Wembley, women's football and the County Cup – A wish list for 2020

Tom Canning's Berkshire non league wish list for 2020
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It’s been a hell of a decade. I started it watching my club Bracknell Town finish the 2009/10 in miserable fashion winning just two league games and finishing rock bottom of the Southern League Division One – ensuring a relegation to the Hellenic League that had been on the cards for a season or two.

I finish it sitting writing about Football in Berkshire on a website started in 2016 with my best mate Darrell Freeland.

Thankfully, Bracknell recovered and are back at step four after suffering a further relegation but the shrewd appointment of Steve Nebbett and Danny Oliphant, we all know and miss Duds but I know he’d be very proud of how far we’ve come as a footballing community and interest generated.

I didn’t want to write a retrospective of the decade particularly. Mostly because it would be very one club based (and I’ve already written two paragraphs on it), instead I wanted to look ahead at least to the next 12 months, and what I hope will play out, starting with a pretty niche one..!

Related: Players of the decade: 20 non league footballers who tore up the last 10 years

Sharing

Every month I have a little look at the analytics and every month it’s social media platform Twitter that drives one of the biggest portions of traffic to the web site. I’m assuming from that, it’ll be the same for most clubs in the county.

Not the most exciting ‘wish’ to start my list with, but Berkshire football is on the up at the moment and has been for the last few seasons, the number of people following the twists and turns online is growing and growing – you only have to look at the monthly figures for this website which is averaging 50,000 page views a month at the time of writing.

Admittedly @fiberkshire is far from the most followed account on twitter but we aim to share as much as we can when we see it. I’d like to see a lot more of this (and I don’t just mean FiB stuff), whether its clubs, reporters or individuals. If you like something from any source, give it a share. We’re ultimately all striving toward for the same goal – getting more people interested in Berkshire football – and sharing content is one really easy way to do it.

Working in the media industry as a day job, if non league and grassroots content is being read and shared online, there will be more of it.

County Cup

Mark Tallentire with the County Cup. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

The decade has seen a major, and in my view very positive change to the Berks & Bucks County FA Senior Cup with step 5 teams in the mix for the top tier competition. As well as that, we have a full compliment of pro clubs for the first time in years this season in Reading FC, MK Dons and Wycombe Wanderers.

I understand these clubs haven’t been press-ganged in to it, they’ve actively wanted to return but it’s a shame we’re still waiting for them to make their bow and there’s another round of fixtures yet before we’ll see them.

Why is it a shame? The competition will live or die by how seriously managers take the fixtures. What sort of side they put out (based on juggling any number of other cup competitions) will be influenced by the expected size of the crowd and the anticipation of testing themselves against one of the pro clubs.

Next season’s format will depend a bit on the FA reshuffle – step 5 might be a bit crowded – but lets have a Preliminary Round by all means, with the carrot of drawing a pro side in the First Round and so on.

A Wembley date

It’d be an absolute fairy tail this one, but with two Berkshire teams (one in each) left in the FA Trophy and FA Vase there could yet be a Wembley ending to the 2019/20 season.

I’m not going to be greedy and say ‘both’, but imagine if Maidenhead United or Binfield made it to the showpiece Non League finals day at the national stadium. FiB missed out on Thatcham’s big day two years ago because of the small matter of not covering West Berkshire at the time.

And you all thought there was going to be a moan in here about the FA taking the Trophy and Vase competitions seriously..

Women’s football

We don’t cover women’s football well enough on Football in Berkshire. Women’s football is growing, it’s increasingly in the public eye and frankly, to us it is as much grassroots football as the men’s game that we cover.

There are more teams than ever in Berkshire from the professional FA WSL down through the FA Women’s National League, Southern Region Women’s Football League and Thames Valley Counties Women’s Football League, and we’re doing bits and pieces but I don’t want to cover it half heartedly.

We’re actively looking for someone to become our women’s football correspondent to help us cover the game week in week out. There’s a few more details on what is required here.

Step 1 to 7 covered

Currently there is one step of the pyramid that does not come under the FiB remit – step 3 – owing to there being no Berkshire sides at that level. Step 1 and 2, yes, and everything below and including step 4.

That will hopefully change in the summer with a promotion for Thatcham Town who are currently fighting for the top spot in the Southern League South Division One, and lets not rule out Bracknell Town under Bobby Wilkinson making a play off dash for it as well.

We’ve also got the step five league we dubbed the ‘Thames Valley Super League’ coming in ahead of 2020/21 which should really make things interesting!

What do you think? 

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