The Story of Fairbank United’s 2016/17 season by Akif Waseem

Senior men’s Grassroots football across the country seems to be dying out. That’s no more evident in the Bradford district by the fact that not only are there less teams playing on a Saturday and Sunday than perhaps any time since WW2, but the number of leagues itself is also falling sharply. On a Saturday, local teams would, until recent times, play in the Bradford (Red Triangle/Grattan) or Spen Valley Leagues, or, if they were a bit better, the West Riding County Amateur League. The former two leagues are now no longer in existence, and the latter will no longer exist at the end of this season.

akif cover

On a Sunday, there’s only the Wharfedale Triangle (hanging in there with 2 divisions) and Bradford Sunday Alliance, which haemorrhages a full division each season.

It’s a sad state of affairs, but one affecting all manner of other sports too. Local cricket and Rugby League are experiencing a similar decline as organised sports and pastimes are replaced by more sedentary forms of exercise that don’t have to put up with rising costs of pitch hire, insurance and conflicting interests of retail therapy, computer games and Premier League footy on the box.

There are a good deal of people – dwindling in number, I know – who are swimming against that tide. They might not be part of well oiled football league machine that attracts thousands of paying fans a year, but they part of the same thing. They will go that extra mile (and further) to keep their own teams battling along, the purely amateur ones that rent the local parks pitches and keep going through the paying of weekly subs, the ones that play week in, week out in front of the proverbial man and his dog, as well as a handful of WAGs who can be bothered to brave the weather , and yet provide an immense sense of satisfaction in that it’s THEIR team – the one THEY play for, the one THEY pay subs to, the one THEY run: THEIR team.

In recent years, Bradford’s very own Fairbank United have switched to the Yorkshire Amateur League, which, since renaming itself (from the ‘Yorkshire Old Boys League’) has mopped up many of the teams left over from the defunct leagues and consists of half a dozen or so divisions. This is the world of Norristhorpe FC, East Ardsley Wanderers, Churwell Lions and Leeds Medics & Dentists’ fourth team. Teams like this might not be front page news in the national press but they are the lifeblood of the game.

Akif Waseem is a player, secretary, supporter and mainstay of Fairbank. Nobody can say he doesn’t go that extra mile. Somehow, and despite a very busy job, he found time to pen his account of what turned out to be a rather eventful 2016-17 season for himself and his team-mates at Fairbank. It’s a hugely readable, passionate and often hilarious subjective account, written from his perspective as club secretary as well as second string goalkeeper and occasional outfield player. Fairbank are up for promotion. It’s overdue, but as with the very best footballing tales there are trials and tribulations a-plenty, dramatic last gasp equalisers, controversial offside winners, the odd car crash (quite literally), suspicious poaching of players, and – hopefully- a happy happy ending.

I had the advantage of knowing what the outcome was, I had a week-by-week blow of the highlights of each game on a Monday morning. The story in print is every bit as intriguing. Akif admittedly might not be as agile in goal as he once was, maybe a yard or two slower than he was in his prime, but he has lost none of his enthusiasm for the game. His well illustrated book is a testament to all the hard work he and his contempories put in for up to nine months a year. A photograph that depicts a dramatic late equaliser for Farnley Sports reserves is notable for the fact that it shows the wide open spaces of local league football, no sign of a huge cantilever stand or imposing Kop in sight. Or spectators come to think of it. And yet, to every one of the players in the photograph, this is what football is about as they play out their very own six-pointers, cup finals and local derbies with the same passion as those in an Old Firm of Manchester derby.

If nothing else, the book represents a dying breed of club, and club official, and amateur player, aspects of the nation’s favourite sport that we have always taken for granted, but that which we see less and less of every year.

Akif can be contacted at if you’re interested in a copy.


