THIS has not been a vintage season for some of the North-East’s professional football clubs, but one of the region’s amateur sides has been celebrating after being crowned FA All England Sunday Cup champions.
Hardwick Social FC, who are based in Stockton, can claim to be the country’s best Sunday football team after they triumphed in a dramatic final at Bramall Lane, the home of Sheffield United.
The team, who are comprised of many of the players who helped Stockton Town win this season’s Northern League Division Two title, beat London-based opponents New Salamis in a penalty shoot-out after the final finished 1-1.
Having taken the lead through their striker, Sonni Coleman, Hardwick were forced to sweat after former Norwich City player Leon Mackenzie equalised for New Salamis.
However, goalkeeper Michael Arthur proved Hardwick’s hero as he made two superb saves during the decisive penalty shoot-out.
Hardwick manager Andy Westwood said: “It was certainly backs to the wall and Bramall Lane is a big pitch. We were second best for long periods, but they have hearts bigger than lions and character beyond belief. In 2017, they are the best side in the country. “
Mr Westwood was quick to pay tribute to Hardwick’s secretary, John Heslop, who is one of the unsung heroes behind the club’s success, which could see them claim five trophies this season.
He said: “John has been unbelievable. He deserves a massive tribute – he turns up for every game, and does loads of jobs. He puts his heart and soul into the club.”