Sport in 2021: When sport returned and created breath-taking moments and historical achievements
- Credit: PA
As 2021 has drawn to a close, it was a year when local sport finally returned in Weston and North Somerset following the easing of the Coronavirus pandemic.
But at the beginning of the year, which saw the country slowly come out of its third national lockdown, there were questions on whether sport would return and in what capacity.
The Pitching In Southern League and Toolstation Western League, where our clubs compete across Somerset, saw their season null and void for the second successive year, despite being able to get some of the campaign underway.
As for other sports such as Rugby Union, our sides had to wait even longer before they could see any action.
Cricket did return, however, and was able to have a full season.
Clevedon CC, under the guidance of Jake Lintott, who was to have a wonderful year individually, celebrated winning the West of England Premier League Division One title.
Churchill secured promotion as champions of Somerset League Division 6N.
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And Will Burns picked up yet more Championship success after a wonderful year in motorsport.
But despite a number of frustrations it has not all been doom and gloom as last year saw a number of record breaking moments in all areas of sport throughout Somerset.
There is no better place to start with former Weston AFC loanee Ollie Watkins receiving his first ever call-up to England national team back in March.
His selection in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man camp for their 2022 World Cup qualifiers with San Marino, Albania and Poland came six years after helping the Seagulls escape relegation by bagging 10 goals in the 2014-15 season.
His rise from Non-League to England saw him make headlines up and down the country.
But nobody would have expected Watkins to mark his debt with a goal.
That’s exactly what the Aston Villa forward did when he scored 20 minutes after coming on in the Three Lions 5-0 win over the La Serenissima at Wembley.
Thus Watkins become the first player associated with Weston to play for England and has gone on to make four more caps since that famous night.
Across Somerset, there was joy for Ashton & Backwell United as the Stags celebrated the “best moment” in their history with promotion to the Toolstation Western League Premier Division.
The Stags have also hired Tony Beecham as their new manager, replacing Charlie Rich, and has brought in Jim Williams and Ryan Perrett as his coaching staff.
Fellow rivals Clevedon Town lost manager Micky Bell after more than 500 games in charge of the Seasiders to Bristol City, with the role given to Alex White, assisted by Ryan King.
Despite being Town’s youngest ever manager, White has started well and go into 2022 full of confidence and hope for the future.
While rivals Clevedon United picked up the Somerset Senior Cup for the first time in their history in May with a 4-0 win over Mendip Broadwalk.
From football to rugby union, Curtis Langdon matched Watkins achievements by being called up to represent England last summer.
The former Hornets youngster made his debut against USA at Twickenham in July before coming off the bench a week later against Canada.
In cricket Clevedon secured their second league title in four seasons after a battle that went to the final day of the 2021 WEPL Premier One season.
The Dial Hill fell to a three-wicket defeat at Taunton Deane but Potterne’s heavy defeat at Bedminster meant they were crowned champions again after their heroics in 2018.
For Lintott, through, he capped off a fantastic year with a number of personal successes.
After being his awarded his first professional contract with Birmingham Bears, Lintott went onto win the The Hundred with Southern Brave a few months later.
Churchill will play in Somerset Cricket’s Division Five later this year after a fantastic individual season last year.
With 15 wins, two defeats and runners-up in Weston & District League’s midweek Monty Stephenson Memorial Cup final, the future looks bright.
Other notable achievements include Weston CC after finished in third place in Premier Two of Bristol and Somerset, while Clevedon RFC celebrated their 100th anniversary last year.
On the tennis front, Cheddar chairman and welfare officer Sarah Strawbridge was named Lawn Tennis Association's Volunteer of the Year last summer.
The award, named after Cathie Sabin, was Strawbridge’s third success after picking up Somerset County and South West regional volunteer awards earlier in the year.
There was success from Portishead in the Tokyo Olympics last summer.
18-year-old Amelie Morgan helped Great Britain claim a first women's team gymnastics medal since 1928 as they delivered an extraordinary bronze.
Rugby Union had to wait nearly 18 months for any action in a frustrating time for all our sides and players.
But when the sport returned it was well with the wait as Hornets, Weston RFC and Nailsea & Backwell have made strong starts to the season.
The Nest side made history with a record-breaking 13 wins from their opening 13 matches, beating ever side in the first period. All this after having to wait before they got a chance to play in South West Premier following relegation from the top flight in 2018.
The Recreation side are on course to have a good season and sit in fourth place but is James Mackay who is leading the way.
The fly-half became Weston’s all-time points scorer at Ivybridge just before Christmas overtaking Robbie Hazard’s total of 1,844 points and the 26-year record.
Mackay currently sits on 1,862 points and will look to add more to his total this weekend against Brixham.
And the Ravens, like the Hornets, boast a perfect record in Tribute Somerset Premier with 13 wins from 13.
The West End Park side, who celebrate their 50th year in 2022, also picked up the delayed 2019-20 Bristol Combination Vase after coming from 21-7 and 31-24 behind to win the competition for the first time in their history.
While Will Burns proved he was too hot to handle again after adding the British GT Championship in the autumn with Century Motorsport, alongside Gus Burton, following his success in the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup last year.
Yes it has been some year for our clubs and players, here’s hoping more memorable and historical moments in the next 12 months.