John Burns on WBFC’s fantastic season: ‘You couldn’t make it up! – It was a fairy story.’

John Burns reviews West Bridgford Football Club’s fairytale season in his own inimitable fashion. 

 

During pre-season and following promotion from the Nottinghamshire Senior League joint managers, 34 year old Stuart Robinson & 33 year old Chris Marks bought in new players who instantly fitted into the philosophy of the club – ‘work hard and get your rewards’

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Former Mansfield Town star Jonathan Ventrella signed and was immediately made club captain, Ex Forest keeper Martin Kearney, a big friend of Robinson, added much needed experience in goal, the evergreen Ross McCaughey came in to shore things up at left back and Aaron Large returned after an unhappy spell away from the club.

Steve Astill was made first team coach and Ian Large continued his role as first team physio.

We also had a new home and away kit by the kind courtesy of our sponsors Linsco Recruitment as we ventured forward into our first league match at Greenwood Meadows on the 6th August 2016 – a 1-0 win and we were on our way, a clinical finish from Jurgen Charlesworth on the afternoon.

On the following Tuesday at title favourites South Normanton Athletic, Martin Kearney gave a masterclass in goal as Bridgford triumphed 1-0 again following another Charlesworth strike.

On the Saturday after we travelled to Ashby Ivanhoe and came away as 5-0 winners, a brilliant hat-trick from Carl Westcarr, three wins on the trot without conceding a goal, a solid start to the season, nobody was getting carried away however, the target was still the same, a top half finish…

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At the end of August we suffered our first defeat as we were beaten on the road by local rivals Radcliffe Olympic, it left a sour taste but we recovered and battled on and continued our momentum.

September and October were indifferent months, big wins against Holwell and Ellistown were followed by a defeat at Leicester Road in the FA Vase, a 4-1 thumping at home to the impressive Aylestone Park and a poor performance at Regatta Way against last seasons runners up Radford.

November arrived quickly and the form picked up as seven consecutive league wins saw Bridgford, the newcomers, mixing it with the big boys. A superb win against league leaders Stapenhill and a demolition job at Blaby and Whetstone particularly stand out, 7-2 on that day and a quite sensational Aaron Large hat-trick.

The league form continued to flourish and so did the cup run, the 7th December saw us take on mighty AFC Mansfield in the Nottinghamshire Senior Club Quarter Final, a team full of ex pro’s, on a epic night of football we beat them 2-1, Coole and Erentz with the goals.

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Jamie Spiers and ex Nottingham Forest striker Tim Hopkinson signed just before Christmas, a much needed boost to the quality and depth of the group as we sat 4th in the league on Christmas Day.

With a now settled squad and striking options of Westcarr, Large, Charlesworth, Sylla and Hopkinson, Bridgford (although the management team wouldn’t admit it) were in with a realistic shout of challenging for a top four position with the likes of Birstall United, South Normanton, Kimberley Miners Welfare, Aylestone Park and Blaby & Whetstone.

The new year arrived and again the momentum continued, 8 wins from 9 in January and February, big wins at Barrow Town (4-1) and Gedling Miners (6-0) the highlights as Bridgford now sat top of the league, four points clear.

So March arrived and would prove be the defining month, convincing wins against Anstey Nomads, Birstall United, Kimberley MW, Blaby & Whetstone followed by a rare home defeat against Radcliffe Olympic saw us almost stutter as we went into the last game of the season away Borrowash Victoria – knowing a win would see us secure the title and promotion.

Understandably the game was somewhat nervy at the start however the superb Carl Westcarr won a penalty in the 20th minute and slammed it home. He then added a second late on before a last minute Ryan Stark thunderbolt sealed if for the reds and also secured the league title.

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The scenes at the end of the game were jubilant and ended a most memorable season for the supporters, players, management and coaching staff.

It was somewhat poignant that Chris Marks and Stuart Robinson as managers of the team played for West Bridgford Colts as juniors with Mark’s father, a founding member of the club, being present on the day travelling from Bridgewater in Somerset.

The club held its annual presentation night on the 12th May at Copper in West Bridgford and the season individual awards were as follows:

Players Player Of The Year: Jonathan Ventrella
Managers Player Of The Year: Dave Erentz
Young Player Of The Year: Sam Clark
Supporters Player Of The Year: Jonathan Ventrella
John Burns Award: Jamie Spiers
Golden Boot: Carl Westcarr (25 Goals)

It has been a historical season which will be talked about for many years for West Bridgford who now step in to the unknown in the Midland Football League.

The clubs pre-season friendly games will be announced shortly as we prepare for a new exciting season with fixtures against Notts County and Basford United already lined up.