Looking back on Ben Kirk’s time with Weston FC. Part One:
- Credit: Archant
For Ben Kirk his time at Weston is overshadowed by one question, what if?
Having signed from Bridgwater Town in 2010, Kirk oversaw the club go from relegation candidates one minute to winning Somerset Cups the next.
And also during his time with the team, captain Kirk led the side to finish in seventh place in the Conference South in 2012-13, which is the Seagulls’ highest ever league position in their 72-year history.
Despite leaving a year later the former midfielder holds Weston in high regard and always remembers his time at the club with fond memories.
In the first of a two-part special, Weston Mercury Sport looks back on his first two years with the team, where he was part of Weston’s back-to-back Somerset Cup triumphs.
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After joining Weston during pre-season in 2006 under Frank Gregan, Kirk signed for hometown club Bridgwater Town later that summer.
But after four years with The Robins, Kirk would follow Craig Laird to re-sign for Weston in the summer of 2010.
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“The first impression was this is a step up,” he recalled.
“It was two leagues above what I was playing and the striking thing first was the pitch and how nice that was.
“Also the set-up, changing rooms, the whole place struck you as ‘we have stepped up a few levels here’ and it was really noticeable. That was the first thing that struck me.
“There was that familiarity of playing under Craig and playing with players I knew.
“That made it less of a step-up in a way, but it was playing a style that we were all used to and playing with players we knew.
“It was ‘when can we get started?’. It was exciting.”
Following Kirk’s depature in 2006, Weston had finished 21st, 20th, 17th and 21st in the following four seasons and were reprieved from relegation three times.
But in his first season in charge Laird managed his side up the table to finish in a respectable 12th position in the league and a place in the Somerset Premier Cup Final for only the second time in their history.
And Kirk, during the second half of the campaign, picked up the captaincy on an interim basis from Craig Land.
“I remember the first time I wore the armband away at Woking,” recalled Kirk, who also had experience of captaining Bridgwater.
“I actually scored two goals and I could say it was because I had the captain’s armband, but I do remember being quite nervous because Craig had been such a fixture in the team and a real experienced semi-pro.
“To fill his shoes was the first time that I had asked been to captain and fill such a experienced and brilliant player and try to put my stamp on it.”
As fate would have it, both Kirk and Rand – which would turn out to be the defender’s last game for the club, against Yeovil Town in the last match of the season – would line up in an opportunity to make history as they aimed to win their first Somerset Cup.
“On a personal note that Cup meant a huge amount as I actually scored the winner in that game, we won 1-0,” he added.
“It was a big moment, it wasn’t a pretty goal. I think it was from a corner from the left hand side as you are looking at the goal and I was always in the box from corners with the centre-backs.
“It bobbled up to me and I remember toe-punting it and it went through about three sets of legs and trickled into the far corner. The feeling of it hitting the back of the net was pretty special, especially at Huish Park on a gorgeous pitch.
“I remember they asked us if they wanted us to water it beforehand and we all said yes.
“It was like being a pro playing on an unbelievable surface, not that Weston’s wasn’t nice, but Huish Park was on another level up. Even at the end of the season it was immaculate.
“We actually played really well in the game and Yeovil had a pretty strong team out. Alex Russell and Luke Ayling played, who now plays for Leeds, they had a pretty strong outfit out.
“I remember at the end of the game we were hanging on a little bit, which made it all the more sweeter when that final whistle goes and you put everything into it and it was pretty special.
“At Bridgwater we had lost that final the year before at Huish Park and I missed a penalty in the penalty shoot-out, so I put some demons to rest which was nice.
“I actually finished that first season as Players’ Player of the Year as well, which meant a huge amount and set up for that level.
“To win the respect of the players was really good.
“That was a pretty successful first year at Weston and to finish with that cup win was a lovely way to finish off, it was a brilliant year.”
Another strong year followed as Weston once again finished in mid-table and made it consecutive Somerset Cups with a 2-1 win over Clevedon Town.
But Kirk, who had now picked up the captaincy on a permanent basis following Rand’s departure, missed the final through injury.
“It’s always nice to lift the trophy, but I didn’t feel quite part of that winning team,” he added.
“I probably played in other rounds leading up to, it but it was incredible to win it two years on the bounce.
“Whilst that trophy is viewed as a lesser trophy rather than the FA Trophy, the FA Vase and things like that, it is always nice to win trophies and we kind of made it a bit of a habit to try and go far as we could because we did as a club and it was good.
“It’s nice to win and try to breed that winning mentality.
*Don’t miss part two of Ben Kirk’s story next week.