Almelo City Cup
Chelmsford City Walking Football
Almelo City Cup 2017
Following a very creditable showing in last year’s inaugural Almelo City Cup competition, finishing in 6th place out of 28 teams, the CCWF 8 man team were keen to improve their standing in the 2017 tournament.
The 2017 competition was hosted by, and held at the home of Dutch Eredivise side Heracles Almelo. The games were played on their 3G training pitches adjacent the impressive Polman Stadium, which had hosted the previous year’s competition but was unfortunately unavailable due to refurbishment of the playing surface.
It has to be said at the outset that our hosts did an incredible job of organising the football itself and ensuring that both the players and supporters were transported between hotel and ground, and fed and watered throughout the tournament.
The Competition was open to both men and women of age 55 and over, although few ladies took part this year. The oldest competitor was a youthful 83! There were 32 teams taking part this year, with England being well represented amongst sides from Holland, Belgium, and Germany. The 5 English teams would do well to replicate last year’s performances, where sides from England occupied 4 of the top 6 places, including the cup winners!
The Chelmsford squad of 6 players and 2 subs. Included:-
Terry Buck (Captain) - striker
Alec Rose; Gary Murphy; Gerry Howard - defence
Dennis Spencer; Mark Elnaugh – midfield
David Clarke; Peter Wyatt – midfield/striker
Day 1 began with a visit to the Almelo Civic Centre for presentation of the teams and press photos etc. The resulting waiting around seemed pointless, and was a bit unfair on the players who just wanted to get on with the tournament.
When the tournament finally got underway, CCWF were matched against teams from Holland and Belgium, in the opening pool of 4. It was essential that we came out as pool winners in order to ensure a top 16 place. Chelmsford took the field resplendent in their new Claret Kit, kindly sponsored by Mark’s company Mark One Electrical.
Team formation and tactics had been agreed beforehand, with emphasis on a solid defence comprising right and left backs, with a single last man defending the goal. (Goalkeepers were not permitted in this tournament!). 2 attacking midfielders would support a lone striker.
Our first opponents were the Belgian club Senior Army KRC Genk’s second string. We got off to a flyer in this one with a 6-0 victory thanks to smartly taken goals - 2 from Mark, and one each from Terry and Dennis; before David completed the rout with a fierce drive cannoning off a defender, and an angled left foot cracker. Peter came close to adding to our tally on more than one occasion. The Chelmsford defence was largely untroubled throughout. A great start, 3 points in the bag!
The second match in the pool saw Chelmsford face Dutch side FC Groningen. We had watched their opening match against hosts Heracles, and judged them to be another easy opponent. This almost turned out to be a grave mistake as their poor display was more to do with the quality of Heracles than their shortcomings.
We were nearly a goal down before our defence woke up, and there were lively exchanges before Terry broke the deadlock with a characteristic quick fire shot. We thought the game settled when Terry added a second, however Groningen grabbed a lifeline late on with what proved to be one of the only 2 goals conceded by Chelmsford during the tournament. A frantic closing stage saw the Chelmsford goal come under pressure largely due to a flurry of free kicks resulting from desperate defending. More relief than elation at the 2-1 victory, but another 3 valuable points nonetheless!
The final game of the pool was against Heracles 2 the host’s second team, who had also won their opening matches, and clearly fancied themselves to take top spot. A hotly contested game ensued with some fierce defending on both sides and some physical exchanges which the referee did well to prevent from becoming ugly. Our opponents had some scoring opportunities, but Chelmsford’s discipline in sticking to their tactical plan eventually paid off with goals on the break, 2 from Terry, and 1 from Mark. A “lucky” victory according to our opponent’s coach(?)…but hey! Ho! 3 points….job done!
Off back to the hotel for a well-earned shower and a beer.
Torrential rain throughout the day did nothing to raise the spirits, however once we got out on the pitch and started warming up the enthusiasm soon returned.
As winners of the opening pool we were guaranteed to finish in the top half of the table, but faced another round robin to contest the higher placings. As the opposition was made up of teams finishing either first or second in the opening rounds, Chelmsford needed to steel themselves for a tough session.
Our first adversaries were Dutch side FC Utrecht whose parent club play in the Dutch premier league. A well drilled physical side provide tough opposition and a hard fought game produced only a single goal, thankfully scored by Terry. The narrow victory gave us the perfect start, and shook away the earlier cobwebs. Come on you Clarets!
What was considered to be the real test followed in the shape of English club Wiltshire. Also winners of their opening pool and less of an unknown quantity, we had to be on our best form to get any kind of a result. In the event this was probably our best encounter of the whole tournament, possibly due to the familiar style of play and a tough but sportsmanlike contest. The teams effectively cancelled each other out however, and the ensuing 0-0 draw did neither team any favours.
By now the juices were really flowing, and Chelmsford knew that they had to beat our final opponents, the German side VFL Wolfsburg, a team associated with the Bundesliga club. It was disappointing therefore that despite most of the pressure and chances, another 0-0 draw was the best we could achieve.
The 5 point total wasn’t enough to win the group, and we were pipped to first place by compatriots Wiltshire. As runners-up we were at least guaranteed a top 8 placing, and the team were determined to close in on last year’s 6th place finish.
2 final head to head matches awaited, the first against last year’s trophy winners Herne Bay. We knew from previous experience that they were a good side that took no prisoners, however it was clear from the ensuing tussle that we were not going to be intimidated. Our opponents had the majority of the goal scoring opportunities but strong defence kept them at bay until a close range effort squeezed through the legs of the goal minder. (Yes it was me! Just let it go! I’ve had sleepless nights ever since!!)
Our only defeat and only our second goal conceded in the tournament!
Going into our final match, we knew that our best hope was now 7th place, and the team went at our final opponents Senior Army KRC Genk’s first team, with all guns blazing. Gary and Alec pressed further up the pitch allowing the guys up front to run riot, and great goals from Dennis, David, and Terry capped off a dominant victory.
Played 7, won 4, drew 2 and lost 1. Goals for 14 against 2.
7th place secured! Actually a better performance than last year, considering that there were 4 additional teams this time!
As to the standard of refereeing, it seems they have similar problems with consistency in Holland as to those in UK. Some of the physicality on show was disturbing, but fortunately there did not appear to be any serious injuries. The interpretation of running was totally inconsistent, with some games allowed to go on regardless, whilst others were continually interrupted by the ref’s whistle.
Well done to the team for the result and a great spirit between the players. Commiserations to Peter who was struggling with injury from the start, and was unable to take a fuller part in the matches. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the occasion, and a huge thanks to the organisers.
The final word must be to thank the travelling fans (WAGS) for their support. The early enthusiasm was eventually but understandably eroded by the atrocious weather, and the lure of a warm, dry hotel, not to mention the coffee and cakes!
Match report by Gerry Howard