As the year reaches it’s conclusion, it’s a great time to reflect on some fantastic moments in local football. From promotions, cup runs, record Step 7 attendances and all the goals in between 2023 has seen many ups and downs across the Football in Berkshire region. Here is my personal highlight(s) of the past 12 months.
Tadley-Calleva’s record attendance of 297 at home to Truro City in 2020 was blown out of the water when the Combined Counties Premier South side were drawn at home to AFC Bournemouth in the Hampshire Senior Cup.
A cold February evening attracted 652 local residents to Barlows Park to witness a Hampshire Senior Cup tie that was moments away from arguably the greatest night in the clubs history. Tadley arguably could have won the fixture within ninety minutes after twice hitting the woodwork against a very talented AFC Bournemouth XI, two of which had occupied the first team bench in the Premier League prior to the match.
An entertaining fixture, albeit with no goals, ended in what would be a marathon of a penalty shootout with both goalkeepers being called upon to place the ball on the spot.
The shoot out ebbed and flowed and Tadley had a chance to snatch victory infront of a raucous home crowd but were denied by a strong hand of the Cherries goalkeeper. This spurred on the young side who eventually won the shoot out 10-11 after firing one in off the bar.
Despite the defeat, the evening was about much more than football. It showed, to me, the importance of the County Cup fixtures to clubs much further down the pyramid when the opportunity to bring a Premier League side to your local town, to bring together a community in supporting their town and really placing the towns football club at the heart of the community, even if for one night of the year.
That February night allowed for the club to progress both on and off the field, bringing in new sponsorship, support & exposure and for the reasons above, my highlight of the year from a club perspective.
On a personal note, Ascot United’s Wembley win will sit right up there in my memory of experiences at football. Despite travelling the world with both Chelsea and England in years gone by, being given the opportunity to work alongside the great team here at Football in Berkshire at Non-League finals day was a day I’ll cherish forever.
The elation of Kai Walters header hitting the back of the net topped off what was an extraordinary season for Ascot United after a record breaking league campaign, earning promotion to Step 4. It also encapsulated the reasons many of us do what we do, volunteering daily to progress our clubs and the exposure of football in the area.
On a whole, a good year for Football in Berkshire. Here’s to 2024!