IT will be a family affair for Hedge End Rangers FC when they play the biggest game in the club’s history – tonight’s Southampton Senior Cup final at St Mary’s.
Manager Richard Bauck is also the club’s chairman, his wife Annette is the secretary and their sons – Andrew and Steven – will be in midfield against Sholing FC Reserves (kick off 7.30pm).
The Hampshire Premier League club celebrates its 40th anniversary this year but has only had a men’s team since 2005, when Richard established one for his sons and their teammates after they had outgrown age-group football (the club has also produced ex-Saints Andrew Surman and Mark Blake).
“Five or six of our squad at St Mary’s will have come through the club’s ranks,” says Richard, who is hoping his daughter’s partner, Gavin Cross, can add to the 27 goals he has scored from 28 games this season.
“At our level of football it doesn’t get bigger than playing at St Mary’s so this will be the biggest game in the club’s history.
“It’s going to be tough because Sholing’s reserves are very good; they’re young, mobile and quick.
“We’ll be without our semi-final man of the match but we seem to raise our game against better sides.
“Our goalkeeper, Phil Kinally, is a formidable presence and our captain, Stuart Venn, has been an absolute rock for the last six years.
“We’ll give everything we’ve got.” Hedge End beat Hampshire Premier League leaders Locks Heath in the last four. “Overall, we haven’t had a particularly good season after losing four players to Wessex League clubs,” explains Richard.
“We haven’t been able to replace the 60 goals they scored between them last year. “But this competition has been great for us, although we might lose a few more players soon – a lot of them are over 30 and may decide to go out with a bang!
“This is our World Cup final, it’s a massive achievement just to be there.”
St Mary’s will be a very different stage to the Norman Rodaway Sports Ground, But having 28 teams, from under-sevens to veterans – including ten Mini-Soccer teams, 11 Tyro League sides and a girls’ under-14 team – means Hedge End Rangers will not be short of support.
“Hopefully we’ll have about 500 there,” says Richard, who owns Sunday Hill MOT Centre in Hedge End, where Annette and Steven also work. “It’s a great chance for our younger players to get to St Mary’s and for people who can’t afford to take the whole family to see a Premier League game.”
Meanwhile, Sholing Reserves are hoping to complete one half of a historic double as the first team prepare for next month’s FA Vase final at Wembley.
The club is aiming to win the Southampton Senior Cup for the eighth time, having won it in their previous guise as VTFC from 2002-04 and, following promotion from the Hampshire Premier League, as VTFC reserves from 2006-08 and 2010. Manager Dave Fear can complete a personal quadruple, having overseen the last three wins.
He said: “We’ll have a lot of teenagers in the side so it will be our youth against Hedge End’s experience. But we do have a few players with St Mary’s experience from our previous cup finals.”