Sunday December 5, 2021
- The FA will make the draw for round 2 tomorrow (Monday December 6, 2021) at 1pm.
- 5 games were postponed due to the recent bad weather in England (waterlogged pitches).
- 3 teams have withdrawn – resulting in walkover advancements for Westwood Park, Oyster Martyrs, and Grand Athletic. Ironically Oyster was admitted to this cup as a replacement entry for another team that withdrew. Now Oyster has advanced to round 2 without kicking a ball.
- The notable result of the round is last season’s finalists St Joseph’s (Luton) being eliminated by local rivals Club Lewsey. See below for a video of Lewsey’s BJ Christie opening the scoring with a thunderous long range strike. St Joseph’s’ exit pre-empts the possibility of a confusing future match between them and another team with the same! (St Joseph’s of the Watford Sunday League)
|Peterlee Catholic Club –v- Sunderland The Lansdowne||2-2 (Peterlee CC won 5-3 on penalties)|
|Burradon & New Fordley –v- Hazlerigg Victory||5-1|
|Newton Aycliffe Iron Horse –v- Murton Colliery||postponed|
|Belle Vue Rovers –v- Boro Walkers||4-0|
|Middlesbrough Dormans –v-Chapeltown||1-0|
|WHTDSOB –v- Lion O’Malley||3-1|
|Scawthorpe Athletic –v- RHP Sports & Social||4-0|
|Main Line Social –v- Oakenshaw||postponed|
|LIV Supplies –v- AFC West Hull Gunners||1-3|
|Home Bargains –v- Campfield||postponed|
|Queens Park –v- Mayfair||1-6|
|Pineapple –v- Custys||0-3|
|Westwood Park –v- Linthwaite Hounds||Home walkover due to Linthwaite’s withdrawal|
|Melling Victoria –v- Dock AFC||2-3|
|Netherton –v- Codsall Legion Sundats||2-2 (Codsall won 4-3 on penalties)|
|Oyster Martyrs –v-SSS Lions||Home walkover due to SSS’ withdrawal|
|FC Lizard –v- Austin Ex Apprentices||0-9|
|Sileby Athletic –v- Sporting Dynamo||2-3|
|Sporting Loughborough –v- Poet Young Boys||1-4|
|Long Whattton –v- Birstall Stamford||2-4|
|Priory Sports –v- Rouge 21||postponed|
|Baiteze Squad –v- Borussia Martlesham||0-0 (Baiteze won 5-4 on penalties)|
|Royston Rovers –v- Falcons||2-3|
|Wixams Wanderers –v- MK Gallacticos||3-1|
|Skew Bridge –v- Highgate Albion||postponed|
|St Joseph’s (Luton) –v- Club Lewsey||3-3 (Lewsey won 5-4 on penalties)|
|Flaunden –v- St Joseph’s (Watford)||1-2|
|North London Olympians –v- Greater Leys||6-1|
|Singh Sabha Slough –v- Burghfield||3-4|
|Lambeth All Stars –v- South-East Dons||0-2|
|Chatham Town SR –v- Banstead Rovers||1-3|
|Grand Athletic –v- North End Cosmos||Home walkover|
This is the concluding part of my series of articles on this season’s FA Sunday Cup (which will start next Sunday: December 5). It continues from part 1 and part 2 to focus on an overlooked FA competition that does not get the attention it deserves. For those unfamiliar with it, the FA Sunday Cup is a nationwide cup competition for English Sunday teams. It is like the Champions League of Sunday football, and features the best Sunday teams from across England. A bystander who watched a game in this competition some years ago confessed: “I was very, very, very shocked just how good the football was”.
Since almost 30% of the first round games feature local league derbies between teams in the same division as each other, in this article I will focus on the biggest of those derbies in Liverpool, London, and Hartlepool.
The first previewed game features two teams from the Liverpool Business Houses League that are nicknamed “The Bargain” and “Campy“.
HOME BARGAINS –v- CAMPFIELD – THE LIVERPOOL DERBY
Date: Sunday December 5, 2021
Venue: Alder Sports & Social Club, Alder Road, Liverpool L12 2AY
All About the Nash
Death, taxes, and Liverpool teams in the FA Sunday Cup final. For Liverpool teams, it is all about “The Nash”. If you are a betting person – you could probably earn good money by laying a bet right now that one of these two teams will reach the FA Sunday Cup quarter-final – at least. Ever since Lobster FC became the first team from Liverpool to win the FA Sunday Cup 42 years ago in 1979, Liverpool teams have prioritised this cup with a holy grail like passion that borders on obsession.
Lobster’s victory started an amazing sequence of Liverpool success where for 5 consecutive years, teams from Liverpool won the competition that scousers call “The Nash”. For them it is the Champions League of Sunday football. Oddly, Liverpool FC’s (the professional football team!) era of dominance in English professional football also overlapped with this era of Liverpool dominance in the FA Sunday Cup. Liverpool won the English football championship in 4 of the 5 successive seasons that Liverpool teams won the FA Sunday Cup.
Those 5 cup wins were not isolated. That era of Liverpool success has continued into the present era. 11 of the last 15 FA Sunday Cup winners were from either Liverpool or Durham County.
The away team in this all Liverpool tie: Campfied, is the current holder of the FA Sunday Cup. It begins its cup defence with a tough test against its Liverpool Business Houses League rivals Home Bargains.
