A Twenty First Century Renaissance in South Yorkshire

The Denaby United Story

By Barrie Dalby

Saturday 4th May 2002 was a significant date because on that day Denaby United, the football club which had been formed in 1895, played what we all believed would be for ever remembered as its final match. The penalty which youngster Brad Hill confidently netted in the 70th minute, to earn a 1-1 draw against Nottinghamshire visitors Arnold Town, ensured that the club would finish one point clear of the relegation places in the Premier Division of the Northern Counties East League. This was of great significance to all of us connected with the club as it showed that, although we had been under a sentence of death since September 2001, the players and management retained a pride in representing Denaby United. Despite all the difficulties of that traumatic season, and there were many, we had achieved our goal of keeping the club at the highest level then possible within the football pyramid. No one present on that historic but sad day could have foreseen that, having been Premier Division champions in 1997 and League Cup winners in 1999, Denaby United’s story had finally come to an end. The club which had produced two England international centre halves, Sam Cowan and the village’s own Jack Barker, was no more.
Subsequently nine years have slipped by and the famous old ground at Tickhill Square which had been the club’s home since 1912, and the scene of so many memorable games, was allowed to slowly fall into disrepair becoming a symbol of the decline of Denaby Main itself. The name Denaby United seemed destined to become just a distant memory in the history of senior non-league football in South Yorkshire like those of its neighbours Mexborough Town and Rawmarsh Welfare. But today is also significant, for one important difference, we are witnessing the rebirth of the new Denaby United thanks to the vision and determination of Steve Pugh, his committee and players.

The path ahead will not be easy, there will be setbacks to offset the good days, but that first vital step has been taken. They face a long road to restore Denaby United to its former glories yet, importantly, a start is being made. The communities of Conisbrough and Denaby Main need a successful senior football club to help supplement their proud history and heritage which was attacked following the reprisals from the miners’ strike of 1984-85 and is under threat again from another government whose ideology is based upon the right wing politics of the privileged classes. Consequently I am delighted, as secretary of Denaby United on that fateful day in 2002, to have been afforded this opportunity to wish the new club every success in the future. Please give them your support.

The Denaby United Story

The club was formed in 1895 although a Denaby Main F.C. had been established as early as 1884 and Denaby Wanderers played in the Mexborough & District and South Yorkshire Leagues in 1893-94. Unfortunately, no records exist of its early constitution but it is believed that Denaby United had connections with St Chads Church which stood on Doncaster Road next to the Reresby Arms public house. At a meeting held on 12th August 1895 it was elected to the Swinton & District Junior Football League and, indeed, was very much a junior club as the leading local team was Conisbrough Town who had been crowned South Yorkshire League champions in season 1894-95.

Denaby United’s first competitive match was on Saturday 7th September 1895, at home to Conisbrough St Peter’s, and resulted in a 2-0 win. Rapid progress saw the club not only enter the South Yorkshire League for season 1896-97 but win the title at their first attempt. They repeated the success in 1897-98 and 1898-99 and the following season entered the F.A. Cup, then known as the English Cup, for the first time. At home to Parkgate United on Saturday 23rd September 1899 they won 1-0 and reached the third qualifying round before losing 4-3 to Hunslet in a second replay played at Oakwell.

As further proof of its ambition and growing status Denaby United was admitted to the senior competition for local clubs, the Sheffield Association League, for season 1900-01. They finished mid-table and in 1901-02 were runners-up to Barnsley reserves. On Saturday 15th March 1902 the club won the Mexborough Montagu Hospital Charity Cup for the first time beating Newhill 3-0. At a meeting of supporters held in May 1902 it was resolved that application should be made to join the prestigious Midland League. The league’s annual meeting took place at the Alexandra Hotel, Nottingham on Saturday 7th June 1902 and Denaby United was elected as a member along with Chesterfield Town reserves, Doncaster Rovers Reserves and Gainsborough Trinity Reserves.

The 1902-3 season was eagerly anticipated although the club was aware of the financial implications of playing in the Midland League and realised that it needed better attendances to be able to compete at that level. Their optimism suffered a severe blow during the summer of 1902 when there was industrial action by the miners at both Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries which became known as the Bag Muck Strike. By the time the 1902-03 season was set to begin the strike was in its tenth week with many of the club’s supporters being employed at the two collieries. This was a difficult economic climate in which to launch Midland League football in Denaby Main. Would the club be able to cope financially?

