Yes, there really is a pub team called Bruno’s Magpies who have qualified for Europe this season. Scott Robson has the remarkable story of another team of black and whites!
Nothing against Dundalk. The Irish side once signed a player who announced he had signed for them by flirting with a girl on Tinder who then told the local press. That sort of nonsense gets bonus points for me.
Just over a month since Jarrod Bowen scored a last minute winner to give West Ham the European Conference League, the competition started again on Thursday night with the first wualifying round. Dundalk played a team that I think we should get behind.
Step forward FC Bruno’s Magpies from Gibraltar. Yes, you heard it right.
Ok, so far so good, but it gets better even than the name. They really are a pub team made good, and they play in black and white. They had to, or the whole project wouldn’t have got off the ground.
Portsmouth fan Louis Perry had a grandma who had a bar in Gibraltar called Bruno’s, and after moving out there himself he decided to get a pub team together and used his Nana’s bar, ‘Bruno’s Bar and Restaurant’, as the name. It was a club for the expats to play for.
They needed the £500 sponsorship his granny gave him to get strips and pay for the registration to start a club in the league system. It doesn’t sound too hard to do that over there. You just turn up with the wedge and ask.
For Perry, that was the hardest part done, easier than expected, but it’s one thing forming a side and quite another getting players or a manager.
Listen, we’ve all sat in a pub on a Friday or Saturday and started a team up. We’ve picked the colour of the strip and the name, but it’s all forgotten when you’re sober the next day and it’s not mentioned ever again, just for the fear that you have to be the one arranging it.
Think about that for a second when you see how FCB Magpies moved on to the next stage.
Mick Embleton, a Newcastle supporter and Shearer aficionado, drank with Perry in Bruno’s bar and, despite being thirty years older, they were good friends and Embleton mentioned that he used to coach teams back over here. Could have been a load of bull, couldn’t it really?
However, Perry was getting nowhere with getting a manager, so he asked Embleton if he would manage the team.
“Alreet,” Embleton said. “But only if you call the team the Magpies and we play in black and white”. So Bruno’s bar + the manager being a Mag = FC Bruno’s Magpies.
Embleton coached the team for two years. Gibraltar has only one pitch, the National Stadium, which everyone plays at. Having trials is hard because they simply don’t have the pitches,
So they got expat trialists to have a go on the beach. That would sort the wheat from the chaff.
That was 2013. Within two years they were playing in the Gibraltan second tier, and it was getting a bit serious.
Still it gets intriguing. After managing to get a few players who had been released from National League clubs over here, Perry needed to get them to the next level.
Involved in real estate over there, he knew a former British figure skating bronze medalist (you heard it right) who used to be the early forerunner to the director of football role at Watford and he became a shareholder and his contacts brought in a host of players . Uefa money was now involved, and after the top league was extended into one, prize money was upwards of half a million pounds.
FCB were now attracting people from England. Ex Carlisle man Nathan Rooney became manager and ex Watford player David Holdsworth came along for the pub team’s ride as an adviser. Course he did.
They then got to the Rock Cup final (their FA Cup) and, despite losing, they got an unbelievable reward – a European place.
This was last summer, and at that stage the pub team that Embleton named after NUFC were in Europe and we were not. Madness.
They played Belfast’s Crusaders in the Conference League and even won the first leg in Gibraltar in a shock result, 2-1. FCB were 8/1 outsiders but were two up by the 48th minute.
Crusaders won the second leg, but only just. Magpies were ahead on aggregate going into the 80th minute and Crues, whose fans taunted them throughout with the pub team stuff, scored the winner in the 93rd minute. Nine were added on. Very Anfield last season.
The season just gone they broke more new ground by winning the Rock Cup, so that means another go at the Conference League and Dundalk lay in wait.
They’re rank outsiders again against a side who only narrowly lost to Arsenal, who included Joe Willock in their side, in the Europa League three years ago, but if they play in black and white and they all know how to fight, I wouldn’t rule them out.
And you know what? A goalless draw in the first leg on Thursday leaves them still dreaming.
These pub teams are bloody hard to stop when they get going.