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Berking Mad

Twas brillig and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wave;

All mimsy were the borogroves,

And the mome raths outgrabe

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“Beware the Jabberwocky, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jujub bird, and shun

The furious Bandersnatch!”

.

He took his vorpal sword in hand:

Long time the manxome foe he sought –

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,

And stood awhile in thought

.

And, as in offish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

From “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

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Friday 18th September 2015 k.o.:- 7.45pm

North Berks League Division 1

Wallingford                                                                   0

Abingdon Town                                                            1

Steve Pitson 59,

Referee:- Phil Rose       Attendance:- 125

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The bus at the entrance to the ground certainly wasn’t there the last time I visited and served as a temporary bar!

This was the fifth year of The North Berkshire Football League “Hops” and, by my reckoning, by the end of this ‘hop’ we had seen twenty-two matches and visited twenty grounds (both Abingdon Town and Wallingford Town having been visited twice!).

The weather was very kind this year and temperatures more accustomed to midsummer rather than the early days of Autumn accompanied the hoppers to all of the grounds, with the exception, perhaps, of Hanney United, where the early morning mist was tardy in dispersing.

The Friday evening game at Wallingford Town was a re-visit. This was my third visit and for a third time, Wallingford lost a match at home! What surprised me was how much the ground had changed since my first visit in 2007. The roofed area behind the goal was gone and substantial new playing areas, some of it with synthetic surfaces had been added to the complex.

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The match itself was marked by some pretty shoddy shooting by both teams and at half-time, the 0-0 scoreline could easily have been 4-4! In the second half, the only goal of the match went to the visitors, who were the better team, but struggled to stamp their authority on the game. It was a good turn-out for a Friday night and the club had provided a variety of refreshment outlets and, having been less than impressed with the expensive hot-dog, I relished the very reasonably priced jacket potato and chilli.

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Above, Les Bull and Mike, The Earl of Edgbaston, enjoying the match from the back of the stand!

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Saturday 19th September 2015 k.o.:- 10.30am

North Berks League Division 2

Hanney United                                                          4

James Bishop  16,41,

Paul Freeman 75,

Matt Woodside 88,

Marcham                                                                  2

Tom Larman 6,

Damien Dodds 23,

Referee:- Simon Witting       Attendance:- 171

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The cannon, they say points westwards to the village of ….Grove!

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The cup on display at the home of Hanney United (United suggesting that both East and West Hanney were represented by this team), was The North Berks Junior Cup. For four seasons, from 1946/47, Hanney United won this coveted trophy and after the third victory in a row, were presented with a special cup to keep and to mark the occasion. Four times in a row is a record never since been beaten!

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The programme made great play of the team’s nickname “War Hanney”, even suggesting that there were connections with one or other of the World Wars, or perhaps it referred in some way to their record in winning the North Berks Junior Cup on four consecutive occasions. To my mind, the answer is much simpler. “War” is an obfuscation of “Our”. Hanney United is ‘Our Hanney’, a bit like ‘Wor Jackie Milburn’ of Newcastle United was ‘Our Jackie’.

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This is the original badge of Hanney United FC

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The early morning start was both misty and dull, but by the end of the contest, the weather had brightened considerably as can be seen in the contrast between the photos above and below.

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The hosts were twice behind in the first half, but each time drew level. Last season, Marcham had been a host team themselves and had been on the wrong end of a 7-1 thrashing by East Hendred! Today, they started brightly, but faded away as the home side took control in the second half and swept to a deserved victory with two goals in the final fifteen minutes of the game!

Saturday 19th September 2015  k.o.:- 1.30pm

North Berks League Division 3

Grove Rangers                                                       4

Andy Pickering 2,

Jonny Dix  17,

Matt Cramp 19, 21,

Benson Lions                                                       1

Jonathan Radcliffe 86,

Referee:- Andrew Caven   Attendance:- 154

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It was quite a trek just to find out where Grove Rangers were playing! When, eventually, we parked at the rugby club, we found that they had moved (or been moved) to an alternative pitch and that had a more suitable car park! We arrived eventually and in searing sunshine, congregated around a field with a couple of tents on one side and not a great deal else to entice the intrepid hopper.

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Across the road from the playing field, this giant sculpture dominated the skyline without any easily accessible explanation!

