By Harry McLusky
Hampton’s 1st XI has reached the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) final for the second time in just four years.
The team’s journey to the final was unquestionably gruelling, with the 1st XI outperforming 372 other teams to reach this Thursday’s showdown.
The challenging nature of this tournament was immediately proven in the first round, back in September, with Hampton’s stamina and skill being put to the test by a very strong Richard Challoner School side. The game was entertaining to say the least, with the two teams being all-square after 90 minutes, at 3-3. Nonetheless, Hampton eventually prevailed, with a brilliant run from Josh King setting Jamie Wilson on a plate to send us through late on.
As the team grew in quality, results dramatically improved. A brilliant attacking performance against Ditton Park Academy gave Hampton an 8-0 victory in the second round, which was followed up by another comfortable 5-0 victory in a local derby against Kingston Grammar School.
Hampton’s star-studded attack continued to shine in the fourth round, putting nine past LVS Ascot, before progressing to the sixth round thanks to a comfortable 4-1 victory over Glyn School. So far, so good for the 1st XI, and excitement started to build as they moved into the latter stages of the tournament.
Alleyn’s School came next – yet another fierce rivalry. The game was closely matched throughout, but goals from Jamie Wilson, Toby North and Kyan Soni gave Hampton a 3-0 win, putting us through to the quarter-finals.
A four hour round trip for the 1st XI was required for their next opponents, St Thomas More High School. Their fans had turned up in their masses, with the home side taking the lead early on. Despite the long journey, Hampton demonstrated their resilience, with Conrad Knight saving a key penalty, before initiating a momentous comeback. Hampton ended up putting six past their opponents, silencing the crowd and sending us through to the semi-finals.
Forest School were Hampton’s final hurdle before reaching the final – a team the latter had lost to early in the season. However, Hampton dug in, taking a 2-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Toby North (the centre-back’s 5th of the tournament) and Adam Coombs, top-scorer of the season so far. Despite a late Forest comeback, Coombs was stepped up to the plate late on, tapping home from close range to give Hampton a 3-2 lead, and a place in the final.
Overall, it is undeniable that this season has been a great success for the Hampton 1st XI, regardless of Thursday’s result. The team will be playing in front of over 600 Hampton fans, at the Stoke City Stadium against Shrewsbury School, in a game that promises goals, excitement and drama.