Tuesday, 10 August 2021

The BT Pub Cup Final, Wembley Stadium

The BT Pub Cup Final at Wembley Stadium - let that ensemble of words sink in for a sec - is not a sentence that I ever saw myself writing, but here we are. All said and done, the home of football isn't a bad port of call for my first match of the new season.

And it turns out I’m not the only bleary-eyed Bradfordian knocking about in the national stadium today, either. Northern heat winners The New Line have also made the journey down from B-Town and, with a plethora of tracksuited entourage in tow, appear to have assembled a European tour squad for the occasion, too.

In contrast, opposing finalists The Victoria, Brighton’s finest, look a tad light in the high-vis vested extras department.

Even in the middle of August it can get a bit nippy in here, and for a minute I’m transported back to Bradford City’s Carabao cup final hammering at the hands of Swansea City back in 2013. A glacial February afternoon, that. 

If you watch the footage back carefully from that historic day, you might just spot a handful of lads, with twenty-five minutes still to go, weaving their way shamefully through the half-frozen flag-waving claret and amber masses in search of the more snug environs of a local pub. The magic of the Cup, eh.

For today’s BT Pub Cup Final Wembley may be echoey and near-empty but the organisers have razzed things up enough to ensure that it doesn’t feel like a nothingy practice match or close-season kickabout. There’s a fourth official, there’s a massive trophy and from our lofty seats in the Royal Box we watch as the players emerge from the tunnel to Champions League soundtrack banger Zadok the Priest. It’s the best kind of bonkers. 

There’s even a glossy matchday programme, which means I can refer to The Victoria’s early scorer using his Sunday name of George Rudwick rather than plain old “Number 14”. Nice freekick that, Rudders lad.

Lively captain Owen Scerri adds a penalty’d second on twenty minutes, much to the chagrin of the New Line Ultras a couple of rows in front of me, a sizeable squad who’ve come down to back the Bradford side. They do so vocally, between double- and triple-checking with each other exactly what time the Wembley bar will be open. Fair's fair.

It turns out that a Yorkshire rendition of “You Fat Bastard”, aimed at nobody in particular, really reverberates around Wembley stadium when there aren’t many people in to soak up the sound. The sound carries. Soon after, a “You diving doilem” is directed at a player who's judged to have gone to ground a little too easily. Got the ball, ref! I could be 200 miles back up north in a boggy Bradford park.  

The half ends with an ambitious overhead volley. Well, you would, here, wouldn’t you?

The New Line restart with intent - they’re decent when they get the chance - but the positivity is short-lived as Farrall Ryder, one of several players who appear to be a couple of pegs above the rough and tumble world of pub football, swooshes in another freekick for The Victoria. According to the programme this is only the second time that the team have played together, disproving in an instant those who blether on about needing 'time to gel'.

It’s a big pitch is Wembo, and in a show of sympathy my own legs start to turn to treacle on the hour mark even from up here in the padded posh seats. 

In true pub football fashion my attention wanders momentarily while I consult Google Maps for the most direct route back to the boozer, and it’s in that moment that The Victoria nick what I'm told was a long-range-deflected fourth goal. 4-0’s a bit harsh on The New Line, but they can at least say that they came to Wembley and nearly didn’t concede a goal from open play. 

35 mins a half

The New Line 0

The Victoria 4

Pie Notes: 

Pies in the posh seats? Put your scepticism away. There were two, that’s two, pert little pastries with an interior of slow-cooked beef in thick gravy. Bonus points for the additional ladle of lump-free mash, but we’ll turn a blind eye to the sprinkling of watercress, which was surely an accident.

Pie action

Like mum always told/tells me to do, I make use of the facilities before we depart, and in one of the more surreal episodes of life so far the soundtrack to my Wembley wee is a sweetly melodic version of “We Are The Champions”, whistled with sincerity by The Glenn Hoddle who's washing his hands at the sink. 

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The BT Pub Cup website

Monday, 28 June 2021

Tyersal FC V Westwood Park, Bradford Summer Cup

If I had any sort of consistency, of course, I’d have reported on an entertaining Bradford Sunday Cup final between Westwood Park and Station Hotel a few weekends ago. Two quid in, big crowd, red card after 20 minutes. Game interrupted so a man with a microphone could request - as a matter of urgency, please - that the cars blocking the gates be shifted immediately. 

An absorbing 90 minutes with extra time and penalties chucked in to boot.

(Given that England will shortly be going toe-to-toe with our old German pals we won’t dwell too much on the P-word other than to say that if it does come down to them we can only hope that England make a better job of it than Westwood did that day, having lost a match they’d dominated because of a few daftly hit spot-kicks. Hard and low boys, hard and low.)

But I wasn’t match-fit to get the words in. Bit leggy. Bit hungover. So, like Westwood, we go again. 

Although nobody can actually go anywhere, so we might as well play some football, and the Bradford Summer Cup is a pre-cursor to a season we all hope kicks on in a less stop-starty fashion than what we’ve become infuriatingly accustomed to. 

“Put those nets up”, is the direct but necessary request from a Westwood Park-er to a Tyersal opponent prior to kick-off. “Can’t, I’m too small” is the blunt but honest reply. 

