Close your eyes and imagine hundreds of spectators lining the pitch watching Rangers play! Hear the crowd roar as the ball nestles in the net following a Deighton goal!
It may seem unbelievable nowadays, but this happened at games played at Lime Kiln Lane (our first ground), as they were often attended by hundred's of spectators.
"I do remember a junior cup semi-final game in 1947/48. It rained every bit of the game."
“Immediately after the war there was a lot of interest in local football as there had not been much for about five years, this was the case at Kirk Deighton. The pitch was quite a lot below the level of the lane, and there was little or no hedge at the time, making it a good place to watch the game. The people watching the game quite often covered the pitch on the land side. The crowds did lessen after a few years when more attractions became available and perhaps the team was not as good.”
This recollection comes from former player Allan Honeyman who followed the club from its affiliation into the Harrogate and District League in 1946. Working his way through the Kirk Deighton Rangers Juniors (or Minors as they were at the time), into the senior second team and then the first team, making his debut somewhere around December 1949 (quite possibly during the 4-1 win against Air Ministry on the 17th December).
A local lad, Allan went to Kirk Deighton Church of England school before continuing his education at Harrogate Tech. His love of football saw him join Rangers Minors at around 16 years of age, and it was not long before he was in the thick of the action. A left-back or occasional inside forward, Allan was soon picked to play for both Rangers Reserves as well as the Minors and it was the latter that he fondly recalls “I do remember a junior cup semi-final game in 1947/48. It rained every bit of the game, and we spent most of it defending our goal, but we managed to break away and score the only goal. The game was against a Harrogate Boys team. We lost the final at Wetherby Road (current home of Harrogate Town AFC) to a Knaresborough Boys club side.”
When asked to describe himself as a footballer, Allan responds with a modesty that is often associated with his generation “I was more energetic than skilful, especially in the early years.” However, the stats tell a different story and show that Allan has a confirmed 70 appearances and 25 goals to his name. However, with periods still to research, it is feasible that this figure is easily double or even treble what is known, especially over a 24-year playing career.
"The Wetherby lot used to call us 'the butchers!'"
As we know from pictures and stories taken and recorded at the time, the post-war years saw a boom in local sports. It could have been this sudden increased interest that led to the formation of our club, but what was it like playing football in the early 1950s? The answer is extremely different from nowadays! There was no gathering of players in the clubhouse to hear the manager announce the team pre-match “The team was picked by a committee, of which I eventually became a member. It met at the Bay Horse on either a Monday or Tuesday night and then the team was posted on the Village notice board. It was also printed in the Wetherby News which was more widely read than in these days."
“The shirts were generally quite thick and very warm to play in. They had collars as well; it was a bit like a shirt that you would wear to work in. The first Kirk Deighton shirt was tight-fitting with blue and white vertical stripes. The Wetherby lot used to call us 'the butchers!' The second team had amber and black shirts, but the main colour as far as I can remember was always blue and white.”
Even though cars were becoming more popular, they were not the mainstay that they are now and the team still travelled together. “We had to have a bus for away matches. In the beginning, we used Fred Snape, who had a garage in Wetherby opposite where the Shell Petrol Station is now. When he retired, we used Dodsworth from Boroughbridge. We all paid on the bus, usually to Jack Taylor, and Wetherby Athletic would also use the bus if we were both going in the same direction. They would sit in their part, and we would sit in ours, and as we went past our ground on Knaresborough Road (following the move from Lime Kiln Lane) they would shout ‘There’s the chicken run!’”
The Knaresborough Road ground was given the nickname “The six-all pitch” by the local paper due to the many high scoring games that took place on it, so what was it like to play on? Laughing, Allan recalls, “The pitch sloped uphill to both goals, but it was nowhere near as bad as it looked and one soon got used to it. As the saying goes beggars can’t be choosers, and after we weren’t able to use Lime Kiln Lane anymore we were lucky to have a ground at that time thanks to Mr W.F Alton.”
In fact, Mr Alton was very good to Rangers, allowing them to erect a billet that they had purchased from the Rufforth air field when it closed, and equip it with both running water and electricity.
Turning his attention to the games themselves, Allan settled on two teams that Rangers seemed to relish playing. “We always had some very hard games against Bardsey and Bickerton, and some very rough matches against Tockwith! On one occasion at Tockwith, they had four players sent off and we won the game about ten nil!” (This may have been on the 27th December 1958 when Rangers ran out 9-0 winners at Tockwith).
Of course, with the combination of the number of games Allan played in, and also the passage of time, it wasn’t the easiest of tasks for him to choose highlights. However, he does recall ‘All the games were very good for me. I once scored five goals in a game, but I can’t remember who against, for me to score that many, they can’t have been very good!" he added with a laugh. “I do remember however that it was always quite a thrill when we managed to win either a cup or the league.”
Changing the focus onto his team-mates, Allan diplomatically answers when asked about standout players. “We had so many good young players from Ribston and Spofforth that I am reluctant to single anyone out. However, Jack Taylor was a man who worked tirelessly for the club, and Philip Dabell, who was a founder member of Rangers and a very good player, stayed when lots of other players left for more attractive clubs.”
"..he stopped the game, went over to the spectator and said ‘see me behind the changing rooms after the game!'"
A broken cheekbone sustained against Poole would force Allan to hang up his playing boots around 1975, but that didn't end his involvement in the game. Once healed, he took up the whistle and became a referee, well known in the local area for the way he handled his games. “I had some good times as a referee, although my wife wasn’t happy when players used bad language at me when I booked a member of their team. This was particularly bad at both Harewood and Aberford where I seemed to book several players each time!”
Recalling another incident from his time as the man in the middle, “There was one particular referee who lived at Wetherby but didn’t have transport. He was given games near mine so I could give him a lift. He took boxing lessons in his younger days at the Youth Club, and on one particular occasion whilst at Boston Spa refereeing one of their games, he was taking a lot of stick from a spectator so he stopped the game, went over to the spectator and said ‘see me behind the changing rooms after the game!’ Needless to say, the spectator didn’t show up!”
Allan still looks out for our results, although he doesn't get to the ground much anymore. However, as we say "Once a Ranger, always a Ranger!"
KDRAFC Media would like to say a big thank you to both Allan and his lovely wife Audrey for their help in this interview, and other conversations about Kirk Deighton Rangers AFC.
All three photographs shown with permission from the private collection of Allan and Audrey Honeyman.