TVPL Premier Division 18/19 – Season Review!

The last of our (informal) TVPL roundups sees us address our Premier Division. The crème de la menthe of the league, our flagship group of elite local ballers never fails to disappoint for excitement, entertainment, a bit of nause and ‘online fishing’.

The Division had its challenges this season no doubt – the loss of two local giants in Reading YMCA and WrightChoice Unity was like a bombshell to the league – but to have a title race as we did, with the level of quality that we witnessed was something to behold.

So, in a change to our normal wicked sty-lee, we’re going month by month for this one, with detail that probably is wrong…but we are doing this over a Bank Holiday weekend, amidst BBQ’s and drinking highly intoxicating cordials, so leave off, eh?

We’ll relive the race for the title which was akin to the 18/19 Premier League season; Five real contenders; for City, Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea & Arsenal, read Marlow, Cookham, Woodcote, Mortimer & Reading YMCA (no United of course, it’s a Top 5 now guys, get over it).

Pre-season pointed at YMCA to nail a 4th consecutive title – the same strong crowd of players with experience in the management team, with Marlow pushing them all the way – a new select bunch of talent brought in by Director of Football Bernard Cavell and led by new gaffer James Pritchard. Cookham also wrung the changes; Andy Sinclair moving upstairs to oversee Pep Xaviola who came into the hotseat, along with several new local talents in August. Then, the Cote Crew, under the wing of Sam Tucker; supremely skilled by perhaps not the depth required to match the ring-leaders? However, successive 3rd and 2nd spots meant one thing; only the title would be an improvement.

But with the loss of the Young Men, we wrote this in January – “We have to go for Marlow but after a fantastic title race”…

Let’s see how it panned out…

August

Cookham opened the term well, 4 straight wins to give them the lead early doors. Marlow’s much changed (and heavily paid, wink wink) squad also opened nicely, a walkover over vs the unprepared Wokingham Sumas Ressies, then firing 8 past Richings & Berks County with just 1 in reply. The reigning Champs YMCA bagged a perfect start, beating Mortimer in the process and Woodcote also opened their term unbeaten in the warm months, sharing 6 in the only game either side didn’t win bar Mortimer’s loss to YM.

Table

Cookham         4          3          1          0          10        +6

Marlow           3          3          0          0          9          +7

YMCA              3          3          0          0          9          +6

Woodcote        3          2          1          0          7          +4

Mortimer         4          2          1          1          7          +2

 

September

Both Marlow & YM remained unbeaten but only after YMCA came back from 2-0 down to draw at Marlow in a splendid game. It left the table looking ominous; the tipped two leading the pack like Ant & Dec herding hard-up celebrities in the jungle. Was September the month that lost Dean the title? Home losses to both Westwood & Woodcote would perhaps not have happened in the form they showed months later in the term, but both games were comprehensive. Pritchard’s mob took advantage; 2 wins for the Machine, while the League cup was also attended to. Tucker’s Team also leapfrogged Dean, partly due to the 6-3 at the Manor, 4 from Jonny Adey being a shining moment in their term. Mortimer kept pace with another couple of wins, although a loss at newly promoted Richings Park – their first of the term – lost them the chance to top the league.

 

Marlow           6          5          1          0          16        +10

YMCA               6          4          2          0          14        +9

Woodcote        6          4          1          1          13        +9

Mortimer         6          4          1          1          13        +7

Cookham         7          4          1          2          13        +4

 

October

Another perfect month for the Machine, with a big statement; a 5-2 away victory over Woodcote, while Cookham again dropped points, this time against Wraysbury, leaving them trailing the top sides. Reading notched another 2 wins, but dropped points at Berks County who were picking up the tag of party poopers, a good 2-2 performance. The Adey Keep Army kept pace, also turning in a perfect month; 3 big wins out of 3, Jacob Bailey with 3 across the games. It was Cote’s turn to be as miserable as Neil Warnock after, well, anything with just a point this month, leaving them 8 behind Marlow and, while not seen then, moved them out of the title race (plus the fact we realised this will take forever if we do it like this all the way through. No offence Cote, we love you). And like the Premier League, we had three…

 

Marlow           8          7          1          0          22        +16

Mortimer         10        7          1          2          22        +13

YMCA                9          6          3          0          21        +15

Cookham         9          5          2          2          17        +5

Woodcote        8          4          2          2          14        +6

 

November

The month that changed it all. We blame Wraysbury! Following their 3-2 win over Reading YMCA, the reigning, all-conquering Champions resigned from the league. It was a bigger shock than the new ‘boy/girl’ filter on Snapchat and hit local football like the need to drive all the way to Oxon to take part in a hearing over a yellow card. Citing a lack of numbers and reduced focus, the 63-game unbeaten run ended with a thump.