Having been elected to the Midland League the club played its first match in the competition against Barnsley Reserves at Oakwell on Monday 1st September 1902. Although Denaby lost 3-0 they gained revenge beating Barnsley 2-0 in their first home game at the Denaby Lane Recreation Ground on Saturday 20th September. Despite the problems resulting from the Bag Muck Strike the club survived that first season although they were forced to transfer captain Bill Lawley to Barnsley for £80 in order to ease the financial situation. In 1905-06 United won the Sheffield Challenge Cup, now known as the Sheffield Senior Cup, beating Sheffield Wednesday Reserves 4-2 at Clifton Lane, Rotherham in front of an attendance of around 8000. The club achieved its highest ever placing in the Midland League in 1907-08 finishing runners-up to Sheffield Wednesday Reserves. At the start of that season they had erected a stand at the Recreation Ground at a cost of £400. It was opened on Saturday 7th September 1907 by Mr W.H. Chambers the managing director of Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries Ltd. Nearly 4000 spectators saw Denaby beat Wednesday Reserves 1-0.

On Saturday 12th March 1910 the Sheffield Challenge Cup was won for the second time as Barnsley Reserves were beaten 2-0 at the Wath Athletic ground. It is coincidental how fixtures against Barnsley Reserves and Sheffield Wednesday Reserves, although they were then simply known as The Wednesday, were of such significance in the club’s early years. Season 1911-12 was a disastrous one from a playing perspective as Denaby finished bottom of the Midland League and poor gate receipts, which dropped to between £3 and £4 per home game due to a coal strike, exacerbated the club’s problems.

Nevertheless, during the close season United moved from the ground on Denaby Lane to Tickhill Square. The ground was provided by the colliery company who almost met the costs incurred in dismantling the stand, which had been erected in 1907, and re-erecting it at Tickhill Square. The cost was £384 and the club agreed to repay this sum at £20 per year. The first game at the new ground was played on Saturday 7th September 1912 when United Reserves lost a local derby 3-0 against Conisbrough St Peter’s in the Sheffield Association League.

By early 1913 the club’s financial position had deteriorated to the point where, at a special general meeting held in April, it was agreed that there was no alternative other than to resign from the Midland League. Denaby returned to the Sheffield Association League and won the Montagu Cup for a second time in 1915 beating Mexborough Great Central Loco 2-0 in a second replay of the final. The Great War, which had begun in August 1914, resulted in many of the players enlisting in the armed forces. At the annual meeting, held in July 1915, the question of fielding a team for the forthcoming season was discussed. Consequently, Denaby United were not amongst the eight clubs who formed the Sheffield Association League for 1915-16 nor did they enter a team in any of the other local competitions in the two seasons following. The battlefields of France and Belgium continued to swallow up thousands of young men many of whom would not survive the horrors of the Western Front.

Following the end of the First World War the 1918-19 season saw Denaby United return to football with teams in the Doncaster & District Junior League and South Yorkshire League. Although they reached the Montagu Cup final they lost 2-1 to Kimberworth O.B. in a replay after a 1-1 draw.

After competing in the Sheffield Association League in 1919-20 the club’s application to rejoin the Midland League was successful at the League’s annual meeting held on 12th June 1920 at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Ten clubs applied for the four vacant places with Doncaster Rovers, Gainsborough Trinity and Nottingham Forest reserves being elected together with Denaby. Incidentally it was the Doncaster Rovers first team as they were not elected to the Third Division (North) until 1923. The six unsuccessful applicants were Harrogate, Wath, Wombwell, Silverwood Colliery, Frickley Colliery and Maltby Main. Votes received were Doncaster 20, Gainsborough 15, Denaby 14, Forest 12, Harrogate 6, Wath and Wombwell 5 each and Silverwood 3. There were no votes for Frickley and Maltby.

