MY GREATEST GAME: HALTON ARMS v CHESHIRE HAWTHORNE, 2007
LEAGUE: WARRINGTON SUNDAY PREMIER LEAGUE
WORDS: ALAN BOND
ILLUSTRATION: MILLIE CHESTERS
It was a fixture that had fueled a fierce rivalry at the top of the Warrington Sunday Premier League since the turn of the millennium. One between Halton Arms, from the Brookvale neighbourhood of Runcorn and Cheshire Hawthorne from Woolston.
And on this cold autumn morning in 2007 – as a young skinny striker playing alongside my boyhood heroes – I was about to enter the fire and in doing so, experiencing my greatest game.
Having spent two seasons at the local junior club Brookvale United, I had been ushered by my dad towards the locally renowned Halton Arms; Wednesday night training on sandy astroturf was never an occasion to miss – always intense and competitive with a strict two touch rule.
Starting the 2007-08 season as one of the strikers in a 3-5-2 system, it was like playing for Everton for me. Surrounded by the tight-knit group of players that I watched win a glorious treble alongside my uncle Roger for another local pub team, the Old Transporter.
A decade on, the group had now reached their prime. As I sat in the corner of the red brick building which I had grown up whilst following the fortunes of ‘ The Tranny’ as well as my dad’s Sunday League career, manager Frank Cannon’s teamtalk felt like a coming of age.
Rainfall had been heavy, signalled by the sounds of studs trudging through towards the pitch. I can remember feeling sharp in the warm-up and my boots, Adidas World Cups, feeling like they should. I felt a nice warmth of confidence and anticipation against the cold coming through the baggy navy blue Umbro no.9 jersey. As a brief few seconds of silence proceeded, the referee blew his whistle with both sets of teams right up for the battle.
After going 1-0 up and getting some early touches, I doubled the lead with a half volley inside the box after a flowing move. Laying the ball back after good control, the ball was sprayed out to Tony Ennis on the left. His cross was nodded down by Lee Mitchell. I caught it sweet. I knew my dad was watching on a packed line who I could hear were in raptures. I was mobbed. It was a great feeling of pure elation.
The match opened up with Hawthorne halving the deficit at the break but in the second half we were rampant. I scored a tap-in at the back stick to seal an eventual 6-2 victory. A complete performance.
We would go on to win the double that season, adding the Dennis Scholes Cup to a league title. That match and the season as a whole provided me with rich and fulfilled memories that I will cherish forever.