A potted history of Pontefract Collieries Football Club ...
Pontefract is known to have had a football club as far back as the 1890s when a side, presumably composed mainly of soldiers, competed in the West Yorkshire League as Pontefract Garrison. Much of the history of the game in the town is still in need of further research, but it is known that a Pontefract Borough club reached the dizzy heights of the Yorkshire League in the late 1920s. They failed to finish the 1929–30 season, though. But by 1935, a club called Tanshelf Gems managed to acquire a ground on Ackworth Road, moved there, and became Pontefract United.
United ruled the roost in local football before the war, but when hostilities ended in Europe, they were rekindled in the town with the appearance of a Pontefract Collieries side, who by the late 1950s had gained slight bragging rights over their town rivals, both playing in the West Yorkshire League.
But in 1960 the old Collieries club became extinct, only for the name to return a couple of years later when United merged with a local youth side and adopted the name for themselves.
The new club quickly gained in stature and found considerable success in the West Yorkshire League, before joining the Yorkshire League in 1979. Progress on the field continued, culminating in a Yorkshire League Division Three Championship win in 1982. This was the last season of the old York-shire and Midland Leagues, which then combined to form the Northern Counties East League. The Colls were founder members of the new league, and have remained there to this day.
Successive promotions were gained in the first two seasons; the Runners-Up spot in Division Two (North) being followed rapidly by the Division One (North) Championship. This meteoric rise saw the Colls into the top flight of the NCEL, a position they held for a decade. Progress on the field was matched by ground improvements, as floodlights, a new clubhouse, stands, seats, and other major changes took place. Much of the work was done during the miners’ strike, cementing further, literally, the club’s relationship with the mining industry and local community. The floodlight opening in 1987 saw the Collieries take on Hull City in a friendly, watched by the record 1,000 crowd for the Skinner Lane ground.
More honours came the club’s way as the NCEL Floodlit Cup was won twice, and two West Riding County Cup Finals were reached. Another near miss was the appear-ance in the NCEL Presidents Cup Final in 1994. Managers Paul Cooper, John Brown, and Ged Elliott had been the main inspirations behind the footballing rise of the club during this sustained period of progress. But when the last of this line, Ged Elliott, left the club during 1994–95, a sudden decline could not be halted and the first relegation for many a year came about.
The appointment of new boss, Jim Kenyon, soon halted the slide, however, and the Colls bounced straight back, taking the Runners-Up spot, and winning the Wilkinson Sword Trophy along the way. The following season saw Pontefract in yet another cup final, when they lost out by 3 –1 to Hucknall Town at Millmoor in the NCEL League Cup Final. Success could not be sustained, though, and by 1998–99, a disastrous start saw the first 11 games lost, and only 7 points gained by Christmas. New manager, Peter Daniel, came in, and almost turned the fortunes around in an amazing rear-guard battle. The club still lost its Premier Division status, finishing second bottom, but only on goal difference.
Steve Kittrick then took up the challenge with a more locally based squad, and an emphasis on youth development. 1999-00 saw the Under-16’s win the West Riding Junior Cup, and the Under-19’s reach the Northern Youth Alliance League Cup Final. The senior squad also reached the Wilkinson Sword Trophy Final, which was narrowly lost on a 4–2 aggregate to Goole. But successes at youth level were ultimately unable to be repeated by the senior squad, and Steve Kittrick left, after a disappointing finish to the 2000–01 campaign. The successful youth coach, Gary Batley, took over for the 2001–02 campaign, but a very young and unsettled side saw a disastrous season end with the Colls rock bottom of the NCEL First Division.
2002–03 saw Peter Daniel return, and improvements on the field were obvious from the very start. Ironically, despite bringing in a few key players to strengthen the squad, much of the side were graduates from the club’s youth policy, which seemingly had not matured quite quickly enough for previous managers. The season saw the club reach its best ever stage in national competitions, reaching the Second Round Proper of the FA Vase, and with another Cup Final appearance in the Wilkinson Sword Trophy, this time losing out to Mickleover Sports, 3–1 on aggregate. A strong run in the second half of the league season saw the Colls finish in fourth place in Division One.
But optimism for the 2003–04 campaign soon evaporated, and after a poor start, Pete Daniel resigned. Reserve team manager Roly Lanes took over the reins, and the club were pulled off bottom spot, but still needed to apply for re-election.
Battles off the field have dominated recent times, with fires destroying seats and parts of the stand, the tea bar, and the closure of the adjacent Prince of Wales Colliery and loss of the electricity supply. On the field, Collieries continued to struggle, and only avoided relegation on more than one occasion as a consequence of Pyramid restructuring.
