Footballing dreams came true at our semi-finals day at Manchester City
After more than 250 games of football across four regional heats and a semi-finals day, we now know who will be playing for the Pub Cup title at Wembley.
This season, 64 men’s and 64 women’s teams were given the opportunity to represent their pub in the greatest grassroots competition of its kind.
The 16 winners of regional heats in Manchester, London, Edinburgh, and Cardiff headed to Manchester City’s Etihad Campus to win their way to Wembley.
The tournament format switched to 11-a-side for the semis – with teams playing in two groups of four. The top two teams in each group then fought it out in play-offs for the coveted finalist spots.
It was all played out under the watchful eyes of two greats of the game, with Owen Hargreaves and Rachel Brown-Finnis on hand to offer insight, support and, naturally, photo opportunities.
The day got off to the worst possible start for Cardiff heat winners The Park Hotel – losing 6-0 to Kent’s The Bull’s Head. Unsurprisingly The Bull’s Head went on to win their group and secure a play-off place. Somewhat remarkably, they were joined in the play-offs by The Park Hotel, who turned it around with victories against Aberdeen’s Butchers Arms and The Drop Inn from Leeds.
On the other side of the draw, The Wishing Well from Preston topped the group with three wins. Cumbria’s Sun Inn finished second, just ahead of Londoners The Dog & Duck and Leamington Spa’s Hope Tavern.
And ultimately it was the two group winners who won the play-off matches. The Bull’s Head dimmed The Sun’s Day with a 2-0 victory. The Wishing Well recorded the same score in a tough encounter against The Park Hotel.
The tournament impressed former England midfielder Hargreaves, who most teams had attempted to persuade to sign at some point during the day!
He said: “It’s been really good, there’s lots of energy and it’s competitive. The emotions are there and football brings out the best in people.
I’ve been offered a few shirts today but I’ve said to all the boys ‘you’re fitter than me’ but when you see people like this you do want to play.
Men’s Pub Cup Final
The Bull’s Head vs The Wishing Well
November 18th , Wembley Stadium
2022 has been the biggest Women’s Pub Cup to date with more teams getting the chance to play than ever before.
Current champions The Two Horns from Lichfield were among the favourites but let a 2-0 lead slip in their opening game against The Swan from Needham Market. It would ultimately prove costly as they ended up second in the group behind the Suffolk side after failing to better their wins against London’s Phineas Bar and The Willow Tree from Nottingham.
Bury’s The White Boar romped to the top of the other group, with 11 unanswered goals in their matches against The Station from Redhill, The Three Horseshoes from Tonyrefail, and The Half Moon from Derby.
The Station took second spot but could not overcome The Swan in the first play-off, going down 4-0.
But it was a whole lot closer in the play-off match between The Old Horns and The White Boar. In a thrilling finale to the day, neither side was able to break the deadlock. It meant the pressure of penalties to decide who would go forward to play under the famous arch.
After a terrific save from the White Boar’s number one set them on their way, it was the Bury side who were celebrating.
They took their place in the final, and their trophy from England’s former number one, Rachel Brown-Finnis.
She said: “I was first involved in the Pub Cup in 2019 and it is great to see how the tournament and the standard has developed in that time.
We are seeing stronger teams and players now. That community link with the pubs is important for the grassroots game and is beneficial to all involved.
Women’s Pub Cup Final
The Swan vs The Boar’s Head
November 18th, Wembley Stadium
The finalists will head to the national stadium for one final push in November. As well as getting to play on one of the most iconic pitches in world football they are also playing for the trophy, plus a £1,000 BT Sport voucher for their pubs. By virtue of reaching the final, each pub has now won free BT Sport for the year.