They were accompanied by seven wives and girlfriends and even a granddaughter!
Held at the excellent Browns Club Sports Complex in Vilamoura, this was a five-a-side tournament in which teams from England, Scotland, Holland and Portugal were competing.
This year, for the first time, there were separate tournaments for over 50s and over 60s. Having a mix of each, Canterbury had to enter the younger category which comprised four groups with four teams in each.
The first group game was against a tough Derby County side who had finished third last year and brought with them coaches and physios from the pro club! Canterbury’s only coach was the one that transported them from the airport!
Canterbury expected a hard game but their quality of passing and movement off the ball seemed to take the opponents by surprise and a fine goal by Lance saw us win 1-0.
Next up we faced a team from the host club, Browns, and, yet again, our attractive and hard-working style proved too much for them. Lance and Barry each netted twice with well-taken goals following great work by Trevor and Steve. Jan, in goal, was a virtual spectator in this game, with our defence quickly stifling anything that came close.
Our final group game, against the Portuguese São Brás team was a different affair. Whilst not being outplayed, Canterbury couldn’t get their usual game together and appeared to be tiring after a day in the hot sun. However, Steve, John and Dave at the back ensured that little got through. As a last resort Sao Bras put the ball over the top for their striker to aim a header into the top corner but a tip-over save by Jan kept the score at 0-0.
With two wins and a draw Canterbury topped the group with 5 goals scored and none conceded.
On Saturday, in the round of 16 we were drawn against Sheffield Wednesday’s 2nd team and although an even affair, a little bit of information had been given to us that their main tactic was to pump balls up to a tall man up front. Steve was tasked with marking him and totally nullified the threat. The big man never saw the ball and was subbed! Yet again our flowing passing won the day and we were 2-0 winners with goals from Steve and Lance. Sadly, a calf injury forced Trevor off and he was to play no further part in the tournament. He had made a significant impact in midfield and would be missed.
We were now in the quarter final with an altogether tougher task against Forth Valley from Scotland. They were a very good side, but we matched them and took the lead with an excellent goal from Steve. With just under two minutes to go, however, our luck deserted us, and we conceded our first goal of the tournament with a cruelly deflected shot.
And so, to a penalty shoot-out. We lost 2-1 which meant we progressed to the semi-final of the Plate. Disappointing, but a level higher than last year.
Here we met the Sheffield Wednesday 1st team who looked strong and made it difficult for us. We started lethargically and not at all like previous matches. A couple of saves from Jan kept the score line at 0-0 but some fierce vocal cajoling from Barry got us back on track. Lance connected perfectly to hit a shot that looked in all the way only to be foiled by an outstanding save by the Wednesday keeper, but in a rare foray by John into the opponents’ half, he fooled the keeper and scored the winner.
And so, into the Plate Final.
Our opponents were Oriam from Edinburgh and, again, out first half performance was not as we would have liked, but we were up against a clever team. We improved in the second half with Dave and Steve solid at the back but, with both keepers making decent stops, another 0-0 looked a certainty.
Not so …!
An unluckily conceded penalty saw us on the brink of leaving empty-handed after performing so well. The ref didn’t help either their striker or Jan by saying, “This is the last kick of the game!” It was a well-struck spot-kick, but Jan was equal to it and we progressed to another shoot out.
Oriam had one easily saved by Jan, one scored and one hit wide. Canterbury missed one, but Steve calmly hit an unstoppable kick to the keeper’s right, and with great composure with what was definitely the last kick of the match, Barry buried the ball in opposite corner. Canterbury had won the Plate and finished fifth overall.
*1 lost on penalties, 1 won on penalties
We received fantastic support and encouragement from Debra, Fran, Ioulia, Marion, Sandy, Sue F, and Sue R. And we should make special mention of Lance’s granddaughter, Connie, who was frequently heard shouting, “Come on grandad!” They made a lot of noise throughout every game and were an integral part in our success. They even befriended the Exeter City team and had them chanting on our behalf! Ladies, you were amazing; thank you!
It was another hugely enjoyable weekend marked by great camaraderie and team spirit on and off the pitch, with the wives and girlfriends playing a fantastic part in it. We played some of best-ever football and our achievement in winning the Plate was all the more remarkable in that we played in the 50-60 age group competition with four of the 7-man squad aged 67, 68, 69 and 70! We were just two minutes from beating the eventual losing finalists in the Cup competition and they only lost that 1-0. However, another piece of silverware now sits in the Canterbury City Walking Football Club’s trophy cabinet!
SOME INDIVIDUAL AWARDS …
Receives the Broken Whistle award for being penalised at least 23 times in the first 5 minutes of the first game! Things improved..! Steve hates the three-touch rule as he likes to slalom his way past every opposition player, turn back, do it again four times and then pop the ball in the net! He was last seen haranguing one of the poor refs on his sun lounger by the pool, trying to get the rules changed for next year!
Our top scorer with four goals, Lance was also runner-up in the Most Valuable Player award voted for by all teams. That’s out of more than 120 players! Our award to him is the Running On The Spot trophy after being penalised by a very fussy ref for ‘turning too quickly’! He turned but was in the same place – how is that running?
His brand new boots, bought specially for the tournament fell apart in the first match so he borrowed a pair of Trevor’s. These obviously retained some of their owner’s skills which found their way into John’s old legs and he received the How Did That Go In? award for his crucial goal in the semi-final. He described it as a searing, rising half-volley that arrowed into the top corner from 25 yards. We described it as a bobbler from 5 yards that took about three hours to trickle into the bottom corner!
Being a former Arsenal player, we expected Trevor to display his class and he duly obliged by showing a professional’s anticipation in noticing the keeper well of his line and duly crafted a deft chip. Unfortunately, he then showed the accuracy of the reserve striker for the Dog and Duck 3rdXI by sending it just past the post … of the goal on the next pitch! Trev received a Compass as his award.
The Brandy and Cigar award goes to Dave who never moves but quietly relaxes on the right side of the defence denying opposition strikers the space to move more quickly than him! He fashions casual, yet accurate and measured passes to his speedier team mates, but he would have made a couple of headers if he had ever got up out of his armchair!
Our midfield general matches his all-action play with an all-action mouth and he was given the Golden Megaphone award for shouting at us all the time! (It was necessary on many occasions!) Like most he was penalised by the referees for running a few times, but the very fussy ref in our Final match took great exception to Barry shaking his head from side to side after one such decision and judged it to be dissent! Barry was presented with the Nodding Dog award.
Jan received the Tube of Massage Gel award. Very cunningly, he faked a hamstring injury four weeks before the tournament, to enable him to justify not one, but two sessions with Bettina, Brown’s very pretty physiotherapist! On the second occasion, Sandy spotted him on the treatment table and secretly photographed Bettina hard at work on the Knotty hamstring. Sandy then sent the pic to his son, James, who said, “Who does he think he is, bloody Schmeichel!”
And an award for a WAG …
A Red Card award for showing dissent with foul and abusive language to the referee and telling him that, “He wasn’t running, ref!” The referee administered the evil eye to Ioulia, but she insists the real culprit was Debra. She was therefore fined heavily for grassing up one of her fellow WAGS.