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Saturday 19th September 2015 ko 16.30

North Berkshire League Division One/ James Rennie Memorial Trophy

EAST HENDRED AFC 1 (Rowe 48)

LONG WITTENHAM ATHLETIC 1 (Cheong 24)

Att 204

Entry & Programme £4

Badge £3

“They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
    They danced by the light of the moon,
          The moon,
          The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.”

Except from “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear

For someone who had only ever seen one game previously at Mill Lane, I seem to have visited this place a lot! The most abiding memory is the the series of meetings I attended in 2010 to get the North Berkshire Hop up and running. I met a third of the clubs across three meetings, and one of those was here. I remember one comment especially, 

“We don’t get hoppers at our games, oh wait a sec’ we had two at the end of last season, a bloke from Leamington and his mate.”

The mate of course was me, and I shook Hendred chairman Steve Mulford warmly by the hand as I revealed who I was! I still find the idea that small clubs find it unbelievable that any outsider would be interested in them incredibly endearing, and as far as I’m concerned I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to visit here.

For if you wanted a mental picture of “Typically English” you could do a lot worse than get the Mill Lane Sports Ground in your mind. Its a place of manicured grass and flower beds, thatched cottages, and the place positively buzzed as the sun sank into the evening sky.

More than any other club on this hop Steve managed to engage his village. Cakes were baked, so many that even the hoppers had trouble eating them all, and the array of hot food or offer was quite bewildering. I couldn’t make up my mind which to have between curry, balti or sweet and sour chicken, In fact I left it too long and ended up having the balti by default!

I love to see a club think outside of the box so with Hendred’s nickname being, “The Owls” he organised a display of 4 Owls from “Hawkwalk.” Another occasion when the North Berks has come up with something completely different.

There was one bit of sadness though. I knew that Long Wittenham’s Andy Cooper fancies playing in a hop game, but missed out when Long Wittenham hosted in 2013 as he was at a wedding. He’s had a long and illustrious career in non-league playing for Aldershot, and winning the FA Vase with Didcot Town. He was looking forward to this game immensely, but got injured a few days before, so stood on the sidelines as a frustrated non-playing substitute. Andy, we’ll have to put your club on again, and next time, please wrap yourself in cotton wool!

We also had the James Rennie trophy to play for. James was a well-liked hopper who loved the North Berkshire League who sadly died in 2013, so it was an honour to have his two brothers present again to present the trophy. And one year someone will will it outright! That’s two years and two draws, one of James’ best friends commented, “We’ll have to rename it the one-all trophy”

It was a good game to watch, featuring two talented teams, but despite Hendred having a goal disallowed the draw was the right result. I finally sat back, and enjoyed the moment that a lot of people had worked towards. Top of that list are Phil Annets, and Chris Berezai at the NBFL and GroundhopUK respectively and all the officials and volunteers at our host clubs. I know they would like to thank everyone who attended the games, without you this event simply couldn’t happen.

We did the drop-offs at Didcot station and at the hotels, before returning the minibuses to the hire company. I flopped down back home, but roused myself to head to my local pub for a “Calm-me-down” It was around 9.30pm when a Facebook message popped up. It turned out that both sets of players and referee Darren Hill were still at the ground enjoying both the hospitality and each others company back at Hendred. My only regret of the weekend was that I couldn’t join them.

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