Wednesday, 12 September 2007


March – July 2007

The last time I wrote about the Welbeck junior team, we had just won the Sunday League but were doing fairly poor in the Saturday League. To have guided the boys to their first League Championship in just their 3rd season, on the back of the excellent Cup win last season is a fantastic achievement.

The first season we won only one game and barely scored a goal, but the past 2 seasons have been awesome. Albeit we still should have done better at times but overall 2 excellent pieces of silverware and many memories that will stay with me forever.

After the Sunday League title was won, there was a follow up mini-league where the top 5 teams split from the bottom 5 to form a new competition. It would have been really great to go on to win this and do the double but it wasn’t to be.

Our first game in this came against rivals Ladywood Juniors, who we had beaten heavily in the first two meetings but was destroyed by in the last encounter. I started with the strongest side I could play and the first half we were magnificent. We were 4-0 up at half time and we looked clear favourites for the 3 points, which would coincide with making us absolute favourites for the mini-league. Unfortunately at the same time in the season, our regular keeper Joe was struggling for form, so I was only giving him short runs out. I started Zak in this game but with the score at 4-0 at half time, felt safe to put Joe on for the second half.

The change backfired though as our second half performance was the worst we had played in 3 years and within 15 minutes the score had been pegged back to 4-3 as a determined Ladywood came at us. The goals were all really sloppy so to save face and very much to the relief of many of our parents, I switched back to having Zak in goal. However, this didn’t please Joe’s parents who quickly made their feelings clear to me with a pitch side rant that I was very much expecting and used to. We went back into a two goal lead and breathing room was put between us but still Ladywood chipped away. They got a very dodgy 4th goal when a goal kick taken by Zak was illegally blocked by the Ladywood forward, shortly before he stroked the ball into an empty net. I was fuming as the Ladywood players celebrated the goal as the referee stood shaking his head as not to agree with the goal but failed to bring the play back for the incident. The goal stood, Ladywood went on to equalise near the end for a 5-5 finish, at which point I made headed straight for the referee. On the way to him I was trying to get my head clear on what I was going to say, as calmly as possible but only managed to blurt out “you cheating fuck” before pushing him on his ass.

I then had the Ladywood managers holding me back, whilst the opposition’s parents also had their say. Even worse for my situation was that the incident happened right in front of the league officials who weren’t at all happy at me “assaulting” one of their referees. I then left that situation to be faced with a bunch of my own angry parents, 50% of whom weren’t happy that I took Joe out just because he’d conceded the three goals that got Ladywood right back into the game and the other 50% weren’t happy that I’d put Joe on in the first place. I couldn’t win. At the end of the day, it wasn’t like Joe wasn’t used to playing in goal, he’d played that position for 3 straight seasons and had mostly played it really well. It was also no different to what I had done week in, week out in other matches, giving the two goalkeepers half games each, only this time it resulted in the game being spoiled. Had I foreseen this in my crystal ball I clearly must have somewhere, I wouldn’t made the change, would I? And as for the aggro I was getting at taking Joe off for the poor performance, why should the goalkeeper be any different to an outfield player? Had I brought someone on at half time that’d had an absolute nightmare 15 minutes I would’ve had every right to bring him off so I don’t regret either of the changes I made. At the end of the day, the lads knew we had a good enough advantage to win the game, even at 5-3 but we weren’t strong enough on the day to finish them off. Oh well.

That being said, the title was all but lost as we’d still got a point and held one our closest rivals to a point too so it was still down to what we did in the final 3 games. Our next game would prove to be the key to how the league unfolded as we played our next closest rivals Ripley Town. We didn’t have a great game, Ripley won 2-0 and our title chances slipped away. The last two games, with the title being an all but distant dream, we made a few changes to the usual line up, resting players who’d picked up knocks over the season so we also lost the last 2 against Oak Tree and Ilkeston Town, 2 teams which I’m confident any other day we’d’ve beat. So for that we finished bottom of the pile but the Sunday season on a whole was a success after the league title.

Ripley went on to win the mini league and one fear I had was at the end of season presentation night, I predicted that the mini-league would have been treated as an equal to the earlier league so when the trophies were collected, we wouldn’t be treated as champions. I wasn’t to be mistaken, unfortunately. In fairness, the presentation night was a bit of a shambles. The special guests weren’t great – Steve Hodge and some former Stags player from the 60’s and the presentation was all but rushed through to appease Ladywood who had another event to get to that night. The ideal way I would have wanted the presentation would have been to give all the individual teams’ trophies out in alphabetical order, as they did, then present the cup winners trophy, then the mini-league trophy, followed by the league trophy. But with them trying to rush the presentation, as we were the last team to receive our individual team trophies, we were then told whilst we’re on the stage, we may as well collect the league championship. There were no individual league winner’s trophies or medals for the kids, just the overall league trophy, no fireworks, no ticker tape, nothing to determine that we’d won the best trophy of the season. I was also a little disappointed with the way we celebrated, the kids were all a bit muted whereas I had visions of us bouncing the crap out of the stage but we’ve never really been a team that gloat or anything – or at least the kids aren’t!