Although United finished bottom of the table in 1920-21, winning just 4 of their 38 fixtures, the appointment of former player Jim Hancock as secretary-manager in 1921 heralded an upturn in the club’s fortunes as they finished fourth in 1922-23 and fifth in 1925-26. On 30th April 1926 Denaby became the first holders of the Mexborough Challenge Cup beating Mexborough Athletic, the Midland League champions, 2-1 at Tickhill Square in front of 2200 spectators. The year 1926 is remembered for the General Strike which was called in support of the miners who were opposing the coal owners’ threat of wage cuts. Although the strike folded after nine days the miners stayed out for a further six months and, consequently, this had an effect on the finances of Denaby United.

A meeting held on the cricket ground in October 1926 was attended by a crowd of around 1000 with the Miners Welfare trustees pointing out that, whilst it was costing £65/£70 to stage a Midland League match, gate receipts had fallen well below an average of £40 per game. The Welfare trustees undertook to give the football club committee £400 annually as a subsidy and proposed that a levy of a halfpenny per week be introduced at the collieries on the men’s return to work.

In 1927-28 United reached the first round proper of the F.A. Cup for the first time after winning 2-1 at Boston in a fourth qualifying round replay. They were drawn at home to Southport of the Third Division (North) with the tie played on 26th November 1927 before a gate of 5200 with admission of 1/- reduced to 6d for ladies and juveniles. Southport established a three goals lead by the 61st minute but Dick Kelly netted twice for Denaby to set up a stirring finish with the visitors holding on to win 3-2.

In 1928 the club acquired a second stand from the Hellaby Stadium, between Maltby and Bramley, which was purchased through loans from 20 supporters. It was erected by voluntary labour and cost £120 plus £15 for dismantling and laying on the site. Located on the Conanby side of Tickhill Square it was opened on 22nd December 1928 by Mr H.C. Harrison, the general manager of Denaby & Cadeby Collieries, before the match against Grimsby Town Reserves. A metal framed structure, with around 500 seats and a terraced standing area of railway sleepers, it remained there until demolition in 1991-92 following safety regulations introduced following the Valley Parade and Hillsborough disasters. As the club entered the 1930s finance again became an issue with consideration given as to whether the club could continue with Midland League football as gate receipts were 50% down from the previous season. A meeting was held on 23rd February 1930 when it was estimated that the club would make a loss of £150 on the season. Billy Astbury, the financial secretary, reported that gate receipts averaged £20 per match but team expenses averaged £30 per week. The projected loss would have been unsustainable without the receipt of £600 from the Sports Allocation Fund maintained by the levy introduced at the Denaby and Cadeby Collieries in 1926. The meeting resolved to keep the club in the Midland League although economic conditions were already beginning to deteriorate following the 1929 Stock Market crash. February 1930 also saw the resignation of Jim Hancock as secretary after he had given outstanding service to Denaby United, both as a player and official, for 32 years.

Cup football figured prominently for Denaby United in the 1932-33 season. United beat Louth Town 6-2 in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup and were drawn away to Carlisle United of the Third Division (North) in the first round proper. The tie was played on Saturday 26th November 1932 and an excursion train with room for 400 supporters left Conisbrough station at 10.25am, arriving 1.40pm at Carlisle, with the return fare 7/6d. The players had already travelled to Carlisle on the Friday afternoon. Before a crowd of 6559 Denaby gave a battling performance only losing 1-0 to a 37th minute goal. Consolation came later that season when Rawmarsh Welfare were beaten 1-0 on Saturday 11th March 1933 in the Sheffield Senior Cup Final at Hampden Road, Mexborough. Although the official attendance was not published the gate receipts were £89 with spectators overflowing on to the touchline on the cricket side of the ground. In fact the Senior Cup figured prominently in United’s fortunes over the next three years. On 9th March 1935 at Dinnington, with the crowd exceeding 2000, Denaby were the victims of a major upset beaten 3-0 in the final by Firbeck Main. The United team included 19 years old Eddie Boot who, in 1938, was in the Huddersfield Town side beaten 1-0 in the FA Cup Final by Preston North End.

Just a year later, on 14th March 1936, Denaby brought the Senior Cup back to Tickhill Square beating Worksop Town 4-2 on their own Central Avenue ground. A crowd of 3496, more than attend many Football League Division Two matches nowadays, paid a total of £82/10s/4d which averages less than 6d each according to my calculations.