Progress in national competitions was virtually nil. Things reached rock bottom in 2007–08 when, despite winning the first league game, Ponte then failed to win another for the rest of the season, and finished with just 9 points, a staggering 15 adrift of the club above them. Once again, relegation was avoided as the club were saved by the constant restructuring of the Pyramid league system. Turmoil and bad feeling dominated the summer break, seeing the departure of the management team and most of the Committee as well. But this provided an excellent opportunity for the club to rebuild, and to put in place a plan for the future where none had previously existed.
2008-9 saw a new and enthusiastic Committee appoint new manager, Simon Houghton, from local Central Midlands League side Kinsley Boys, and after just 4 league games the new team gained the 9 points it won the previous season. For the first part of the season, the club kept pace with eventual champions Scarborough Athletic at the top of the table, but unfortunately, a disastrous spell into the new-year saw the club embark on a run of 1 win in 9, which saw the club finish in ninth place.
2009–10 saw continual improvement from Houghton’s players. The side was strengthened and despite a slow start, the side eventually finished the sea-son in fifth place, taking four points off promoted Brighouse Town during the campaign. Despite the team topping the league during the Christmas and New Year period in the 2010–11 Season, the team’s results fell away badly in the early months of 2011.
As a result, Simon Houghton left the club, with former Leeds United captain Brendon Ormsby being brought in as manager. During his first dozen games in charge of the club, Ormsby used the remainder of last season to assess the players at his disposal and start to implement changes to the playing style of the team. With several target signings brought in during the closed season to enhance his squad, Ormsby prepared his team for an assault on the NCEL First Division.
Unfortunately, success wasn't forthcoming for the Colls, and a bad spell during the middle of the 2012-2013 season led to Ormsby leaving the club by mutual consent. Player-managers Nick Handley and Duncan Bray stepped into the breach for the club, and with one defeat in the last ten league games, they ended the season with the club in-form, including record victories over Askern Villa: 9-0 and 10-2. The season ended with the club finishing in fifth position for the third consecutive season.
The 2013-2014 season was one of consolidation as Bray and Handley brought in new players and stamped their style of play on the squad. 2013-14 ended in a disappointing ninth place but with a clear plan in place for the 2014-15 season.
The plan was delivered and 2014-15 turned out to be a successful season for the Colls as they finished as runners up in the NCEL Division 1 and achieved promotion to the NCEL Premier League after an absence of fifteen seasons. Along the way they achieved the season’s records for highest away win, best aggregate score, most goals scored (joint with Louth Town), second best defence and most clean sheets.
Ponte now looked forward to making their mark in the NCEL Premier in 2015-16 and new players were added to strengthen the winning squad. For the remainder of the 2015-16 season the Colls had a new management team with manager Craig Parry assisted by Craig Rouse and Nigel Danby. Colls fought to the bitter end and unfortunately ended up in the third from bottom spot and back into division one.
The 2016 close season has seen many changes in players and staff behind the scenes, with emphasis on the clubs infrastructure being paramount. The team has had a great pre-season and are fully ready and prepared for what this season may bring.
The 2017-18 season saw very few changes in the squad as we looked forward to our campaign in the NCEL Prem after being away for one season. The lads had a positive pre-season and the management team were confident of going into the league and making an impression. After a really positive start to our league campaign confidence kept growing through the group. Our FA cup campaign came to an abrupt end losing 2-1 to Skelmersdale in a closely contested game meanwhile a new club record was set in the FA Vase as we reached round 4 (last 32) before finally going down to a good 1874 Northwich team who themselves went on to reach the semi final.
Our league campaign continued to go from strength to strength as we recorded a series of big wins. After losing back to back games at Garforth and Pickering we found ourselves a huge 21 points behind AFC Mansfield with eight games in hand. After our FA Vase exit the players and management started to focus on cutting in AFC Mansfield's lead at the top of the table and after what seemed like a long chase we finally reached the top of table after a 0-3 away win at our closest title rivals.
Finally, after a gruelling schedule, we secured promotion away at Maltby Main and the club could start to look forward to Evo-Stik football for the 1st time in our history. After a win and two draws to end the season we finally finished the season crowned champions with 102 points and a +96 goal difference. Who knows what the 2018-19 season has to offer but after a good pre-season and the arrival of some quality additions, confidence is high in the camp as the club look forward to a first season at Step 4 of the National League System.