Tradition takes on a Modern Miracle in Tonight’s Herald Cup Final
The Herald Cup Final has returned to its traditional spot of Good Friday and Division One side Beesands Rovers are hoping that that tradition is not the only one revived in tonight’s final. Beesands Rovers FC pre-dates the 1920s and, during the Second World War, the team played on the nearby village green. Then, in the 1950s, the club moved to its current beachside venue, known as The Cellars. The 50s and 60s featured teams consisting largely of players from a short radius around the village. In latter years, players came from throughout the South Hams.
The Bees have a rich cup history: the Herald Cup final regularly featured the Bees in the 1950s, with the last success, versus Teignmouth, coming in 1962 when the Bees’ late president, George Crispin, proudly lifted the trophy; The club would like nothing more than to repeat the feat and dedicate the achievement to George. The Bees also won Division Two’s Lidstone Cup last season.
The club’s ethos of promoting and developing youth is illustrated with 60 per cent of their squad 24 and under. The management team of Malcolm Lamble and Pete Bromfield have worked wonders overcoming three Premier league teams (Kingskerswell & Chelston, Buckland Athletic Reserves and East Allington United) to reach this final.
Whilst missing a couple of stalwarts from this season, the Bees will welcome back first choice keeper Carl Hoare. Whatever the outcome spectators will be guaranteed a 100 per cent gutsy effort from the Bees’ squad.
In contrast, opponents Watcombe Wanderers didn’t exist before the turn of the Century but they exploded onto the SDFL by winning their division every year since their 2007/8 formation. Their Achilles’ heel had been the cup competitions, but that changed dramatically in 2010/11. Reaching the Herald Cup final was a big achievement, but few gave the young Division Three side a chance against Premier champions Upton Athletic. However, the Greens went on to win 4-2 after extra-time.
Watcombe also reached the cup final in the following two seasons, both times against Premier side Buckland Reserves. After losing in extra-time in 2012, they dominated the 2013 final, winning 4-0.
“If I had to pick two to win again it would be the Herald Cup…and the League” – Frankie Finch (Watcombe)
Watcombe finally made the step up to the Premier at the end of that season, and 2013/14 proved to be their most successful yet and, arguably, the most successful season ever for an SDFL side – at least in recent years. After hitting the ground running with a 7-1 away win at Stoke Gabriel Reserves, the Greens went on to win every single one of their league matches, conceding just 15 goals in 24 games. They also came away with all three of the cups they competed in. Despite being drawn away in every round, they won the Graddon Vending Devon Premier Cup, a feat which included victory at Peninsula East side Budleigh Salterton and ended up with an all-SDFL final at Coach Road, Watcombe winning 3-0 against Brixham AFC. Days later, the Fishermen were again Watcombe’s opponents in the George Belli Cup final. In a very different game, Watcombe needed extra-time to overcome Jason Couch’s side. Then came the icing on the cake as Wanderers retained the Herald Cup with a 3-1 victory, once again over Buckland Athletic Reserves.
In recognition, the club were named Team of the Year in the Torbay Sports awards, after being shortlisted for the second time.
The phenomenal record couldn’t last for ever, and Watcombe were finally brought back to earth on 13th December last year, losing 4-2 at home to Buckland Athletic Reserves to exit the Throgmorton Devon Premier Cup in the Third Round. Their first (and so far only) league defeat of the season came on 7th February, 2-1, at the hands of Dartmouth AFC, and Upton Athletic made it a hat-trick of home losses with a 1-0 George Belli Cup semi-final win on 21st March.
“I’m not too fussed about being out of the Belli and Devon Premier Cup and I think it will focus us on this final and the run in for the league,” Watcombe co-manager Frankie Finch said. “If I had to pick two to win again it would be the Herald Cup, because I call it our cup, and the league, because that shows consistency.”
Watcombe will undoubtedly bring their usual strong contingent, while Beesands are hoping for support from the other South Hams clubs:
“From what I gather there’s a lot of interest and I’m hoping the majority of people will be backing the underdog,” said Bees manager Malcolm Lamble. “I have had a lot of text messages wishing us support and I think a lot of people are hoping we will overcome Watcombe. I’ve heard on the grapevine that a few surviving players of the 1962 Herald Cup winning team are coming along to watch.”
The captain of that side, club President George Crispin, sadly passed away last year, but Lamble knows how much it would have meant to him if he could have been at Coach Road on Friday.
“He would have been proud as punch,” Lamble said. “That’s one of the reasons our captain Al Browne will be so gutted to miss it as he would have been honoured to be the next to have a chance of lifting the Herald Cup.
“George (Crispin) was a one club player…he would have been proud as punch” – Malcolm Lamble (Beesands)
“George was a one club player and massive fundraiser for the club. His wife, Pam, is a big supporter and, since George died, she has insisted that we carry on George’s Christmas euchre drive and raffle which is a big money earner for us. I hope someone will be bringing her on Friday so that she can be there with us.”
So can the “spirit of ’62′” overcome the modern miracle that is Watcombe? Come to Coach Road, Newton Abbot for 5.30pm tonight to find out. Tickets on entry (£4; £2 concessions)