When Shifnal Town Sports Bar eventually secured a 5-4 victory to become the first ever women’s BT Sport Pub Cup champions it mirrored the direction the entire club is going in.
They were considered the underdogs against a Golden Hind side comprised of players from both Solihull and Stourbridge Ladies, yet an inner determination to succeed and a never say die attitude helped them over the line in the final at St James’ Park, Newcastle, last month.
The win was celebrated in the bar of a grassroots club that was close to calling it a day until recent changes have turned its fortunes on its head.
Natalie Trevor, player in the ladies’ team and partner to coach Mark Corbett, explains why she entered the BT Sport Pub Cup in the first place.
“I was looking at tournaments for the ladies and I came across it online. Our club has BT Sport, so I thought we should enter. When we got an email saying we were in I couldn’t believe it because I imagined every club in the country would be trying.
“We had no expectations of winning it, we just thought it would be a great day out for the ladies.”
Their adventure began with a regional heat at Molineux, just 10 miles east of their Shropshire base. A second-place finish on the day was enough to see them through to the next stage, though finishing runners-up was a pattern they were becoming all too familiar with, after finishing in second spot in their league and enduring two cup final defeats earlier in the season.
In the semis at Manchester City they finally got their hands on a trophy by winning their section and advancing to the final, where former England keeper Rachel Brown-Finnis joined the coaching staff for the day.
They took a 4-1 lead and, despite some nervy moments, held on for a 5-4 win, sparking great celebrations on the pitch and the coach journey back to Shifnal.
It was a hugely memorable experience that has cemented bonds in the team. Natalie continues: “We have got a great bunch, but this year has been incredible – we can push on from here.”
The Pub Cup trophy is now displayed proudly at the Sports Bar, along with the mega-sized £5,000 cheque to spend in the BT Shop, which formed part of the winning prize – along with free BT Sport for a year.
It is a handy addition to the Sports Bar that has undergone a huge transformation in the last 12 months, largely thanks to new managing director Mick Trantor.
The former Shifnal Town FC manager is a local entrepreneur who is now using his business flair to take the club up several levels in a very short space of time.
This is happening with the introduction of boys’ and girls’ teams from the ages of U6 all the way to senior level, meaning that next season Shifnal will have in the region of 30 teams – when a year or so ago they had just three.
The revolution is not confined to the playing side either, with the Sports Bar also being given an incredible makeover as part of an £100,000 investment.
The Sports Bar is located just under a mile from Shifnal’s home ground. This means it is used as a venue for the town rather than exclusively for the club. Not that it was being used much at all, until recently.
Mick explains: “It was a dump. You used to have to wipe your feet when you went out. It was underused, and it needed ripping out. The ceiling was yellow from years of smoking. It was only open a few hours a week.”
“We were actually toying with selling the clubhouse, but it has been so popular, and it is growing and growing. We can have this and a club at the ground.”
Fast forward to now and the club has had a refurb throughout, including a brand-new kitchen, seven big screen TV’s for sport and a games room for the junior members.
Mick says: “It is great to get people in here to watch sport. It was heaving for the Champions League final.”
Natalie, a mum of three, adds: “I bring my girls up here. It’s the kind of place where you want to come now and spend time as a family.”
And it’s working too. The club is now open seven days a week from 10am to 11pm, has three permanent members of staff and even has a shop where you can buy Shifnal Town shirts and merchandise. Revenues are soaring, and the Clubhouse has become a vital community hub.
Prior to the investment the Sports Bar turned over £30k in a year. It is now well on the way to hitting Mick’s target for this year of £200k.
Mick continues: “The trading has been all wet sales but now we’ve finished the kitchen we’ll be doing a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
An extension which will increase the club’s footprint by 50 per cent, is planned for next year so it can be hired out for more private functions.
Just like the victorious ladies’ team, everything is going in the right direction at Shifnal.