Harrogate Veterans FC denied the chance to go on and wrap up trio of league titles
Clubs up and down the country will not have the opportunity to go on and finish what they started last summer, with Harrogate Veterans FC one of the worst affected.
While the club’s over-40s were likely to see their Harrogate & District League Premier Division title-challenge go right down to the wire in a tight two-horse race with Sherburn White Rose, their over-50s team had opened up an 11-point lead over the chasing pack in Division One.
And although mathematically they could still have been caught, they were in a great position to secure an unexpected championship success in a division full of much younger veterans teams.
“The decision is understandable” reflected Harrogate manager Paul Bell.
“There are obviously far more important things to be dealing with and football will be there to come back to.
“I do however feel for our over-50s. They have been having an outstanding season and had also reached the semi- final of the cup, knocking out two first division teams to get there.
“They will be another year older next season, but the fact they are all still playing at this age is still the main thing.”
With just three games remaining and having seen off both their main challengers in recent weeks, Harrogate were well-placed to hold onto the title they have won for the past two seasons in the Leeds Division of the County Veterans League.
“We have been playing some fabulous football in what are competitive over-35s games” added Bell.
“We’d also enjoyed a good start in the County Cup, which we won last year, but it is the most difficult competition to win given it involves the Bradford and Huddersfield leagues as well.”
Dramatic comebacks have featured this season, and in one County League game, Harrogate found themselves reduced to 10 men and two goals down, only to pull off a remarkable turnaround that was capped by a fine individual goal in the final minute by Seb Carole.
But, ask Bell what the stand out game has been and he will mention another comeback in the new combined Harrogate FA and Wharfedale FA Sunday Cup.
Both Harrogate Veterans and FC Atlanta had progressed to the semi- finals; but it didn’t look good for Bell’s troops when they found themselves 3-0 down after 15 minutes in their opening tie against Yeadon Athletic.
“It was a case of the young lads virtually saying ‘welcome to our open-age competition, old men’. We were almost blown away in that frenetic opening spell,” Bell reflected.
“But our response was incredible and, inspired by a stunning Lee Elam hat-trick, we pulled two back just before half-time and then went on to win the game 6-3.”
Last season, former Harrogate Town & Railway winger Colin Hunter hit a staggering 59 goals, and while not quite maintaining that incredible strike-rate, was still leading the scoring for the over-40s this season, with another former Rail player Steve Davey just ahead of him with 18 goals in fourteen games for the over-50s.