“Nice to start the Sheffield League campaign team undefeated after first 4 games. Well done boys - more of the same!”
John Myatt, Team Captain
Wednesday found the Wanderers 60+ side staying this side of the Pennines for a change, taking part in the South Yorkshire (SY) Walking Football League organised by the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA. This follows two previous 50+ leagues run in South Yorkshire, in which we were Winners and then Runners up.
The venue for this 5-a-side competition, which is planned to run for eight months, is the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster on their outside, caged pitches.
Our squad for this first round of games was Ray Blackburn, David Holbrow, Chris Lund, John Myatt, Steve Stoker (GK) and Mike Thompson, all of whom have represented the club in the Greater Manchester 60+ League, which is also running currently.
Reverting to our usual meeting place for local, South and East based trips of The Station at Crigglestone, a full pre-match briefing and discussion took place over Isotonic and Hydration beverages (it might have been coffees all round, but go with me here), followed by Chicken Pasta and a healthy fruit bowl. (okay, now I'm making it up, although there were some bananas!).
As you can tell, after frustrating and below par recent performances in Wigan and Heywood, the team were determined to take a new approach and hopefully reap the benefits! A 'clear the air', honest and constructive discussion resulted in a positive attitude across the team with all players clear as to what was expected and how it would be achieved.
Upon arrival at the Keepmoat we were provided with our own dressing room to change in, Chris Lund suggested next time we bring our own 'motivational' music to lift the team and intimidate the opposition, but we couldn't agree who we'd trust to select the tracks.
Donning the mandatory shin pads and clad in our long-sleeved blue shirts we joined the crowd waiting for the gate to the pitch to be unlocked - fortunately the weather was holding and we enjoyed the wait in the balmy 10C Doncaster conditions, Chris pointing out that "this is like the Caribbean for a Bradford lad".
After a full co-ordinated warm up (no kidding, we looked like we were really serious!) we gathered for a briefing from Jade Elson from the SY FA, who explained the rule amendments from last season which had been made after consultation with the competing teams. These included:
• A variation on the back-pass rule (this needed several attempts to explain and demonstrate)
• Head height was replaced by "waist height"
• Referees would be applying a strict "no contact" and "walking only" approach.
Wanderers first match saw a 2-1 victory over Penistone Church with goals from Ray Blackburn & David Holbrow. We had an early 2-0 lead then conceded but held on comfortably for a great start.
Our second match resulted in a 3-1 victory over Barnsley Pals with goals from Blackburn (2) & Thompson. Ray scored in the first minute, Barnsley then equalised, but strikes from Ray & Mike saw us take a well deserved victory.
The next match was against Doncaster Retro Rovers who we beat by a 2-1 margin with a further 2 goals from the prolific Blackburn.
The final game saw a tight 0-0 draw with Penistone.
All in all a cracking start, 10 points earned - 7 goals scored and 3 conceded.
League Table (as at 15/11/2017)
A quick shower and change and then back to The Station for an in-depth post-match debrief with "rehydration" drinks very much the preferred option. Pub food was declined by these aging 'athletes' and the events of the day were debated in detail (debated because we couldn't remember parts of it!).
Two things were agreed during the discussion:
1. The more structured approach taken had definitely aided our success. We need to do this more.
2. Ray Blackburn's big toe on his right foot had won the "Digit of the Match(es)" award, being responsible for two of his goals today (or was it all three?).
Now just another 7 months of this league to go!
Updated 12:25 - 16 Nov 2017 by David Holbrow