The final two seasons before the Second World War saw a dramatic slump in the club’s playing fortunes. They finished bottom of the Midland League table in both seasons with the 1938-39 season being statistically their worst ever in the competition. United’s record was 2 wins, 4 draws, 36 defeats to give a total of just 8 points with only 34 goals scored and a massive 218 conceded which averages over 5 per match. During the 1939 summer, with the war clouds gathering over Europe, great efforts were made to improve the playing squad. Mr Bob Shephard, United’s secretary-manager, considered that the team assembled would be the strongest for at least the past four seasons. However, the 1939-40 Midland League season was suspended following the declaration of war against Germany on Sunday 3rd September 1939.

Between the wars Denaby United transferred many players to Football League clubs with two going on to play centre half for England. Sam Cowan was signed from Bullcroft Colliery in 1922, transferred to Doncaster Rovers in 1923 and from Belle Vue to Manchester City in 1924. Whilst at City he appeared in three F.A. Cup Finals, gaining one winners’ medal, and also won a Second Division championship medal. He made three appearances for England between 1926 and 1931. Jack Barker was born in Denaby and employed as a miner at Cadeby Main Colliery. Joining United from Denaby Rovers in 1925 he was transferred to Derby County in 1928. He won eleven England caps between 1934 and 1936 captaining the team on his final appearance against Wales in Cardiff.

With the Midland League competition suspended Denaby United joined the Sheffield Association League winning the championship in 1940-41. When they played Wath Wanderers in the Mexborough Montagu Cup Final on Monday 10th April 1944 there was a record attendance of 5704. Following a thrilling 3-3 draw the replay took place on Saturday 29th April. Amazingly that game lasted 2 hours and 38 minutes before Wath won 2-1 with a sudden death goal. The following Saturday, 6th May 1944, United lost 3-2 to Sheffield Wednesday Reserves in the Sheffield Association League Cup Final. Next month we will look at the post-war years beginning with the 1945-46 season.

When football resumed, following the end of the Second World War, the first Midland League fixture of the 1945-46 season was played at Tickhill Square on Saturday 25th August 1945. United lost 2-3 to Ollerton Colliery having led 2-0 after 30 minutes. Three months later on Saturday 17th November they beat Lincoln City reserves 6-1 at home with Ken Moseley scoring four. That game was particularly notable because the Lincoln goal was scored by a young trialist from Sheffield, not quite 16 years of age, named Derek Dooley who went on to become a legend with both Sheffield clubs.

In season 1949-50 the leading scorer in the Midland League was Bernard Saxton, a locally born centre forward, who scored 41 of Denaby’s 90 League goals. During that season attendances of 2000 to 3000 were not uncommon at Tickhill Square with the extent of local support demonstrated when 500 fans travelled to Scunthorpe United and eleven buses took supporters to Blundell Park for the game against Grimsby Town reserves.

On 18th April 1952 the club held a Golden Jubilee dinner to mark their original entry into the Midland League in 1902. A couple of weeks later, on Thursday 1st May 1952, they met Yorkshire League champions Stocksbridge Works at Hillsborough in the Sheffield Senior Cup final but were beaten 4-1. During the 1950s Denaby had a good reserve team which in 1954-55 won the Sheffield Association League and lifted the Mexborough Montagu Cup beating Bowbroom WMC 2-0 at Hampden Road, Mexborough before a crowd of almost 4000 on Easter Monday 11th April 1955. At the end of the 1957-58 season eleven of the Football League club reserve teams, the only exception being Scunthorpe United, resigned from the Midland League together with Boston United, Corby Town, Kings Lynn and Wisbech Town. Most of the replacement clubs were from the north east namely Ashington, Blyth Spartans, Consett, Horden Colliery, North Shields, South Shields Spennymoor United and Stockton. The reserve team reached the 1958 Montagu Cup final but, in a reversal of the result three years earlier, lost 0-2 to Bowbroom WMC.

