It’s easy to assume that money is the driving force at all levels of football. We all know about the Premier and its riches and the foolhardy elements within non-league football that pay players three figure sums to play in front of 150 people every week. We’ve long said goodbye to the FA Amateur Cup, the result of brown envelopes in boots during the 1960s and 1970s (perhaps longer).
But there are still pockets of the old Corinthian spirit in football and they deserve to be celebrated. The AFA Senior Cup is a grand old competition, dating back to 1907, and down the years some famous names have emerged successful: The Casuals, Hitchin Town, St. Albans City and Cambridge Town to name but a few. But for every one of these relatively well known names, there are dozens of old-boy teams that enter the competition year-by-year.
And then there’s the bank teams – the Southern Amateur League, an important part of the Amateur Football Alliance, has long been the territory of bank sides that enjoy sports grounds in South London and Kent. The Bank of England, Midland Bank, National Westminster and Barclays have all won the AFA Senior Cup. In their hey-day, these sports grounds were hives of activity, including football, rugby and hockey, with plenty of bonhomie and jugs of foaming ale to revive mud-splattered bankers beyond 5pm.
This season’s competition has reached the last four and the semi-finals will be played on March 7: Old Wilsonians (the holders) versus Old Suttonians; and Old Meadonians versus West Wickham.
Old Wilsonians won the competition last season against Winchmore Hill. They were formed as the old boy side of Wilsons Grammar School, and are based in Hayes, Kent. Their AFA run this season began with an on-penalties win against Old Carthusians, a famous name from the FA Cup’s history, and in the last round, they disposed of the Bank of England at Roehampton, a ground once used by the England national team in Sir Alf Ramsey’s day.
This season, Old Wilsonians are well positioned for a title bid. They currently sit in fourth place in the Southern Amateur League Division One, but they have five games in hand on leaders Old Garchonians. They are at home to second-placed Nottsborough this weekend.
Their opponents in the AFA Senior Cup semi-final are Old Suttonians of the Amateur Football Combination. This league appears to be going through a bit of transition at the moment as a number of clubs seem to have resigned during the season – Birkbeck College being the latest to throw in the towel.
Old Suttonians’ opponents en route to the semi epitomise this unique segment of the game: Carshalton, Economicals, the Honourable Artillery Company and Old Salesians.
The other old boy team in the last four are Old Meadonians, also from the Amateur Football Combination. They originate from the Chiswick Grammar School and “Meadonians” is derived from “The school in the meadow”. OMs beat three old boys teams – Stationers, Edmontonians and Owens – before overcoming UCL Academicals in the quarter-finals.
They will play West Wickham FC from Kent in the semi-final. They are struggling at the wrong end of the Southern Amateur League Division One table this season. But in their AFA Senior Cup run, they beat current SAL leaders Old Garchonians 1-0 in the second round. They’ve also successfully encountered Ibis, London Lawyers, Old Aloysians and NUFC Oilers (whoever they may be!). West Wickham, who are nicknamed “the Blue Bloods” and play at Corkscrew Hill, claim that only one team in the world runs more teams and that is the mighty Real Madrid!