Campfield manager, Anthony Clarke, has dubbed the FA Sunday Cup the “pinnacle of amateur football” as he will lead his side out at St George’s Park on Sunday against St Joes.
The Campy have their sights firmly set on winning the National Cup for the second time in the rescheduled 2019-20 final.
Elliott Nevitt steered the two-time Liverpool Business Houses Premier winners on course to their second National Cup final, five years after he featured at Ewood Park as a 16-year-old when they beat OJM FC 2-0, as a trio of first-half goals secured their place in the final.
COVID-19 forced many leagues and cups in postponing their campaigns last year but the Football Association stood firm and ensured that the rich history of the FA Sunday Cup would continue.
Prior to the outbreak, the Campy progressed through four rounds of the competition, beating a number of local teams; Lobster, The Brow and Mayfair, before booking their spot in the semi-final coming from behind to beat Wolverhampton-based AFC Jacks in the last eight.
“That’s a bit of the downside with the National Cup, we tend to meet teams from our area in the earlier rounds. The games that are matched up have the potential to be finals, that’s how big the games are and how good the standard of the teams (in the area) are.” Clarke said, describing the layout meeting three rivals in the opening stages of the competition.
Over a year after seasons and cups were curtailed or put on hold, the four remaining teams in the competition finally received clarity. The date was set for April 25th with the Campy having just a few weeks to prepare after a four month layoff due to the restrictions.
Clarke said: “It was a long, long wait and obviously lads weren’t getting played. (The FA) were always in contact, to be fair, saying ‘we’re doing everything we can and want all our competitions from that season completed’ I was just hanging on to that hope and then finally we got that call we were all waiting for.”
With the return of the Business Houses and not only the title race in their sight but a semi-final looming, they were pitted against; Custy’s, Lobster and Mayfair, but despite the tough run, the 38-year-old was pleased with the outcome of the fixtures as they came out of that spell with seven points.
“To be honest we had some very, very tough games but I think it was exactly what we needed because the last thing we wanted was to be under prepared, not like you are going to get any easy games in our league because no matter who you play, they’re all played like cup finals. It’s an unbelievable level.”
Their visit to Staffordshire was a successful one with Nevitt instrumental. A late penalty-miss from their opponents made for easy sailing in the final quarter of the semi-final as Clarke’s gut feeling was proved right.
“I don’t know what it was, you just get those feelings and all the lads were buzzing to be there. We got our tactics and our game plan spot on and 3-0 up inside 30-35 minutes, if I remember rightly, took that into half time.
“Then it was about doing what we do best and being as professional as we could, even at an amateur level, making sure we gave them no incentives thought we dealt with the game brilliantly.” Clarke continued.
“When they missed that penalty, the lad taking it was their best player by a country mile, you know it’s your day so a great win.”
With the backing of a lot of their league rivals, Sunday league clubs across the city are behind the Campy in their quest to join Oyster Martyrs, Fantail and Nicosia as two-time National Cup winners. Their triumph in 2016 was the last time a team from Merseyside reached that stage of the competition.
“In the grand scheme of things I think it’s a big achievement for Liverpool to win the National Cup no matter what club it is. It’s a big trophy to win and I think prides itself on being one of the most successful city’s in that competition.
“We’ve have had nothing but encouragement from all the other teams in the league, ‘do the city proud’ and we are hoping to but I think first and foremost we want to make ourselves proud, we’ve earned the right to be in the final.”
Looking ahead to the final, Clarke acknowledged that as he has evolved as a manager the once ‘fiery’ and ‘inexperience’ gaffer has made way for a cool and calmer head rather than “flying off the handles”.
Three straight wins for the Campy saw them jump into the thick of the Premier Division’s title race but a 3-2 defeat to Dovecot at the weekend meant they lost slight ground on the Oyster and Custy’s but with two games in hand the title race remains firmly in the balance.
But temporarily, his sides ambitions switch to the ‘Champions League’ of amateur football as they look to reaffirm the city’s quality on the national stage and continue the county’s love affair with the FA Sunday Cup.
“It’s the holy grail of amateur football, everyone dreams of it (winning the National Cup). There have been teams with great history and it’s escaped them. So for us to be in our second final, (I’m) excited, looking forward to it but I like the challenge and in another final.”
With one National Cup winners medal firmly in the pocket of Clarke, it was evident he is chomping at the bit for Sunday to arrive, he continued: “It’s another opportunity to get not just one but two medals under your belt, two National trophies and to go and try it again is unbelievable.
“That’s why we do it (to make history), the level of football we play and manage at, obviously it’s amateur level but it’s the elite of the amateur level, it’s the pinnacle and to have the opportunity of having two of them it’s brilliant. (I) Can’t wait.
“The players go out and do their job on the pitch but I’ve got a part to play picking the right team, getting the tactics right, making sure they’re up for it but we do everything for them to perform.”