Turmoil in Iran, the economy in the doldrums, the retirement of Tugay: in many ways this term has been a torrid interlude in the usually blissful reverie that is life in the 21st Century.
But, as the tempestuous waves of world events crash all around us, the College Cup has kept everyone entertained. Could anyone really think about the kerfuffle in the Middle East when they saw Matt Cullen’s 40 yard wonderbolt for Langwith Seconds against Goodricke Seconds? Could anyone fret about the spiralling price of Chomps when they saw Mark Johnson’s sensational hattrick against Goodricke Thirds? No.
The College Cup has blown its rival the Confederations Cup out of the water in terms of football quality and media interest. The latter didn’t get one single report by York’s acclaimed student media, whereas the former has had literally hundreds.
The cup started with a massive bang straight from the turret of ‘Tank’ of Goodricke Seconds. His coshing of Uni captain Witherwick has weaved its way into Yorklore. People whisper of him as a man ten feet tall with the legs of a Kodiak bear and the arms of a Beluga whale. Despite their early humiliation, God himself could not have foreseen the stunning turnaround that was to see Vanbrugh edge out others with their ultra-pragmatic Boltonry and advance to this week’s finale.
Amongst the victims were dark horses James, the outstanding McLeod and Johnson cruelly denied a shot at glory by the capricious and deranged hand of Fate (and according to Johnson, who revealed in an exclusive interview a disturbing desire to exact some Old Testament-stlye revenge, the on-pitch misbehaviour of ex-Vanbrugh chair Matt Oliver).
Goodricke also fell foul of the Teutonic Vanbrugh penalty machine, but really rued the absent Dom O’Shea on matchday. The referee’s whistle is to O’Shea what those famous bells were to Pavlov’s dogs – except he salivates for goals, and lots of them.
But as Vanbrugh fluffed their lines early on, the rest of the top first teams staked their claim, all routinely crushing the lesser teams by 3 goal margins in the group stages. Halifax seemed to make the biggest claim by, to use the words of Alan Pardew, ‘raping’ Vanbrugh Thirds nine nil. But their path was to be the antithesis of Vanbrugh’s. Derwent asserted their status as favourites, fielding a team peppered with Uni firsts like Alex Cooper and Greg ‘the constant’ Gardner. But Atlas-like, with the weight of the world on their shoulders, their legs were swept from underneath them by the rapier blade of Alcuin.
In the group stages, the fragile knee ligaments of modish gadabout Jake Delaney appeared to have torn up their gameplan. But like tennis journeyman James Blake, who overcame a bent spine, a paralysed face and his father’s death to become a Queen’s Club finalist, Alcuin have put their problems behind them and stormed into the final.
And so it comes down to this. Vanbrugh versus Alcuin. Captains Cox and Sheldrick each claim that God has promised them victory. For one, the desolation of defeat forever etched into their brain. For the other, the kind of glory usually reserved for the battlefield death of a war hero. It’s a sundown duel at the astro: one hour, gloves off, no holds barred. Strap in.
Nouse Team of the Tournament
Connor Brennan, Chris Barnett, Mark Johnson, Ed Murrill, Nav Jabarkhyl, David Slater, Greg Gardner, Laurie Swann, Chris Shultz (Substitutes: Matt Scaysbrook, Jonny MacWilliams, Hugh Pryce, Ronan Joyce, Mark McLeod, Dan York, Adam Leadbeater, Ed Lacaille, Ali Prince, Josh “Tank” Barker)
Nouse Goal of the Tournament(As voted for by the fans online)
1. Hugh Pryce’s delicious chip against Alcuin Seconds. Nouse’s Adam Shergold says: “A deserving winner, considering the importance of the game. “
2. Udy Onwudike’s last-gasp header to beat Halfiax Seconds (see left).
3. Parris Williams’ breathtaking volley against Vanbrugh Seconds. Dan Hyde says: “Parris announced himself on the big stage with that goal. Wow.”
4. Mark McLeod’s stunning curler from 25 yards against Derwent Seconds in the quarter-finals. Nouse’s John Halstead says: ”A one in a hundred strike”
5. Jamie Tyler’s overhead kick for Derwent Seconds against Vanbrugh Thirds. Adam Shergold says: “Easily the most unexpected goal of the tournament – he’s a defender!”
6. David Slater’s long-range thumper against Wentworth Firsts. Dan Hyde says: “Boomtown.”
Nouse Player of the Tournament
Team: Alcuin Firsts
Fantasy Football value: £4.1m
Together with Ed Murrills, Parris Williams has been the key to Alcuin’s progress in the College Cup. Undervalued at £4.1m in Fantasy Football at the start of the competition, Williams has gone from hiding deep within the squad’s fringes to regular substitute to one of the first names on the team sheet for Alcuin Firsts. And if displacing university second team striker Joe Cooper – who had top-scoring university football season alongside fellow Alcuin striker Dan Cox – was feat enough, the way Williams has changed games for the red and blacks has been critical, and he’s captured the spectators’ imagination along the way. A wiry runner with ball at feet, superb in the air and deceptively strong, he scored the crucial second goal in Alcuin’s crunch semi against favourites Derwent Firsts and also picked up the Man of the Match award.
Furthermore, a stunning strike against Vanbrugh Seconds in the group stages also had him vying for the goal of the tournament prize. Williams has had the biggest impact on this tournament of any player. In the runners up spots are Mark Johnson and Chris Barnett – each prolific for beaten semi-finalists James and Derwent, respectively.
Runners up: Mark Johnson and Chris Barnett
Nouse Game of the Tournament
Winner: Alcuin Seconds 3 – 2 Halifax Seconds (group stage match)
Udy Onwudike’s late, late header capped an improbable comeback and sent Alcuin Seconds through to the knockout stages at the expense of Halifax Seconds. In a rip-roaring start, Hugh Pryce’s brace, including a delightful chip deserving of Goal of the Tournament, had put Halifax firmly in the driving seat.
However, Alcuin refused to buckle and launched a revival before half-time, courtesy of superb goals from Simon Reiss and Thomas Gibby. Both sides wasted clear openings in a tense second-half, before Onwudike rose highest to win the game, sparking delirium on the sidelines. Runner-up for best game is Goodricke Seconds’ incredible 3-2 upset of Vanbrugh Firsts.
Runner-up: Goodricke Seconds 3 – 2 Vanbrugh Firsts (group stage match)