45 years ago a Liverpool businessman named Tom Morris opened a shop called Home and Bargains in Liverpool. Back in 1976, Morris was only 21 years old. Today he is a multi-billionaire and the shop he opened now generates £2.5 billion in revenue, has over 500 branches, and over 20,000 employees. The company also sponsors football teams such as Bolton Wanderers, Tranmere Rovers, and….a Sunday football team named Home Bargains FC.
Home Bargains started playing in 1988 as a youth team called St Brendan’s Juniors. The club eventually changed its name (twice) and followed its sponsor by condensing its name from Home and Bargains to Home Bargains. It has been managed for several years by father and son duo Jim and James Vaughan (who serve as the club’s chairman and secretary).
Home Bargains is a former champion of the Liverpool Business Houses League and has good pedigree in this competition. It was good enough to reach the semi-final in 2017. However, this season’s draw was not kind to them. Like the other teams involved in league derbies in round 1, they would have preferred to play someone from outside their league. Not only does Home Bargains face a league rival, but they will also face the cup holders.
Campfield are the current FA Sunday Cup holders, and one of the few teams to have won the competition twice. Campfield are also the champions of the Liverpool Business Houses League (whose teams boast that their league is the strongest Sunday league in the entire country).
Campfield was formerly known as Thirly FC but renamed itself Campfield since the club’s players usually went back to drink at the Old Campfield pub on Heyworth Street in Liverpool after games. The Campfield pub landlord Robert “Bobby” Hannah sponsored the team. Although the Campfield pub closed in 2017 and is now a supermarket, the club retained the Campfield name.
Campfield won the FA Sunday Cup for the second time in its history in May this year. Only one team has ever won the FA Sunday Cup more than twice. Campfield’s task to become only the second ever three-time winner has been made harder by the departure of the man who scored the winning goal for them in last season’s final. Campfield’s star striker Elliott Nevitt became a professional footballer and signed a contract with Tranmere Rovers. Unfortunately, this Liverpool derby will claim one of these two excellent teams (both of whom are among the favourites) as a victim.
LAMBETH ALL STARS –V- SOUTH EAST DONS (THE SOUTH LONDON DERBY)
Date: Sunday December 5, 2021
Venue: Fisher FC, St Paul’s Sports Ground, Salter Road, London SE16 5DS (host stadium’s club plays at Step 5 of the National League System in the Premier Division of the Southern Counties East League)
This league derby is between the two teams that finished first and second in the Orpington & Bromley District Sunday League (OBDSFL) last season. It does not need much promotion since both teams are in the business of self promotion. While SE Dons is probably the most well known of the “YouTube teams” that have arisen in recent years, Lambeth are newcomers to the business of filming and promoting their games online.
In the decade between 2008 and 2018, if anyone asked who was the best Sunday football team in London, the answer was undisputed: New Salamis. The Greek-Cypriot team that won the London Sunday Challenge Cup 6 times in 10 seasons and reached the FA Sunday Cup final twice in a row, were head and shoulders above everyone else. Since New Salamis departed Sunday football to join the Saturday National League System (where they are currently riding high at Step 5 in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League) there has been no outstanding contender to succeed them as London’s best. These two teams consider themselves the lineal successors to New Salamis’ title as the best. Since so much is known and written about SE Dons, I will start with Lambeth.
Lambeth All Stars
Lambeth All Stars is not a new team. It has been around for almost 40 years and has won the Morden & District League 5 times and the Surrey FA Sunday Premier Cup twice. It has been entering the FA Sunday Cup for over a decade but has never made it past round 3.
The club also had a youth team with links to professional clubs, and a women’s team. When Omari “Winja” Hibbert took over as the club’s player-manager 2 years ago, he rebooted it. He changed the club’s players, sponsor, league, social media branding, and joined the growing legion of “YouTube teams”. He even ditched the club’s traditional black and blue striped kit for a new eye catching purple trim.
However, some players were too good not to survive the cull. Lambeth’s players are friends with professional footballers that they grew up with in south London (such as Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha). Former Premier League (and Sunderland) player Nyron Nosworthy also played for Lambeth for several years.
“The Unbeaten v The Undefeated”
Hibbert did more than just rebrand the club. He turned it into one of the best teams in London. When Lambeth All Stars and SE Dons first played each other in the quarter-final of the London Sunday Challenge Cup in December 2019, the reputation of the two unbeaten teams was so big that it was the biggest and most eagerly anticipated grassroots match in London for several years. Ever eager to create a story, the teams billed the match between the two undefeated teams as “The Unbeaten v The Undefeated”.
Over 500 hundred fans turned up to watch the game at the Coldharbour Leisure Center in south-east London. Lambeth’s player-manager “Winja” Hibbert scored 2 goals as Lambeth brushed the Dons aside in an emphatic 3-0 away win.
“they passed it round us like we were 11 mannequins on the pitch”
That victory was part of an amazing winning sequence for Lambeth during which they almost forgot how to lose; culminating in them winning the London Sunday Challenge Cup in 2020 and going undefeated in league games for over 2 years between March 2019 and April 2020. During this unbeaten run, they dished out a 9-1 shellacking to Barneshurst (of the Woolwich & Eltham Sunday Football Alliance) in round 1 of the 2019 London Sunday Challenge Cup that led one of Barnehurst’s players to admit:
“They didn’t just bash us, it was a non contest, they passed it round us like we were 11 mannequins on the pitch”
After winning the London FA’s top Sunday county cup, Lambeth were on course for a quadruple in 2020. They were top of the OBDSFL with a 100% record and were also through to two other cup finals. They were so confident that they even played two matches in different leagues on the same day that they had a cup final!