It created available players, which were snapped up by the likes of Marlow, while it dramatically changed the title race to a more enticing three-way than any trip to Heffner’s place can offer and ensured the TVPL was to have a new Champ for the first time since 2015.

Cookham’s timing was impeccable; a perfect month with 3 wins including a 4-1 away trip to Mortimer, the first sign the Villagers may be struggling to keep pace. Just a point in their other Nov tie v Westwood moved them off the top for good. Dean were grinding out results, the mark of Champs. But they only had a 4-point cushion over Marlow, having played 4 games more. November saw the first dropped points for the Champs, Berks County holding to a 2-2 draw in their only league tie, another sign that County were to play a big part this term, and have a cracking season themselves.

Ting getting’ mad y’na.

Cookham         12        8          2          2          26        +10

Mortimer         11        7          2          2          23        +12

Marlow           8          7          1          0          22        +16

 

December

A huge result for Xavi’s mob as they inflicted the first loss of the Machine’s season, taking a t’rific 2-1 away win in their only Xmas period league game to wound Hitman Hurst and his collective. Yet Marlow jumped straight back on the wagon, Hurstio Augero bagging a brace in a 6-2 demolition of Young Men Haters Wraysbury. Mortimer were humbled by those Berks County poopers but a superb 7-1 over an ailing Woodley gave them hope, and 2nd spot at God’s birthday.

 

Cookham         13        9          2          2          29        +11

Mortimer         13        8          2          3          26        +17

Marlow           10        8          1          1          25        +19

 

January

A huge game in the title race ended Cookham 1-1 Marlow, but Dean stayed unbeaten, and top with two wins, including an excellent 4-0 away at the Burghs. It was Xmas all over again for Mortimer as they shell-shocked Marlow 2-0 in the first game back, a late 1st half Stef Allen brace enough to keep faith in their bid. Yet Berks County threw a spanner in the works with a superb win over the Villagers, before Marlow returned the favour, a 3-1 win avenging the earlier – and last – league loss. Sadly, we lose Mortimer from the running commentary as they didn’t win a league tie in Feb either. More on these lads later!

Now, it was the oil-rich ogliarchs Marlow hunting down the Manor Rec Reds (if you don’t get the City/Liverpool thing here, stop reading. It’s obvious).

 

Cookham         16        11        3          2          36        +16

Marlow           13        9          2          2          30        +19

Mortimer         16        9          2          5          29        +16

 

 

February

So, we now have our two-horse race. Our Messi v Ronaldo. Our Neighbour vs Home & Away. With 6 points, home and away wins (see what we’ve done!) and 6 goals for the leaders Dean gave a perfect month and saw them move 12 clear of United. Just one league game for Bernard’s Boys, a 0-0 draw over Woodcote. This was the largest gap of the season and more pressure was piled on the Machine than Amanda Holden’s makeup when she smiles.

Then Dean pulled out a masterstroke. Despite several teams seemingly not content with supping bevvies in the Dean bar (what’s that about people! If invited, always stay for a beer and a biased chat about the game!!!), Xav persuaded “Mr Newell” to raid the vault and provide for some fresh legs; Mike Rundle, Paulo Cicero, Fab Etienne, Max Alvarez-Lopera, Monay Mills-Chandler AND Tyrese Corbin-Chandler (the latter trio from the sadly departed WrightChoice Unity, more on that later too). No idea if there were enough club socks to go round, but an incredible display of intent. But would it work….?

 

Cookham         18        13        3          2          42        +22

Marlow           14        9          3          2          30        +19

 

March

Yes. Dean threw out another perfect month; 3 wins including seismic 6-2 wins over Richings Park & Sumas. It felt as if the handbrake was off; if September has seen these displays, Etienne would be supping Henny from the Cup right now. Yet, the Machine clicked into a higher gear than Keith Flint could handle; 4 huge wins with a +18 goal difference vs the bottom three sides in the division; Woodley, Reading City (twice) and Wokingham Sumas, Darren Rockall bagging a hattrick in the best of the lot, a 6-0 away win at Woodley.

All Cookham could do now was win the last game & hope Pritch’s Riches slipped up.

 

Cookham         21        16        3          2          51        +31

Marlow           18        13        3          2          42        +37

 

April

Marlow threw another 3 points on the board on April 6th, before the pivotal weekend of the 13th. While Marlow took a 2-0 over Burghfield (a huge banana skin avoided), Woodcote went and upturned the form books by defeating Dean 4-1, a James Griffiths brace ending Cookham’s season with a loss. After an incredible run of 15 unbeaten league games, dating back to September, the Dean had left their wonderful title bid open to challenge.

It now meant Marlow needed 4 points from their last 2 games to ensure the title after the best chase since my pursuit of Sarah in 6th form. Never even got a kiss. She was lovely. Lovely Sarah. Think she’s a barrister now. Great job. Oh, hang on, I mean ‘barista’ down the local Costa. Screw you Sarah. You could have had it all.

Another hard-fought 2-0 over Burghfield in their penultimate game all but ensured the title – a superior goal difference to Cookham meant only a 19-0 loss to Woodley would bag the cup for Dean’s dream-team – an excellent 4-2 win over Woodley was enough to give Pritchard’s Machine their prize, the TVPL league title!

Final Table

Marlow           22        17        3          2          54        +48

Cookham         22        16        3          3          51        +28

 

With Woodcote powering on to secure 3rd spot, and Mortimer ending with Champions League football and a Mad Stad display in the League Cup final, both can be proud to have played a part in a wonderful TVPL title race.

Indeed, Marlow’s strength this term was further shown by winning the TVPL Senior League Cup in that game vs Mortimer, along with reaching the Senior Berks & Bucks Cup Final for a 3rd consecutive season. Sadly, as the two before, the Machine fell just short, this time on pens. But a League/Cup double, along with the news they have succeeded in their application to the Hellenic League for next season shows the club stand in fine stead for the seasons ahead. Well done from all at the TVPL.

Let’s now look at the rest of the division, who perhaps feel this is all a bit “Ronaldo/Messi, what about the rest of us. Well, here you are you precious children…

A super-duper season for those nice guys at Berks County. With a 5th placed finish and some huge results during the 17/18 term. With 11 more points and moving from 10th spot, The Swords managed to take points from the Top 2, do the double over Mortimer and take 4 points from Tucker’s Team Cote. So if they can fare so well vs the big boys, why only 5th?  Only being able to win 3 on the spin at most is why (happened twice during the term, including the last 3 games) as draws and losses punctured any chance of a hot-streak that all those above them could do. Also, while it’s nice to share – not wives, speeding tickets or any drinks if you have a coldsore – only having their top scorer – Dan Money- cashed in 6 goals will need to be addressed. Still, along with a League Cup Semi, a top season for the Swords.

Westwood ended 6th and perhaps will feel they didn’t build on the 17/18 promoted campaign. Fewer wins and goals – even hitman Alex Sergent registered 3 fewer this term – meant they couldn’t live with the Top 4 this season. Yet, beating Cookham early doors, along with taking Hellenic Holyport to ET in their Cup tie again shows the ability is there, just not the consistency.

Burghfield’s first season at Step 7 proved successful, given the talent among their rivals. It didn’t look all that rosy early doors though; 5 games without a win with a couple of hammerings by WrightChoice & Wraysbury made it feel like they’d jumped out of the tikka oven, into the lav after a vindaloo. Yet a 70th min Billy Margets goal gave them a 3-2 win over Woodley at the end of October, and some parity was restored. It was after Xmas we saw the points – 1 loss in 7 gave them 16 points – and a brace of 2-0 wins in April gave the Burgh’s enough to end 7th.

Wraysbury started like a team possessed – 3 wins in their first 4 games with 19 league goals threw more questions than answers; can they sustain it? Who is this partnership of Ben White & Dean Papali, bagging 11 between them? Are the TVPL going to be right again about the cardigan thing from last season? sorts.  Sadly, like the cross-stitch from an elderly grandmother’s attempt at a jumper for a new born (yes, real life example here), they fell apart. While they may have nailed the 4th highest ‘FOR’ tally with 50, they conceded too many and lost the big games by small margins. With a few fresh ‘midfield dominators’ – think Souness, Keane, Jim Magilton – they could contest much further up the table. Always a ride with the Wrays…

The D1 Champs Richings Park perhaps wished they’d never bothered being really good in 17/18. Turn up in the Prem, lose 3 on the bounce, get battered by Marlow, Wraysbury & Cote, then go home. Great. But those chicken-wing munching, Sombrero singing Parkers are made of sterner stuff. A First Step 7 win over The Swords gave them respite, before 5 unbeaten, including a historic win over Reading YMCA in the League Cup. Nov was poor, before wins over sides beneath them kept them from danger’s door. A wonderful 8-3 over Woodley in March was a highlight; John Swift & Brad Cunningham both bagged hattys, but to lose the last 3, conceding 15 will have reminded that much work is ahead for next term. Still, a 6.5/7 out of 10 considering just their 2nd season within our ranks, well done lads, a welcome addition.

We see perhaps our ‘biggest’ 3 Premier clubs languishing at the foot. While Wokingham Emmbrook Ressies, Reading City U23 and Woodley’s second side have resources and Hellenic status’, their TVPL form shows no sign of improving. All 3 occupied the foot last term (with Taplow actually bottom) and they do so again.

Sumas put back to back wins together, beating Woodley then Wraysbury at the end of February and along with reaching the Reading Cup Semi-Final, it shouldn’t be seen as doom and gloom for a side using plenty of U18 players.

Reading City U23s drew plenty of plaudits from almost every side this term for playing attractive football, and, given the platform of youth, should be seen as a positive. Yet the TVPL is unforgiving and seasoned sides such as Marlow and Cookham will exploit any areas for development. Another just to put one ‘back to back’ together, the highlight will have been the 3-1 late Sept win over Berks County (they pop up everywhere!) or the 3-1 away score at Richings Park. Yet the performances need to turn into points next term; perhaps the withdrawal of 2 other sides will give Lawsey’s Young Lions a relegation reprieve…

Woodley propped up the table, a sight not in-keeping with the tremendous end of season display vs Marlow, where it took 2 late late late goals to distinguish the top from the bottom. A Ben Anderson brace in March to secure a 3-1 win over….you guessed it…Berks County, was the highlight result of the season, yet the Royals enjoyed a splendid Reading Cup run, reaching the final after beating Division One big-guns Imaan & Newbury. Despite a Ross Blakemore brace – ending the sides top scorer with 9, 6 in that cup run – D1 form side Westwood took the trophy on the day. Like Reading City, Woodley may benefit from 2 sides folding, leaving the division light on numbers…

While we have covered the Young Men’s fall from grace, we’d like to offer thoughts to WrightChoice Unity, who also fell this term. With so much young talent amidst the Chandler stables, we’re sure many will find good careers from local football, in part owing to the time, effort and expertise of Simon & his team. Best of luck to all those once associated with the club.

 

So, as Jay-Z said, we had 99 problems, but now we’ve finished writing all this, we’ve got one less. At least we think he said that. We’re always confused when we look at him, trying to work out how he is with Beyonce. Might have something to do with the 99 zeros at the end of his bank account. Yet, as Jigga also suggests, the pursuit of the TVPL Holy Grail will lead teams to move On To The Next One and do Anything over pre-season; as Marlow won’t be providing an Encore and have laid a BluePrint on how to win things, there will be Reasonable Doubt as to who will be the 19/20 TVPL Champions…

(that Hova bit was quite good actually, well done us).

So, if we haven’t alienated/bored our entire audience by now, on to some (informal) awards. No prizes, no cash and hopefully, no abuse directed to us for all this as IT’S JUST FOR FUN!

Team of the Season

Pretty hard to look past the Champs; a league/cup double, a second consecutive B&B final and an incredible 9-game winning streak to overhaul Cookham at the last. Special mention here to Dean too as they played their part in a superb season finale. Lastly, we’re shouting out Berks County, who not only heavily influenced this season, but improved by playing good, attacking football. Well done lads. But, too hard to skip our very own Machine for this, the TVPL treble is yours.

