You know what modern football is like, especially for the manager. Two tournaments in and we hadn't won a trophy; the crowd were starting to turn, the board had given their full support and the team were oblivious, mainly because I'd made those last things up.
Pressure was (or wasn't) on as we took part in our third 7-a-side football tournament in Gateshead. Maybe we need to mix it up, maybe need to change the team. Perhaps we need something ..... different! Whatever we needed, we hoped Newcastle United's trophy avoidance policy doesn't rub off on us!
We were proud to be invited to play in North East Athletic's Newcastle Recovery Shield up in Tyne and Wear at Gateshead's Redheugh Boys Club; former footballing home of Paul Gascoigne. How could we say "No!"
After a couple of last minute drop-outs who actually did say "no" (you know who you are!) we started with a space to fill, step in our first female player.....Aimee! Proof, if proof were needed, we were an equal opportunities employer!
With our merry team assembled, we got to the business of warming up. Don't laugh, it's a serious matter! This was our third tournament so we were starting to see familiar faces and getting to know people a little bit. These events are a great opportunity to bring people from all walks of life together, but we were also starting to feel like we could actually start to compete. We're probably not in the same league as some of the teams, both figuratively and literally, but with a little organisation from our newly appointed captain Richard, we were definitely able to hold our own.
Incidentally, if you're wondering why Richard was captain, he won our 'Thigh of the Year' award.
First up for this tournament, our old friends from the MFC Foundation. We would have our work cut out to get anything from this game, but I was very confident......
Bloody hell! 2-0 loss. Not a great start, but a very spirited performance from of all the team. Let's chalk that down to experience, but MFC are a great team and we didn't embarrass ourselves.
After three games, we'd lost two and won one. The loses were relatively small, but the win was huge in terms of helping our goal difference. We might not be in with a chance of winning, but we could easily (and by easily I mean 'just about') qualify in the top-half of the draw to keep our heads held high and continue to kick it with the 'big boys'. Next up...another important fixture....lunch!
After a very nice lunch of sandwiches and wraps supplied by the good people from North East Athletic, we managed to regroup, reorganise and return for seconds. Bring on the second half of the day.
Our next opponents had everything we hate in an opposing team; they were young, they were fit; they were organised and they could play football. Curse them!
Sufficed to say things didn't quite go to plan in the afternoon. Aimee did manage a fantastic tackle winning the ball like a pro. OK, she took it off one of our own players, but still!
We might have worked our way into the top half of the draw, but we weren't going to progress much further than that. Not this time.
That said, we were still in with a chance of winning the Fair Play Trophy now we've got a handle on Richard's ..... errr .... let's just call it 'passion'.
By the end of the day, would you believe it! We won a trophy, well not just one but two! If you've scrolled down before reading that won't have come as much of a shock to you, but it was to us!
In many ways, the Fair Play Trophy (right) that we won wasn't as much of a surprise. I don't say that to sound conceited. We always try and play the game in the right way and, unless we feel like we've suffered an injustice, we always respect the referee's decision (even the terrible ones ;-).
It was a credit to the teams who took place tournament that we shared the Fair Play Trophy with another team. They took the trophy home with the promise that we'll get a duplicate. We'll see ;-)
The biggest shock was that I, little ole me, won 'Goalkeeper of the Tournament'. If you're thinking "WFT, how did that happen???', then trust me, that's exactly what I was thinking too when they announced my name!.
I'm not a 'bad' keeper, but I tend to rely on the fact that there's just less goal to aim at. My Dad was a goalkeeper in his youth playing for, what would now be called 'Northern League', so it felt nice to continue the family tradition. Thanks to the very wise team who cleverly picked out my subtle skills between the sticks and awarded it to me. Congrats to the other guy who I shared the trophy with. I hope you got your trophy, because there was no way I was giving it this one up!
Collecting it was a new feeling although it was a little embarrassing having to walk past the goalkeeper from the MFC Foundation (who is an incredible keeper). I tried my best not to make eye contact with him for fear of embarrassment, but it felt good getting a trophy. I'm sure he has a shelf full already!
All too soon, another tournament was over. A great day of football was had. We might not have got the results we wanted, but to come away with not one, but two trophies was fantastic and all credit to the rest of the team. On the day Sam Allardyce was sacked as England manager, it didn't do my CV any harm at all.
Before we end, I'd like to take a moment to thank David McCormack and his team from North East Athletic for organising the event and providing lunch.
We'd also like to congratulate the lads (and Claire) from the MFC Foundation for another fantastic win. They really are a great bunch of lads and a well-deserved victory. Ironic that they have more trophies than their Premier League overlords ;-) #UTB
Finally, the biggest thanks to go the lads (and in this case also the lass) who came and give their time, effort and sweat for free to play for us and help spread the word of Men Tell Health.
I've always been so incredibly proud of the lads anytime we play. We always seem to start every tournament with new players (I like to call it squad rotation) and they never cease to fit in, help to create a fantastic atmosphere and play the game in the right way. So I'd like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the now 'award-winning' team of Richard Bendelow, Aimee Caisley, Lee Finley, Andrew Clarke, Gareth Cooper and Gavin Dawson.
Next stop, Durham!