Bramley blossom courtesy of core values

BRAMLEY Villagers FC is very much a family affair.

Although they have only been known by their current title for the past two seasons, and are new to the Leeds Sunday League Championship this year, the foundations of the club have been in place for the last 13 years.

Manager Tony Wood, himself a former player with fond memories of the Leeds Sunday League, has managed his side since they were Bramley Juniors Under-7s, and a number of his players have stayed with him since those early years.

Amongst those are his son Dean Wood and Oliver Edwards, the son of assistant manager and club secretary Rob Edwards, who started contributing towards the team when they began competing in open-age competition five years ago.

Other players including joint-captain Danny Robinson, Sam Brook, Chris Fletcher, Michael Hunter and Matty Lofthouse have also played for the club since their formative footballing years, with a second wave of players and staff sticking with the club since joining at the same time as Edwards.

Edwards believes that Bramley’s tight-knit group has been crucial for the club’s longevity.

And he is confident it will continue to be a key factor in any success they may have in the future.

The Villagers secretary reasoned: “Both myself and Tony think that managing to keep the same lads through thick and thin times has been a major contribution to any success that we have had and hopefully will acquire in the future.

“The lads have all grown up together, warts and all.

“On a personal note the way we have kept the same group of lads now for a good number of years – and have seen them grow from seven year olds kicking a football around a small pitch to the men they are today – is what makes you turn out week after week. And, for that, I salute them.”

Since splitting from Bramley Juniors FC and changing their name to Bramley Villagers, the club has survived some real highs and lows.

“We joined the Red Triangle League last season, finishing a respectable fourth in the top division and reaching the final of the Metcalfe Sports Challenge Cup, losing to Halton,” Edwards explained.

However, after the “sad closure” of the Red Triangle League – something which Edwards describes as the low-point of his time with the club – Bramley decided to try their hand at Sunday football instead.

Edwards continued: “We decided that we fancied a go at playing Sunday football and wanted to join the Leeds Sunday League as manager Tony Wood had fond memories playing in the Leeds Sunday League when he was a player – many moons ago.

“We’ve recruited a few new players in preparation for a tough year ahead with the quality of the teams we knew playing in the Sunday League.”

What’s followed is a steady start to life in the Leeds Sunday League second tier for the Villagers, winning two and losing two of their opening four fixtures, as well as a 3-1 victory over New Farnley in the Presidents Trophy.

And Edwards believes that a steady season on the pitch this season will be a successful one, as long as it is coupled with success off the field of play as well.

Edwards himself plays a key role in the financial stability of the club in his position as secretary, alongside Wood.

Wood combines his management position with that of chairman.

Chief fundraiser Matty Christopher – in true Bramley Villagers style – also plays for the side and is the brother of the club’s joint-captain Danny Christopher. The club’s home, meanwhile, is the “Wembley of West Leeds.”

Edwards laughed: “We play our home fixtures on the Wembley of West Leeds, or to give it it’s proper title Bramley Park pitch two, and we run from the Bramley Villager Sports and Social Club on Broad Lane.

“It was Alan and Paul from the Social club who asked us if we would like to run the team from their club and it was Paul the owner who sponsored us for our first kit which we were very grateful of. Matty Christopher has used his connections at Garforth Town to acquire sponsors like Craig Bannister from JS Whites, who have generously donated money for nets and equipment, and also Jeff Crangle, who has sponsored us for a new kit to be unveiled soon.

“Jeff and Tony (Wood) both played in the same team which played out of the Social club so know each other well.”

On the pitch, Edwards earmarks Bramley’s two club captains, Danny Robinson and Danny Christopher, as the key performers in the young side.

The secretary explained: “Danny Robinson was a player we tried repeatedly to sign when he was at school at Intake, now Leeds West Academy, as we saw the potential of a great player there and were more than pleased when he finally agreed to play for us.

“Danny Christopher came to the club at the start of our open-age life and has become Captain Marvel in midfield and a player the rest of the lads all look up to.”

Just as plenty will also look to Bramley Villagers as a whole, given the club’s unity and family ethos.

Looking forwards, Edwards’ goals are still very much in keeping with the club’s modest and humble background – yet there is no hiding that ambition also burns bright.

“Long term it would be nice to have the possibility of having a ‘B’ side as well as a first team,” said Edwards.

“It would also be nice to become Bramley’s premier team.

“But our main aims this season are about stability. We would like to cement our place in the Sunday League with a decent finish in the Championship and a possible good cup run, and many thanks to the people who run that League for granting us entry into it.

“We just want to try to get financially secure and keep the great set of lads we have got.”

Meet the publican

Alan Dixon – Club Manager, the Bramley Villagers Community Club

Alan Dixon has been running the Bramley Villagers for almost 3 years, but he’s been going there for 40!

Alan really does do a bit of everything at the Villagers. As well as everything that being a club manager involves such as sorting the tills, organising the rooms, stocking the fridge, receiving deliveries, hiring and manging staff, Alan has a very hands-on approach to everything that goes on there. For example it’s him who sells the tickets and calls the numbers for the very well attended bingo sessions on Monday and Thursday evenings.

The Villagers also has a pool team on Wednesdays, a curryoke night on Fridays – yes, that’s karaoke, alongside a lovely pot of curry! – and hosts a large number of functions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, christenings and sports presentations, particularly at weekends. It’s also the social base for Bramley Buffaloes Rugby League Club. The club is usually closed on a Tuesday.

Alan’s very proud that the Villagers has a real community feel to it and customers come from a really wide age range. Alan recognises the importance of such a venue for older people at a time when many no longer feel able to walk around the streets safely.

“They’re able to come here, feel happy, be with their friends, not feel threatened, and go home.”

He’s very aware that for some older people, especially those living on their own, visiting the Villagers regularly is a vital part of their lives, and sometimes their only social outlet. If people think about coming along, but are unsure, Alan is very encouraging:

“Make the effort just to come once, and I’m sure you’ll be happy”

The thing that Alan enjoys most about his job is meeting people, especially such a range of folk. On the down side he’s not so keen on taking deliveries (every Friday) because the barrels are really heavy!

Alan says that with the Villagers being such a community club, threats and violence are really unusual. And he knows he would always have a lot of back-up from the regulars.

Alan works 40-60 hours a week, depending on what functions are on. The Villagers is independently owned, so he can open and clsoe when he wants to – but he never throws people out just because it’s a very quiet evening!

Alan was born in Leeds, went to Bradford when very young, and has now lived in Bramley for 48 years. In his spare time Alan loves gardening, at his house just down the road from the club. He used to play tennis a lot and was Bradford Boys Champion two years in a row, before the age range got too great and he was suddenly playing against 21 year olds when he was 16!

Alan’s keen to use the Villagers’ function rooms more and more for the community. Get in touch if your group is interested in holding an event there.