Merseyside Nighthawks have just two chances left to avoid going whole season without winning

AN amateur American Football team based in Liverpool are two games away from going an entire season without winning.

The Merseyside Nighthawks play in the British American Football Association (BAFA) Premiership North, the top division of the sport in the country. They train at Childwall Sports and Science Academy but play their games out of JMO Sports Park in Skelmersdale.

Although it is only an amateur team, the Nighthawks have been an organization since 1984, originally named the Wirral Wolves. The team played a large part in the rise of popularity in American Football in Britain in the 80’s. At one point, they attracted a large enough audience to warrant their games to be played at Prenton Park, the home of Tranmere Rovers.

Although leagues like the NFL have shot up in popularity in the UK, focus on British based teams haven’t taken anywhere near the same sharp increase. Away from the spotlight, the Nighthawks went through the 2014 and 2015 season undefeated winning two bowls. 2016 saw them re-enter the prime tier of British American Football, the Premier North.

After almost a decade, the Nighthawks have been officially relegated with two games remaining. Gary Plunkett, the Merseyside based teams running back, is obviously disappointed, but believes it was the right thing for the team.

He said: “It’s a shame to be honest, but probably about right I would say given where the team is in terms of its level. To be honest, it just really goes to show the level of skill in some of the leagues in the UK.

“If you look at the team, we’ve got three players who are in the Team GB squad, we’ve got coaches who’ve been coaching for years and years with a wealth of experience, and we’ve got players who have been around the sport at a top level for a fair few years.

“But when you compare that team with the likes of the current reigning champions of Manchester Titans, they have a roster of 80+ players. It then becomes really hard to compete against that... when you’re playing at that top level, you’ve really got to have that infrastructure in place.”

Plunkett also takes up the position of Marketing Director at the club. In fact, a lot of the team involved with the running of the club also play on the pitch. Their graphic designer and social media coordinator work together on defence.

Plunkett has been playing the sport for a decade now, having started at Liverpool John Moores Fury; joining the Nighthawks in 2020. Now at the young age of 30, Plunkett is considered highly experienced in the British American Football scene.

As in most sports, over the years, the attitude brought towards the game has changed with the younger generation moving up. It is something that the Nighthawks running back thinks needs rebuilding in the squad.

He said: “[I want to] get back to winning... just positive football playing with a bit more of a swagger because there’s the older guys like me who remember what that ethos is there for, and the head coach expects that.

“These younger guys who’ve only come through in the last two years, who only know kind of struggling as a team, they look at that ethos and they go, ‘hang on a minute, that doesn’t marry up with the results.’

“Rebuilding that culture would be nice... The players that know that culture and that ethos, they’d run through walls for the coach because it’s kind of ingrained into those guys. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. The newer players kind of haven’t experienced that level of skill and intensity so we’re trying to bridge that gap I suppose.”

Totalling up all the Nighthawks scores this season; they are down 379-34. The most points they have scored in a single game is 7, and their biggest loss came against rivals Manchester Titans at a whopping 76-0.

NFL teams have only reached the 70’s in points twice, and the Washington Redskins still hold the record for most points scored with 72. The difference in that game was the opposition scored 41, not quite the nil of the Nighthawks.

Since football kicked off again after covid, Manchester have won every single game against Plunkett’s team.

The Liverpool based squad are now training for their final home game against the Newcastle Vikings. With only two games left, the home fixture will be their best chance of avoiding a winless season. Plunkett believes with relegation confirmed, they can now play without the fear of losing.

He said: “We’re looking forward to it... To me at least, that weight [relegation] has been lifted a little bit. You know that pressure of going, ‘we need to do this to try and stave off relegation’ has been made official; now that’s not there.

“We understand where we’re going to be next year and, I think to the less experienced players, it’s a chance to play without that pressure and to the more experienced players, it’s about making sure that we finish the season as strongly as we can. Try and get a win on the board before the season finishes.”