iCanPlay: Lee Connor Q&A
Tell us about how and why you got involved in playing open-aged Sunday league football?
I think I was 16 or 17 when I first started playing Sunday football.
I actually used to watch Farnley Nags FC when I was about 11 years old and they then went on to change their name to HT Sports.
But before I joined HT Sports I joined a Sunday team called Gildersome Libs.
A guy called Graham Scaife took me and he was the one who started playing me at centre back; I’d never played in this position before.
To be honest I was going nowhere in football and just wanted to play as much as I could.
I knew I had ability, but I was a late developer.
Most of the lads I played with either went on to play professional football or just stopped playing.
I was hungry to improve and I then started to grow which definitely helped being a centre half.
I then went on to play for the AFC Beulah again with Graham Scaife, they used to run from the New Farnley Cricket Club which had good facilities and a decent pitch.
I actually wanted to join HT Sports long before the AFC Beulah days as one of my best friends Graeme Brumwell was involved there but he said that I wasn’t ready yet so off I went…we laugh about it now.
Who have you played football for from the start of your open-aged Sunday league football journey?
I played in the Leeds Combination League at 16 and to this date I’ve still been helping out at HT Sports at 47 years old!
Gildersome Libs: 1992 -93
AFC Beulah: 1993-94
HT Sports: 1994 – 2022
I actually left HT Sports for one season as all the lads from school set up a team called Star Leeds but I couldn’t stay away from HT so I returned the following season.
What do you enjoy about playing open-aged Sunday league football?
I just loved playing football and for a few hours on a Sunday morning what else is there to do.
I was lucky to be at HT Sports for all of this time.
It was a really well-run club with great people behind the scenes who did everything right.
Ex Secretary and player Jonny Stevenson and the late Secretary Mick Fearbey were really passionate about the club.
I played non-league football for 20 years and HT Sports was run like a non-league club to be honest.
I ended up being Player Manager at HT Sports and whatever I asked for within reason, I got.
Graeme Brumwell was the main man at HT and he was brilliant.
He helped with everything and has been the backbone behind all of the success.
I was also lucky to have some great players playing at the club, far too many to mention but they know who they are.
One of them being my best mate Mr Jonny Haigh who I still play football with now.
I loved the local derbies when we used to get between 100 and 200 people watching on a regular basis.
Back in the day I had a harder game on the Sunday than the previous Saturday fixture in the Northern Premier League, it’s true.
The Fforde Grene and the Prince Philip Centre, they were some teams packed with non-league players and more recently Halton Moor.
I enjoyed going to different teams around Leeds and West Yorkshire and then nationally with HT Sports.
I’d like to think that I played my part in HT’s history throughout these many years.
Who are your role models in football?
I don’t really have any role models, but when I first started playing, I used to play with a guy called Martin Tetley, ex Guiseley AFC captain, he was on another level and made defending look easy!
He also played Sunday football for the Prince Phillip Centre who were a top team back in the day.
Tets also played in his 40s and was one of the best Sunday league players around.
I was lucky when I first started playing to have played against some top Sunday players who if you weren’t ready would give you nightmares!
There were some real tough players; your Steve Learoyds, Wayne Notemans and my mate Martin Regan who also played Sundays for top teams who were tough lads with lots of non-league experience.
What are your greatest achievements in playing open-aged Sunday league football and why?
I have many achievements during my Sunday days all with HT Sports.
Achievements include winning the Jubilee Premier League many times, three on the bounce during the early 2000’s when it was a really good league.
Then in 2009 HT Sports won the County Sunday Cup, a cup that we had been trying so hard to win for many years finally came home when we beat Heywood Irish.
After years of trying, we reached the County Cup Final on another six occasions winning it for a record four times.
Winning the Leeds & District Cup at Elland Road is always an enjoyable and memorable night and we did that three times.
Also playing in the League’s Sanford Cup Final was always enjoyable as we reached the final for ten consecutive years.
But playing in the National Sunday Cup for the first time in 2013 was fantastic.
We had a brilliant cup run and played in Liverpool and the North East.
We managed to get to the semi-final where we lost to the winners Oyster Martyrs from Liverpool at Guiseley AFC.
If it wasn’t for Sunday football, I would not have got into playing non-league football.
What are your goals for the future?
For now, as I write this HT Sports have just recently folded but I want to start the team up again when my son is a few years older.
I would try and encourage young lads to get playing Sundays and stay involved in the game.
You can make memories and gain some good friends along the way from around the city, West Riding etc.
Who’s had the biggest influence on you as a footballer and why?
That’s a hard one, but I would say Graeme Brumwell at HT Sports.
Graeme has seen me play over 700 games for the club and he’s helped me and supported me on my journey with HT.
He’s been the backbone behind this great club since the start.
My dad also had an influence on me playing football from a very young age.
He was always there to support me and watch me play every Sunday.
What advice would you give to people thinking about getting involved in playing open-aged Sunday league football?
If you love the game, get involved.
I’ve certainly made some great friends from playing.
The memories will stay with me forever.