The following season Denaby again reached the first round proper of the F.A. Cup having won 2-1 at Goole Town in the fourth qualifying round before a crowd of around 3000 which included over 400 Denaby supporters. They were drawn at home to Oldham Athletic of the Fourth Division with the tie played on Saturday 15th November 1958. The admission price was 2/- (10p), with an extra 1/- for the main stand and 6d extra for the Conanby side stand. United officials were anticipating a crowd in the region of 7000 so the actual attendance of 3807 was considered to be disappointing. Denaby never really threatened to perform a giant-killing act and Oldham eased to a comfortable 2-0 win with goals in each half. United again contested the final of the Sheffield Senior Cup at the end of the 1959-60 season meeting Yorkshire League club Grimethorpe M.W. on Tuesday 3rd May 1960. The match was played at Grimethorpe, in front of a 2000 crowd, but Denaby lost 2-3 after twice being ahead although it must be pointed out that it was their fourth match in five days. The Midland League was having problems and it was decided at a meeting of the clubs that it could not continue and United, along with Frickley Colliery, made an application to join the Cheshire League.

At a meeting in Manchester the two clubs elected to the Cheshire League were Frickley Colliery with 21 votes and Sankey’s from Wellington in Shropshire who polled 15 whilst Denaby United fell tantalisingly short with 14 votes. United therefore made application to join the Central Alliance and were successful being admitted to Division One of its Northern Section together with former Midland League colleagues Gainsborough Trinity, Goole Town and Worksop Town. Denaby’s first game in the Central Alliance was on Saturday 20th August 1960 when they beat Matlock Town, the previous season’s champions, 4-3 at Tickhill Square. That season is significant as United achieved their record victory when they beat Shirebrook M.W. 20-0 at home on Saturday 31st December 1960. It is remarkable that Denaby only led 3-0 at half-time not having opened the scoring until the 35th minute! Well known local players Kenny King (3) and Harold Sapey (2), the latter would later manage the club, were amongst the scorers. Meetings were held during the 1960-61 season involving those clubs interested in re-forming the Midland League and by March 1961 Denaby United, having played a leading role in the campaign to revive it, were assured of a place in the League which would resume competition in August 1961 after just one season’s absence. Next month we will look at how Denaby United, one of the competition’s longest serving clubs, would lose its place in the Midland League just a few years later.

Having been re-formed the Midland League resumed competition in 1961-62. Denaby United’s first home game played on 26th August 1961 against Sutton Town resulted in a 2-1 defeat but there were 600 spectators at Tickhill Square. They finished in fifth place that season and the reserve team won the County Senior League championship. The following season brought a comfortable mid-table finish but at the club’s annual meeting held in June 1963 the chairman, Mr Tom Holmes, warned that without better home support the club could not continue in the Midland League. Consequently the manager, former Barnsley goalkeeper Harry Hough, was forced to release players and the club reverted to virtual amateur status. This was reflected in Denaby finishing at the bottom of the League and they were wooden spoonists again in 1964-65. The 5-3 home win against Spalding United played on Saturday 24th April 1965 would be the final Midland League game played by the club whilst Trevor Whittaker’s goals in the 78th and 80th minutes would be the last scored for Denaby United in the competition.

The Midland League AGM was held at Worksop Library on Saturday 19th June 1965 and it was a rule of the competition that the bottom two clubs had to apply for re-election. Denaby duly applied but next to bottom Bourne Town did not wish to continue in the League. The reserve teams of Lincoln City and Scunthorpe United had made applications for membership meaning that there would be a three way election for the two places in the League. As both Lincoln and Scunthorpe had resigned from the League at the end of the 1950s Denaby were confident of being re-elected as they had always remained loyal and supportive of the competition. However, Lincoln received 18 votes, Scunthorpe 16 and Denaby received just 5. United chairman, Mr Eddie Langford, visibly shaken by the result told the meeting in a low voice “I am very upset about the decision. I cannot say any more.”

To their credit United officials acted quickly and just seven days later had representatives at the AGM of the Yorkshire League held at the Broad Highway Hotel, Woodlands, Doncaster. Mr Langford presented their application and they were elected unanimously to Division Two of the League. Their first game in the Yorkshire League was played at Yorkshire Amateurs on 21st August 1965 with former Doncaster Rovers defender Charlie Williams in the team. They lost 1-0 but soon merged into a strong team, beating Brodsworth M.W. 15-0 at Tickhill Square on Saturday 27th November, and finishing the season in fifth place just a single point away from promotion. The following season under the management of Harry Lee promotion was secured with the team going on to finish runners-up to Division One champions Bridlington Trinity in 1967-68.

