THE 80’s – AN ERA OF LOW POINTS
The 1980-81 season started poorly but 11 wins and one draw from the last 17 games brought some respectability to what looked destined to be another unproductive season. Albert Fearnley, after appearing to turn the season around, resigned as first team coach through ill health and was replaced by Bak Diabira. He took over for the home game against Doncaster on 15th March 1981; a game in which Keighley won by 6 points to 5, and completed the last seven games. Graham Beale had his best season yet, scoring 230 points with Dave Moll the top try scorer with 13. The team completed the season in 7th position, winning 14 and drawing one from 28 games.
The 1981-82 season was a classic season of two halves. Keighley continued where they had left off the previous campaign winning 10 from their first 14 League games. Then terrible winter weather with weeks of snow and frost hit with no matches playable from 6th of December until the 3rd of January. This lengthy break appeared to play havoc with Keighley’s form and they were only able to win 8 from the remaining 18 games. Again there were impressive performances from Graham Beale with 101 goals and Dave Moll with 21 tries (from 27 games). Keighley completed the season once again in 7th position.
Despite reaching the Yorkshire Cup Semi–Final and loosing to Hull 3-23, the 1982-3 League campaign started very unsatisfactorily and the way Keighley lost the first three games convinced Bak Diabira to quit. Lee Greenwood was promoted from his role as the ‘A’ Team coach to fill the gap. This immediately lead to an eight game unbeaten run, however this could not be sustained and unfortunately a heavy crop of injuries helped to create inconsistency, especially away from Lawkholme Lane. This resulted in Keighley finishing the season in ninth place in the league, winning 15, drawing 5 and loosing 12 from the 32 games.
The 1983-4 season saw the worst performance on the field, since the war. Lee Greenwood was released after a 30-0 defeat to bottom club, Doncaster on 24th August. The new coach Geoff Peggs, without the finances necessary, used his position and contacts within the Universities to play a number of trialists in the side without which there would have been a real danger of not being able to raise a side for some of the fixtures and a staggering 54 players were used including 31 debutantes during the campaign. For the record Keighley finished second to bottom of the second division with only seven wins and three draws from 34 games. If that was not all the club announced massive debts and a plan to sell part of the ground to pay the bills.
53 Players were used for the 1984-5 season, including again 31 debutantes. Three signings this year who would make their mark and play a full role in the Keighley set up for years to come were two local lads Jeff Butterfield, who signed at the beginning of the season from Keighley Albion and played in all 28 League games, Paul Moses, who signed in December from Halifax and Ricky Winterbottom who joined from Batley. Keighley’s performance on the field saw an upturn and they completed the season in 15th position, winning 11 games.
The 1985-6 season celebrated 100 years of rugby at Lawkholme Lane. Unfortunately a financial cloud still hung over the club and this continued to affect the performances on the park. With mounting debts and a ground in urgent need of investment in light of the Taylor report, following the Bradford City disaster. In October 1985 Keighley were served a winding-up order by the Inland Revenue, this was only warded off by the sale of the Cricket Field to Keighley Cricket Club for a reported £30,000 and the training pitch for £65,000 to Yorkshire Water. Unfortunately this was still not enough. Keighley for the second time in three years finished the season in the second from bottom position of the second division of the league championship and had taken some heavy defeats along their way. These included loosing 2-74 away to Barrow, 4-58 home to Barrow, 4-54 home to Wakefield Trinity and the worst ever defeat 2-92 away to Leigh. It must be said that an incredible injury list along with several players being suspended didn’t help the Keighley cause and for the Leigh game mentioned, only five regular first team players made the trip. These poor performances, along with a dismal run of defeats, inevitably had a negative effect on attendances and twice towards the end of the season Keighley’s record for the lowest gate was broken. Firstly against Workington on the 23rd of April when the crowd was just 386 and again on the 7th of May against Whitehaven when only 355 turned up to witness the 0-16 defeat. Peter Roe had taken over as coach mid-way through the season following the sudden and tragic death of Geoff Peggs and for a time the results improved. This was also the season Keith Dixon, who signed from Keighley Albion, was introduced into the first team.
Peter Roe was not given the opportunity to carry on as coach and so a new coaching partnership of Colin Dixon and Les Coulter came in for the 1986-7 campaign but couldn’t help improve matters on the field as Keighley once again plumbed new depths, winning only seven matches, and finishing bottom of Division Two. In the autumn of 1986, the Main Stand and a large section of terracing was prohibited from use because of their poor state of repair and the ground capacity was reduced to 1,200. Again a record worst attendance was reached when only 216 attended the home game on 4th of April 1987 against Fulham, the lowest crowd ever to watch first team rugby at Lawkholme Lane. The season finished with Keighley deep in debt and in the hands of a financial administrator. This lead to the sale of the Lawkholme Lane ground to Yorkshire Co-op, who in turn leased the playing area back to the club.
With some of the financial worries now behind them, the 1987-8 season saw an amazing recovery on the field. This can be, in no small part, attributed to the signing of vastly experienced players Trevor Skerrett, Gary Moorby and Brenden White. These players, in strengthening the pack, became a strong foundation for the team. Attendances increased and averaged 951 in the League and for the visit of Widnes in the Silk Cut Challenge Cup 2nd Round a crowd of 4,358 watched Keighley lose 2-16. Keighley completed the league programme in eighth position, winning 15 from 28 games and eventually loosing to league leaders Oldham, 24-34 in the end of season premiership play-offs.
Terry Manning who scored 19 tries from 31 games was voted player of the 1988-9 season. This was another good season of consolidation. Keighley again completed the season in eighth position, winning 16 from 28 games. The average attendance again increased by 135 to 1,193, the best since the 1981-2 season when the average was 1,576.
For the 1989-90 season Colin Dixon moved up onto the board of directors and Les Coulter took over as head coach and Mel Wibberley and Ian Fairhurst his assistants with Ian taking over the reformed Alliance side. The season started with a heavy (16-50) home defeat to recently relegated Hull KR in front of 1,981 fans who were obviously depressed because only 581 turned up for the next home game against Whitehaven. Another trouncing (18-86) came at the hands of Featherstone Rovers in the first round of the Yorkshire Cup and despite good results against Nottingham and Chorley this led to a run of eleven matches with only two victories. Keighley finished the season a disappointing 19th out of 21 clubs and winning only 6 games out of 28. During the eighties the club hit new lowspots both on and off the field and the club almost went out of existence. At this point who could have dreamed of the decade to follow?