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Rangers dominated the first half with such such arrogant superiority that four goals seemed but scant reward for their endeavours. In reality, all four goals were scored in the first twenty minutes or so and thereafter the hosts took their foot off the pedal and the game subsided into a gentle kick-about until the visitors deservedly pulled one back with four minutes remaining. The scorer of that final goal was Jonathan Radcliffe, which pleased Laurence no end, because Jonathan had been the driving force behind two matches staged by Benson Lions at their base on different pitches during the 2013 and 2014 NBFL ‘hops’. September is not the best of times for the services team. Some players are still away on annual leave whilst others have already been posted elsewhere – some to operational zones.

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Saturday 19th September 2015 k.o.:- 4.30pm

North Berks League Division 1

East Hendred                                                    1

Tom Rowe  48,

Long Wittenham                                            1

Joe Cheong  24,

Referee:- Darren Hill   Attendance:- 204

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To my mind, this was the match and the venue which made the ‘hop’ a success. The people of East Hendred had really put on a show and excelled with refreshments (which, sadly, I was unable to do justice to!). There was even a display of owls before the match (the team’s nickname is “The Owls”).

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Once again, the sun was blisteringly hot and I have to admit that I drifted into somnambulism – only for a brief second, but it was enough for a flurry of photographic evidence to appear immediately on Facebook!

I had visited the ground once previously, but on that occasion I was scoring a cricket match where my son was performing with bat and ball for the opposition, who, at that time, where Marcham!

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The game was a good one. Two evenly matched sides fought out a duel where there was no winner and for the second year in a row, The James Rennie Trophy was shared between the competing teams. James had been a ‘hopping’ colleague and friend who took his own life whilst suffering a fit of depression. The trophy in his honour is competed for annually at the last match of the North Berks League ‘hop’.

DSC00825The pitch seemed to slope away alarmingly at the far end and yet, when you were standing at that end, the gradient seemed not too severe!

The North Berks League ‘hop’ can be a difficult one to make attractive. Recently, there has been competition from The Eastern League, who chose to stage their own ‘hop’ on the same day. Then there is  the status and the quality of the venues. “Nothing but a ruddy field’, was one, not uncommon, overheard remark. Much of that opinion determines the make-up of the group who join The NBFL ‘hop’ each year. Those who don’t enjoy matches quite so far down the pyramid or for whom the facilities are too rudimentary simply won’t join the group. However, there are many who really do enjoy this annual jaunt and particularly appreciate the efforts of all the clubs in putting on a good display and providing interesting refreshments. All of that was in evidence this weekend. The women of Hanney and East Hendred excelled themselves with the quantity and variety of home-baked cakes – all at very reasonable prices. Hanney United had taken time, trouble and research to provide a cameo of their post-war North Berks Junior Cup triumphs. East Hendred had gone to the trouble of providing a selection of owls (after their nickname) and a handler to involve and entertain the crowd. Crowds were slightly down on last year, but there is no denying that they were richly entertained and not just on the field!

It was sad that Hagbourne were unable to take part because of floodlight failure. That is something that I am sure we have all encountered – or something similar. I once went all the way to Runcorn Town to find that the match had been called off because vandals had destroyed the goal nets! At Osset Albion, an early season match was called off by the referee, in bright sunshine, because he suspected that a jutting piece of metal on the goalpost might injure an unsuspecting player! The cancellation of that final fixture did nothing to spoil the weekend, a weekend I thoroughly enjoyed. It was good to meet old friends (and some new) and, once again, Chris (and Laurence) are to be congratulated on their successful endeavours and I hope that we will continue to visit The NBFL in the early Autumn of many years to come!

Hears to the next time!

This season:-     Matches:- 61            New grounds:- 41

Total:-                Matches:- 3,268      New grounds:- 1,139

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2 Responses to “Berking Mad”

  1. Michael Squires says:

    Far be it from me to comment on such an excellent report of the North Berkshire Hop but two corrections should be made. If I must be referred to as an Earl in your photograph, it should be the Earl of Edgbaston, a far nicer place than Erdington! Secondly, I can testify that your eyes were closed for far more than “a brief second”! However, given your great age and the fact that you did do a lot of driving that day, I will not hold it against you.

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