Saturday 13th May 2017 ko 19.00
North Berkshire Cup Final
BERINSFIELD 2 (D Murphy 23 78)
SAXTON ROVERS 1 (Bloomfield 57)
at Abingdon United FC
I could have got involved in a few leagues over the years, let’s face it the North Berkshire League isn’t the only league I help organise hops for. But I found, and continue to find something incredibly endearing about this off-pyramid village competition. Yes, I still hear a few hoppers’ comments about “Fields” but what’s more important, an “Arena”stand or values like friendship and camaraderie?
So I’m proud to serve on the committee, I’ve long since come to the conclusion that what I give up in terms of time is more than made up in terms of putting something back to the game that’s given me so much over the years. My time on committee has been so far been short, I’m not as ingrained in the culture as some, but the moment I attended my first committee meeting 18 months ago one thing became abundantly clear- the 100th North Berks Cup Final was a massive deal for the league.
The competition was first played in the 1907/8 season, and the two clubs, Long Wittenham and Faringdon Town marked the 100th final by playing a children’s game before the main event. The competition like most others went into abeyance during the war years, but has been played for every single year since 1946.
With that sort of history comes great responsibility. Even my minor responsibility, handling the PA duties saw me write a script, I could not afford to miss out a name, or get the order wrong. The rest of committee felt the same way, we loved the fact that it would be a Berinsfield vs Saxton final, as it guaranteed a huge crowd, but the rivalry between the two sides allowed for the possibility of trouble. Putting it another way this was a final that wasn’t just about the two participating clubs, and that idea I saw repeated a week later.
We spoke to both clubs, they were great, understanding the position, but even with additional stewarding in place all it would take would be a couple of idiots not connected to either club to ruin everything. That feeling was added to when a drunk at the previous night’s AG Kingham (reserves) Cup Final abused a committee member. As is the case with every single event I’ve ever been involved with you plan to the best of your ability, but you always end up hoping for the best.
And the best was what we got. The weather was warm and dry, the buffet for committee and former players was a poignant reminder that we are temporary custodians of the league, and those appearing in the parade of old players and officials from finals past seemed to forget the passage of time and positively gain a spring in their step! Mind you the fascinating display of old cup final memorabilia did fool Berinsfield manager Stephen Masterson. He’d forgotten one of the years his team had made the final.
The two sets of fans behaved impeccably even if the consumption of beer seemed to take even Abingdon United by surprise! Both sides saw changes from the Charity Shield, Kyle Allsworth fit only to be on the bench for Saxton, but Berinsfield’s side looked threadbare. Already missing Max Palmer and Mike Hinkin, banned after their dismissals in the Oxon Intermediate Cup Final they needed to make a late switch at centre half.
In came new signing Robert Hudson from Dorchester at centre half and it was very much a case of cometh the hour cometh the man. His blocks after Saxton had equalised through Louis Bloomfield’s slightly deflected free kick kept Berinsfield in the game, and that set up David Murphy’s spectacular winner. You need to watch Danniel Smith’s footage just for that strike! I would turn the volume down though, if only to avoid the stadium announcer!!
The trophies were presented, and the Madam Mayor took my advice to stand back after presenting the cup, to avoid a champagne soaking! I did rather feel for the Saxton players, beaten to the league and two cups by a their great rivals. Berinsfield celebrated, I’m well-used to that, but I glanced over to some of the older NBFL committee members.
Their smiles said it all, the league had pulled together to produce something quite wonderful, a fitting way to acknowledge the league’s illustrious past whilst looking to the future. I drove back to Oxford proud of everyone involved and thankful I was able to play a small part in it all.