Destination: Keighley Road, Silsden, Keighley, West Yorks, BD20 0EH
Competition: North West Counties League, Premier Division
Programme: £1.50 (36 pages / 14 of adverts)
Tea Hut purchases: Coffee 70p
Conditions: Dull but fine (and a nice sunset later on).
Directions: This is a relatively easy ground to get to, with trains to the nearest station (Steeton & Silsden) running every half-hour from Leeds or Bradford, and every 15 minutes from Skipton or Keighley. Journey time is around half an hour from Leeds and Bradford, and around ten minutes from Skipton/five from Keighley. Exiting the railway station, turn right onto the main road, then carry straight on for around half a mile (passing straight across a roundabout along the way). The football ground is then on your left, just past a golf driving range and next to a cricket pitch (plus football training pitch). There is a small car park at the ground, and other street parking easy to come by just off the main road.
Off The Pitch: Silsden AFC have been on the go for just over a hundred years, being formed in 1904 – although with the caveat of there having been occasional gaps at certain times, and technically different teams picking up the Silsden name along the way. This is in part due to the trustees of their Keighley Road ground having insisted that any club playing there call itself Silsden AFC, so this has ensured there has been a spiritual continuation of the club all along, if not one which is also the same entity in its strictest sense. Having traditionally played in local Keighley and Craven District Leagues, then working up to the more regional West Riding County Amateur and West Yorkshire Leagues, Silsden then harboured further ambitions of stepping up to their current North West Counties League home, and becoming part of the recognised non-league pyramid.
In order to do this, the club was forced to spend seven years sharing a ground in Keighley with Keighley Cougars Rugby League team. Meanwhile, behind the scenes much fundraising and grant applying went on, and eventually they were able to return to their new improved Keighley Road ground at the start of the 2010-11 season. While they were away, the ground had been totally enclosed round all four sides of the pitch; the one existing seated stand had been augmented by a neighbouring covered terracing structure; a refreshemnt cabin was installed between the two; and finally – and most impressively of the lot – a combined clubhouse/bar/changing room/office block was built from scratch in one corner of the ground. The staff and volunteers at the club are quite rightly mightily pleased with their new ground, and the whole set up at Silsden is one which makes for a welcoming experience.
Doing a bit of a once-round-the-ground for you, in the corner behind one goal (as seen above) is the new-build deluxe clubhouse. Largely financed via Football Foundation and Asda Foundation grants, this looks to be a very similar set-up to the one at Hemsworth Miners Welfare, which was also built fairly recently thanks to Football Foundation monies.
Down the side of the touchline next to the clubhouse, as seen above in the background is the painted-white seated stand; next to this is the tea hut/refreshement cabin; and then in the foreground is the new terraced stand, which I would guess maybe houses a hundred or so happily jostling spectators when wedged.
Above is a closer look at the seated structure – accommodation in this is of the wooden bench variety, with at a wild guess maybe room for around 150 persons within it. Originally this was painted all white, but during the development phase of the ground, the front has been redone in green, with club logos and a ‘McNulty Stand’ name added as well. Silsden is of course a’at on t’wild moors, which means that it has the added bonus of a naturally stunning backdrop of hilly bits surrounding it.
On The Pitch: Most of the time, if I’m taking in a step 5 or 6 level non-league game, it tends be something in the more local North Eastern Counties League. So today it made a nice change to see something from across the Pennines in their equivalent league (yes, I was a tad surprised that the players didn’t all take to the pitch in wide-brimmed flat caps, but I guess things move on even in East Lancs footballing circles). Silsden started the day sixth from bottom (or just below mid-table, to put a positive spin on it), while visiting opponents Winsford United were in third position, and just a point behind current leaders Runcorn Town – though having played two games more. Despite the gap in league positions, today’s game was so keenly contested that you’d need a shoehorn to separate the two teams. Winsford came out of the blocks well, but Silsden rallied and had a good penalty shout turned down by the unimpressed referee.
Though Winsford probably had the slight edge in terms of possession, Silsden always looked a threat when going forwards, and to the delight of the home fans it was they who took the lead just before half-time, courtesy of a well-taken goal by Andy Lee, who was able to round the keeper and slot the ball home ahead of an onrushing defender. During the interval, I was honoured to find myself in the presence of someone with an even more out-of-control fondness for league tables than myself – namely Rob Grillo, who even the Silsden match programme describes as ‘infamous’ rather than ‘famous’ (although he may possibly have written that line himself). And also the Keighley area’s own walking non-league videprinter, aka Steve Penny from the excellent Keighley Kicks website (www.keighleykicks.co.uk), who kept bleeping every time a local match result came in, and was already at his fourth game of the day. It’s at their feet that I’m laying the blame for me not getting round to sampling Silsden Tea Hut’s Extra-Infamous Pie Selection, which has been receiving rave reviews of late and which means that in the interests of research, I’ll have to try and get back here for a night game later in the season. Safe to say that there was a steady queue throughout the game, and a long row of happy-looking spectators tucking in to their late lunches all along the rail at the tea-hut side of the ground.
The second half continued in a highly competative/end-to-end stuff fashion. Although I’ll also admit that as the game wore on, I spent as much time trying to get a few decent shots of the blazing sunset that was occurring as I did concentraing intently on the game. The upshot though was that Silsden were able to hold out for a hard-fought victory, and continue with their somewhat puzzling ability to match many top-of-the-table teams, while at other times having trouble in polishing off teams from the lower part of the table. A rousing cheer from the locals greeted the final whistle, and the players were roundly applauded off the pitch. It may not have been quite the ‘firework display’ that the cover of today’s programme had told us to expect, but all the home fans went home with a warm glow nonetheless and something unidentifiable stuck between their teeth.
(For the first half of today’s ‘Steeton & Silsden’ double-header, see the Steeton link in the A-Z section, or clicky here: https://thedribblingcode.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/sat-5-nov-2011-steeton-v-ovenden-west-riding-wrcc-r2/)
<Match Photos: Click on individual pics below for slightly larger versions>