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Saturday 21st September 2013 ko 14.00

North Berkshire League Division One

BERINSFIELD 4 (D Murphy 34 45 46 Curtis 80)

FARINGDON TOWN 0 Quegan sent off (2nd Booking)

Att 251

Entry & Programme £4

Badge £3

Chicken Curry & Baked Potato £3

All the way back on the very first North Berkshire League groundhop, we’d reached Sutton Courtenay and the game was just about to kick off. Me being me, I’d gone for an extra cup of tea so was a little late in walking over from the clubhouse. I was rushing over, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was a young lady, and she half asked, and half demanded,

“So when are you putting us on one of these hops?”

The lady in question was Jackie Cullen, secretary of the away team that day Berinsfield, and I didn’t know quite what to think. They lost that day, and being from Oxford I knew nothing about Berinsfield, but I did know about the village’s reputation as being trouble. So I set out to know more, I watched them at a cup final http://wp.me/p1PehW-Mr, and paid them a few visits at their Lay Avenue home http://wp.me/p1PehW-JG, and soon discovered what Berinsfield is really like. The reputation is complete and utter rubbish.

Jackie, her partner Brian, and the rest of the club see themselves as representing their village. Pride in the village is obvious, even down to Berinsfield’s reserves attempting to get me to go nightclubbing in Oxford after their presentation night! The aim is to show the village in best possible light, and show the world that reputation can be put to rest. Their reasons for wanting a hop game therefore were slightly different from normal, this was as much a charm offensive as it was a fundraiser.

I could not have been more confident in the club’s ability to organise their big day, they’d even invited me to their planning meeting held before I’d held my own host clubs’ meeting. They worked hard, took the advice I offered, and reaped the rewards, both financial and reputational.

The hoppers loved the presentation of the event, and whilst the club does normally attract crowds of 50 or so, it seemed that the entire village turned out to support their club. They smashed the NBFL groundhop attendance of 190 posted at Steventon, and did so largely because they got the whole community involved, Chris Berezai was even heard to comment, “They’re the St Dogmaels of the North Berkshire League;” read what happened there, and you’ll see what high praise that was! http://wp.me/p1PehW-1wn

Faringdon Town deserve high praise too. They’d done a fantastic job on the 2012 hop, and I know they helped Jackie with tips and help with what worked for them. Cooperation like that is what I love to see, thanks guys!

I had a chat with former manager Stephen “Mourinho” Masterson. The trophy cabinet was filled under his watch, but he stepped down at the end of last season, fearing that he could offer no more. Nevertheless, he was one of the first at Lay Avenue, at 8am helping to set up, then manning the gate, and then doing the raffle. I wonder when he’ll return to the dugout?

That aim of showing the village in the best possible light started when you entered the village at Wimblestraw Road. There on the roadsign was the legend “Welcome Groundhoppers,” and on each and every lamppost were arrows pointing the way to the car parks depending on whether you were playing or spectating. It was clever thinking by Jackie and her team, and it worked perfectly. They even contacted the village’s most famous son, former Oxford United, England and Liverpool centre-half Mark Wright, and he signed a Berinsfield shirt for the raffle, and his mother quietly watched the action from the far side.

Their day went perfectly, the food and drink sold like hot cakes, which may be a poor metaphor, as Jackie asked the villagers to make cakes and there were so many, one was put into the raffle! It couldn’t have gone better on the pitch either as Berinsfield’s David Murphy ran riot, recording a hat trick of the highest quality, after Mark Ingram’s earlier free kick was adjudged by the linesman to have not crossed the line. On any other Saturday that would have been that, but when you’ve got all those hoppers’ cameras trained on the action, you just know that someone will get the incriminating photo… Well done Craig Dabbs.

When Mason Curtis made it 4-0 the hosts eased off slightly, so the dismissal of Faringdon’s Darren Quegan for his second booking, for a volley of frustrated verbals at referee Weston Mueri, at didn’t make much difference to the run of play. At the end of it all, I was asked to present a bouquet of flowers to Jackie from the club which was my pleasure to do before organising minibuses Rod Jane and Freddy to commence the short journey to Long Wittenham.

It was by anyone’s standards an amazing effort by the club. They made the most of a huge crowd by NBFL standards, and the team’s performance matched Jackie and her team’s efforts. More than anything else, it showed the village of Berinsfield in the best possible light, and that perhaps was Jackie’s main motivation when she tapped me on the shoulder a couple of years ago.