THEY have followed the club for more than 60 years. What Ray Strothard and Ian Atkinson don't know about Tadcaster Albion isn't worth knowing.

The duo follow the Brewers home and away, having played for the club in their younger years, and the pair believe the Ings Lane outfit is enjoying its best ever days.

Strothard, 83, and Atkinson, 85, first turned out for Tadcaster Juniors in the mid-1940s before going on to play for "Albions" in the 1950s.

Now they take up positions behind the opposition goal on every match day and say they have never been more excited about the club's prospects.

Atkinson, a former left-winger, said: "When I first started playing, it was the end of the war and things were quite bleak, but then all the soldiers came back and it really gave the club a boost. They helped to get things going again.

“I used to work at the garage, and I used to tootle off at around 10.30am and I’d paddle through the river and go down with a shovel to clear the cow muck off the pitch before we could play.”

Strothard, who played as goalkeeper, added: “We used to play in the York and District League where we’d play teams like Collingham, Rowntrees, The Railway Institute and New Earswick.

“We never had a manager in those days. We just had a committee which was made up of players and a chairman.

“The committee picked the team on a Monday night, and on a Tuesday there was always a queue outside The Argyle Fish Shop – waiting for the team list to go up in the window.”

With a new stadium on the horizon, Strothard added that things at Tadcaster's Ings Lane home had changed a lot since he and Atkinson were in their prime.

“Back then, the current ground was the town’s park with swings and slides, and we used to play in the field behind that, which was known as The Ings.

“We didn’t have any changing facilities, so we’d get changed in the Trades Hall and then run all the way down from near the church.

“We had to mark the pitch out with sawdust which we got from the Cooper’s Shop at John Smiths Brewery.”

Strothard also remembered the passion and resilience of the club's late chairman Ken Gilbertson - a key figure in ensuring the club has existed for 122 years.

He explained: "After the war, the land was owned by John Smith’s Brewery directors. They put it up for sale and Ken, who must have had a bit of brass in those days, put in an offer of £300 and eventually bought it for £350.

“There were no dressing rooms or showers, so I think we borrowed the money from the Midland Bank and we built the dressing room and showers.

“Ken was chairman, groundsman and everything else. He didn’t ever play football, but Tadcaster Albion was his life. He always wore a dark green polo necked shirt with trousers tucked into his football socks and a flat cap.

“He would sit by the pitch with a bag, and one of the things he had in his bag was Sloan’s Liniment. If you got that on you, nobody would come near you for the rest of the day.”

Atkinson added: "The game has changed a lot since then. Back then we were much more robust and we played a bit rougher. You used to be able to tackle people and no-one bothered. Nowadays they use their arms and all sorts. They run around with their arms out like peggysticks.”

With the Brewers topping the NCEL premier division table, crowds have surged in the last 12 months and Strothard and Atkinson are hoping this will be the year the club enjoys promotion.

Atkinson said: "We used to come down and there would only be me and Ray watching. Now we’re getting hundreds to the games, which makes it so much more exciting.”

Strothard agreed: “I never miss a home game, but in recent years I’ve been missing a lot of the away games as I’m getting past driving long distances on motorways, but now the club are putting on coach travel, I’ve been going to them all again, which is brilliant.

“This is definitely the best it’s ever been. Everything is just perfect and if we ever do get promotion, this will be the year that we do it. There are one or two other teams that are nearly as good as us, but we are playing so well. I’d love to see it happen.”