Despite the absence of several semi-familiar faces, and a couple of soon-knackered starters who’ve made the decision that a pitch-side kip is preferable to all this running about malarkey (fair), Westwood don't take long to get on top as Tyersal tire. By thirty minutes the away side, gradually getting through the gears, are two goals to the good. 

Until, that is, that everlong period of time just before the break allows Tyersal to bag a goal judged by a Westwood player, speaking perhaps for us all, to be “the scruffiest I’ve ever seen”. The ball pings a post, the rebound pings another, and someone somehow nudges it over the line. They all count.

As do those scored on the other side of half-time, but this one’s Westwood’s, now 1-3 up and strolling, surely, for an opening win in a tricky away tie after some strong work and a thwack of a finish from Number 14. 

Side note. Despite the many positive and enjoyable things about Sunday league football it is a bit of a pain to not know who’s who, and to keep referring to players by their numbers like it's an episode of SAS: Who Dares Wins. As such, some creativity is required. 

So Westwood’s Number 8 becomes not the Westwood Park Pirlo (scans well but too obvious) but the Westwood Park Manu Petit, for he’s got the touch and the hair, spraying it (ball not hair) hither and thither and, generally, bossing proceedings.

His midfield counterpart, Tyersal’s Number 4, isn’t too shabby either and helps to drive his team on, a bit surprisingly, to make it 2-3. Nope, there’ll be none of that blather about “tournament football”, “clean sheets” and “getting out of the group” around here, ta very much.

“It’s the grass, in’t it?” observes the Westwood Park gaffer as one of his midfielders waltzes around two tackles before his cut-back gets frustratingly entangled in a patch of overgrown greenery on the field of Tyersal dreams.

What happens next isn’t clear. I’m told there’s a cross-field ball, a penalty box melee (with a Westwood defender subsequently injured and taken off), and a Tyersal equaliser, but I’m too busy making the smart-arse Manu Petit note on my phone to see any of it other than the lively Westwood remonstrations. 

No VAR. Goal stands. Three apiece.

And then it’s a “big last 10”, “big last 7” or “big last 5” depending on which of the ref, your captain or your manager you pay the most attention to. Whichever god of time you set your watch by, however, matters not. Both teams take a group-stage point.

Tyersal FC: 3

Westwood Park: 3

Full disclosure: Westwood Park happen to be my local side. I had no idea it was such a decent set-up until I started watching them some time before lockdown but I’m now a die-hard Westwood Ultra (every other Sunday and, naturally, dependent on alcohol consumption the night before).

Pie notes: it’s summer, I’m cultured, and a smoked salmon bagel has already been consumed. There was however some sausage and bacon sarnie action from the cafe over the road, regretfully un-brown-sauced and therefore, I’m informed, on the dry side.

Who’s this fella?

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Sunday, 9 February 2020

a not that lucky mascot

The night before was a big one, a still-supping-wine-at-2am one, so I’m not in the mood – and don’t have the legs – to go far today. Spawny, then, that Shelf are playing at home, with “home” being round the corner from where I got to bed just a few short hours ago.

Bolstered on the sidelines by the fortifying one-two of a full fat Coke and a Yorkie - a healing combo I’d not self-administered since the late 90s - I ponder how I might be something of a lucky mascot for today’s opponents Northowram, who came back to draw 5-5 with league leaders Sowerby Bridge when I last saw them a couple of months ago.

And one team goes on to bag 5 again today, but unfortunately for the away side, bottom of the league but resplendent in their distinctive Sunny Delight colours, it’s not them.

The first half an hour, though, is an even affair whose most notable moments include a whipped in Shelf cross that just misses a speedily-incoming head; a home effort cleared off the line; and the brief but always welcome appearance on the pitch of an enthusiastic Labrador.

A tap-in following some classic right-back-to-right-wing-to-6-yard-box sees Shelf go one up, but Northowram soon get one back when a long ball over the top finds the pacey Number 11, kept quiet so far by an organised defence, who doesn’t piss about with the finish. 

Shelf take the lead again following an angrily contested thrown-in which results in a simple nod-in. The ensuing merriment and droll “thanks liner” suggest that the home team know the throw-in was a jammy call.

Although it’s bright, the rapidly reducing temperature and blowy sky as the second half gets going are a reminder that Storm Ciara will be with us anon. To underline the point, a Northowram goal kick hangs high in the air before looping ominously back on itself to be picked up by Shelf’s 10 who makes sure.

But there’s that Number 11 lad again for Northowram, causing bother with his nippy mate 7 whenever the ball finally gets through to them, who slots in from the spot after a daft challenge to make it 3-2. And perhaps my presence will, again, inspire the away side to get another for the draw, or even to go on and win just their second game of the season. 

‘Fraid not, and Northowram remain stuck at the bottom of the table while Shelf stay sitting in second of the Haslem and Sheppard Premier. The home side nick a couple more, one ‘megging the keeper and the other a smart finish from Shelf’s 9 who’s looked for it all afternoon. 

To their credit Northowram stick at it, and when the Number 6 tries an overhead kick from too far out he manages - fair play - to not make a tit of himself.

Shelf FC 5

Northowram 2

Entry - free

Pie notes - after a load of Montepulciano and a questionable chicken Madras, pie is not the answer.

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