On the morning of the George Harley cup final on October 18, 2020, they played and beat FC Bickley 7-2 in an OBDSFL league game at the Queen Mary University sports ground in Chislehurst. After that game, they left Chislehurst and travelled to Beckenham Town FC to play in the Metropolitan Sunday League’s George Harley Cup final against AFC Brixton on the same day. They had reached that cup final before transferring from the Metropolitan Sunday League to the OBDSFL. Yet they won the cup final in a league they were no longer even a member of!
Lambeth had also reached the finals of the Surrey FA’s Sunday Premier Cup and the Bill Braisted Memorial Trophy. However, they were unable to complete the trophy quadruple as these competitions were suspended due to Covid.
Lambeth has more experience in the FA Sunday Cup than SE Dons. However, the manner in which Lambeth approached their FA Sunday Cup 3rd round match against St Joseph’s of Luton last season showed chinks in their preparation and attitudinal approach. While St Joseph’s were busy scouting Lambeth and preparing a tactical plan to neutralise Lambeth’s attacking threat, Lambeth did not organise a coach to transport themselves to the game until a few days beforehand, and the Lambeth players (including player-manager Hibbert) did not go to sleep until 4-5am on the morning of the game.
“you done a job on us”
While they can get away with such antics and rely on their talent to get them over the line against overawed opponents in local games, doing that against an experienced and well drilled team like St Joseph’s that had reached the FA Sunday Cup final more times than any other team, was reckless. St Joseph’s ended Lambeth’s undefeated record, and won the game 3-0 in a brilliant display that led Hibbert to admit to St Joseph’s that “you done a job on us”. The way St Joseph’s clinically dismantled London’s best team in such fashion showed the higher levels of preparation and tactical discipline required at this national cup level.
The Wheels Come Off
When the season resumed in 2021 after the Covid lockdowns, the wheels came off the Lambeth juggernaut. They had a horrid sequence of results in April 2021 during which they lost 5 games out 6 (including losing twice in three days to SE Dons). What went wrong?
Lambeth’s success relied much on their front three of Hibbert, Ryan Gondoh, and Aaron Watson – all of whom were also team-mates on Saturdays at Isthmian League Division 1 (Step 4) team Whyteleafe. That attacking trio has broken up. Firstly, Whyteleafe imploded and resigned from the Isthmian League after it was unable to renew the lease at its Church Road stadium. Hibbert had surgery and is currently recovering from a long term injury, Gondoh now plays at Step 2 for National League South team Hampton & Richmond Borough, and Watson now plays for Glebe FC on Saturdays in the Southern Counties East League. Charles Banya (who started his career in Fulham FC’s academy) also departed, and midfielder Mike Hill has also been absent with a long-term injury.
It will be interesting to see whether Lambeth has learned its lesson after last season’s terrible mistake of underestimating probably the most consistent team in FA Sunday Cup history.
SOUTH EAST DONS
While Lambeth had problems, SE Dons has been going from strength to strength. It won the OBDSFL for the first time last season (to add to its 2019 victory in the Kent FA Sunday Premier Cup).
The Dons’ brash and boastful declaration of themselves as Britain’s “best Sunday team” has not won them friends – especially in Liverpool. Since the Dons made these claims at a time when they had never won a league title (let alone the FA Sunday Cup – or even entered it!) the Liverpool teams laughed off their claims. Liverpool teams simply have no respect for any team that has not won “The Nash”, and from their perspective, it was highly disrespectful of the Dons to declare themselves as better than Liverpool teams such as Campfield, Oyster Martyrs, and Lobster that have won the FA Sunday Cup.
The goading from Liverpool teams has convinced the Dons to enter the FA Sunday Cup for the first time. To win the FA Sunday Cup, a team must have good players, good coaching, and be well funded. The Dons have all three. While the Liverpool teams dismiss the Dons for being flash self-promoters, that should not detract from the fact that the Dons have really good players! They are also extremely well coached. Their coach Junior James is also the manager of Step 2 club Dulwich Hamlet in the National League South. The Dons’ commercial success (they have sold over 10,000 replica shirts and have more YouTube subscribers than most Premier League teams), means that they can finance the expenses of travelling around the country to play FA Sunday Cup matches.
The Dons’ home ground is Flamingo Park; the stadium in Sidcup, Kent, that they share with Isthmian League Premier Division team Cray Wanderers. Perhaps this is a good omen. Flamingo Park used to be known as the National Dock Labour Board (NDLB) ground. Long-time football fans will recognise the NDLB ground as the former home of one of the greatest Sunday football teams of all time: 279 Sports. If the Dons can achieve even 10% of what 279 did, they will be remembered for a long time.
WHTDSOB –V- HARTLEPOOL LION O’MALLEY’S – (THE HARTLEPOOL DERBY)
Date: Sunday December 5, 2021
Venue: John Howard Park, Wiltshire Way, Hartlepool, TS26 0TB
WHTDSOB will probably not win the FA Sunday Cup. However, if there was an award for the best (or longest!) named team, they would surely win it. West Hartlepool Technical Day School Old Boys (WHTDSOB) FC is named after a school that used to be located on Lauder Street in Hartlepool. The school had an excellent sporting tradition and won the Durham County Schools FA cup 3 times between 1951 and 1961 (1951, 1959, 1961) and were beaten finalists in 1954. The school later became Tunstall High School after an amalgamation with Brierton Hill Technical High School for Girls in 1973 made it a co-ed school.
