Berocca Juniors FC: Five-a-side football, but on a really good day

As the intra-mural season draws to a close, we’re pointing the spotlight to the world’s most popular 5-a-side team, Berocca Juniors FC.

Since the team’s foundation in January 2015 they’ve gone from strength to strength. Following some excruciatingly tight 13-1 losses in their early days, the lads have found some form this season and are hoping to kick on and take the world by storm next season.

Like most revolutionary concepts, Berocca Juniors was founded in Leazes Parade. A team featuring Newcastle University’s Jack Cryer, Jake Hawkyard, Niall Nagar and James Sproston was formed. After worldwide scouting missions, they drafted in Wales international and newly appointed team medic, Harri Saunders, as their fifth man.

Jack Cryer recalls “I was bored one day and photoshopped our faces onto historic football photos. This quickly got a bit out of hand and we decided to make a Facebook page to post them on for a laugh.”

However Jake Hawkyard remembers it differently. “It all stemmed from Jack Cryer’s Berocca addiction. After knocking back his third glass of the good stuff one Tuesday morning and making himself another, he had a vision through the orange effervescence in glass. A vision that he would change the face of North-East English 5-a-side football.”

Donning the iconic yellow and black, several practice sessions in the cage against the Fenham boys gave the lads confidence. But BJFC went on to lose every game in the league last year, as well as all but one in the FA People’s Cup in February 2015.

However further recruitment led to the signing of Park Terrace boys Jack Edwards and Harry Van Der Hoek on long-term deals, giving the squad more depth when it was most needed as Cryer broke his wrist when he fell over the ball and Hawkyard’s shins stopped functioning.

“Off the football field the club has had its own resounding success story. As well as maintaining Twitter, Instagram and Footplr accounts, Berocca Juniors have racked up a staggering 200 likes on Facebook”

Coveted prizes for the Longest Arm, Worst Fan and Best Injury amongst others were snapped up at the end of season awards, whilst Berocca Juniors became even more popular on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Over the summer, the fans provided the inspiration not to give up.

Playing a very liquid-style of football in a viscous league was the obvious downfall of the Juniors in the 2014/15 season. Therefore switching codes and signing Jack Edwards’ brother James Edwards along with Northern Irish maestro Ryan Craig were set to make the difference.Niall Nagar reminisces that “we came back stronger from a long summer break and wanted to kick ass.”

Although confidence may have low after their first season, their spirits were lifted after only losing 19-6 against Gangs of Dwight Yorke. At the time that was the record amount of goals BJFC had scored in a match, so there were promising signs.

In the following weeks, the Juniors went on to record back-to-back league victories for the first time in their history, and ended up qualifying for the Third Division. Over the course of the next few games both Van Der Hoek and Saunders scored 5-goal hauls, an unthinkable feat last season.

Though the team’s form improved somewhat during 2015, the benchmark dipped once again in January 2016. Picking up just one point from a possible 18 in the FA People’s Cup, and subsequently losing their last match in the league meant that the lads faced an uphill battle for promotion.

However, having faced angry Leeds fans, monochromatic dickheads and a silver fox, Berocca Juniors have shown the character to make a comeback in the toughest conditions imaginable. As it turned out, February was a month to savour.

In five matches filled with arctic conditions, hairism and occasional lightning-related injuries, the Juniors remarkably won five matches on the bounce. Highlights include Teddy Lee’s permanent hat and Harri Saunders’ world class chip in to the top corner of those tiny 5-a-side nets.

A proud Jack Cryer told me that “The highlight of my footballing career has to be BJFC’s performances during February 2016. Harri Saunders was scoring goals for fun, but he wasn’t the only one. We all found great form at the same time which inspired us to a late title challenge.”

Nevertheless, the match that will live in the memory all BJFC fans and players alike is the win against 1966b. In the lowest scoring game in 5-a-side since Henry Tudor slotted the winner for Lancaster against York under the lights at Bosworth Field, Ryan Craig netted a brace as Berocca Juniors grinded out a 2-1 victory.

With February having gone miraculously well, BJFC had managed to rekindle their title challenge. At the end of March, the title-decider was played out between Ponies and Berocca Juniors. Despite a valiant performance from Juniors keeper Olly Higgs, the boys lost 6-4.

Image: James Sproston

Image: James Sproston

Having never let a defeat keep them down, the team picked themselves up off the dirt to play last week in the cup qualifiers. A magical performance from Ryan Craig, bagging five goals and four assists, inspired the lads to victory. The next round awaits.

Off the football field the club has had its own resounding success story. As well as maintaining Twitter, Instagram and Footplr accounts, Berocca Juniors have racked up a staggering 200 likes on Facebook since their formation.

Their popularity isn’t just down to hard work and great banter either. Jake Hawkyard claims that “The reason BJFC are so special is that the mysterious “gaffer” is actually the Dalai Lama. He knows how to bring us to glory down at the Dunston pits in Gateshead, it’s just a shame that he didn’t know how to guide us through the dark days of Fenham last year.”

Nevertheless it remains special for different reason for different people. Whilst Jake claims that Jack’s regular won goals attempts are a personal highlight, Cryer believes his are the “few worldies I’ve scored that could be eligible for the Puskás Award.”

Since a couple of players are leaving, the Juniors are on the lookout for new recruits as well as sponsorship. Jack, who’s off to China next year, adds that “Hopefully, I can trust the boys to do a good job at taking Berocca Juniors to the next level.” Niall Nagar helpfully pointed out that “the future is bright, the future is yellow.”

As well as releasing regular match reports, previews, features and highlights, last week the players partook in a Q&A session on the Facebook page. As Jack Cryer says, “our page is the best thing on Facebook.” Damn right.

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