Yorkshire Amateurs looking to play their way out of trouble with youth policy aimed at being Leeds 'hub'

Yorkshire Amateurs, one of the big names of non-league football in the county, have fallen on hard times since Covid-19. They are convinced the route out of it is to become a "hub" for young talent.

“Ammers” are founder members of the Yorkshire League and after moving into Elland Road when Leeds City folded in 1919, they sold it to successor club Leeds United for £250.

Promoted to Division One East of the Northern Premier League in the curtailed 2020-21, they were relegated the following season despite finishing mid-table because their Bracken Edge home in Leeds did not meet grading requirements. It has been downhill from there.

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“When the ground was unable to meet the criteria the owners walked away, leaving the club in the hands of volunteers like Will Bowler, the chairman, and Lutel James (a former St Kitts and Nevis international who left Ammers in 1993 to play league football for Scarborough),” says volunteer Andy Mosby.

STEPPING UP: Sixteen year-old academy graduate Harry Abson has made his first-team debut this seasonSTEPPING UP: Sixteen year-old academy graduate Harry Abson has made his first-team debut this season
STEPPING UP: Sixteen year-old academy graduate Harry Abson has made his first-team debut this season

“They'd concentrated so much on the team the ground had become unloved. When they stopped paying, a lot of players left.”

Another relegation followed last season and now they are a point above the North Counties East drop zone, having played two more games than those in it, with a goal difference of minus 35.

“When you're just worried about paying players you forget about your infrastructure and lose stability,” explains captain Jake Boyd, pictured, whose time at the club has bookended a spell at Bradford City. “When that money went, the first team was always going to fall apart.

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“We're trying to build it the other way around so we've got stability, then hopefully when money comes in it adds quality.

“I work with our under-19 scholars – they're full-time – and oversee the academy, which is under-7s to under-16s (a total of more than 300 children). We want to be the hub for the best players in Leeds.

“If we can move a player onto a professional club, great, and if a lad doesn't quite make that level but can use our first-team as a platform to play higher, that's great for the inner-city lads.

"There will be a lot of lads who Yorkshire Amateurs ends up being their level. As time goes on, the core of the team will be lads who have come through the Ammers set-up feeling it's like home. Then they can look after the younger talent.”

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The hope is this approach draws back supporters and sponsors, and the youngsters are showing promise. Sixteen-year-old Harry Abson made his first-team debut last month and the junior sides have begun the season well.

“We knocked Handsworth, in the division above, out of the FA Youth Cup on pens. We had eight first years in the 15-man squad (with 15-year-old goalkeeper Josh Ward stepping up an age level and saving the decisive penalty),” says Boyd proudly.

“Our under-15s played Rotherham last week.

“That game finished 2-1 to Rotherham but straight away they were saying they wanted to have a look at some of our players.”

It only seems right that a club with their name should be trying to play, not pay, their way out of trouble.