The school’s alumni gave birth to two adults sports teams: WHTDSOB rugby union club, as well as the football team that is competing in this season’s FA Sunday Cup. Both the rugby and football teams play their home games at John Howard Park in Hartlepool. WHTDSOB’s home ground has a clubhouse and pitch, and the club is about 15 years into a 25 year lease of it from the council.
WHTDSOB was founded 35 years ago in 1986, but this is only its second season competing in the FA Sunday Cup. It reached the third round last season, where it lost 2-4 to Peterlee Catholic Club (who reached the semi-finals and lost to the eventual winners Campfield).
Lion O’Malley’s is a team to watch out for. The club is one of four former FA Sunday Cup winners that are competing in this season’s competition. They won this competition 20 years ago in 2001 (when the club was known as Hartlepool Lion Hillcarter). It has also won the Durham FA’s Sunday Cup 4 times.
Those who know how strong Sunday football is in the Durham County area, can attest to the fact only a very good team can win that cup.
Lion O’Malley’s won the Hartlepool Sunday League last season, and is on course to retain the championship as it is currently undefeated and top of the table with a 100% winning record this season.
These two teams would have preferred to play teams from other leagues rather than each other.
This is especially so as their zone of the draw is traditionally strong and produced the most successful team in FA Sunday Cup history (Hetton Lyons Cricket Club). The “rewards” for the winner of this tie include the risk of being drawn against other dangerous teams from this zone such as Peterlee & District League champions Peterlee Catholic Club (who reached last season’s semi-final). Durham is a dangerous zone to play in.
FA SUNDAY CUP ROUND 1 PREVIEW: PART 2 – SKEW BRIDGE -v- HIGHGATE ALBION (Hertfordshire –v- Middlesex)
FA SUNDAY CUP (ROUND 1 PREVIEW): PART 2 – SKEW BRIDGE -v- HIGHGATE ALBION (Hertfordshire –v- Middlesex)
The FA Sunday Cup is probably the most maligned and under-appreciated of the FA’s competitions. A cup competition that has featured professional top flight footballers and that has a 57 year history, is deserving of more attention and respect. The FA Sunday Cup is like the Champions League of Sunday football, and features the best Sunday teams from across England. For those who expect it to feature a group of hung over, unfit, out of shape middle aged men – you will be very pleasantly surprised at the quality of play. A bystander who watched a game in this competition some years ago confessed: “I was very, very, very shocked just how good the football was”.
In a series of articles I will preview this year’s truncated tournament that features only 64 teams (down from the usual entrant list of about 100 teams).
Due to the geographic regionalisation of the early rounds, almost 30% of the first round games feature local league derbies between teams in the same division as each other. In the previous article I previewed the Luton derby between last year’s beaten finalists St Joseph’s and Club Lewsey.
The second tie I am previewing features the respective champions of the Hertfordshire Advertiser Sunday League and the Barnet Sunday League in north London.
SKEW BRIDGE -v- HIGHGATE ALBION
Date: Sunday December 5, 2021
Venue: Harpenden Town FC, Rothamsted Park, Amenbury Lane, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2EF (host stadium’s club plays at Step 5 of the National League System in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League)
When pub landlord Barry Gray took over the rundown Queen’s Head pub on Southdown Road in Harpenden in Hertfordshire, he renovated it and changed its name to Skew Bridge. Gray’s acquisition of the pub indirecty led to the formation of Hertfordshire’s best Sunday football team. After redecorating the newly renamed pub, he added a restaurant and extension to it. To increase custom and interest at the pub, Gray contacted Les Crabtree who had been involved in local football for many years, and asked Crabtree to set up a football team based from the pub. Crabtree had years of experience with football teams in the area and was the secretary of semi-professional football team Harpenden Town (who play at Step 5 of the National League System; in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League).
From this pub, Skew Bridge Rothamsted Football Club was born. The club started life in the now defunct Verulam & District Sunday League and then later joined the St Albans Observer and Review Sunday League (which later renamed itself the Hertfordshire Advertiser Sunday League). This league has had several names and was also formerly known as the St Albans Sunday League.
After being promoted from Division 5 to Division 4, the club formed a reserve team; mostly from a group of youth players from Harpenden Colts’ under-17 team. This group of young players eventually graduated together into the senior team and started a sequence of winning trophies. They won the Premier Division title twice in their first two seasons as the club’s first team (in the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons). This success made the club a magnet and as other players started to join, the club increased to three teams in the 2006-2007 season.
Five in a Row
Les Crabtree resigned as manager and asked some senior players to take over management of the first team so that he could concentrate purely on the club’s administrative side as its secretary. After Crabtree stepped down, Chris Gregory and Simon Andrews became joint player-managers of Skew Bridge. The club dropped down to Division 1 in the 2008-2009 season, but won Division 1 at the first attempt with several games to spare and returned to the Premier Division in the 2009- 2010 season. Since then the club has been a trophy winning machine.
After losing the 2013 Hertfordshire FA Sunday Senior Cup final 1-2 to AFC Boars, Skew Bridge avenged that loss by not only beating AFC Boars in the next year’s final to win the Sunday Senior Cup for the first time, but also kept hold of the trophy for half a decade by winning the Sunday Senior Cup an incredible five seasons in a row between 2014 and 2018. Their run of 6 consecutive Sunday Senior Cup finals and 5 consecutive Sunday Senior Cup wins is a Hertfordshire FA record.
Skew Bridge won the Hertfordshire Advertiser Sunday League (again!) last season, and this season is already top of the table having won every league and cup game it has played. Yet strangely, Skew Bridge has not been able to translate its regional dominance in Hertfordshire to the national stage. The club has entered the FA Sunday Cup 5 times, and has lost in the first round each time. This is really odd and makes them vulnerable to an accusation of being a big fish in a little pond. They can refute that charge if they beat their very impressive first round opponents in this season’s competition.