It’s all the referee’s fault…

ref3In order not to let music related posts dominate entirely, it’s time for a sports related post. A year or two back I was going to do an article on the abuse of referees for a certain football magazine. I never got round to it, but what I did do was compile a number of postings about referees from two message boards. One a now-defunct board for a local amateur league. In the main, these are posts from players who are unhappy with the referees the league allocated them. I also copied some similar postings from the message board of a certain northern football league team (not my beloved Bradford City, although no doubt some of the postings could have been from any similar club).These are posts from spectators.

They all deserve to be shared. I’ve left many of the spelling & grammatical mistakes as they were. The names of teams, posters & referees have all been changed to protect the innocent, and the not-so-innocent. I’ll leave the reader to make his or her own mind up about whether each comment says more about the person posting, the society we live in, or the referee himself.


 TOMMY: Something seriously needs to be done about the standard of refs in this league.
Yesterday was quite a day for a certain person.
*Fails to send a lad off for a knee high, 2 footed challenge
*Fails to give a a pen when our lad was clearly taken out with no connection with the ball.
*Gives a pen against us when our centre half clearly won the ball and forward fell over him.
Gives another pen against us when our keeper had ball and was running up to kick it out of his hands, their forward runs in front of keeper, gets knocked over- PEN!
*Sends our keeper off after Ref says ‘Your all acting like K**bs!’ to which keeper replied ‘there’s only one here!’
I’m not really one to go on abut refs on here but when 1 cost’s you a game like that nutter we had yesterday did, it gets very frustrating! never mind, he’s £32 richer and no ban or punishment for him!

ALBERT: What a shambolic performance! It’s an insult to the players for the league to send a referee of that standard for a top flight game! I genuinely can say that is one of if not the worst performances I have ever seen! Never up with play, guessing on decisions, then completely baffling both sides with his decisions! 3 players should have walked that game, 2 for Anytown FC, Lad from goonies for the worst ‘tackle’ ever .im sorry but for the ref to say ‘your all acting like a bunch of idiots is unacceptable but due to the shortage of refs he will get away scott free! Respect? Laughable concept! County made £76 quid by my reckoning yesterday!

STRIKER: Yesterday we had Mr.X who is a complete tool! He talks to people like s**t and throws cards at you if you simply talk to him. United FC are supposed to be reporting him and although we won i would back them in that complaint cos he is that bad. He’s reffed us 4 times in last 2 seasons and has been awful in all of them. I agree that the standard of refereeing has fallen dramatically this season.

PJ: We had a genuinely blind person refereeing what was in important relegation dog fight. A Mr X was the man and whilst we’ve had some bad ones he was indescribably bad. Both sides wanted the game playing like men and this guy was determined to spoil it. I would bet that through his glasses he couldn’t make out a car reg plate at 30 yards. Both sets of players looked on in amazement and he really can’t enjoy it. I should know better than calling him a XXXXing disgrace whilst shaking his hand and we won the game.

NAUGHTY BOY: Im currently serving a 3 game ban thanks to Mr X. He sent me off for a tackle which i will admit was poor and i was expecting to walk. The way he went about sending me off was nothing short of shocking after the melee that it had caused had simmered he pulled the red card out and went “BYE BYE” the guys lucky i didnt make him bypass his retirment home and put him 6ft under. We all no that been a referee is a hard job but im sorry that guy is not oogd enough to be doing district reserve football.

 ALBERT: I know I am harping on about this respect thing but to turn round and say ‘you are acting like a bunch of xxxx and think that is acceptable, then sending someone off for replying ‘there is only one here’ is downright farcical but the XXXXXX doesnt even have to state what the player said in his report as all he has to do is tick the box that says dissent! It is fair to say a complaint will be going in about him as he openly admitted saying it after the game to both our manager and our chairman who was not happy!

MAC: Same old story. Top top quality players complaining that they don’t have refs that are anywhere up to their own immensely high standards. Without those rubbishy refs you have no league to play in.
It’s same in virtually every league of this standard (& below) across the country – prima donnas complaining about refs. They are no worse in our league than those in other leagues.
Simple solution to the prima donnas – If you want better refs go and play in a higher standard of league.

