The Caversham Cup was the idea of Caversham United, The Billy Goats, a Sunday league team from just outside Reading in Berkshire. Over the past year Caversham have gone from almost folding to promotion from Division 4 to Division 2, a cup semi-final appearance and, through their social media presence, over 4000 Twitter followers including the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma. They have also struck up a deal with the rather brilliant footballkitbox.com (more about them shortly), designing a fantastic new kit (a signed replica of which I am proud to say I have in my possession).
Add to that an alliance with men's charity Balls To Cancer, the main beneficiary of the Caversham Cup idea, and you can see that it has been a busy but fantastically successful year for the club.
Arriving at Burghfield Community Sports Association site I was initially met by a group of Triumph Motorcycle Club enthusiasts who pointed me in the direction of the football tournament - after trying to persuade me to shell out £4 to join their gathering. Having declined their kind offer I ventured across the car park and towards the distant sound of football being played. The first sight I was met with was a ambulance leaving the ground. Not the sort of thing you want to see. It transpired that the Hashtag United goalkeeper had suffered a fractured Tibia. Wishing you speedy recovery @HashtagJacko.
Paul had come over from Galway, where his company is based, to support the Caversham Cup. Paul Gutteridge, Caversham United's Chairman, player, tournament organiser and the brains behind their social media campaign, then came over to give me my signed Caversham United shirt. The kit was designed in conjunction with footballkitbox - who are also the Caversham shirt sponsors - following an online shirt design competition.It's a great example of the kind of bespoke shirts that footballkitbox can provide for teams. The company's mantra is every team should take to the pitch looking and feeling good. Well worth a look in my opinion. Click on this hyperlink for more details.
On the pitches sixteen teams, from far and wide, were taking part. The tournament format was a group stage followed by two separate knockout phases, the top two in each group going into the Quarter-Finals of the main trophy, the Caversham Cup. The remainder would fall into the Quarter-Final draw for the Goat Milk Cup, ensuring that all teams retained an interest in the day for as long as possible.
Group A - Caversham United (Reading), Harchester Hawks (Reading), Hashtag United (Tilbury), Britannia FC (Telford)
Group B - Calcot FC (Reading), Iver Heath (Iver), White Horse (Sittingbourne), Park Rangers (Telford)
Group C - Hurst Reserves (Hurst), Loxwood Park Rangers (Reading), El Valiente (East London), Rectory Rovers (Southend)
Group D - Watlington Town Reserves (Watlington), Reading United (Reading), Bilbrook Juniors Spartans (Wolverhampton), Stacey Bushes (Milton Keynes)
Judging by the comments on Twitter during and after the tournament the day was a massive success with many teams hinting at wanting another crack at the winning it next year. Personally, I hope that it does become a fixture in the footballing calendar. It must have been hard work for the organisers, especially Paul who I know put in a lot of hours. The day seemed to run very smoothly but I can imagine there was still quite a lot going on behind the scenes. I also know that there was a late withdrawal from one of the original teams with a replacement hastily organised, a referee pulled out, and Caversham's captain Sadiq Aneal picked up a nasty injury in a friendly the week before the tournament. He still managed to make an appearance in his wheelchair.
It's not possible to do justice to the Caversham Cup in a short blog post. I suggest checking out the @CavershamUnited Twitter feed or searching #CavershamCup to see the pictures and comments from the day. One thing is for certain. If there is to be a Caversham Cup repeat next year I plan to be there form the opening whistle until the final trophy is lifted. It's too good to miss a minute.
Ground Number: 202