It is 81 years since Ossett Town AFC were formed, during a public meeting in 1936 the Mayor of the Borough of Ossett charged John Carter, a former Yorkshire League Referee, with bringing Ossett the highest possible standard of Football.
It has been a steady rise for the Club, who in 2003/04 won promotion to the NPL Premier Division where we competed for seven season before suffering one of only a handful of relegation’s in our history at the end of the 2010/11 season, and the first since 1980.
1936–1969: The Early Years
The club started out in the Leeds League, which was renamed The West Yorkshire League in 1939, before switching to the Heavy Woollen League. So called due to the heavyweight cloth manufactured in the area during World War II.
After the War, in 1945, Ossett Town joined the Yorkshire League. In 48/49 we recorded our record victory in the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, beating David Brown Athletic 11-0 away from home and in 49/50 won the West Riding County Senior Cup, the first honour for the club, and finished the season in a club high third place, scoring 120 goals in the process.
During this period, and through into the 1950’s the Yorkshire League contained the ‘A’ teams of Leeds United, Huddersfield Town as well as both Sheffield sides, Doncaster Rovers and Barnsley, at this time often topped the 1000 mark.
With these sides came players of the calibre of John Charles, Denis Law, Ray Wilson, Peter Swan, Tommy Taylor and Jack Charlton.
Derrick Blackburn was sold to Swansea Town in 1957 for £1,350 and with this new found wealth the club bought the Ingfield site where the club still play to this day. Previously we had played on a pitch behind the Fern House Working Men’s Club on Wakefield Road as well as a pitch on Back Lance after the Army had commandeered Fern House during WWII.
The Club moved to the new Ingfield ground in 1959, just after being relegated from Division One and celebrated the first season at Ingfield with a 3rd place finish and promotion straight back to the First Division of the Yorkshire League as well as a first West Riding County Cup success but suffered a second relegation in 60/61.
1970–1982: The Yorkshire League
Following a restructure of the Yorkshire League we found ourselves in the third Division in 1970, by which time long serving player Frank Lloyd, who would dedicate 50 years of his life to Ossett Town, became manager. He signed two former Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town strikers Len White (who scored 153 goals for Newcastle) and Jim Kerray. They’re not the only former Newcastle players to pull on the Red of Ossett Town as in the early 00’s John Beresford spent a brief period at the club.
During this period Graham Firth joined the playing staff as a teenager and would go on to become the clubs first Commercial Manager as well as groundsman, barman and long serving Chairman too! Frank Lloyd relinquished the managerial role and became Club Secretary
Through the 70’s we climbed from the third division to the first division before returning to the second Division in 1980, a division we finished runners up in during the final season of the Yorkshire League.
1982–1999: Northern Counties East League
Following the merger with the Midlands League the North East Counties League (NCEL) was formed, a competition we are founder members of. 1982 also saw Town collect our final County Cup win thanks to a 2-0 victory over Bradley Rangers at Huddersfield Town’s Leeds Road.
Graham Firth began his 28 year stint as Chairman in the mid 1980’s, 1987 is a notable year in the clubs history as outside investment in the club saw floodlights erected for the first time, new dressing rooms built, the clubhouse extended and the pitch was re-laid at considerable cost.
Micky Bullock was appointed as manager and the club hosted Manchester United in a pre-season friendly for who Lee Sharpe made his debut. A club record attendance of 2,600 was also set.
Local businessman Peter Wilkinson joined the committee and took the role of Football Chairman, he took the lead with what happened on the field while Graham Firth ran the off field side of the club. Peter’s son, Andrew, helped bring the club into the electronic world as he set up and ran the clubs first website with great success.
The Club won the NCEL second division title that season before a second promotion saw the club start the 90/91 season in the NCEL Premier Division. The 89/90 season was the last time the club won a trophy, lifting the NCEL League Cup thanks to a shock victory over FA Vase finalist Bridlington Town, who were managed by future Town boss John Reed.
We had nine consecutive seasons in the Premier Division as the club slowly prepared for the next step up in the pyramid which was achieved at the end of the 1998/99 season when promotion to the Northern Premier League (NPL) was gained thanks to a second place finish. Ossett Albion actually came first that season, but due to ground grading issues, something that was to affect Ossett Town a few years later, promotion was denied and Town took the opportunity handed to them.
Sadly John Carter, one of the founders of the club did not see the club reach the NPL, passing away in 1994 age 88 having performed every off field role at the club including Chairman, Secretary and manager.
1999–2004: The Northern Premier League First Division
Gary Brook was player manager at this time, and following promotion guided the club to two impressive eight place finishes in the NPL First Division, a mention in The Sun as their team of the week thanks to a 7-1 away win at Whitley Bay, and also a run to the second round of the FA Trophy when 1100 people came to Ingfield to see former League side Doncaster Rovers sneak away with a 1-0 victory.
Ossett Town’s third season in the NPL, 01/02, saw Town win their opening four games scoring 12 times, this was a great season for the club with Brook and his strike partner Scott Jackson in great form and the likes of former football league players Chris Stabb, Craig Boardman and Matthew Smithard in the side as well as local talent like Alan Barker, Mark Lambert and Paul Ryan.