Highgate Albion are the three time consecutive champions of the Barnet Sunday League. The club entered the FA Sunday Cup for the first time last season and reached the last 16. Last season, Highgate retained the Barnet Sunday League championship in dramatic fashion on goal difference by beating top placed Takers FC twice on the same day in a double header to decide the championship on the last day of the season.
Before the Covid lockdown, Highgate were victims of their own success. They had a big fixture pile up in the 2019-20 season after reaching the semi-final of the London Sunday Challenge Cup, the final of the Middlesex Sunday Premier Cup (after beating highly rated AFC Hammersmith Town in the semi-final), and last sixteen of FA Sunday Cup.
This fixture pile-up cost them. They lost the London Sunday Challenge Cup semi-final to Gower All Stars after extra time, drew 2-2 with Wixams Wanderers of Bedfordshire at full-time in the FA Sunday Cup then lost 4-3 on penalties, and they never got to play the final of the Middlesex Sunday Premier Cup as the Middlesex FA suspended the competition due to Covid.
Highgate Albion is yet to build up a head of steam this season and is only two places above the relegation zone in the Barnet Sunday League. They also suffered a shock 1-2 loss in round 2 of the London Sunday Challenge Cup to their Barnet Sunday League rivals Trabzonspor UK. I think being knocked out of the London Sunday Challenge Cup may be a blessing in disguise for Highgate. Without the distraction of a long London cup campaign, Highgate can prioritise the FA Sunday Cup and avoid the fixture pile up they had last year when competing on multiple fronts in the Barnet Sunday Leaguue, London FA, Middlesex FA, and the FA Sunday Cup.
Highgate has the quality to go far in this competition. Some of its players also play on Saturdays for Barnet based Hadley FC in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League. These include their rapid forward Solomon Ofori; who is usually a handful for opposition defences and averages a goal a game this season. Prior to joining Highgate, Ofori also has a successful stint with Black Meteors of the Hackney & Leyton Sunday League. Another forward; Excellence Muhemba is not far behind with his goals to games ratio and also plays on Saturdays for Windsor in the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League. Highgate also signed midfielder Jayden Clarke from their league rivals Rising Ballers. Clarke also plays semi-professionally on Saturdays at Step 3 for Hendon FC of the Southern League’s Premier Division.
This should be a really good game between two strong teams that have never faced each other before. Home draws are critical in this competition. Being drawn at home (and Highgate’s challenge of getting to Hertfordshire in time for the kick-off!) is a big advantage for Skew Bridge. Will this be the game where they finally break their first round barrier and get to round 2 for the first time?
Although Premier League teams will not begin playing in the FA Cup until next year, another type of FA Cup will start next weekend. As well as its more famous televised counterpart, the FA also stages a nationwide FA Cup competition for amateur Sunday league teams. It is a shame that this competition does not get the credit or attention it deserves as it has featured several top class former Premier League footballers and even Wayne Rooney’s brother and cousins!
The first round gets underway next weekend and I will preview some of the most attractive ties. First up…
ST JOSEPH’S -v- CLUB LEWSEY: “THE LUTON EL CLASSICO”
Date: Sunday December 5, 2021
Venue: Arlesey Town FC, Armadillo Stadium, Hitchin Rd, Arlesey SG15 6RS (host stadium’s club plays at Step 5 of the National League System – in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League)
Kick-off time: 1pm
One of the most eye catching games of round 1 features Bedfordshire Sunday football’s equivalent of El Classico. If a Sunday football team in Bedfordshire wants to win the county’s Sunday Cup competition, it usually has to beat one or both of St Joseph’s and Club Lewsey to do so. These two teams contested the most recent Bedfordshire FA Sunday Cup final in May 2021, and it is common to see one or both of them in the final.
These local rivals are so familiar with each other that they are almost like each other’s shadow. Not only do they play in the same county, town, league, and division as each other, but in addition, this is the second successive FA Sunday Cup season that St Joseph’s and Club Lewsey have been drawn against each other in round 1. Their last meeting in this competition was on Sunday October 6, 2019; a game that St Joseph’s won after coming from a goal down to win 2-1 after an 87th minute winning goal by Charlie Clayton at Arlesley Town FC’s stadium. It was the first of six victories in St Joseph’s march en route to the final. The two teams also played each other in the 1st round of the 2014 FA Sunday Cup competition, and St Joseph’s also won that game 3-0 on Sunday October 19, 2014 – also at Arlesley Town.
The two clubs have won the North Home Counties Sunday League’s Premier Division title an incredible 23 times between them. After several decades of the two teams dominating the North Home Counties Sunday League, both teams departed in 2020 to seek new challenges in the Leighton & District Sunday League. Predictably, the two teams grabbed the two top spots in the 2020-21 season, with St Joseph’s winning their new league at the first attempt (with a 100% record having won all of its games) and Club Lewsey finished second. Also predictably, Lewsey’s only league and cup defeats of the season were to…St Joseph’s! St Joseph’s completed a league and cup double by also winning the Division 1 Cup.
St Joseph’s – FA Sunday Cup Legends
The home team St Joseph’s can legitimately claim to be the most consistent team in the history of the FA Sunday Cup. It has reached the final an unprecedented 6 times. It has played in this competition for over 30 years and has regularly fielded top class players in its squad; including former Chelsea striker Kerry Dixon (who played 320 games (and scored 193 goals) for Chelsea. Considering that Dixon is third on Chelsea’s list of all time goalscorers, he was not a bad player to have in St Joseph’s squad!
