Where it all began...
The Club played its early cricket in the Pudsey Sunday Schools Cricket League, in the latter part of the 19th Century and celebrated it’s Centenary in 1992.
The game was so popular in those days that almost every church and chapel in the area had at least two teams, and it is said that on most Saturdays, as many as three games could be seen being played all at the same time, separated only by dry stone walls.
Pudsey Congs were one of those teams playing on a tiny ground known locally as Long Close. Just a little further than a big six hit from the Congregational Church with it’s Gothic architecture and magnificent spire: and from where the club derived its name “The Congs”. As of today they still retain the name are and fiercely proud of its origins and their identity with the present United Reformed Church.
Changing times and the decline of the league led to the club becoming members of the Dales Council Cricket League and playing their cricket on a ground known as Queens Park. At the present time, the club still has one Senior team playing in that competition, with the majority of those games being played at the home of Fulneck Moravian School, not too far from the site of the former church.
Ever ambitious, the club then joined the more competitive Leeds League having at last found a permanent new home. This is were the journey to play more senior cricket really began. With the purchase of the Britannia ground in 1977, which was in a derelict state after the demise of the famous old club bearing that name and where cricket was first played as early as 1854. Hard work by an enthusiastic membership reclaimed the ground for cricket and as proof that their efforts have never faltered, in August 2003 they hosted the Yorkshire 2nd XI vs Essex 2nd XI in the first ever official three day county fixture to be played within the boundaries of the old Borough of Pudsey, made famous for producing cricketers for both Yorkshire and England.
In 1987 the club were elected to the Bradford Cricket League and gained promotion to Division One in the following season. They battled hard in the early seasons to get established at that level but were unfortunately relegated in 1991. During that period of time, a very strong 2nd XI kept the club flag flying by winning the Priestley Shield Competition on three occasions and heading the 2nd XI Championship table on no less than six occasions. It is with some pride that cricket historians will note that they joined with the senior 1st XI to become the “Secure Trust” Bradford Cricket League Millennium Champions. After being relegated in 1991, the team bounced back the next year and they built on their previous experience and went on to win their first competition at the highest level, when Yorkshire Colt Colin Chapman hoisted the Priestley Cup.
In that team was a young pace bowler Matthew Hoggard, who went on the play for Yorkshire and England. Matthew became the first player to progress through the Junior system to play International cricket for his country. Also in that team was the late Phil Carrick, who had joined the club in 1993 after a distinguished career including the Captaincy of Yorkshire Cricket Club. Phil, affectionately know as “Ferg”, took over as 1st XI captain the following season and his professional attitude and enthusiasm for the game had a great influence on the next stage in the development of the club until his retirement due to ill health.
The new Century then heralded a remarkable period in the clubs’ history.
Matthew Doidge, another player with county and lots of league experience, took over as Captain in 1999 and his style of inspirational leadership took the club to greater heights. With the Ex-Yorkshire Colt at the helm, the club achieved a major ambition by winning the Bradford Championship for the first time in 2000 and it became a double celebration when the 2nd XI also ended the season as Champions, a remarkable double for the club in a relatively short space of time. BBC North recognized their achievement in 2001 when they retained the league title before traveling to Lords “the home of Cricket” and winning the E.C.B Indoor National six-a-side competition at the first attempt. The season ended in dramatic fashion when they won the Black Sheep sponsored Yorkshire Champions Trophy in the last over against former winners, Hanging Heaton.
Following this, they were rightly crowned “team of the Year” by the BBC. Driven on by Doidge, the club completed their best season ever in 2002. Traveling across to Vienna, Austria as National E.C.B Indoor Champions in the early part of the year, they won the indoor cup competition of the same name, played in the friendly atmosphere of that country, before facing the challenge of a new season. From the start of the new campaign, the teams level of performance had been good and mid August 2002 became an historic occasion and a huge talking point for the West Riding Cricket public when for the first time, two Pudsey clubs were to contest for the Priestley Cup Final at Wagon Lane, the home of Bradford & Bingley C.C. The newspapers had their say, could the top enders (Pudsey St Lawrence) topple the bottom enders, the high flying Congs? History will tell you that it was the bottom end who triumphed and that result became a double when the championship was won again with the top enders 11 points adrift in second spot after the Congs had beaten Cleckheaton in a rain affected game, with Barbar Butt crashing in an unbeaten century and Andrew Bethel also undefeated, finishing with 70.
The heart of the old Yorkshire coalfield was the unusual setting for the Yorkshire Champions final at Street House Cricket Club situated mid-way between Featherstone and Wakefield E.C.B. Yorkshire Premier League winners Sheffield Collegiate provided the opposition to see who could end up as the top club in the County. Determined to hold on to the trophy won in such dramatic fashion from the previous season, Matthew Doidge led his team to another plateau. The Men from South Yorkshire were beaten by 59 runs, enabling the Congs to call themselves, Yorkshire Champions again and added to their League and Priestley Cup, it was a momentous achievement.
The Pre-season talk of 2003 as the leagues’ Centenary celebrations got underway with dinner at the Bradford Hilton was “Can the Congs do it again?” Many people argue this is the best team since the time following the 1939 war, who could argue with that. The answer came on September 6th, 2003 with the scoreboard reading 139 for 3 wkts at the home of Gomersal who had suffered 7 wicket defeat. Before going to Red Lane to take on Farsley in the last match of the season, the team had won four straight Championship titles, ending the race in 2003 with a huge margin of 28 points. The final chapter of this brief modern history of the club is dedicated to the team on the field, the management behind the scenes and the “Members”, who all along had “THE VISION”.
The Fab Five 2004
Neil Gill, Gary Brook, Matthew Doidge, Andy Bethal and Babar Butt
So cricket is the flagship of the club, working hard behind the scenes there is a very enthusiastic membership which provides various aspects of the clubs activities. In Junior cricket, there is an abundance on parental involvement and the work of a busy social committee to embrace everyone. Their work involves organizing and hosting parties for young children in the club, adult entertainment and Senior Citizens outings on a regular basis. Over the years they have provided upwards of £40,000.00 for local charities which all adds up to a dual success on and off the field
Produced by Cricket Enthusiast MB Knight