It’s only just begun, but this year’s BT Sport Pub Cup has already seen as much drama as a Champions League semi-final.
We have already witnessed the return of the kings, penalty shootout drama, goals from all angles, and our first ever Women’s Pub Cup competitors.
More than 190 teams are taking part in the grassroots tournament this year in a bid for glory and to win £5,000 in equipment and free BT Sport for a year for the pub they are representing.
This season’s campaign kicked off with the opening regional heats at Millwall’s South London home, The Den.
With tournaments taking place in the morning and afternoon there were two places up for grabs at the semi-finals, which will be held at Premier League champions Manchester City’s Academy later this month.
Rusty Bike Bar were the first to book their place after scraping through a nervy penalty shootout against The Chequers, who they had finished as runners-up to in the group.
No such drama was required in the afternoon as last season’s Pub Cup winners, The Gun, eased through their group winning every game and without conceding a goal.
City based The Pavilion End could do nothing to stop Hackney’s finest in the final. A 3-0 victory booked their semi-final spot and indicated that they could well be the team to beat again this year.
It was a whole lot tighter in Wales as we took the Pub Cup to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium for the first time in the three-year history of the competition.
There was another Pub Cup first as one landlord, James Woods, saw two of his pubs face each other. The Mile End Inn will claim bragging rights after sneaking past the Jersey Inn with a 1-0 win.
Not that the result was the most important thing, as James said himself on Twitter:
As it was, Mile End made it to the heat semi-finals but sadly for James and the team they were unable to go any further. Harry Watkins proved too strong for the rest to win through 2-1 in the final against Walkabout Swansea.
They will be joined in Manchester by the Shepherds Arms who won the afternoon heats with a 1-0 final victory over Great Western Railway.
And so, to Molineux, home of the Premier League’s surprise package, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and our first Women’s Pub Cup heat.
Deer’s Leap from Swansea didn’t make it through the heat, but landlord and coach Andrew Francis-Davis said it was worth the trip from Wales to Wolves.
It’s been well worth the visit playing at a stadium like this. The girls have had a brilliant time. You don’t get many chances to play on a ground as good as this and they are asking about next year already.”
Two teams qualified from the Women’s event so both Shifnal Town Clubhouse and the Golden Hind will be heading to Manchester.
They will be joined by The Village Inn and The Wrekin View who won the two men’s heats on the day.
The Pub Cup continues this week with heats at five different locations. For daily updates check out our Twitter feed @BTSportBars