Over 50’s captain
Well what a week end;
Arriving at Team hotel , meeting other players from both squads, Receiving our England training kit.
Training session in rain( as normal).
Getting booted & suited for a Gala dinner, great food & entertainment.
Up earlier Sunday after hardly any sleep ( nerves) .
Breakfast , then had Team meeting in which I showed the lads a video that hopefully bonded us even more & added to our team spirit.
On coach to Amex , in changing rooms ( nerves building) warm up on pitch, then the moment that all of us had hoped as a kid, “putting on the shirt of your country”
Then it’s time, Proudest moment in football , England Captain, Walking lads out , singing National Anthem, introducing dignitaries to players( is this real or am I still dreaming).
Toss up , game on, match went so quick,
Then lifting the cup, so proud of all the squad .
Well done to all involved.
Over 60’s captain
As the team drove home individually from the England hotel after the match to all parts of the country, I am sure that, like me, they all felt that the previous 10 days since the team was announced had been a bit of a blur. The media interest was huge, and family and friends were all keen to know the full story of the trials and selection; I don’t think I had ever spoken to so many people in such a short space of time.
It wasn’t until I arrived in the England hotel car park that the full magnitude of what was happening hit home. I met with and congratulated the guys who would be talking the pitch with me the following day, and its fair to say all of us were fairly hyped about the upcoming event at Brighton’s Amex Stadium. Before that however we had a final training/tactics session which was held at Crawley’s stadium late on Saturday afternoon. Set plays were run through in non-stop rain, penalties rehearsed, and thoughts trained firmly toward the Italian’s who waited for us, very much an unknown quantity.
We had a Gala Dinner in Brighton that evening and duly suited and booted in dark suits and England ties, we headed off to the hotel where our Italian counterparts were already present. A great meal with traditional speeches and world class entertainment, and I don’t use that phrase lightly, concluded the evening, and it was back to the hotel to get ready for the historic event that was to follow.
A 6.30 breakfast focused the mind (no one had drunk any alcohol the previous evening….no, really..), and a 30 minute coach journey to The Amex seemed to take an age, such was our willingness to get the game underway. Entering the stadium was in itself special, a superb modern 31,000 capacity venue that was alive with media from Sky Sports, BBC and ITV amongst others.
We inspected the pitch, a grass surface that had seen some wear and tear and was damp, and decided on moulded studs. No flat, carpet like 3G surface today. The passes would need to be true and the control sharp.
As team skipper, I was called on to do an interview on camera in the tunnel and then finally made my way to the HOME team dressing room
The room was huge and seemed to have every item of medical equipment known to man. I had to check the match programme to make sure I had the right number on. Walking toward my hanging shirt was the pinnacle of this adventure for me. As a lifelong Hammer, and current season ticket holder, to approach a red England shirt with No. 6 on the back and a Captains armband lying alongside….whats left to say ! My all time football hero was Bobby Moore, a man I met on several occasions over the years, and this seemed so ironic, almost omen like. I just sat there, shirt in hand and tried to take it all in, which was difficult with all the dressing room commotion going on around me. I am sure that all the players from both teams, the 50’s and 60’s, were in the same mindset as I was; thankful for the opportunity, trying to embrace the moment, and above all immensely proud to be donning an England shirt.
Both teams were summoned to the tunnel to line up alongside our Italian counterparts and pre-match handshakes and smiles were freely exchanged. I had the impression that yes, it was always going to be competitive, but the general ethos of walking football wouldn’t be downtrodden in the process.
So, with photographers snapping wildly, the Champions League theme blaring and film cameras rolling, we walked to the pitch ready for action. The pre-match rituals were undertaken, with me introducing John Croot , co-founder of walking football, and the match sponsors to the England team, and of course, the singing of the National Anthem, another proud and surreal moment for us all.
The over 50’s got the ball rolling with a fine 2-0 victory, and at their half time, we were summoned to the pitch for a warm up; 20 minutes to go !
We applauded the victorious 50’s from the pitch before taking out turn in the spotlight. I did the captains bit, meeting the Italian skipper, tossing the coin and wishing him good luck before looking at the stands and seeing my father, 89 years young in the front row. An emotional moment for sure.
Game wise, things went pretty much to plan. We kept early possession well, using good width along the flanks, and closed the Italians down quickly and in numbers, trying to restrict their options and win the ball back high up the pitch and in dangerous areas. There were always good options for the man on the ball, and movement was constant and clever. An early goal from Man of The Match Pete Stacey settled the nerves and reduced adrenalin levels, and we settled into a good shape with one at the back, three in the middle and one up front. We passed well and tried to hit the front man early so as to leave him one-on-one and clearly the tactics paid off as two more strikes from hat-trick hero Peter, coming from deep, gave as a clear and well deserved 3-0 victory.