St Joseph’s was founded 51 years ago and is still going strong. Last season the club declared itself the “London Slayers” after eliminating three London teams in last season’s FA Sunday Cup: 3-0 against London Sunday Challenge Cup holders Lambeth All Stars in round 3, 2-1 against the highly rated unbeaten league leaders of the Hackney & Leyton League Sporting Club de Mundial in round 4, and 1-0 against Portland of the Orpington & Bromley District League in the semi-final. St Joseph’s lost the closely contested final in a heart-breaking manner. After the game finished 0-0 after 90 minutes, their opponents Campfield scored a late winning goal in extra time.
Club Lewsey cannot match St Joseph’s record of final appearances, but it has a respectable record in this competition and was good enough to reach the quarter-finals on two separate occasions in in 2008 and 2011.
A group of friends on the Lewsey Farm Estate in north-west Luton formed Club Lewsey FC almost 30 years ago. The club had the same manager for 22 of those years: Mark “Ponte” Pontefract. After winning 7 league titles and 4 county cups, Ponte retired from the club a few months ago. His final game in charge saw the disappointment of losing to St Joseph’s in the Bedfordshire FA Sunday Cup final in late May earlier this year at Barton Rovers’ stadium.
“a group of brothers”
During his time in charge of Club Lewsey, Pontefract oversaw an amazing period of success during which Lewsey won the North Home Counties Sunday League 6 times in a row between 2008 and 2013. It remains to be seen whether Lewsey will continue winning trophies in Pontefract’s absence. As Arsenal and Manchester United fans can attest to, it is extremely difficult to continue winning after the departure of a successful long reigning manager.
Club Lewsey now fields two teams in the Leighton & District League. The first team plays in the Premier Division, and its youth development team (which features 16-20 year olds from the Lewsey Farm Estate and local community) plays a division below in Division 1. A Lewsey club official told me that the players are a tight knit group that is “like a group of brothers”.
Although St Joseph’s has had the better of recent meetings between the two clubs, it has not had everything its own way. This season Lewsey poached St Joseph’s striker Charlie Clayton (who also plays on Saturdays for Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division team Biggleswade United – who last season were in first place before the season was suspended due to Covid). Clayton ironically scored the first goal for St Joseph’s when they beat Lewsey in the Bedfordshire FA Sunday Cup final only 5 months ago and the late winning goal when they beat Lewsey in the prior season’s FA Sunday Cup. He has settled well at Lewsey by scoring 9 goals in his first 6 games for his new club. Lewsey also has several other players who play for semi-professional Saturday teams such as AFC Dunstable of the Southern League Division 1 Central (Step 4), as well as Dunstable Town and Crawley Green who play in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League (Step 5). These include central defender Ryan Frater at AFC Dunstable (Frater is also the former captain of National League South team St Alban’s City), and attacker Jake Kissiedu who plays for Dunstable Town.
“The rivalry is always a fierce one”
It is unfortunate that these two fine teams have once again been drawn to play against each other in round 1 of the FA Sunday Cup. Both clubs are a credit to their league and it is sad that one of them must be eliminated. The two teams have already played each other twice this year, and may end up playing a further four games against each other if they get drawn against each other in league and county cup competitions. Although the clubs are fierce rivals on the pitch, there does not seem to be bitterness between them. A Club Lewsey official told me that:
“The rivalry with St Joes is always a fierce one on the pitch with the games normally being close right affairs with both teams always in it. Off the pitch it’s a different story, the two groups of players get on well in the bar afterwards and many are friends off the pitch. We look forward to playing them in the biggest game of the season so far on December 5th.”
- Friday May 28, 2021: Club Lewsey 0 –v- St Joseph’s 2 (Charlie Clayton, Jermane Hall) – Bedfordshire FA Sunday Cup final (at Barton Rovers FC – Sharpenhoe Road stadium)
- April 18, 2021: Club Lewsey 2 (Gareth Harnaman, Jake Kissiedu) –v- St Joseph’s 3 (Charlie Clayton, Ryan Neufville, Connor Vincent) – Leighton & District Sunday League, Division 1 Cup
- December 6, 2020: Club Lewsey 0 –v- St Joseph’s 3 (Lucas Kirkpatrick x2, Ryan Neufville) – Leighton & District Sunday League, Division 1
The FA released the draw for the first round of the FA Sunday Cup today. The games will be played on Sunday December 5, 2021.
Due to the regionalisation of round 1, nine of the 32 ties (i.e. almost a third of the games!) feature teams in the same division as each other. Four of the seven (57% of!) Liverpool teams in the competition will face each other, and London will be down to 3 teams max as two (50%!) of its four teams will face each as well. Essex will be down to one team as its only two entrants in the competition (Priory Sports and Rouge 21) will play each other.