DONALD: non of us deliberatly make mistakes we give what we see,you see it from a different angle to us usually,offsides are undoubtedly the hardest to give … and yes we snap and might say something we may regret later on. most of you accept the banter we have but when things arn’t going your way we are an easy target with no re-course but we get abused week in week out mostly because you don’t get the decision you think you should get.

ERIC: I ref the majority of our juniors home games and the abuse that you have to put up with from parents is unbelievable – you cannot see every thing and you can only make a decision if you think that you are 100% correct. We are not world beaters as players or managers – we are involved because we love the game – we make as many mistakes in the 90 mins as the referee’s if not more than them. I fully understand why young lads wont ref – it’s because we live in an age where everyone is an expert and no one accepts that maybe it was their fault they lost a game – we have a lot to learn from Rugby in terms of respecting officials more.

TONY: After several decisions against us in quick succession Richie shouted at the ref ‘Come on Ref we haven’t all come to watch you you know!’ The ref’s instant reply ‘Well no buggers come to watch you have they?’ He was right, 3 spectators (1 of theirs 2 of ours) at the game!


Personally I think it’s diabolical. The goalkeepers ALWAYS get decisions, like the one the other day agaisnt us, unbelievable. And they always fall for the diving twohats, as well as the classic Big Man v Little Man 3 good refs a season if your lucky in the Fizzy pop league. I can name you one good ref we’ve had this year, Mr X at Boro, and that’s it. Our refs are too card happy.

All the refs at the Lane this season have been a disgrace, and the ref the other night, alongside his linesmen, really need to step down from their positions.

Don’t like slating refs willy nilly but for years now it’s clear that standards, especially in our League, aren’t up to scratch. It’s a tough job particularly with the speed of the game and everything being scrutinised. I’ve noticed in more recent years that almost every week you come away slagging the officials, same when watching games on the box. They’ve always had stick but I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as today going back to the 80’s/90’s

I’m not quick to criticise referees as its a very difficult job. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it. Some decisions they make are literally stupid, and some mistakes may be laughable, but to manage a game for 90+ mins and make no mistakes is impossible. Whats worse is there are always smart alec sarcastic pundits who have every conceivable camera angle to judge your decisions by and then make fun of you. The standard of refereeing isn’t always good, sometimes it terrible, but I do have a lot of sympathy for refs.

Diabolical !! the problem with most of them is that they have never played the game. Its one thing to learn the laws of the game out of a book but it’s another to understand them properly. Very few of them can tell the difference between a bad tackle and a late tackle or a foul tackle and a dangerous tackle. Most of them love being the centre of attention and the sooner they realise that the best refs are those that you don’t notice, the better.

End of day… the ref’s have got a real tough job however, the linesman haven’t and some of their decisions are an absolute joke. The majority of ‘really bad’ decisions are the linesman’s fault. Top refs let the game flow well but even XXXX has had a number of shockers in his time.

Don’t blame it all on the refs. They don’t go into a game with the intentions of cheating any team it’s the cheating players and managers who do that’. What about banning players feigning injury and then getting up and running about like good un’s, and those that dive about to fool the ref. No sportsmanship in the game any more and it’s not the refs fault. Some of you lot complaining should try refereeing a game.

AND FINALLY…from Eurosport

A footballer who got red-carded four times in one match has been banned for two years. Ricky Broadley of Mountain Rangers received the cards in a Caernarfon district league cup match against Penrhyndeudraeth.The 29-year-old, who was already banned from Sunday league football, was sent off for stamping on an opponent during a brawl on the pitch. He went on to receive further red cards for first arguing with the referee, then throwing water over him, and finally confronting him angrily in the clubhouse following the match. He was also hit with a £75 fine by the North Wales Coast FA.

