Takeley 2 Saffron Walden Town 1

Tuesday 21st December 2021 – The Peter Butcher Memorial Trophy – Station Road, Takeley

It’s Tuesday night in the run up to Christmas. We all have better things to do than drive 50 miles to watch a league cup game played between two step 5 sides but I’d never consider myself to be included in the “all”. So, despite the temperature already at the “crisping the trousers” level, here I was. I could have been watching Nativity 2, Polar Express or ET but having lost the Die Hard argument I had headed north up the M11, doing a right to avoid the runway at Stansted Airport and found myself at the home of Takeley FC.

I wasn’t alone….about 100 brave souls had ventured out, also I’d expect in disgust that Bruce Willis in a dirty vest wasn’t considered festive enough by their families. I found a warm welcome straight away, with a cup of tea served, trustingly, in a mug by the cheery ladies in the tea bar.

The league cup for the Essex Senior League sides had been renamed in honour of ‘Pete’ Butcher, a legendary administrator in Essex, who passed away 2 years ago, having been the club secretary at Hornchurch prior to his death. He would have definitely been a Die Hard over Polar Express man.

Whilst their prime focus will be on the fourth round of the FA Vase and a tie in January against Loughborough University, the visitors had the small matter of the league cup tie against Takeley from just “down the road”. Well, down the M11, navigating around the runway of Stansted airport, crossing over the defunct railway line and making a left into the car park.

This small part of Essex supports a number of teams at Step 5 (as well as Bishop’s Stortford at Step 3) with Stansted, Enfield FC, Sawbridgeworth and Takeley all vying to win fans from the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham. So clubs have to work hard to make their match experience as welcoming as possible, and that’s something that Takeley delivered on. It is the small things that make the difference – the hello on the gate, the mugs of tea, the fan exchange with the goal keeper.

Deep down the result won’t define either side’s season although coming off the back of the 4-1 victory for the home side in their league meeting two weeks ago it was satisfying for the Blues to progress in the cup and for me it provided the perfect escape from watching second rate Christmas films.

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