“Great teamwork today from everyone involved. What a rollercoaster. Well done Team!”
John Myatt, Team Manager and Captain
After the nightmare that was last month's Greater Manchester Walking Football League Match Day 3, the Wanderers 60+ squad consulted Jeremy Kyle's resident psychotherapist Graham Stanier and on his advice took a long hard look at themselves in the mirror, agreed never to read anything on Facebook and, just to cover all bases, took DNA and Lie Detector tests.
The follow up plan from this drastic action was covered in my News report for the South Yorkshire League Match Day 1 which you'll recall was a much more positive event and resulted in three wins and a draw.
Ahead of our final round of matches in the GMWFL squad manager John Myatt pulled his players in for extra training before the lunchtime sessions, where the smaller, but taller Heywood goals were faithfully recreated using various items from his garage. Free kick routines were worked on, shooting and finding space exercises were run through numerous times, until these became second nature (or until we started to complain). Using standard size 5 footballs rather than Futsals, helped us gain confidence with the type of ball used in the league.
Despite the absence of a couple of regular squad members due to holidays (Mick Wilde, in Goa), and injury (Mike Thompson, back spasm) the following squad were in good spirits as it set off for Heywood in Lancashire -
Ray Blackburn, Steve Caven, David Holbrow, Chris Lund, John Myatt, Mike Roberts and Steve Stoker.
Mike Thompson also travelled with us to be score recorder and photographer, and provide us with his welcome support and encouragement.
The journey was pretty uneventful except for Car 1 (Steve Caven) taking an unexpected detour into Morrison's car park (thanks Sat Nav!) and Car 2 (Steve Stoker) narrowly avoiding a head on collision in Heywood town centre - the omens were not good!
As a new team, the 'Third Space Seniors' from Bolton, had joined Division 3 for this final round, the format had changed to four games at 15 minutes each (was 3 x 20 mins). In addition a German TV station, who were making a documentary about the growth of Walking Football, had a film crew on site and were threatening player interviews throughout the match day.
With so many potential distractions it was fortunate that we had arrived over an hour early so we grabbed a coffee, registered and bagged a changing room for our sole use. We relaxed as we changed, Steve S gave us more information on his near miss, ending with the very wise words "Statistically speaking, you are safest staying in bed" which caused great hilarity!
After fierce competition in the squad, Steve S was nominated as our Interviewee for the TV, beating off Chris Lund whose German vocabulary was straight from war stories in Boys' Action comics (Victor, Hotspur, Eagle, Valiant, Tiger, VIZ ) made him a close second - at least we now know why Chris thinks he plays like Roy of the Rovers!
Following a much needed warm-up, which included running forwards, backwards and sideways (eat your heart out Strictly contestants!) and briefly kicking a ball, we were ready for our first game.
Wearing the long-sleeved blue strips we took the field (artificial turf?) against Bolton 'B' and started with a 3-0 victory having put into place all the things we had worked on in the
training sessions. A penalty from David, a cracker from Stephen C and then John with the third, to round it off.
Next up was Bury Relics, who started the day one point ahead of us, so we were not too unhappy with a hard fought 0-0 draw.
Our third game of the day was against the new boys Third Space Seniors. Despite Mike Roberts having appeared for them as a substitute in their first match we knew little about how they played. Old habits plagued us and although we had most of the possession they defended well and with a breakaway, scored a decisive goal which meant we suffered a demoralising 1-0 defeat.
Having played three matches back-to-back we then had a 45 minute break before our final game so we took the chance to watch Nash Bees take on Third Space and were delighted when the new boys took a point off our promotion rivals with a equalising goal in the final minute.
This meant that going into last game against Nash we needed a victory, whilst a draw would mean that they would be Division 3 Champions and gain promotion.
Despite going one down we didn't panic and stuck to our game plan. This paid off when in the final six minutes Ray bagged a couple of fine goals and we then demonstrated good 'game management', this included John and Ray holding the ball in the corner, earning a series of corners and ensuring that the remaining time passed without threat on our goal.
At the final whistle we commiserated with our opponents Nash Bees who, along with Bury Relics had played a full part in making Division 3 an enjoyable, friendly whilst competitive experience - only one point separated the top three teams in the final table.
At the presentation which followed, John received the Division 3 winner's trophy to add to our cabinet at WFC, our 10th 'Honour' achieved in 2017.
Whilst we look forward to playing in Division 2 when the GMWFL starts again early in 2018, I'd like to take this opportunity to record the names of all of the Wanderers who played a part in the Division 3 success and promotion. They are:
Mick Wilde, Paul Waggett, Mike Thompson, Steve Stoker, Mike Roberts, Niall O'Donnell, John Myatt, Chris Lund, David Holbrow, Steve Caven and Ray Blackburn
Finally I'd like to recognise the key role played by Steve Stoker's "lucky thermal knickers" (his words, not mine) which not only kept him warm, but according to him were responsible for all of the positives of the day. Not sure if he's intending to wash them but I'm expecting that they'll get another outing in the SY league on the 20th December (and beyond?).
NB: A batch of photos from the day can be viewed in an album on the website and the final table has been updated and can be found on the website Home page.
Updated 21:31 - 17 Feb 2018 by David Holbrow