a bottle of champagne in the next pub or another cup of tea in Wetherspoons. All was going well until I realised I had accidentally backed Bolton to win at Huddersfield, a mistake that ultimately cost me £142. No champagne for Gibbo.
Back in Leeds, and it was time to visit another pub on my map. This time it was Brewdog. I bloody love Brewdog’s Punk IPA but had never visited one of their bars. Again, it was pricey, but it was worth it. A spiral staircase and an old Nintendo games console were the hipster highlights before we headed on to another pub. Less glamorous but equally as enjoyable was The Duncan. We arrived in this place after walking past and hearing those famous words from Matt, “This looks shit, lets go in here!”. I was more than happy to as I saw the Taddy Lager available at just £2.08 a pint.
We were surrounded by Leeds fans and various memorabilia on the walls. Some drunken blokes were singing the theme tune to Minder which rather strangely was an answer on The Chase this week. I’m far too young to have ever seen the show, and I only know the lyrics because it featured on Phoenix Nights when Max & Paddy were driving their Asian Elders minibus through Daubhill. We left the pub – singing along to the Pete Waterman classic – in search of our final stop for the day. Tapped was our final stop, and it was a great place to finish with a large range of real ales and craft beer that all seemed to be brewed in house.
Matt headed back off to Manchester, following in the footsteps of Sean who had left us earlier on. It was a nice short trip for Ollie and I as we got back into York at around 21:00. It had been another fantastic day out and I would encourage you to pay Yorkshire Amateur a visit. Hopefully with the facilities they have they can begin to draw in bigger crowds while continuing to play nice football.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 31 miles (from York)
- ADMISSION: £5
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £1