Hype Train FC reach the Reading Sunday Social League (RSSL) Final!
Welcome aboard the home of The Hype Train and its very own grassroots football team, Hype Train Football Club. In April 2021 we announced the formation of a new grassroots football competition in the Reading area - the Reading Sunday Social League - an 8-team mini-league co-created by Hype Train FC and Caversham United that will be played out at three locations between April and June 2021. Here, we give you the rundown of how the 7-game league shapied up from the competitions kick-off on Sunday 11th April 2021. All aboard.
Reading Sunday Social League: Hype Train FC's Route to the Final
Hype Train FC's venture into Sunday League football was our first-ever competitive outings on Sunday's, with the team's first outing an encounter that would be the final itself as we travelled out to the Berks County Sports Centre on Sunday 11th April 2021 to take on Woodley Saints. Goalless at half-time, Woodley opened the scoring shortly into the second period, before Callum Parr-Jones scored a screamed from 25-yards-out. An unfortunate penalty given for handball against Rod Stevens, in the midst of one of the worst referee performances of all time (Woodley agree with this too), would be enough for Woodley to score a win on a bad opening day for the team, but a result that would ultimately help kick-start a revival in the league.
A week later on Sunday 18th April 2021 we were at the Ibis Club for the first of four matches at the ground as we looked to bounce back with a first win against Southbank FC. The game would be crucial as HTFC were the only team able to beat Southank and did it in style with a 4-1 victory. Southbank took the lead, before Stefan Sukara would low a lovely low free-kick to level the score. Graham High on his debut would then lob the Southbank keeper from 20-yard-out after a flick on from Phil Newport, before second-half goals from Joe Sawyer and Tae Eom secured the win for the team.
Our final match in April saw the Blue and Gold take on Rose & Thistle FC in a tightly fought contest against one of our own players, with Rose keeper Chris Marshall an outfield player for the Train! Rose took the lead in this one first after a set-piece was flicked on to the back-post for an easy finish, before a Jack Reddings free-kick comfortably beat Marshall in the opposing goal. There were golden chances for both teams as we had to accept a draw in a tough game.
With some top sides played, we began May with a big 5-0 away win at New England FC at Linear Park in Calcot on 9th May 2021. With the game goalless at half-time, Sukara was fouled for a penalty seconds into the second-half, with Sam Bolwell converting the first of two penalties on the day. Sukara would stab home the team's second, before Parr-Jones freed Newport to prod home a third goal, with Walid Zaky scoring his first goal for the club at the back-post for the team's fourth. Bolwell's second penalty was as calm as his first and secured the rout for the team.
The following week saw the team manage to win by 5+ goals again as we took Tilehurst Titans to task in a 7-2 win at the Ibis Club on 16th May 2021. Titans actually took the lead twice in the first-half, the first of which was a rebound after former HTFC player Scott Terry hit the wall with a free-kick, then Terry found the net from distance with a freak mistake from Jake Holloway gifting Titans the lead. Clayton Holloway scored his first goal for the club to initially equalise after a fine tee up from Bolwell, before an acute cross from Callum Fox-Spence found the head of Jon Watkins to wrong-foot the Titans shot-stopper, with both teams going in level at the break.
The second-half saw the game open up, first when Newport scored his first headed goal for the club when he powered home a deep Bolwell Cross, before birthday boy Fox-Spence converted from close range after a low-cross from Watkins. A Stevens set-piece was then headed home by Newport for the fifth goal, before a late Sukara brace completed a fine morning for the club.
May concluded with our home ground, Calcot Recreation Ground, seeing some RSSL action due to our pitch at the Ibis being called off due to the weather on 23td May 2021 against a fellow locomotive based team name, Thames Valley Railway. The highlight of the day was a hat-trick for winger, Jon Watkins, who first HIT a rifle into the far-right corner, before squeezing in an effort from close range after some audacious skill by Martin King set up the winger on a plate, before Fox-Spence subbed himself off in the dying second so Watkins could complete his treble from the penalty spot after Walid Zaky was brought down in the area.
These first six matches set up a tense final day for four clubs that could still qualify for the final, with Woodley Saints needing to beat New England to advance (which they did by a 7-1 score), whilst Southbank were hoping that we slipped up against Caversham and they beat Tilehurst Titans (which they did in a 6-2 win), in order to qualify. Caversham needed to win and hope Southbank lost to Titans, whilst a win for our team would be enough due to superior goal difference over Southbank.
The stakes for our encounter against Caversham United on Sunday 6th June 2021, the team we trained alongside with at JMA Academy all season, was a crucial, must-win encounter and a game of football for the neutrals that was thrilling as we qualified for the final after a 5-3 thriller at the Ibis.
We took the lead early on after Newport's drive from distance was deflected into the net, before Caversham's Sam Foster scored a lovely equaliser with the outside of his left-boot, though we were able to restore a lead within minutes as Newport powered through the entire Caversham defence after their keeper couldn't hold the ball after a deep cross, with Newport heading home from close range. Caversham then equalised again with a cut-back, before Sukara was fouled for a penalty, and again, converted home by Sam Bolwell.
The second-half was a tense affair, though the game's defining moments happened within minutes of each other, first when Callum Fox-Spence sold the opposing Caversham defender with some skill before powering home with his left-foot to put the team 4-2 up, though we conceded instantly after a long-throw set-piece. In the dying seconds the Caversham goalkeeper made the venture forward for a corner, though the corner was cleared, as was the attempted cross after, with Bolwell freeing Leon Mannion to race through on goal and convert into an empty net to sign, seal, and deliver a first cup final for Hype Train FC!
Hype Train's Route to the RSSL Final vs. Woodley Saints:
Match 1 (11th April 2021): Woodley Saints FC 2-1 Hype Train FC
Match 2 (18th April 2021): Hype Train FC 4-1 Southbank FC
Match 3 (25th April 2021): Rose & Thistle FC 1-1 Hype Train FC
Match 4 (9th May 2021): New England FC 0-5 Hype Train FC
Match 5 (16th May 2021): Tilehurst Titans 2-7 Hype Train FC
Match 6 (23rd May 2021): Hype Train FC 3-0 Thames Valley Railway
Match 7 (6th June 2021): Caversham United 3-5 Hype Train FC
Here's how the final RSSL table finished, with Hype Train FC finishing in 2nd behind Woodley Saints:
Reaction from Player Manager, Robert Austin:
"The last couple of months have been an intense rollercoaster for the team and a journey I'm glad that we all took together. Our team, much like our name indicates, likes to think outside the box, with the Reading Sunday Social League a product of progressive thinking and understanding from several people and clubs.
The football itself has been extremely competitive and it's been the highlight of our 2021, and perhaps the highlight of our team to date. The pandemic ended our debut season with the team in a cup semi-final, two cup quarter-finals and in contention of winning our Saturday league, whilst we never dreamed to be in this position a year on.
The feedback from all eight of the clubs involved in the RSSL has been fantastic. Everyone enjoyed themselves and it has been such a pleasure being able to organise this alongside Caversham and Woodley to see teams being able to play some competitive football after the Reading & District Sunday League closed its doors. Each game got played without incident, the weather held up and Covid didn't hamper the league getting finished. The aim was to bring in eight clubs that would get on with each other, no fuss, with the objective of creating something unique and never been done before.
I'd personally like to thank every single person involved, from volunteers to spectators, the brilliant sponsors that helped bring the league to life, match venues and staff, to players and management teams, that pulled together and made the RSSL a glowing success - your efforts are greatly appreciated.
Now there's just the case of the final itself against Woodley Saints on June 20th 2021, an event that neither club will forget. I'm sure the game will be a great occasion, it's my actual dream to be in this position, and hopefully, a day which sees first silverware for the team."
Who is supporting the Reading Sunday Social League (RSSL)?:
Forming a football league overnight is no mean feat and it takes dedicated individuals to organise. Here at The Hype Train we have been at ground level organising by creating the league's official logo and all of its affiliated graphics, handbooks, trophy design, and will be providing regular updates and exclusives here at TheHypeTrain.co.uk as the league kicks on. Meanwhile, Caversham United have worked hard to organise the competing teams, sponsors, and fixtures ahead of an April 11th start.
We will be joined by the team at Football in Berkshire in providing weekly round-ups, unique coverage and news surrounding the league. The Football in Berkshire website reaches 15,000 monthly readers and provides excellent content from semi-pro to Sunday league competitions.
Sponsoring the tournament, and making our lofty aspirations of the league come true, are the brilliant team at Lens Digital. The team at we.are.lens are a web design agency based in Ascot, Berkshire specialising in user friendly, responsive custom website design/build, WordPress maintenance, support and SEO. If you're looking for a new website, check out the team today at wearelens.co.uk - they're also big advocates for local and grassroots football and currently sponsor Codicote FC of the Spartan South Midlands League.
Last but not least, we have been working closely with the team at Awards FC to create a beautiful and bespoke trophy for the competition, a trophy that we will soon hope to reveal in the coming weeks. The team at Awards specialise in creating bespoke trophies, medals and awards that perfectly tailor your club.
Want to know more about The Hype Train?
The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in Fantasy sports reporting, starting with Fantasy Premier League (FPL), before expanding to MLS Fantasy coverage in 2018.
We pride ourselves in providing beautiful graphics, statistics, in-depth analytical reporting and free weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb rankings tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review games, live sport, and professional wrestling.
In 2019, Hype Train Football Club was formed, becoming the first Fantasy Football website to take to the field. HTFC is a socially active team across social and web channels, providing regular match highlights, match reports, comprehensive player statistics and unique player profiles.
The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog' in 2016 by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), and were again shortlisted as a finalist in 2019 in the 'Best Fantasy Football Blog' category.