Up for the cup… with Derek Hodge

We team up with the former Sports Editor of the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Derek Hodge, as he takes a look back on the Sevenoaks & District Football League’s cup competitions. And with this seasons finals too not far away, we keep an eye on the potential finalists of all nine trophies, including the Sevenoaks Sports sponsored Smiths Cup.

As the last quarter of the 2017-18 season beckons, the various Cup Finals take pride of place notwithstanding the fact that there are also many Championship issues to be decided.

This has been an extremely busy season for the administrators of the Sevenoaks and District Football League and the allied Cup Competitions. With the demise of the Tonbridge and District League, the local League took on around 18 new clubs/teams which had the effect of boosting membership to 55 teams.

The League now has five Divisions which has provided many more competitive matches than for a number of years. Regretfully Saturday football has been on a downward spiral for several years and a number of Leagues have folded in Kent. It is difficult to pin point the reason for this occurance but social changes and weekly player commitment amongst others may be at the core of the problem.

Sevenoaks Charity Cups
Looking ahead there are a number of Cup finals scheduled over the forthcoming weeks. None more important that the prestigious Sevenoaks Charity Senior Cup final which, by tradition, has always been played over the Easter Bank Holiday period either on Easter Monday or in more recent years on Good Friday.

The finals have generally been held at Knole Paddock, or for many years now at Greatness Park. This season’s final will be the first to be played on a G3 pitch, the new surface being laid at Sevenoaks Town FC’s ground during the summer of last year.

The Sevenoaks Charity Senior Cup began in 1894 and is one of the most prestigious and oldest Competitions of its type in England. It was originally designed to provide funds for the local Holmesdale Cottage Hospital at St Johns, the site of the present Sevenoaks Hospital. At the time it was run entirely on the generosity of local subscribers.

A group of hospital trustees, among them Lord Sackville and Lord Amherst, took up the idea of combining sport with charity. A working committee was formed and the Sevenoaks Charity Senior Cup was launched. Winners of the first competition in 1894-95 were Shoreham United followed by Cray Wanderers and South Ashford Invicta.

The largest ever crowd to watch a senior final was 3,500 who attended Knole Paddock on 18 April 1949 (Easter Morning) to watch Crockenhill win the trophy 2-0 against Borough Green.

While few players know the competition’s history, it is the ambition of every footballer to take part in a final and for the captain of the winning team to receive and hold the magnificent trophy.

The solid silver trophy was procured from Spinks, the well known London Silversmiths. The trophy along with another one were originally purchased for 70 Guineans and made by Thomas Bradbury and Sons of Sheffield.

What has caused a lot of confusion over many years with the public is that at the same time the second trophy was to be known as the Sevenoaks Trophy Competition.

The Sevenoaks Trophy was open to professional teams and in 1898 was won by Woolwich Arsenal. However, it was proved to be unsuccessful, running for just one season and then returned to the silversmiths.

Over the years many well known local people have been associated with the management of the Sevenoaks Charity Cup Competition, the Junior Cup was introduced in 1923 largely through the good offices of a certain Mr Harry Wright.

A local school master namely Mr W Weth, well known in Riverhead, was Chairman for several years. Others who have played important roles over the years include Col J Laurier whose father was one of the founder members, J Zealey, F Marshall, Secretary Frank Green and in more recent times John Bellamy for 20 years, Cyril Baker, Chairman, John Weller and Eddie Diplock.

The centenary Cup Final was held at Raleys Field, Knole Paddock, on Easter Monday 1994 with holders Platt United becoming only the tenth club in the history of the Competition to successfully defend the trophy with a 3-2 win over Sevenoaks Town.

Smiths League Cups
Either side of the Sevenoaks Charity finals are the various Smiths League Cup finals also currently played at Greatness Park, courtesy of Sevenoaks Town FC, and also sponsored by this very publication, Sevenoaks Sports magazine.

After the 1914-18 war years, the Sevenoaks and District Football League was reformed in 1920. Sufficient clubs had joined the League to enable two Divisions to run.

