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I heard the sad news today that the Appleton Stars have folded, despite completing their North Berkshire League Division 5 programme. I always enjoyed their company, and admired their wonderful attitude despite taking a beating most Saturdays. I was pleased we were able to feature them on the North Berkshire League Hop, away at Uffington United, and it was a real shame that I was unable to give them a game as hosts as they’d left the Sportsfield, to groundshare at Hanney.

They never did have much luck. About a month ago Phil Annets, the league’s press officer, sent me a message that the Stars had just earned their first point in three years against Crowmarsh Gifford Reserves. On the Monday after, Crowmarsh’s reserves withdrew from the league, and Appleton’s point was expunged. There was Briony their manager who could find something positive to say even in moments of massive adversity, and Paul Nuckley their goalkeeper who never lost his sense of humour despite the deluge of goals that went past him.

I was fortunate to visit the Stars back in 2010, so please enjoy my text from then, and please remember a gallant little club that is no more. They stood for values far above mere sport, such as sportsmanship, friendship, and never ever giving up. I’ll miss them.

13th November 2010 ko 13.30

North Berkshire League Division 5

APPLETON STARS 1 (King 40)

BAMPTON TOWN RESERVES 7 (Reed 7 15 Oyston 13 54 Madden 27 Paintin 76 90)

Att 1

Entry FREE

Prog No

It can’t be easy being Appleton. A ground next door to the local sewage works with all the smells to match, and a playing record that takes some examination. They were reformed a few years ago as a youth side, but the players got too old. They entered the North Berkshire League last season, and were placed in Division 4 so at least they had some first teams to play against. They finished the season with the following record P20 W0 D0 L20 F13 A204 Pts 0, so were relegated into the basement Division 5 with reserves, A and even B sides. Their playing record this season?

P7 W0 D0 L7 F7 A47 Pts 0, so things are not improving and if you eliminate the two league officials and the clubs’ management, the attendance was me so the well to do village doesn’t care either.

So you’d have thought it was a case of jot down the teams and wait for the goals to roll in? Not quite the case, as the Stars are reasonably competent in midfield and up front. In left winger Josh King they had the best player on the pitch and hiis goal was a glorious 20 yard drive-cum-lob into the top right corner.  The problem was his teammates in defence, oh dear, the least said about them the better.  All the way Briony their manager, urged them on…….positively, and that’s why the Stars keep going, despite getting thrashed week after week. Despite everything Appleton still pull together, and that’s why they turn up and do their very best. The play for the most glorious reason of all, the sheer enjoyment of doing so.

And writing this I would now be rounding this up, but then I had a chat with Bampton’s player-manager Stephen Caton. Son of former Arsenal and Oxford United defender Tommy, he impressed me with his level headed perspective after departing the action after 69 minutes. Perhaps watching your Dad drink himself to death does that, but what then stopped me in my tracks was when he explained that he really shouldn’t be playing today, as he was carrying an injury. “What’s wrong, ” I asked. ” I’m just out of re-hab,” he explained, “The Taliban shot me 4 times in the stomach and arm, I can’t take throw-ins, and the army doctor’s banned me from playing!” he grinned.

With Remembrance day just a few hours away, I left feeling both sobered and proud of such an impressive young man. I’ll wear my poppy with pride tomorrow.

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