Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Toton FC U9s 2 Keyworth U9s 2

I coach Keyworth Utd U9s Green, we play in the Nottinghamshire Young Elizabethan League Division 1. The calibre of team in this league is frightening. Folk from Notts may recognize a few - AFC Vernon, Dunkirk, Carlton, Priory Celtic and Teversal.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we desperately need a win at a very useful Toton FC, to maintain our bid to be Champions of Notts. I felt at the start of the season we were capable of a Champions League spot but we have exceeded all expectations. We are playing on a different planet.

These boys are special, they play with heart, soul and desire. Our team spirit is second to none. We are a close and organised unit, (yes I know they are only 9yrs old). They are all from different walks of life. Some have everything, some are less fortunate, but they all have something in common: they are hungry for success.

I have been with these boys since they were five years old at Soccer School. A guy who used to run it was called Matt Gatter. He is a brilliant coach and my mentor. His boy, Charlie, was a cut above the rest and was captured by the NFFC Academy. We miss them both. We are all good friends. We need 4 points in our last 3 games to secure the title. They are all tough and all away from fortress Platt Lane. I am a nervous wreck!!

Tonight I'm on a leaving do for a guy at work. We are not particularly close, but I respect him. He has been at the firm for over 12 years and deserves a good send-off.

I show my face at the pretentious and over-rated Fire and Ice Bar in West Bridgford. I thought it would take my mind off tomorrow's game. My mood darkens when I buy a bottle of Cider and a pint of Italian Lager - £7 - we are in footballers wives territory.

He has laid some food on, nice touch that. People are talking about their plans for the weekend, or issues at work. It's all over my head, my only concern is KUCFC U9s.

It's 8pm, I make my excuses, bid people farewell and quietly slip away into the night. I nip home to check on "The Skipper", he's watching Eastenders with Mum.It's like the old Chinese water torture.

I pop down KUCFC HQ, it's the annual race night to raise funds for our new clubhouse. Neecey is down there, perhaps he can calm me down. The first Kronenberg 1664 doesn't touch the sides.

People are coming up to me to wish me all the best for tomorrow's game (no pressure!). My phone rings constantly with worried parents asking for directions. I'm texting furiously.

There are people in this room who are great friends of mine, I make no effort to socialise with them, I feel awful, tomorrow's events have taken over. I have 4 or 5 pints, it's a waste of time, it has no affect.

I stroll home and crack open a Stella and have a flick through the Sky channels, it's 12.30am. I turn in for bed.

0530am, and the pigeons are giving it large coos in the back garden, I run a bath. 7am, time for a surf on the net, I avoid the YEL website.

"The Skipper" is stirring. What a player he has been for the the team this season. I double-check the kit and playing cards and have another stroll around the garden - this is like pulling teeth.

We leave for Toton at 9.15am. Wwe always arrive at the ground 45 minutes before kick-off. Our planning is meticulous. I do not breathe a word on our journey there. Mrs P knows when to be quiet.

There's no sign of the home team on our arrival (this is a psychological ploy I have tried when we are away). The boys are up for it, there is a sparkle in their eyes. We do a few drills, talk about last night's TV and have a bit of a quiz - the boys are relaxed.

Toton's manager, Marie, is in good spirits, their team have reached the cup final. I am pleased for her and like and respect her.

"The Skipper" loses another toss, we kick against the wind. We are out the blocks quickly and play a beautiful game of football. Our shape is right and my wingers hold their position. A three man move ends with "Little Neecey" drilling the ball in the danger zone, "Ronaldo" buries it, 1-0. Toton miss a sitter straight from kick-off, "The Cat" makes a point-blank save. We are good value for our lead.

Toton equalise early in the second-half after a mix-up in our defence: "Stay calm Sticky". Minutes later we are awarded a penalty, we have missed our last two. Little Neecey grabs the ball, this boy has the heart and courage of a lion, sometimes it's like having an extra man. I can't look, there's a huge roar, 2-1.

We are under real pressure and there are seconds to go when we concede from a corner, 2-2. It feels like a loss, the boys are devastated, I try to lift their spirits.

The drive home is silent for me. We have blown it. The kids are giggling in the back of the car, thank god they are over it. I have two missed calls when I return home, the news is beyond belief; both our rivals have lost; we are champions, the solitary point we have gained has won us the league.

"The Skipper" and I hug each other, we're both in tears. The moment is special, I don't want it to end. I phone all players and parents, they are in shock. It's a beautiful day and it's more than a game.


Anonymous said...

Nice one youth, Congratulations to you and the "skipper".

From Tamworth FC

Anonymous said...

well done "sir alex" palmer
marie has got a lethal goalscorer,as well but your teams league doesnt lie.
thats it in football,
you either are or you aint.
winners win
losers ........well
dont win!
well done my freind
say hi to jo for me.
"keep practicing kid"
your scout at the beginning...

reg breirley