Bearing in mind the team were only assembled 10 days previously, I don’t feel that things could have gone any better in terms of team spirit, tactics and quality. I also have to pay tribute to the WFA and the England management team who were organised and professional from start to finish.
To have been a part of the world’s first official Walking Football International was simply an honour, and having experienced that, I want to be part of the European Championships in 2019 and that is the goal.
Over 50’s manager
On a momentous day in Brighton, England won the first Walking Football International against Italy 2-0. The England Management Team of Paul Murtagh, David Norton, and Dave Castle were delighted as the hard work and planning came together.
After only one short training session the day before some of their link play was superb. A dominant first half display where Dave Norton and Leggy Mambos Paul Walton had both gone close on number of occasions as the England side laid siege on the Italian goal. Norton received a ball from Ian Ward and slotted home, but the supply from Ward was adjudged to be running. Two minutes before half time another Leggy’s stalwart Neil Evans turned smartly and made no mistake to give the home side the lead.
With plenty of rolling substitutions England continued to dominate, Captain Neil Brown from Herne Bay was running the show continually breaking up play and supplying passes to the dangerous trio of Norton, Walton and Evans as time and again they were thwarted by an excellent Italian keeper. Any momentary breaks by the Italian forwards were dealt with superbly by Darren Bradley whose commanding first half performance was continued by Trevor Hanson the Blackburn Rovers skipper. The only threat to and equaliser came as a deflected shot was superbly saved by Rob Keating.
With only one minute remaining a Norton pass set Walton free and he finished with a cheeky nutmeg to confirm England’s dominance and a 2-0 final result.
After the game Manager Paul Murtagh said,
“Taking into account the length of time this team has been together I was extremely proud of the way that the lads applied themselves to the match. I thought we controlled the game from the moment we kicked off and showed some good pass and move walking football throughout.
Brads was immense at the back keeping the Italians at bay on any rare attacks they mounted and the inter-linking movement of the midfield was of a team that had played together for years, not one that had been formed less than 2 weeks ago!
We never allowed the Italians to settle at any point with the forwards proving to be a constant menace, had it not been for the heroics of the Italian No 1 the score could have been more. This is a good start but it’s early days and we need to make sure we keep improving in order to build a bright future for English international walking football.”
Over 60’s manager
Walking Football International – England Over 60s 3 –0 Italy Over 60s
What a superb and historic occasion this first ever Over 60s Walking Football International was. The whole weekend was an incredible and unforgettable experience for all involved.
The England Team had only their second training session on the Saturday afternoon prior to the match on the Sunday. The team had only been selected the previous week from the squad of 22. As planned, a 1st team squad of 10 was selected, with Ambassador Tommy Charlton, invited to join the team.
On the Saturday night, the team bonded at the gala meal, as well as socialising with the opponents of the following day. This proved to be a theme of the weekend – great spirit and respect but also great competition.
The venue was excellent – and the anticipation rose as the players changed in the ‘home’ dressing room of the Amex stadium and then waited in the tunnel to be led out onto the pitch. To link arms and sing the national anthem must have been a dream for all
The match itself was very competitive, with England getting off to the ideal start with an early goal from Peter Stacey. Alan Davies and Skipper, Spencer Pratten went close to getting a second, with Vic Vaines, Graham Curry and John Sykes, in goal, keeping the Italian chances to a minimum. Stacey scored a second form a clever free kick and everyone relaxed. England made some changes, but for the last 5 minutes of the half put themselves under pressure with Graham Curry’s last ditch challenge resulting in a sin bin and the team playing with only 5 for two minutes.
In the second half, England kept the ball well with James Trant and Graham Collier prominent in creating some good opportunities. Stephen Beresford was comfortable in defence and Kevin Schmid, in goal for this half, was rarely troubled. Tommy Charlton was welcomed onto the pitch with a warm reception. He set up a Spencer Pratten effort that was well saved before he had a good shot blocked by the impressive Italian goalkeeper, GianCarlo Sarasso. Peter Stacey complete a memorable in the final few minutes to give England a deserved 3-0 victory. At the final whistle, everyone came together to celebrate this historic match.
In the first session since this match, at my own club in Gloucester, 3 new players joined us, as a direct result of seeing the media coverage of this game. Whilst it was a superb and memorable experience for all involved, we must remember that this is the tip of the iceberg and that the majority of players do so for fun, friendship and fitness – of course, so does the England team, who were all ambassadors on the day and wonderful role models for their clubs and the sport. When we started this process, the aim was raise the profile of the sport and to pick a strong team of players who play the game the right way. The media coverage has been superb and that is largely down to the Tommy Charlton story and if this has helped to promote the sport and encourage others to try it out, then it has been an unprecedented success.
The whole weekend was very well organised. It was great camaraderie team spirit was super, standard of football was very high. The officials were fair and understanding.
The Italians were a good side to play against, not physical or silly.
I really enjoyed every minute.
I was very proud to be involved.