THE LEAGUE DERBIES
1) Burradon New Fordley v Hazlerigg Victory – Cramlington and District Sunday League
2) West Hartlepool Technical Day School Old Boys (WHTDSOB) v Hartlepool Lion O’Mally – Hartlepool Sunday League
Liverpool Business Houses Sunday League:
3) Home Bargains v Campfield* (cup holders)
4) Pineapple v Custys
5) Sileby Athletic v Sporting Dynamo – The Alliance Football League (Leicester)
6) Long Whatton v Birstall Stamford – Leicester & Charnwood Sunday Football League
7) Royston Rovers v @Falcons – Cambridge & District Sunday League
8) St Joseph’s v Club Lewsey – Leighton & District Sunday League
9) Lambeth All Stars v South East Dons – Orpington & Bromley District Sunday League
Priory Sports v Rouge 21 (Essex)
THE GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY
This week brought good news and bad news in the world of Sunday football. The good news is that after not staging a tournament in the 2020-2021 season, the FA has decided to bring back the FA Sunday Cup for the 2021-22 season. However, the return of the competition came with a big caveat: the FA restricted this season’s competition to 64 teams only (in a competition that often has more than 100 entrants). The FA’s justification for truncating the competition is the Covid pandemic. Since applications to enter the competition exceeded its vacancies, the FA drew applicant names out of a hat to determine which clubs would and would not be permitted to play in this season’s competition.
The FA’s decision to stage a restricted tournament went down like a lead balloon among many clubs. Clubs from the Liverpool area are irate. Liverpool has been the traditional powerhouse of the FA Sunday Cup and has supplied more winners than any other part of the country (including the current holders Campfield). 12 of the last 16 FA Sunday Cup winners were from either Liverpool or Durham County areas.
The random lottery style method of determining entrants inflicted significant casualties. Former Sunday Cup winners such as Canada (Edinburgh Park), Lobster, and Oyster Martrys (which has regularly featured Wayne Rooney’s family members) – from the well respected Liverpool Business Houses League, were excluded, as well as other perennial Sunday Cup entrants. Even the Durham FA’s county Sunday Cup champions Dawdon Welfare Park were denied entry.
Liverpool teams treat the FA Sunday Cup as their top priority every season. For Sunday footballers from that region, this cup is their Champions League and is the most glamorous competition they can play in. Most teams from the top division of the Liverpool Business Houses League usually enter this cup. The new entry format has blocked that and has caused some Liverpool teams to claim a regional conspiracy against them. It seemed a needless grievance for the FA to trigger because the last FA Sunday Cup competition which started in October 2019 before Covid, was completed 19 months later in May 2021. With the tournament suspended for the 2020-21 season several teams were chomping at the bit to enter this season.
“YOUTUBE TEAMS”: THE CUP’S HIDDEN PUBLICITY AGENTS?
The sense of grievance among Liverpool teams amplified as several new entrants from London (such as “YouTube team” SE Dons, and London Sunday Challenge Cup holders Grand Athletic) were accepted as first time applicants. While past winners are justifiably aggrieved at their exclusion, new entrants have an opportunity to experience the FA Sunday Cup for the first time.
To some extent the controversy over the entrants is a battle between old and new worlds. Liverpool teams regard themselves as custodians of Sunday football’s traditions. Whereas the YouTube clubs from London – with their brashness and constant social media self-promotion, blur the lines between entertainment and sport. Yet there is evidence to suggest that the presence of social media savvy “YouTube teams” such as SE Dons, Baiteze Squad, Lambeth All Stars, and others will increase publicity for the competition and attendances at matches. When SE Dons played in the Kent FA Sunday Premier Cup final in 2019, they drew a record crowd of over 2000 people. That is a higher attendance than most Conference National Clubs drew before Covid. The YouTube teams’ fanbase will be exposed to the FA Sunday Cup for the first time and it may encourage more teams to enter when (hopefully!) the FA reinstates the competition to its full format for the 2022-2023 season.
SUNDAY FOOTBALL: “THE UGLY DUCKLING” OF THE SPORT?
The controversy over the entry format has obscured a bigger issue: English football’s contemptuous and snobbish attitude towards Sunday football. Simply put, the FA has very little regard for Sunday football. It is pertinent that other amateur FA competitions such as the FA Vase and FA Trophy (which involve Saturday clubs) are operating with a full schedule this season – some with extra preliminary or qualifying rounds. The FA’s decision to restrict only the FA Sunday Cup seems all the more bizarre given that many players will play in the FA Trophy or FA Vase for their Saturday clubs then play in the FA Sunday Cup the next day for their Sunday teams (often at the same stadiums!). For example, last season striker Elliott Nevitt scored the winning goal in the FA Sunday Cup final for Liverpool Business Houses League champions Campfield. The following week he also scored a hat-trick in the FA Vase final for Warrington Rylands of the Northern Premier League. Until English football stops judging football by the day of the week it is played, the FA Sunday Cup will continue to be treated as an inferior ugly duckling in the sport.
I had a good podcast conversation with Dr Sara Katz of Duke University regarding Britain’s motivations for colonising West Africa in the 1800s and the contemporary consequences of that colonisation. You can listen to the podcast on the New Books Network website, and also on Apple Podcasts and Player FM.
BUCKHURST HILL -V- ENFIELD
FA Vase – Second Qualifying Round, September 11, 2021, 3pm
Today I saw two teams at opposing spectrums of football history. For the home team Buckhurst, this was its first ever FA Vase game and the biggest game in its history. Meanwhile, their opponent Enfield is one of the most famous and successful amateur football clubs in England. On paper, Enfield was the overwhelming favourite to win this game as it has more experienced players and plays at a higher level.
The FA Vase is a knockout cup competition for clubs at Steps 5 and 6 of the non-league football pyramid (the two lowest levels on the pyramid after the FA reorganised it). It is an FA Cup equivalent for teams at this level and the cup’s final is played at Wembley Stadium.