On Easter Monday 30th March 1970 there was a real local derby when the Montagu Cup final was contested between United and village rivals Northcliffe W.M.C. who played in the Doncaster Senior League. The final ended 0-0 with the replay, again at Hampden Road, set for Sunday 3rd May. With extra-time looming and the game scoreless Roger Willey netted a dramatic 88th minute winner for United. Further cup success, this time in the Yorkshire League Cup final, came two years later at Belle Vue, Doncaster on Thursday 4th May 1972. Denaby, now managed by Harold Sapey, met Barton Town and it was another tense goalless encounter settled in Denaby’s favour in the second minute of time added on when Peter Pettit headed home a cross from Trevor Whittaker. The man in the middle that evening was Keith Hackett from Sheffield who went on to become a F.I.F.A. match official refereeing in the 1988 European Championship Finals as well as taking the 1981 F.A. Cup final.

The club’s first game in Division One South of the Northern Counties East League took place at Tickhill Square on Saturday 28th August 1982 and was a local derby against Maltby M.W. The match was goalless for the first 45 minutes but, United managed by John Reed, ran riot in the second half scoring through Danny Carlin, Ian Preston, Jeff Oliver (2) and David Whiteman to win 5-0. Denaby went on to finish fifth that season but there was disappointment on 28th April 1983 when at Millmoor, Rotherham they lost 3-1 in the final of the Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup to their great local rivals Mexborough Town.

Reed was not retained as manager being replaced during the close season by Sheffield based Roy Ford. Success followed as United were promoted to the Premier Division at the end of 1983-84 as runners-up to Borrowash Victoria. The club also had its best ever run in the F.A. Vase reaching the fourth round before losing 3-2 after extra-time at Newcastle club Whickham who had won the Vase in 1981. On Saturday 25th August 1984 Denaby made their Premier Division debut at home to Alfreton Town. Goals from Steve Eamer, Mark Stanley, Colin Beresford and Steve Kulic ensured an emphatic 4-1 win. South Yorkshire was five months into the 1984-85 miners’ strike and it had an effect on the club’s finances leading to Ford’s resignation halfway through the following 1985-86 season. Despite having to suspend the payment of players’ expenses United finished in mid-table and appointed Rodney “Bud” Evans as manager for 1986-87.

The club finished sixth that season and it was memorable for the club winning the Sheffield Senior Cup for the first time since 1935-36. The final against West Yorkshire club Emley was played in pouring rain at Oakwell, Barnsley on Friday, 10th April 1987. Phil Watkin fired Denaby ahead from the penalty spot but Emley hit back to lead 2-1 before Howard Millington equalised four minutes from the end. Bob Spotswood put United in front 3-2 in extra time then goalkeeper David Knight made a fine save from a penalty to ensure that the Senior Cup went back to Tickhill Square.

Floodlights were installed at Tickhill Square and used for the first time on 20th September 1989 when Doncaster Rovers reserves were the opposition. With Mick Horne now manager Denaby again reached the Senior Cup final in 1989-90 but lost over two legs to Northern Premier League club Frickley Athletic. United won the home leg 1-0 with a Phil Stafford goal but lost the second leg at South Elmsall 2-0. Following Horne’s resignation in September 1990 John Bilton took over as manager but was not retained for the 1991-92 season with John Reed returning to the club. After two seasons Reed left and Bud Evans came back for his second spell in charge. In the 1994 close season Evans left to manage Ashfield United taking almost all the playing staff with him. However player Dennis Hobson, nowadays well known as a Sheffield boxing promoter, remained loyal and organised pre-season training before assembling a squad capable of competing at Premier Division level with new manager David Lloyd who had been a professional in the Scottish League.

The start of the 1995-96 season saw local businessman Brian Beckett take over as chairman of Denaby United and provide the club with the financial investment required to bring better players to Tickhill Square. The club celebrated its centenary in 1995 and everyone looked to a bright future. No one really envisaged the success which lay just ahead but neither could anyone foresee that it would be followed by the tragedy waiting to unfold at the start of the new century.

