We started with more than 1,000 entrants and we are now down to the final four in this season’s BT Sport Pub Cup.
Those sides have battled through regional heats and an intense semi-finals day at Manchester City’s Academy for the right to play for the title in a full 11-a-side 90-minute match at St James’ Park on Tuesday June 4.
There were 20 men’s teams and eight women’s teams competing in the semi-finals, using the same incredible facilities as the back-to-back Premier League champions.
In the men’s tournament, we will have our first ever representatives in the final from Scotland.
Freehouse, The Inn at Elderslie won their heat at BT Murrayfield and came out on top of a tight group in Manchester. This got them through to a play-off against Wolverhampton champions The Wrekin View.
In a topsy-turvy tie The Inn at Elderslie took the lead before conceding twice to go behind at the break.
Whatever was said at half-time clearly did the trick as they overturned the deficit to sneak it 3-2 in a dramatic finale to proceedings.
After the match, licensee Chris McPherson told us: “It was a tough task but I thought they could do it. Now we’ve got a trip to Newcastle and I can’t wait.”
They will be led on the day by BT Sport pundit John Hartson. The former Celtic man is looking forward to taking a team from Scotland to the final.
Speaking after the game, he said: “I’m delighted because I spent five years in Glasgow playing for the famous Glasgow Celtic, although this team is pretty mixed with a few Rangers fans in there as well.
John added: “It’s been a long day for them, they left at 4 this morning so hopefully they’ll rest up now and come back stronger next week.”
They will face CJ’s of Nuneaton, who also won their final 3-2, against Midlands rivals the Oadby Owls. CJ’s took a 2-0 lead and scored a vital third in between two late Oadby efforts.
It capped off a fine performance throughout the day which included topping a group that contained last year’s winners The Gun, from Hackney.
CJ’s will be managed in the final by another man who has made an impact in football in the Midlands, former Leicester, Derby and Birmingham midfielder Robbie Savage.
CJ’s boss Shane Coates-Jarman said:
“It’s absolutely amazing. I can’t believe it has happened to us. Now we are off to St James’ Park to carry on the victories.”
For the first time in its three-year history the BT Sport Pub Cup will also have a women’s final.
Eight teams qualified for the Manchester tournament. Shifnal Sports Lounge and the Half Moon progressed from Group A to meet again in a play-off. Shifnal took control of the game with two early goals and despite a fightback from their opponents they held on to book a place in Newcastle.
The win sparked celebrations on the pitch with former England stopper Rachel Brown-Finnis who will lead them in the final – and she can’t wait to get involved.
She said: “I’m well excited for it, I really am. It’s the chance to manage and be part of a team where the girls have so much energy and enthusiasm for it. I can’t wait for Tuesday.”
Shifnal will face the Golden Hind, which has seen Solihull Ladies and Stourbridge Ladies join forces to represent the Marston’s pub in Kingstanding.
They got through by the skin of their teeth after finishing on equal points in the group with the Wheatsheaf and Burnley’s Royal Dyche, the latter the unlucky ones who missed out on goal difference.
Bexhill’s Wheatsheaf played their part in an entertaining 2-2 draw in the final which meant it was to be decided by the dreaded penalty shootout. The Golden Hind, held their nerve to make it through to the final, where they will be managed by Rachel’s former England roommate Fara Williams.
Both men’s and women’s finals will be played over 90 minutes at the famous Newcastle stadium on June 4.
The winner of each final will be crowned Pub Cup champions 2019 and win £5,000 of BT Shop vouchers and free BT Sport for a year for their pub.
- Catch live updates on the finals on our Twitter account @BTSportBars