The presentation was topped off with Ripley lifting the mini-league trophy to more applause than ourselves, which was annoying. Then 2 surprises followed as the Ladywood manager picked up the Manager of the Year, having won nothing this season and Ripley picked up the Fair Play award. Now, had those two won them the other way around I wouldn’t say much. Ladywood were quite a fair team and the Ripley manager was a sound guy but the Ladywood manager was a twat but obviously has his fingers in the right pies! I admit I was disappointed both for myself and the lads that we didn’t pick up one of the two but I guess its no real surprise, you can’t go around flattening referee’s and pick up those prestigious awards can you?!

The Saturday season finished with a mix of good and bad as we dropped points against teams we should be getting something from and picked up points against teams we’d never beat before. The commitment of the players ad parents waned quite a lot near the end of the season too so at times when I was planning the match with the 9 or 10 players expected, I was having to make do with a scratch 7 or even a couple of times just 6 players. One of the times we played Mansfield Athletic, who were just a point and a position above us and we’d come off the back of a good win at Shirebrook so I fancied our chances but we had just 6 players come and our striker Joe T was then injured in the first half so had to go in goal. We battled really hard and it was clear to see had we had 1 or 2 more of our regulars for the game, we would’ve picked up points there but instead we lost 6-0. Our run in was quite difficult too as we had to play the top 3 teams in 5 of our final 8 games so as expected 0 points were picked up in them but some performances were pleasing.

In our final game of the season, we played away at local rivals Robin Hood, a team we’d never beaten but always had fairly good games against. It was at this time also that team moral was at its lowest, lads were beginning to look at other teams for a fresh start and even I was having doubts as to whether to continue into the next season. I gave a good talk about finishing the season in style, whether all the lads were returning after the summer or not. We took the game to Robin Hood from the start and won 3-1. It was very pleasing performance but also one that makes you think, ‘if only they played like that every match!’ That win lifted us off the foot of the table for the first time all season but relegation to division 3 was inevitable. If the team did remain in tact for the following season, just a few additions would be needed to make us a major contender for the division 3 titles. The teams that were relegated with us we could more than hold our own against and the teams in division 3 didn’t offer much of a threat so we could surely make it 3 trophies in 3 seasons.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. After a lot of consideration I decided to resign from the team during June. Reason being I had given it my all for 4 solid years and couldn’t offer the lads enough of my time and commitment over the coming summer as I had a lot of other issues to deal with, namely the separation with Emma and the selling of the house to deal with. I also needed to knuckle down at work more and also get my HNC completed over the forthcoming months so the time and effort needed to be put into the team over the summer to get them ready for their first year at 11 a side, I couldn’t offer them. New players were needed, training would need to be more extensive and friendlies would need to be played regularly. It was all too much for me so I stepped down hoping the club would find a successor quickly so the team could get sorted asap. I hadn’t put in my notice that I would actually be prepared to stay as assistant to a new manager but I made that clear to the club. They took too long though finding a replacement for me and after word had spread that I had stepped down, lads started looking for new teams. I was disappointed this was going to be the case as I would’ve really enjoyed going to watch them tear teams to pieces in division 3 and maybe even still being as involved as before but minds were made up.

I spoke with many of the parents and offered my help and guidance in the search of a new club as I felt it wouldn’t be right to split them all up and take them to teams well below the players ability as many of them were great players, hard workers and pleasant lads to know so would be a credit to any side. We looked at our options and in the end opted for Walesby. They were in need of quality players for the new season as most sides were, but they were already a good side with the players they had so with the inclusion of our best players they would have been a real force. They also were being run by a couple of parents who were new to it after the manager of the season prior had stepped down but was still taking training. The parents were quite clueless to how to run a team so it would have been a good opportunity for me to lend my expertise and get back into the managing side of it too, once my situation had improved.

Unfortunately, I went on holiday and whilst I was away, the parents had made their minds up to take the lads to Market Warsop, a newly formed club right on our doorsteps. It was understandable to go to a close club but with them only just being formed, they didn’t have the quality the other teams possessed so will inevitably struggle their way through next season. It’s going to be even harder for them now as they applied for a position in the league after the enrolment date and have been put in division 1 of 3. To be polite, there going to get slaughtered! It’s unfortunate and also very petty as I believe there’s more politics involved in the true reason that they’ve been put into the top flight. The given reason was that the fixtures were easier to be made up if they were put there but coincidentally, the league secretary who I assume would be very much in the decision making process also happens to be the Welbeck club secretary who was very upset our players decided to leave Welbeck, thus leaving them without a team. The said club secretary also happens to be my uncle, by marriage, and is an absolute fuck up.

I’m still glad however that the lads are all playing together at Warsop, at present there are 9 of my lads from last season there so you never know, they might have a good season after all and I can still go and watch them when I get the chance. I recently did watch a friendly of there’s and it appears there manager is a bit of a clueless bonehead. He’d arranged a friendly – bearing in mind it was all the lads’ first crack at 11-a-side and were a new team where some lads were only just getting involved in competitive football – but the opposition this day were an age group older. Not a bright decision by any means. I believe the score ended about 8-2 but it was good to see my old skipper James notch the 2 for them. Looking at them on the day, they’d have had an excellent shout for the division 3 title had they been put in it. I just hope they don’t get hit too hard in the top flight and aren’t left smiling at the end of the day. May I just say once more, Graham Hall, you’re an absolute cock.

Click here for more Welbeck photo's from over the years

No comments: