This Sunday, on the 29th of April, two Toolstation Western League champions in Bristol Manor Farm and Bishop Sutton will face off in a memorial match raising money for Darren Hawkins family.
Darren unfortunately died last October at the age of 33 after battling alcohol and gambling addictions, to the shock and sadness of all of us here at Bristol Manor Farm. Tributes immediately poured in from many who had watched him performing for clubs such as Bath City, Weston-super-Mare and Mangotsfield United.
In the 2012-13 Toolstation Western Premier Division Darren won the league with Bishop Sutton and Lee Lashenko, and played a huge part in their success. When Lee joined us, Darren was one of the first names he brought over with him, and his talent was a huge part in setting up the base for Bristol Manor Farm that we then built on in order to get to the Southern League West where we are aiming to go even further.
Lee Lashenko immediately knew he wanted to do something that not only honoured Darren Hawkins, but also helped out his family. The answer was a Champions of Champions match. The two Toolstation Western Premier winning sides managed by Lee Lashenko, Bishop Sutton in 2012-13, and Bristol Manor Farm in 2016-17, will meet at The Creek for an unmissable match, where everyone is invited to come down and celebrate Darrens life with us.
Lashenko explained: “Darren was a massive part of that Bishop Sutton success and he played his part too when he joined me at Manor Farm.
“He has four children and we want to raise as much money as possible for them and look to do likewise over the next couple of years.
“Darren’s probably the best player I ever managed – an outstanding footballer – and he was a top dad to his kids. Sometimes the English game doesn’t relate to his type of raw talent, which he had in abundance, as it can be more about physical competition.
“Despite his considerable attributes he had a modesty you don’t usually associate with players of that class. He so understated himself.
“He gave a lot of people a lot of pleasure and he was a major reason why we won that Toolstation League at Bishop Sutton.”
“When Darren joined Manor Farm he was in and out of the side a bit during his two-season spell but he still had his eye-catching games, his magical moments.
“I feel he’d have been a very good pro footballer had circumstances been different: you don’t get a five-year contract at a club like Bristol City if you don’t have that ability.
“Darren’s off-field problems were well documented but he didn’t seek attention from them. He had a very real illness and while it got the better of him at times, he never complained.
“Very few people can judge him negatively as he was such a good and loving man.”
Entry for the match is £3 and there will be an auction, raffle, barbecue, children’s entertainment and bar.