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Where Roy Kilner and Fred Tunstall Learned Their Football

March 1927

Mexborough and Swinton Times, March 18, 1927

Nearly a Midland League Club

At Darfield there abides a strong tradition of football. From the earliest days the district has been absorbed in the game stop.few people are proud of the fact that on their portions international abroad. It will be regarded as insulting to go there and suggest for example that Fred Tunstall belongs to Wombwell!

This season Darfield won the Sheffield Senior Challenge cup – the biggest achievement to date. Follow football at Darfield like to delve into history, because football thrived there before many of the clubs now prominent came into being.

As to when organised football was first played at Darfield, opinions differ, but one may safely say that Darfield had a football club at least 35 years ago. The centre of interest is almost invariably being Low Valley, where is the best ground in the district, opposite the George Hotel. 20 years ago Darfield had one of the strongest minor-league combinations in the district and the name of some players then associated with the club is quoted when it is thought necessary to fire the enthusiasm of the junior footballer of the present generation.

How often do you of the exploits of Bill Petefield (Dr), Tom Elliott, Frank Marsh, Ted Illsley, Abe Round, Tom Fellows, Paul Fellows, Harry Robson, Bill Greaves (“Sheff”), and a dozen others?

Most of these are still associated with the club as officials or supporters, and until comparatively recently Bill Greaves was president. In those days, Wombwell Main, Mitchell Main and Wombwell Rising Star were playing in the Barnsley Minor League competition, and the scenes of excitement then witness have never since been repeated.

Old Days of Rivalry

intense rivalry prevail between these four clubs. Since that time the Darfield club has had a chequered history. At times it has had to fight for existence; at others it has achieved distinction envied by clubs for miles around.

During one notable spell before the war, Darfield won 3 cups in one season. Roy Kilner, the Yorkshire county cricketer, was then a member of the team, as was Tom Woolcock, who played centre half and captain the team throughout the present season. After that the club ran for a considerable time in the Sheffield Association League and the Hatchard Cup League, in both of which competitions they maintained good positions.

But it was not until after the war that Darfield touched the height of their glory. They won the Yorkshire League championship, and inspired by this sought admission to the Midland League. A formal application was made, but, fortunately perhaps, was rejected by a narrow majority.

Then came the slump, and Darfield, in common with practically all clubs of their status, felt the chilling effect of industrial depression. Not until the season as the club properly recovered his balance. Nevertheless, many supporters still lament the fact that Darfield missed their step when they tried to get into better class football, and much is made of the fact that in that respect they were actually in the field before Wombwell. Possibly there are one or people who would not mind if today the positions were reversed.

In the financial sense, probably no club in this district has had more crises and vicissitudes to face than Darfield. Time and time again as the club been threatened with complete extinction, and at least twice since the war of occasions arisen when the assets have consisted of nothing but a few loyal supporters and the books. But the instinct for football is hard to kill when it is thoroughly in the system, and the collapse of one regime has always been followed by the setting up of another. Thus has tradition been maintained. At no period has there being a definite break in the club’s history, but on several occasions as its name being changed.

It was known in the first place as Darfield United, then as Darfield St George’s, next as Houghton Main, and at the present time as Darfield.

A Cup Fighting Tradition

make sounds have been Darfield’s fortunes wanting remain constant; their reputation as cup fighters. In that respect they seem to have something of the Barnsley strain about them. They are shown a tenacity that in the worst days of carry them through cup ties with flying colours. Midland League clubs have had many shocks at Low Valley.

A notable instance was a defeat or make sure they’re in the FA Cup competition, I believe in season 1921 – 22. Darfield equalised after being two goals in arrears 10 minutes before the end at Hampton Road and in the replay Darfield won 2-1.Again in the FA Cup competition three seasons ago they defeated Denaby 2-1 at Denaby.

Between Darfield and Wombwell a spate of keen rivalry has always existed, and Darfield have ever shown reluctance to acknowledge their Midland League neighbours seniority. “We can be Wombwell any day” is an expression frequently heard at Low Valley. This season Darfield put up a gallant fight against Wath in the national competition, and Wath had to have a penalty shot to equalise on the Athletic ground and extra time to be played at low Valley before Darfield were vanquished Darfield.

Where Tunstall came from

for many years Darfield have been framed as a football nursery. First Tunstall was discovered at Low Valley and it is not surprising that leading clubs have their eyes on that place. The low is a list of players who got their early training there:

Paul Fellows to Barnsley (then browse St Peter’s)

Abe Lee, to Gillingham
Billy Hargreaves to Grimsby Town
Archie Rawlin to Barnsley, Northampton and Dundee
Fred Tunstall to Sheffield United
“Bill” Sykes to Chesterfield
Mark Crook, to Wombwell and Blackpool
Roy Kilner and Norman Kilner

Probably many other players who graduated with Darfield have won their way into league football.

A Triumph Over Circumstance

daughters winning of the Sheffield Challenge Cup would have been a notable performers had not been on their side, but when the facts are related it stands out as a particularly fine achievement.

In only one of their seven matches in the competition have they played at home – when Hallam came to Darfield after a drawn game at Sheffield. The following is the record:

Bullcroft (away)                           5-4

Tankersley (away)                          3-2

South Kirkby (away)                       3-1

Hallam (away)                              1-1

Hallam (at low Valley)                     8-2

Anston Athletic (at Mexboro)    1-0

Ecclesfield (at Birdwell)                 5-2

to win the cup they have therefore scored 26 goals to 12. The goal had been scored by T Wilson 10, H Bailey 4, Allen and Gough 3 each, Clerehugh, Foster, Scargill, Woodcock and Dobson.

Except that Clerehugh was not introduced until the second round, the following team have done duty in all the Challenge Cup matches:

Stanger; Gough, P Foster; J Foster, Woolcott’s, Dobson; Duffield, Wilson, Clerehugh, Bailey and Allen.

This season, as before, the club has had generous treatment from Mr Walter Helliwell, of the club’s headquarters, the George Hotel. He allows a club free use of the ground, and they are fortunate in the possession of bass and better dressing rooms than any other club in the Barnsley Association League.

The Man at The Wheel

Tom Woolcott, centre half and captain, will be the last to lay claim to special distinction, but his important to the club is great. 16 years ago he played for Mexborough. He was only 18 years old at the time and then worked “at the face” at Houghton Main.

During the war he served as a Q.M. Sergeant.

He has lost nothing in skill and stamina and this season as play better football than ever. The Midland League clubs that tried to obtain a signature a day or two ago with a view to assisting them tomorrow will perhaps have had a shot at Woolcock told them he has six children! But Woolcock looks as fit as ever he did.

He first played for Darfield in 1912 but before that he had a season or two with Broomhill P.M. and Wombwell P.M. Since the war years had several games with Wombwell. He holds five Walton Cup medals (the first being 170 years ago), medals for the Barnsley Challenge and Barnsley Beckett cup competition, and a Yorkshire League medal.