With Brian Beckett having taken over as club chairman and its major sponsor the budget made available to manager David Lloyd enabled Denaby United to recruit the players necessary to bring success to Tickhill Square. The club’s centenary in 1995 was marked by the publication of a book on the history of the club, whilst badges and other merchandise were produced and sold through the club shop under the management of David Green. David also edited and published the club programme which regularly won awards from the Wirral Programme Club as, not only the best in the Northern Counties East League, but in 1999 the coveted award as the best non-league Match Day programme in the whole of the country.

The 1996-97 campaign became one of the outstanding seasons in the history of Denaby United. The most high profile player signed during the summer of 1996 was former Sheffield Wednesday, Glasgow Rangers, Leeds United and England international defender Mel Sterland. Other players with Football League experience included Stewart Evans (Wimbledon, West Bromwich Albion, Plymouth Argyle, Rotherham United, Torquay United, Crewe Alexandra), Phil Wilson (Bolton Wanderers, Huddersfield Town, York City, Scarborough), Chris Dolby (Rotherham United and Bradford City) and Imre Varadi (Sheffield United, Everton, Newcastle United, Sheffield Wednesday, West Bromwich Albion, Manchester City, Leeds United, Rotherham United).

Denaby United were crowned Northern Counties East League Premier Division Champions at the end of that season losing only 3 league matches and being unbeaten at home. The title was clinched on Saturday 19th April 1997 when visitors Maltby Main were beaten 7-0. However the Tickhill Square facilities were not good enough to gain them a place in the Northern Premier League and runners-up Belper Town were promoted in their place. This led to both Brian Beckett and David Lloyd leaving the club with Gary Gillott succeeding the latter as manager. Following a transitional period Gillott, and his assistant Jason Maybury, steered United to the 1998-99 Northern Counties East League Cup final. Their opponents were Selby Town with the final played on the ground of Garforth Town on Friday 7th May 1999. Nathan Kerry missed a penalty for Denaby and a tight game was goalless after 90 minutes but, with torrential rain making playing conditions difficult, Bob Moorwood netted from close range during extra time to give Denaby a 1-0 win. With the team slipping down the table United dispensed with the services of Gary Gillott early in 2000 and appointed former England Under 21 international Peter Daniel (Hull City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sunderland, Lincoln City, Burnley) as team manager. Daniel steered the club clear of the relegation zone but parted company with Denaby early in the 2000-01 season and was replaced by Glyn Kenny an experienced manager who had spent many years at Hallam.

Although the playing budget was one of the more modest in the Premier Division the club was managing to hold its own but officials were stunned on 11th September 2001. Having been called to a meeting that afternoon with the committee and trustees of Denaby & Cadeby Miners’ Welfare they were informed that Denaby United would no longer be able to play at Tickhill Square, their home since 1912, after the end of the 2001-02 season. Despite attempts at negotiation through the Sheffield & Hallamshire County F.A. and, more particularly, Caroline Flint M.P. the trustees refused to reconsider their decision. With no future beyond the end of the season a number of players left and it looked as though the club may end it in a relegation position.

Denaby United went into their final match, at home to Arnold Town, on Saturday 4th May 2002 needing a point to finish clear of the relegation places. In front of the largest crowd at Tickhill Square for many years they trailed 1-0 at half-time but with 70 minutes played Denaby were awarded a penalty and young midfielder Brad Hill calmly slotted the ball home for a 1-1 draw to secure that precious point which meant so much to the club and its supporters.

There were emotional scenes at the final whistle as 107 years of history came to an end and we all thought that Denaby United had gone forever. The ground fell into disrepair and Denaby Main as a community was wiped off the non-league football map compounding the damage inflicted upon the area since the closure of Cadeby Main colliery following the 1984-85 miners’ strike. Happily there is a sequel to the story and Denaby United rose again, phoenix-like, during the summer of 2011 thanks to the determination and vision of the current club officials and management. It will be both a long and far from easy road for the club to return to its former level of football but those initial steps have been boldly taken and they have enjoyed an excellent debut season in the Doncaster and District Senior League.  Make no mistake Denaby United are now on the way back!!