Buckhurst Hill is a club going places. It has won league titles three seasons in succession after winning Division 1 of the Essex Olympian League (EOL) in 2018, followed by winning the Premier Division two successive times. In 2019, it won the EOL’s Premier Division (at the first attempt after being promoted from Division 1) by an incredible 25 points, then retained the title in 2021 by another wide margin of 21 points (the 2020 season was declared void due to Covid). Buckhurst also won the Essex Premier Cup in 2018 and 2019 (including an 8-0 demolition of Shenfield in the 2019 final). After three years of success, suffice to say, Buckhurst had nothing left to prove in the Essex Olympian League. This season it obtained promotion to the Eastern Counties League (Step 6 of the non-league football pyramid). This is the highest level of football that Buckhurst has ever played at, and made it eligible to enter the VA Vase for the first time. Buckhurst took to the Eastern Counties League like ducks to water and has lost only 1 of their 7 league matches so far.
Enfield is one of those “from the ashes” non-league clubs that went from glory, went into bankruptcy, then in 2007 was reborn in a new guise as “Enfield 1893”. During its glory days in the 1970s-1980s, Enfield won the FA Amateur Cup (the predecessor to the FA Vase) twice, and the Football Conference (the predecessor to today’s National League) and Isthmian League titles multiple times. It is a mark of how far that Enfield has fallen in the 21st century that Enfield Town (which was formed by disaffected Enfield supporters only 20 years ago) now plays in the Isthmian League Premier Division (Step 3) – which is 2 levels above Enfield; who play in the Essex Senior League (Step 5).
Apart from hosting its first FA Vase game, today was also a big day for Buckhurst’s progression as the chairman of Epping Forest District Council opened a new 100-seat stand at the club’s stadium. Due to the difference in the levels the teams play at, I was expecting Buckhurst Hill to put up a brave fight against Enfield, but lose gallantly/go down fighting.
There was still a long queue of people trying to get into the stadium by the time the game kicked off. The long gravelled car park was full and double parked in some places. Given the warm, beautiful, and bright sunshine, and the enormity of the occasion, the game was well attended. Many kids from Buckhurst’s youth football teams also attended, and made it seem like a family affair as their parents watched and cheered on Buckhurst.
The first 20 minutes of the game were quite even with and Enfield looked dangerous on the counter-attack. For most of the first half, one could not tell that this was a game between two teams who only a few seasons ago, were three levels apart on the non-league pyramid. Yet Nathan Sollosi put the underdogs Buckhurst ahead after about 30 minutes and the score remained 1-0 at half-time.
I expected Enfield to mount a second half onslaught and lay siege to Buckhurst’s goal. After 60 minutes, Enfield’s Olly Miles hit a fierce long range drive that smashed against the under-side of the Buckhurst crossbar. From the rebound Buckhurst’s goalkeeper Daniel Blockley dived to his left to save a shot from Enfield’s Dwade James, jumped up his feet and a few seconds later, again dived to his left to divert another goal bound effort by Miles. It was excellent goalkeeping and a key moment in the match. I kept waiting for the inevitable Enfield siege and for their presumably greater fitness to show, but instead Buckhurst went 2-0 up in the 75th minute when Tyler Dolan ran through and side footed the ball into the left hand corner of Enfield’s net. Enfield’s players spent much of the second half arguing with each other and calling each other out for the way things were going. Then in the dying minutes of the game Josh Banfield ran through to put Buckhurst 3-0 up with a very similar goal to the one Dolan scored.
FULL-TIME: Buckhurst Hill 3 -v- Enfield 0
Goals: Sollosi, Dolan, and Banfield
After the game, Enfield’s (probably irate) coaching team gathered the players in the centre of the pitch for an inquest on the result. I overheard a disappointed veteran fan (who was at least 70-75 years old) comment in disbelief at Enfield’s performance “and they’re getting paid!”.
A few post-match thoughts… This is a huge upset. For a team that was playing local park football at Step 8 only a few seasons ago to defeat a team at Step 5 with a big reputation and history like Enfield, is very significant. I kept wondering why Enfield did not make its superior experience count, and why the supposed extra fitness of its players did not materialise into game dominance (as it usually does as this level). Maybe Enfield were too…experienced! I noticed in the first half that when an Enfield player was called across to take a throw-in, he had a stomach of a size one does not often see at this level of football. He also looked “gassed” by the time he got to the side of the pitch to take the throw in and did not look happy that his team-mates had asked him to cover extra ground by running across the pitch to take the throw in. Enfield also had 1-2 players who were very good on the ball, but not very mobile (probably veterans who have slowed down due to age and injuries). In contrast, Buckhurst Hill’s players were younger and seemed to have more energy. I think they surprised Enfield with how spritely they were. At times, Enfield did not have the legs to cope with the constant running of Buckhurst’s youthful players. I was impressed by the good decision making of Buckhurst’s Louis Wynter. He is not the fastest player, but clearly has a good football brain.
Congratulations to Buckhurst on the biggest win its history. The club will also install new floodlights at its stadium in the near future. This is a sign that they plan to push for promotion to Step 5 and have already started putting facilities in place to meet the requirements at the higher level. A few years ago, I recall someone saying on a podcast that Buckhurst Hill is capable of playing a few levels higher. How right they were.
- Daniel Blockley
- Liam Foster
- Keaton Moore
- Alfie Harris
- Henry Day
- Louis Wynter
- Tyler Dolan
- Josh Banfield
- Sonny Shilling
- Suleyman Zuhdu
- Nathan Sollosi
Enfield: Jack Wilmott, Jack Folan, Alex Warman, Jack Johnson, Ryan Ramsay, Reece Conway (c), Olly Miles, Callum Ibe, Vinny Murphy, Dave Cowley, Dwade James