For those of you that have read this paper regularly over the past few years, they’ll know that there are two intramural football teams that have really captured our hearts. One is of course Hardly Athletic, the other is the far more established Berocca Juniors.
The Juniors made their debut in the paper way back in 2016, recounting their first and second seasons as a club. As is well documented, the first was an unmitigated disaster, but built the character of several of the players.
Captain Harri Saunders has been a leader both on and off the pitch since he arrived. Our die-hard fans will remember him wearing the blood of the opposition on his yellow jersey, but he’s also shown his quality time and time again. His five-goal hauls against KFC and Team Froggy proved his quality, and his goal of the season chip in 2016 and volley at the start of this season were something to behold.
In those early games, the Juniors struggled to make an impact. James Sproston may have scored the first goals for the club from the penalty spot, but it was Jake Hawkyard that broke new ground in demonstrating the lads’ attacking prowess.
Bringing the ball out of defence, Hawkyard saw his teammates marked out of the game, so unleashed the cannon to fire the ball past the keeper from 50 yards out. So powerful was the shot, that it shattered both his shins, forcing the poor lad to a servitude in net. It took Jake 1190 days to score his next goal for the team, adding the fifth in BJFC’s 9-1 testimonial victory.
Those early games were a testing time for the club, especially when co-founder Jack Cryer injured his wrist in a questionable warm-up routine before the first game. Cryer, who has turned out 68 times for the Juniors, was replaced by BJFC Worst Signing Anthony Offer, who offered little in either defence or attack. Cryer recovered, and was sent out on loan to Chengdu for his troubles, but returned on a mission, being the last ever BJFC player to touch a ball in the iconic yellow strip, and scoring the club’s 500th goal in the process.
The last of the team’s usual cohort was Northern Irish wonder Niall Nagar. Being possessed with very little pace and perhaps even less technical ability, Niall fashioned himself as the team’s brick shithouse, bulking up to become a defensive maestro. Nagar left with just 5 goals in his 40 appearances, but he’ll be remembered for his masterful three man of the match performances.
Towards the end of the first season, the lads went on a recruitment drive, attempting to find anyone willing to battle it out in the toughest league in the world. Playing in Fenham is no walk in the park, primarily because it doesn’t have any parks, so many were put off signing the contract. However, two local thugs, Harry Van Der Hoek and Jack Edwards, were up for the challenge.
Van Der Hoek was brought up on the mean streets of Uluru, transferring to Croyden Town at a young age. He immediately impressed, scoring on his debut, as well as adding a host of goals throughout his second season, including a crucial five against Man Bro Number 5 in a 12-11 win. Though an ankle injury kept him out of much of 2017/18, he recovered to bag four in the 9-1 win over Hardly Athletic.
Converse to HVDH’s cultured style of play, Jack Edwards has made a reputation as the club’s resident hardman. He’s a fan of a tackle, even if it’s at his own expense, having ended up concussed on a number of occasions. Though he’s often known as ‘Jacky No Goals’, there’s little doubt that he’s got a worldie in the locker, his most famous being the 2014/15 Goal of the Season.
With six regular players, the Berocca Juniors squad was taking shape, though no points were claimed by the end of 2014/15. In an attempt to make himself look better, The Gaffer pulled us out of the local league and entered us into a student one, and snapped up Ryan Craig and James Edwards on free transfers.
Craig joined the club as a Northern Irish golfing international, with very little footballing experience. Channelling his inner Santiago Muñez, he’d often charge his way through on goal, paying little attention to his teammates. However, after a year under The Gaffer’s regime, he became the superstar he always had the potential to be, netting five and assisting another four against She Was Only XI.
In contrast, James Edwards treated his move to the club as a step towards retirement, with his locker being filled with nothing more than a pair of slippers and a copy of January 1983’s edition of ActiveOver50. However, The Gaffer revitalised him, incorporating Edwards’ architectural mind to the game by scoring from seemingly impossible angles and having the pre-match tactics down drawn out in blueprints.
It was a success-filled year for the boys, capped off by a fantastic performance in the Soccer Gods Cup in May 2016. However, it didn’t always look so rosy, as several of the regulars couldn’t make it. Step up Tom Coulthard and Will Nicoll, two men that would go on to break Berocca Juniors’ goalscoring records.
Coulthard was mis-sold to the club as a central defender with a rocket of a right foot, an assessment that was merely half-correct. Coulthard instantaneously showed his worth, performing well in the Soccer Gods Cup before cracking on to become the club’s top goalscorer two seasons on the trot. He also found his range in the 7s format, taking full advantage of the taller nets to curl in some beauties.
Perhaps the most cultured player to have played for the club, Nicoll’s qualities were immediately evident after a cheeky flick set up Jack Edwards in the Soccer Gods Cup. Though the odd pass may be one risk too many, his copious amounts of goals and assists speak for themselves. His five goals in one of the several games against Scouse Bounce was a special highlight, taking home one and two thirds of the match balls.
Throughout their third year, the Juniors tasted what could be considered the golden era, with their squad gelling together in the best possible way. Come the end of 2016/17, most presumed it was the last for the club; but then if people truly thought the Juniors were gone, they underestimate how many times Jimmy Gannon returned to Stockport County.
Berocca Juniors’ fourth and final year may have been one of little success in the new 7s format, but they displayed some of the 5s form that few would have believed if they’d seen them in Fenham back in 2015. Fittingly enough, the Juniors returned to Soccerworld to compete for their final season, playing out their days in Division 2 obscurity, much like Ipswich Town.
Many thanks have to go to the club’s dedicated fans and supporting cast, especially Teddy Lee, Rowan Franks, Jared Moore and Brad Metcalfe. The latter was one of the eight players that turned out for the exhibition match against Hardly Athletic, BJFC’s de facto testimonial match, which the lads uncharacteristically won 9-1.
Will the Juniors ever return to action, and reclaim the mantle of the world’s most popular 5-a-side team? Only time will tell.