A certain Mr R E Smith had taken up residence in Shoreham and showed a keen interest in the village club. This interest quickly spread around and it was no surprise when he was made Chairman of the League.

Interestingly Mr Smith had also been elected to the Kent County Football Association and for the next five years Sevenoaks had two representatives on that body, he also being Divisional Secretary. As a result Mr Smith’s involvement in local footballing circles the Smiths Charity Cup was launched. What a boom this was to be for injured players in the years to come.

A magnificent silver Cup was presented to the League by the Chairman of the competition to be competed for annually by the clubs who were members of the League.

A player registered with any club in the League was eligible for the Cup, the competition being controlled by the same Officers of the League, the funds accumulated were for the benefit of players injured whilst taking part in the League or Smiths Cup matches, any surplus funds at the end of the season being given to charities.

As the years progressed and additional Divisions were added, Cups were donated by other donors, thus Premier, Intermediate and Junior to add to the Senior, a cup which is still in existence at the present time. A further trophy has been added for the current 2017-18 season to accommodate the additional Division, which is to be known as the Derek Hodge Cup [sic].

In more recent years the competition dropped the Charity status, the new title becoming the Smiths League Cups Competition. This came about due to the Kent County Football Association making it a condition of clubs being Affiliated, to join a group personal Injury Insurance Policy. An injured player can now make a claim to the appropriate Insurance Company who act in conjunction with the KCFA.

Thus Mr Smith’s idea of raising funds for injured players was now no longer relevant so the Competition in effect became a League Cup but still played on the same basis as before.

Craske & Wells Memorial Trophy
As a result of Peter Craske and David Wells, two young footballers and members of Brasted and Sundridge FC, being tragically killed in a road accident The Craske and Wells Memorial Cup was formed in 1985. The concept of the competition was solely for village teams to compete against one another with the view to re-creating interest directly amongst village folk. Thus recapturing some of the intense local rivalry in past years.

A memorial fund was set-up after the boys’ death and it was decided by the relevant parties ie. John and Peggy Wells, Des and Joan Craske along with Eddie Diplock, Chairman of the Sevenoaks and District Football League and Secretary Derek Hodge, that a knock out Competition should be inaugurated in memory of the two lads.

The one concern of the administrators of the competition was that the additional matches/ties should not cause undue problems in an already congested football programme.

A magnificent silver trophy was purchased and known as the Peter Craske and David Wells Memorial Cup. The final tie would be played at Sundridge Recreation Ground being the home venue of Brasted and Sundridge FC.

In the inaugural First Round tie Seal entertained St George’s (Wrotham) of the Kent County League and in a closely contested encounter Seal won 2-1. Arthur Alexander captained the victors and Steve Lovett skippered Saints and the Referee was Ray Goodwin. Knockholt were the first winners of the Cup defeating Borough Green 2-1 at Brasted and Sundridge Recreation Ground and both the parents of Peter and David were present.

The Fisher Shield
The final competition in the cup final jigsaw came about in 1970. It was to be known as The Fisher Shield.

It was the idea of Mrs Fisher who donated the shield to the League in memory of her late husband Fred who had been an enthusiastic member of Seal FC for many years.

During the early days of the competition it was competed in various formats. This meant that after a long season there was a degree of apathy amongst both clubs and players.

During the late seventies/early eighties it was finally decided to allocate teams from the two lower Divisions to compete in the competition starting ties immediately into the New Year and after the conclusion of the Smiths Charity competition. The transformation was met by all parties with much enthusiasm and over the years the competition has been accepted as part of the League calendar, despite the Smiths Cup finals now moving to March and April.

The finals
With fixtures coming thick and fast at this time of the season, and with the added postponements after the Beast from the East swept across the county, there is more pressure on the league to fulfil the cup final dates which are set out below. It is strange to see so many clubs still participating at this stage of the competition. Take the Fisher Sheild for example where there are still seven perspective finalists.

All the finals will be played on the new 3G pitch at the Bourne Stadium, Greatness Park in an historic moment for the league and participating clubs.

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