History 10 of 12

10. Halcyon Days - Bob Haigh

The late 1950s and early 1960s were halcyon days for Shelley sport after many barren years.

The Cricket Club appeared in three Central League cup finals in four years lifting the trophy in 1957 and 1961. The second eleven also won their championship in 1957.

A feature of 1957 was that, with one exception, all the recipients of prizes in both teams lived in the village. Ever the exception, Les Hobson, had graduated through the village junior teams.

The football club meantime had been wallowing in the lower reaches of Division Two for several seasons with regular heavy defeats being the order of the day.

The club constantly finished in a relegation place but were reprieved time and again by teams dropping out of the league.

At the end of the 1959-60 season it was felt that enough was enough and secretary, Roy Lockwood, was asked to contact the League to ask that this time the relegation was implemented to allow the club to rebuild.

What a terrific decision this turned out to be.

It led to a double winning team only once previously achieved by a team in Shelley,
led by Wilf Haigh in the Dearne Valley League back in 1928-29.

As with the cricket team the football team was very much home spun with eight of the regulars coming from the village. What is more several of the players had got used to winning as skipper, Bob Haigh and full back Don Bentley had tasted success in the cricket cup finals.

Trevor Matthews who was a revelation throughout the season, David Haigh and Colin Tarbatt also tasted success with the cricket club’s second eleven.

The football season started with a victory, then another and then another, Scapegoat Hill, Meltham and Bradley Mills were the main challengers.

The victory run continued until the last Saturday in 1960 when the club travelled to Skelmanthorpe for a derby game.

On a waterlogged pitch Shelley were decidedly second best. They were lucky to escape with a 3-3 draw to maintain their unbeaten record but they had dropped their first point.

The club returned to winning ways and they had opened up a gap in the table over Scapegoat Hill, who looked as if they were the only club able to deprive Shelley of the championship.

The two teams met in a big match at Scape, Shelley were well beaten 3-1 and the league had still to be won.

Shelley returned to winning ways and the title was clinched with a few games to play.

One of these was at Almondbury and with the Groom Cup final on the horizon a scratch team was fielded and they met defeat.

Meltham who had been twice beaten in the league, not without difficulty particularly away, were the cup final opponents and the game was scheduled for Emley.

It was learned later that the Meltham team included a young, Howard Crowther, who several years later was to return to Shelley as postmaster.

The big day arrived Shelley travelled as usual by coach and the evening was drizzly and misty but the pitch was in good condition.

Centre forward Russell Peters gave Shelley the lead but by half time Meltham looked capable of springing a surprise for they were 2-1 ahead.

It might have been 3-1 for experienced referee, Roy Jepson had awarded a goal when a shot hit the crossbar but the intervention of a linesman saved the day.

A spell in the second half changed the course of the game again when wing half Trevor Matthews scored twice in a minute to put our team Shelley in front.

Meltham were not going to lay down and they came back to equalize.

A goal each for the Haigh brothers late in the game clinched the cup which was paraded through the Sports & Social Club to disturb the Friday night Bingo session.

There were many celebration nights to follow including one at the Princess Ballroom in Huddersfield where surviving members of the 1928-29 double winning side were delighted to accept the invitation to be present.

Yes 1960-61 was a big year in the history of Shelley Football Club.

It was a splendid team performance, a sold defence, a creative midfield and a chance taking forward line with Bob Haigh leading the scoring with 42, Russell Peters 38, Colin Tarbatt 31, David Haigh 27 and Dennis Thompson 21.