Overachievers

In a Division full of experienced, top level players, to move from D1 and end 7th is a brilliant achievement. Another team to play in the right way, with good discipline and, most importantly, performances that end with points, we’re headed to Burghfield for this one.

Underachievers

Easy to look at the 3 established clubs occupying the bottom three spots, but all are using their teams to develop young players, even more so than last season. Also, with the luxury of having another top flight team within the club, Wraysbury will be considering their 8th place finish, especially after such a bright start. Where did those players go? So, we can’t call this one, but will be watching to see if those bottom 3 do indeed develop next term. Or there will be word (there won’t, they can do what they like, we’re not the boss of them).

Fair Play to Fair Play

We’ve actually not got the right stats for this, part of the reason this review is late in coming! We’ll have to wait for the AGM, sorry! But thanks to every club for offering our officers hospitality when we’ve traveled over, it’s appreciated.

Best Game

Westwood’s win 3-1 over Cookham back in October seems huge now as does Woodcote’s 6-3 battering of Xavi’s Lords, a Jonny Aidey quadruple adding the cherry to the icing. But the Dean had some huge results themselves, including a strong 2-1 December win over the Champs Marlow, a massive statement in the race.

Wraysbury’s 5-goal 2nd half blitz to beat Woodley 8-3 was a display of firepower, as was Mortimer 6-goal 1st half haul vs the same opponents in December. For Berks County to travel to Westwood, an experienced side, and humble them 7-1 shows real class.

For Marlow to beat a strong Richings side 6-2 under such pressure in April showed the mark of Champions, and Woodcote’s 4-1 vs Cookham on the same day really shifted the power to Marlow. Yet, despite these being great results, they weren’t exciting “contests” on the day.

Instead, we’re headed back to late September and a game between two sides that started the season very well. Woodcote took the lead only for the visitors Mortimer to peg them back. After half time, sub James Croft gave the Villagers the lead, but for Sam Green to equalise. Step forward Danny Seaward on 90 minutes with virtually the last kick of the game to nick a 3-2 away win in a belting advert for the TVPL.

Golden Boot

Marlow’s Chris Hurst with 18 in 20 in the league secures the award, with Jonny Adey from Woodcote second on 14 from 12. Well played chaps.

The Aly-Us ‘Follow Me’ Award
(this is tenuous, a quality US House track, the ‘Full Intention Club’ mix is the one to search, incredible)

Almost every club has a handle on theor handle, so good work. Given every team is also active online is well-received, so below are a few accounts that we look forward to reading (we wanted to pick individuals here as well as some are quality, but we’ll refrain, for now!)

Richings Park – always active, win lose or draw and offer huge support for most teams across the TVPL. Even gave us some nice words once. Ta muchly gents.

Burghfield – love the graphics and always updated instantly on matchdays. Another side with lots happening in the community, including charity events.

Marlow United – the Champs also boast a champion feed, with excellent reviews across the league from their chairman (we sometimes nick their work, thanks AT!!!). Also love the views of long-standing Director of football BC, thank you!

Cookham Dean – at one point was stolen by Russian ‘adult’ bots, but that was ok, fortunately didn’t view at work! Their gaffa was first class on here this season as well, bit of fishing, bit of ranting, but a whole heap of passion, and, ultimately, respect.

Also mention here the feeds of the Woodley & Reading City Senior clubs are excellent, covering a whole heap of youth, womens and local football. If you want to be in the know, know those. Also, thanks to Football in Bracknell (always got Duds in our minds chaps) for their continued coverage this season, along with the Reading Chronicle; both offer brilliant support to local football.

 

We think that’s it. Long eh? Took us ages. We’re off for a long bath (in Stella) and to give our minions their reward; the contents of the bath once we’re out of it. They won’t be active for a while after that…

Another nice time to thank all of the TVPL teams, Committee and Officials, present and fallen, for your time, effort and appreciation of our league. Without all your volunteers, players, members and fans, none of this is possible. We aim to give you the framework to play and enjoy, it’s you lot that make that happen (therefore if you don’t it’s your fault too. Sort of).

We know we have challenges and areas where we, the league, can improve. And like you, we’re volunteers that are trying. So, any feedback, ideas or constructive opinions are always welcomed and we look for 19/20 to be even better still.

 

As Gandhi once said, “ta-da, see you in August”.