However the season ended in heartbreak despite finishing second, an automatic promotion place, as ground improvements were delayed twelve hours due to inclement weather and promotion denied.
Gary Brook remained at the club but a number of players moved on, the Reds ending the following season in lowly 20th place, but comfortably ten points above the relegation places.
The 2003/04 season saw a league re-structure with the introduction of the conference North and South, meaning the club were promoted to the NPL Premier Division. Scott Cooper replaced Brook but was soon replaced by Steve Richards.
2004–2011: The Northern Premier League Premier Division
It was Richards who took Town to the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup in 05/06, our best run to date beating Stocksbridge Park Steels, Consett and Matlock Town to set up a home tie with Leamington Spa, with the winners earing a place in the FA Cup First Round.
In front of 900 people it was Leamington Spa who progressed to earn a trip to Colchester United where the League side progressed thanks to a 9-0 win. Despite the Cup run the league form deserted Town. Richards was replaced by Steve Kittrick.
The Reds ended the season in 11th place and topped that in 06/07 with a tenth place finish, our highest league position in the Football Pyramid.
Things took a downward turn the following year, despite a positive start to the season relegation was only avoided on goal difference as Kittrick left the club for Guiseley and a number of players followed him. Simon Collins took the helm and despite being favourites for relegation ended the season in 12th.
This year was hugely overshadowed by the death, age 81, of Frank Lloyd, in honour of his 50 years at the club the Directors room was renamed the Frank Lloyd Hospitality Suite in his memory.
There were more managerial changes as Collins left the club to be replaced by Mick Couzens and Paul Lines. The duo clashed and Couzens left the club. Lines remained in control until the appointment of former Wolves player Peter Daniels. He left before the end of the 09/10 season and Lines took over again. Unsurprisingly with so much upheaval we finished fourth bottom.
Phil Sharpe oversaw the 10/11 season, assisted by two former Town players, Paul Sykes and Mark Wilson, but with money tight the club were relegated from the Premier Division.
2011–Present Day: The Northern Premier League First Division North
Sharpe retained the manager’s role for the return to the NPL First Division North and was assisted by the experienced Eric Gilchrist. The latter ending the season in charge after Sharpe stood down.
2012/13 started with the appointment of an eleventh manager in ten seasons as Craig Elliott joined the club from NCEL side Glasshoughton Welfare, there was a large turnover of players in Elliott’s 18 months at the club, 12/13 ended with an 12th place finish, a run to the First round of the FA Trophy and were a missed penalty away from taking FC Halifax Town to extra time in the Semi Final of the West Riding County Cup.
The Club started the following season more positive than any other in recent seasons, then at the club AGM Graham Firth stood down as Chairman after 28 years in the role, taking up the position of Honorary President. The members of the club unanimously voted the club’s Junior Chairman, James Rogers, as Firth’s replacement.
Under Elliott the side went down to an unfortunate FA Cup defeat at Conference North side Colwyn Bay and performed well in the League, going on a run of only three defeats in 23 games. The good form brought many scouts to Ingfield, captain Ryan Qualter was signed by Bradford Park Avenue, and others were sought after.
Elliott decided he could not take the club any further and resigned his position of manager just 24 hours before a key game, taking up a position at a club in the NCEL First Division. The committee appointed Captain Steven Jeff as caretaker manager and he over saw two amazing games for the club under the stress of players wanting to follow the former manager.
The experienced John Reed was appointed as manager and brought with him Clive Freeman as his number two and Dave Merris was appointed player/coach. The club ended the season in eighth place, impressive given the changes to the squad that were forced with only three months of the season remaining.
Reed brought in a lot of young, hungry players that summer, Brad Dixon signed from Leeds United, Nathan Curtis and Callum Hepworth moved from Bradford City. Despite some excellent performances the lack of experience often cost us. It was hoped the experience gained would leave the club in good stead for the following season.
Tuesday 2 June 2015 saw the untimely death of former Chairman Graham Firth following a short illness. He dedicated his life to Ossett Town AFC, taking on the mantle of John Carter to bring the highest level of football to the area; that is something that can be said he did.
The side continued to struggle in the First Division North and in September Reed parted company with the club by mutual consent, his replacement, Graham Nicholas from NCEL side Garforth Town could not halt the slide, winning just a solitary point from his eleven games. The clubs committee acted and he was relieved of his position as the club looked to be heading to the NCEL for the first time in almost 20 years.
The committee, led by Rogers, took the bold step of appointing untried Grant Black in his first managerial role. With him Black brought Steve Ridley who would combine playing duties with that of Assistant Manager and Mick Norbury, who began his playing career with the club in 1987, came in as coach.
The final proved to be a step too far, despite taking the lead in the 87th minute the home side drew level during seven minutes of time added on, that late goal gave Farsley Celtic the momentum going into Extra Time and they took advantage to win the game.
Black has once again secured the majority of the squad for the new season as The Reds look to prove we are not one season wonders, with support increasing in numbers and noise each week that passes the future is finally looking bright both on and off the pitch here at Ossett Town.