With 2023 coming to a close, I took to Twitter this morning to give the stats for my year with Severn Sport.
Over the course of the last 12 months, I have taken in 148 local games and covered more unique Gloucestershire-based sides and it has been a blast.
Having put a thread (see below) together of the year, month-by-month, I thought I would go through my ten favourite games of the year – for a bit of fun!
Another incredibly busy year for @SevernSport. First the stats— Ryan Butler (@abaconbuttee) December 31, 2023
📱 148 games covered
⚽️ 614 goals scored
👐 58 clean sheets
😣 5 0-0's
🏟 72 different Gloucestershire based sides watched
👀 Most watched teams: @longlevensafc (30) @GCAFCWomen (26)
Here is how the year went… https://t.co/0YUwpRL6Ll
10) Gloucester City 3-0 Curzon Ashton (National League North, Tuesday 19 December)
This game is probably in due to recency bias, but City had played abysmally three days prior in the defeat to Darlington. So for Gloucester to turn up 72 hours later and produce the performance they did against a side who had just entered the play-offs, was impressive.
Joe Hanks set the tone, before Danny Wright and Alefe Santos added efforts to secure the points late on.
9) Slimbridge 2-3 Reading City (FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, Saturday 5 August)
One of the most enjoyable things about covering local football, is the early rounds of the FA Cup. It gives a buzz and excitement to our local sides and they are always early in the season, which for me makes it better.
Slimbridge being drawn against a club 15 minutes away from my parents’ house in Reading was always one I would be drawn to. A great occasion and as someone who enjoys football, a great game to watch and commentate on.
Listen to the highlights below:
I hate seeing any of the local sides involved in relegation battles and unfortunately, last season was full of them! Going into the final month of the season though, I was telling people that Tuffley had it in their hands, thanks to fixtures against those around them – in particular home and away games with Chipping Sodbury.
Rovers produced an outstanding performance on the Easter Monday, running out 5-0 winners at Glevum Park and the result really gave them control and belief to go on and retain their Hellenic Premier status.
Jamie Martin, Henry Birkett, Mark Pritchett, Sammie Hicks and Dom Kent with the crucial goals.
7) Shortwood United 3-5 Longlevens (FA Vase, Saturday 23 September)
One of my first trips to Meadowbank and the excitement in the air leading into this one was there. Shortwood have put together a very good team and having lost then Manager, Dan Gillespie, to Swindon Supermarine just days before – there was also uncertainty.
The game itself was a fantastic watch, with both sides really up for it and both sets of supporters only enhanced the occasions. Being honest, the all-Gloucestershire occasions are always my favourites.
Brad Loveridge and a Dan Gayner double for Shortwood, whilst Jack Beardsell, Nathan Payne, Shaun O’Connor and a double from the impressive Shiyak Sutherland saw Longlevens advance into the next round.
6) Gloucester City Women 2-1 Cirencester Town Ladies (Women’s FA Cup; Sunday 10 September)
Another one of those exciting cup ties that I love. Two Gloucestershire sides wanting to win, wanting the bragging rights and another well supported occasion!
The game was again, a good one and another fun one to commentate on, alongside Meg Long.
Listen to the game below:
5) Chalford 2-1 Brockworth Albion (Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division One, Saturday 22 April)
Going into this game, both sides were unbeaten and both sides were firmly in the race for the league title. It lead to another great local occasion, it really did.
Both sides played their part in a fascinating contest, which must have been seen by nearly 100 people at the Chalford club. Jack Hughes put the hosts ahead, with Ryan Harry grabbing the eventual winner.
I was also delighted that Ash Bird scored for Brockworth, as it is known how much of a fan of his Severn Sport has been for years!
Shout-out to Garry Collier as well. It was the refereeing performance that secured him our Match Official of the Season award at the End of Season Awards too!
4) Brackley Town 2-2 Gloucester City (National League North Play-offs, Wednesday 3rd May)
This was a game and ultimately a day I will never forget. I was once told by a teacher that I wasn’t good enough to do anything professionally in radio, but I made my BBC Gloucestershire debut covering a side I have been watching since 2011 in their biggest game of their recent history, if not ever!
Gloucester were very unlucky on the night and afterwards it felt like an end of an era, massively and one City fans can only dream of replicating at the moment.
3) Bradford Town 2-3 Longlevens (Hellenic League Floodlit Cup, Wednesday 8 February)
People will look at this one and think ‘how on Earth is this top 3?’ And the answer is quite simple, really. Over the years I have got to know players, managers and volunteers alike all over the place and I am very lucky to have had occasions like this one, where a special moment happens and it means so much to the players as people.
Levens went into this one threatening to turn a corner and starting to piece together a route for survival in the league, whilst almost benefitting from a good Floodlit Cup run.
They had a makeshift squad away from home on a Wednesday night and were 2-0 down with less than twenty minutes to go. Cue an incredible comeback with Luke Hitchman and Dave Merrick brining them level, before Tommy Callinan’s sensational injury time winner.
It was a great night to be a part of.
2) Brockworth Albion 2-1 Tredworth Tigers (Reg Davis Cup Final, Wednesday 4 October)
The Reg Davis Cup final is always one of the best nights of the season. It is the first trophy up for grabs in the season and it always brings out a good crowd – as this season’s final did once again.
Brockworth went ahead, before having their goalkeeper sent off and most of Thornhill Park were convinced that Tredworth would go on to win the contest.
Sean Gee produced an exceptional goalkeeping performance, with one of the most solid back four displays I have ever seen in front of him and it all led to Albion snatching a dramatic injury time winner to lift the trophy. A wonderful occasion.
1) Gloucester City 4-3 Chorley (National League North, Saturday 29 April)
One of the single greatest afternoons I have ever witnessed. 3-1 down with about 15 minutes left and City needed a miracle to secure a play-off spot. I guess sometimes, miracles do happen.
Even when Matthew Barnes-Homer scored the equaliser in the 88th minute there was more a sense of “haha, we have stopped Chorley getting into the play-offs” feeling in the stands, but then as stoppage time wore on, the realisation that City needed a goal to secure their own spot spread and then absolute pandemonium when Tope Obadeyi has overhead kicked into the top corner.
Yes the play-off game at Brackley was great, but the end of this one was the big climax to a wonderful season.
I recalled the action for BBC Gloucestershire during and after the game, whilst Ben Morgan, Kieran Phillips and Sion Spence discussed it with me over Christmas – check these out below:
As the New Year approaches, thank you to everyone once again for their continued support of Severn Sport and more importantly non-league football within Gloucestershire.
Happy New Year!
Cover photos of Gloucester City fans’ pitch invasion and Gloucester City Women vs Cirencester Town Ladies taken by and copyright to Neil Phelps. Check out his Flickr account for all of his Gloucester City pictures by clicking here