An amateur footballer who received six red cards in the same match has admitted his playing career is over after receiving a two-year ban. Paul Cooper, 39, got a second yellow card for dissent while playing for Hawick United against Pencaitland in the Border Amateur League. He then received another five red cards for verbal exchanges with the referee. Mr Cooper said he loved football but would now have to “find something else to do on a Saturday”.

“Unfortunately I’ve been in bother before with bans and I expected six months,” he said.

“But I was absolutely stunned when I got two years.”

It’s only banter, mate…

Evidently Aaron Mclean is ‘sh@t’. He’s currently on loan at Peterborough United (for whom he once scored 33 goals in one season) as he just isn’t doing the business at his current club, Bradford City. You have to question the sanity of the Football League managers who rely on players week in week out, who are so poor, when everyone who doesn’t manage a Football League team, and has played only Sunday League (lower division) football know that they are ‘sh@t’.

James Hanson used to work at the local co-op. Bradford City fans are proud of their local-local-lad-cum-hero, whose goals helped them earn promotion from the fourth tier of football, as well as thrust the club o worldwide acclaim when they defeated three premier league teams en-route to making a Capital One cup final. And yet, a few weeks ago following injury and the great form of loanee John Stead he found himself on the bench. Suddenly he was ‘sh@t ’too. He must have been because the same experts said he was and how could City’s manager Phil Parkinson not agree with them.

That kind of stuff I find funny, especially as those that say and post stuff like that have no idea of the irony of their posts.

Other things just plainly annoy me, because there are others, admittedly only a minority (although judging by the number of ‘likes’ they get for their posts on facebook may-be less of a minority than you might think) who take it further by then personally abusing the players they feel are ‘cr@p’


A recent issue of the brilliant City fanzine, ‘The City Gent’ recently carried a letter from a fan who had thought up as many reasons as he could to slate, ridicule and personally abuse Aaron Mclean (all in the name of ‘banter’). Of course it said more about the writer of the article than it did the player he was writing about, but I’m pleased that I wasn’t the only person to complain about the article. Mike, the fanzine editor, is a fantastic bloke who would never have agreed with the content itself, and he was well within his rights to print the ‘article’ as it was one man’s personal opinion, but had a similar letter been written about the writer himself that same man would have been splitting blood. And what would the player himself, or his family, have thought had he read it (would he have tracked the guy down and told him he was on his way to sort him out as boxer Curtis Woodhouse so famously managed to do after being the victim of a twitter troll). It hasn’t worked out for Mclean at Bradford, but I’m not going to write a load of personal tripe about him.

James Hanson’s family read the media. They also read the recent personal abuse directed at him on City’s facebook fan page. Luckily it is moderated adequately and the offensive piece was quickly removed, but not before the damage had been done and the player’s mother was forced to post a quite irate response to the abuse. She was obviously upset and did make the point that she had no problems who criticised his football, but why should he be personally abused by people who have never actually met him.

Within 48 hours someone else was being treated to the same by the same postees, and no, I’m not to repeat any of the personal insults I refer to above.

Personal insults aren’t anything new of course. Over a decade ago I was unlucky enought to be sat behind a ‘football fan’ who decided to shout out ‘You’re wife’s a sl&g’ to David Beckham when the player came over to take a throw-in. The player ignored him, so he shouted it again. When taken to task by someone sat behind him, his excuse was ‘It’s only Banter, mate’.

Beckham way back in 1996

Beckham way back in 1996

To which the reply was, ‘No it isn’t, if I walked up to you and said your wife was a ‘sl&g’ you would deck me’, He still didn’t get the point.

There’s nothing wrong with stating your opinion and having your say, having a moan at a player, either on your own team or the opposition. They might be playing poorly, but they’re hardly ‘sh@t’, they play in the Football/Premier League after all, and surely they don’t deserve the level of personal abuse that some people seem to enjoy handing out.

(NB…Fleetwood Town must be really really ‘sh@t’ if James Hanson managed to score against them on his return to the team)