Those who witnessed the U18 Boys play indoor saw how the boys got better and better with each training session and each match during the course of the short season. Six matches in the National Finals separated the boys from the rest of the pack, the rest of the country. Some inspiration for us all - and a series of games in the finals that can be characterised by Vince Lombardi quotes to live by...
“There's only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything”.
Pool Game 1 v Norwich City (1-0)
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand”.
An early Saturday morning drive in the rain and snow to get to the venue in Telford, we took possession of a changing room for the weekend and got onto the court early to get a feel for the conditions. A good team talk from Ed and the lads were raring to go.
It was a tentative start with both teams finding their feet. Alex made a good save 2 minutes in followed by the Norwich keeper saving an Isaac shot and then a defender getting a stick on a Raph shot on target to deny us early on. Halfway through we drew first blood through Marco for 1-0. An Ed cross to Elliot went missing as did another Marco shot and the half time ended only slightly in our favour.
The second half could be summarised by a short corner for the opposition every other minute – 6 of them in the second half including one that ran down the clock. Our dedication to the job at hand did the trick and we were out of the blocks with three points but knew we would have to do better.
Pool Game 2 v Bowdon (3-1)
“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have”.
Next up was Bowdon whom we had seen play against Taunton Vale before our first pool match. Taking better stock of how we were set up on the court and linking much better in this match, the ball was going swiftly and quickly from Freddy to Isaac to Raph to Isaac etc and up until one of these combinations got from Isaac to Elliot to Marco and in for 1-0. In more dynamic play up front Marco had two more shots saved. A PC for us was not scored and then on the counter from that Raph intercepted a terrific ball in the middle and sent it to Isaac just outside the D who sent in and Marco got a deflection for 2-0. A PC against us was then scored and a PC for from a Fred shot was saved before Alex made another good save before half time.
2-1 a bit too close for comfort but we kept working our game from back to front and Raph got a ball to Elliot for 3-1 for some margin. Then it was our turn to have not 6 but 7 short corners in this half and a couple of near misses but no more scoring. So, 6 points and we were building.
Pool Game 3 v Repton (4-6)
“If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough”. “We didn’t lose the game. We just ran out of time.”
Repton were likely to be strong. And indeed less than a minute in they scored a short corner against us. And a few minutes later a field goal. They weren’t letting us get into our stride as the other teams had done so we needed to double down and work where we could outplay them – back to our quick passing out the back and Isaac-Raph-Freddy-Marco combination made for 1-2. We then had a missed opportunity on a short corner. Then Elliot with 45 seconds to go in the half made it 2-2…before Repton came back with 10 seconds to go in the half for 2-3.
Half time talk with Ed and we were back on track with Freddy equalising five minutes into the re-start at 3-3 and then with another shot saved. Then there was a flurry of quick play both ends while Repton scored twice and we came back with one for 4-5.
We won a short corner for a bad tackle on Marco as the time was running down – unfortunately the ball jumped up off the slip and Repton took possession and won a free hit outside of our D – which was upgraded to a PC against us when one of us disagreed with the call (grrrr). Repton scored it for 4-6 and we felt somewhat robbed – a few more minutes and we would have done it (similar to last year’s U16 semi-final when we clawed back a few goals in the final minutes but were left short). But we had run out of time.
Pool Game 4 v Taunton Vale (4-1)
“It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up”.
So, with two wins and a loss, we were pretty confident of getting to semis and with how we were playing we knew we could score against TV. The boys were well up for it and half a minute in Marco had a flick saved and then two minutes later another nice combination involving Raph, Freddy and Isaac got to Marco and then to Charlie for 1-0. More attempts saved or wide came and went until Ollie got on the scoresheet for 2-0.
After half time TV came back scoring a PC halfway through the half for 2-1. And seconds later a Raph ball to Freddy went in for 3-1.
Semi-final v Ashmoor (5-2)
“Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character”.
Ashmoor had been strong all day and were the only undefeated team in the competition. Coming second in our pool meant that we faced the opposing pool winners who were speedy, skilful and mostly from the same school indoor team. Ashmoor had pushback but ten seconds in, the Guildford boys took over and dominated possession. Within a minute Freddy had a shot go wide and shortly after that so did Ashmoor. It wasn’t long though before Elliot got his first for 1-0 and then three minutes later for 2-0.
Our attack was dynamic and our defence solid. What Raph didn’t scoop up at the boards, Alex saved and if it got past him Isaac was there in front of goal to sweep up. So solid – the boys were a well-warned up machine by now, showing their habits and character. Then Ashmoor got two short corners, the first saved by Alex but the second went in for 2-1. With less than a minute to go in the half, Elliot made good on his pronouncement in the changing room before the match that he was going to get a hattrick: 3-1 for us.
Isaac got on the scoresheet shortly into the second half with one of our two PC’s scored during the weekend for 4-1. We then let in a PC for 4-2 and saved another before a third went wide. Marco then had a shot go wide and afterward was given a p-flick with 20 seconds to go for a bad tackle. Final score 5-2 and the confidence was high for the final.
“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence”.
Final v Doncaster (7-4)
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”.
And so we were going home with medals – now to determine which colour. Doncaster had looked very good on the first day but somewhat up and down after that – we knew we could do well after beating Ashmoor who had beat Doncaster, but still needed to come up with the goods.
Our habits now well in line and our confidence high, an early Isaac-Raph-Freddy move had Freddy scoring for 1-0 within two minutes. A PC against us came to nothing before more good play led to Isaac scoring for 2-0. A Marco shot was saved on the line and hit out which Freddy sent back in for 3-0.
Early in the second half Doncaster scored a PC for 3-1 and shortly afterward Marco was taken out going onto goal with the ball – unfortunately the flick was saved (or hit the post – not sure). But less than half a minute later Marco got back into his stride with a goal for 4-1.
In our second PC scored, Isaac’s flick was saved but Raph scooped up and put in for 5-1. With four minutes to go there was another great team goal from Raph to Freddy to Marco and in for 6-2. Doncaster replaced their keeper with a kicking back with 3 minutes to go which left the Doncaster goal open for Freddy to get his hattrick and 7-2. With the clock running down and the extra outfield player, our guard was down (we knew we had won the match) and Doncaster doubled their account in the final minute for a final score of 7-4. An emphatic win for the boys who were thrilled with the weekend’s efforts.
Many, many thanks to the coaching team of Dan Fox, Tylo Remke (who coached the boys to South Gold) and Ed Tristem (who coached the boys to National Gold).
Also congratulations to Marco vR who was the joint top goal scorer for the tournament!
And a couple of more parting thoughts for the boys from Lombardi who is considered to be one of the greatest coaches and leaders in the history of American sport…
“If you'll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives”.
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it ... Autograph your work with excellence”.
(Back row) Marco, Raph, Charlie, Elliot, Ed (Front row) Ollie, Alex, Isaac, Freddy...
Marco on the way to scoring one of his 9 goals during the weekend...