(Thursday 10th May) An early start from the KCOM Stadium to Leeds/Bradford Airport meant we arrived at our hotel in Santa Ponsa by mid afternoon, giving us plenty of time to have a look around and freshen up, prior to the official tournament opening ceremony that evening. We had shared our coach transfer with some of the Leyton Orient over 55’s squad, which gave us a bit of an insight into the format, as they were returnees.
The opening ceremony took the form of all the teams being announced, and entering the main pitch arena to triumphant music. Not quite the Olympic Games, but a nice feeling for all concerned, nonetheless, with lots of cheering and waving; a good atmosphere was being created, although we still had a free day, before our tournament commenced.
(Friday 11th May) Several players took the opportunity to cast an eye over the teams playing in the other over 60’s group to gauge what we might be up against. The general feeling was that we should be able to provide a decent account of ourselves and certainly be able to avoid any heavy defeats. We also noticed that former England star, Chris Waddle, was playing in the over 55’s group with his team from Sheffield, Hallam FC. He is a very amenable guy, as most of us found out over the next few days.
Some of the boys went for a kick-about-cum-training session on the beach late morning, although Brendan was delayed as he had been reading his ‘Roy of the Rovers’ football coaching manual !! Others just lazed around and checked out the hotel pools, as it was a lovely sunny day.
That evening we all went to the Pirates Beach Bar in Magaluf, which had been pre-arranged by Rob Wilson, who is well known to the owner. We were looked after like visiting royalty and a great night was had by all. Adam and Brendan would have liked to have gone on to a nightclub, but their professionalism shone through, and they knew they had to return to base to plan team selection and tactics for the following day, using a lesser-known football bible – ‘How to Win Games and Entertain Crowds (volume VIII) by Neil Warnock!!
Back at the hotel we enjoyed a couple of quizzes hosted by Tony. Two close contests which confirmed how the fruit of the tree of knowledge had been spread far and wide!! Later, those remaining were given a one-man show by Graham, who displayed his story-telling talents.
(Saturday 12th May) Our moment of truth was arriving fast, so, after an early breakfast, we made the short walk to the football pitches for a 9.32 kick-off – one of the first games of the day. As we used the training area, being put through our paces by Brendan, we were met by another team sharing the same spot – the Finnish ladies team – the ‘Pink Ladies’. Now these girls were fit in both senses, and they even had a smile for us!! All blond with pony tails, they looked like they had been cloned from a Playboy centrefold model – just the kind of sight to get us all going …. and wishing we were almost half a century younger …. like Adam and Brendan!!
So, after a team huddle we began our first game (against Oldstars Welzijnskwartier). There was an early scare when Gerald seemed to allow a free kick go past him, but he was one step ahead, knowing that you can’t score direct from any free kick. Sigh of relief and we ground out a well-earned draw.
In the next game (against Feijenoord Old Stars) Tony scored the only goal to give us our first victory, which was followed by another goalless draw (against Oldstars Rood-Wit Veldhoven). We were beginning to look like a team that would take some beating. There followed a break of about a couple of hours, although we would have preferred to keep playing in order to maintain our early momentum.
When we returned after some lunch, you could sense a bit of lethargy, although Brendan soon got our limbs moving once again in preparation for the game against what looked like the outstanding team in our league (Oldstars RKC 1). Things began well enough although pressure finally forced us to concede our first goal – an own goal at that!! In attempting to cut out a low, hard shot from the right, Rob (your writer!!) only managed to clip the ball nicely inside the near post. I wanted the ground to swallow me up, especially as Gerald would probably have stopped the shot without my intervention. Yes, I had become the Kamil Zayatte of walking football. We finally lost the game 0-4, which was a bit disappointing, although it was against a decent side.
Two more games left to play on the day, against IJVV Ijsselmuiden and NAC Oldstars, and the team showed real character to bounce back with two wins, so the day ended on a high note with us occupying second spot in our league table. We could all feel really pleased with the day’s efforts.
Saturday evening was spent in different ways following dinner at the hotel.
(Sunday 13th May) In order to complete our league programme, we needed another early breakfast to make a 9.15 kick-off, and this time there were no ‘Pink Ladies’ to urge us along as we warmed up under Brendan’s guidance!!
The game (against Oldstars ESA) started well and we eventually won 2-0 with probably our best overall performance. As we confirmed our final league position as runners-up on goal difference, we looked forward to the knock-out competition with some confidence, as we would be playing the 7th placed and bottom team from the other league, who had only managed a single draw and five defeats in their league programme. Things were going well and hopes were high. Our seven league goals scored were split between Martin (4) and Tony (3).
Our cup match (against Oldstars RKC 2) kicked off 10.00am and it soon became clear that this was not going to be an easy game. The thing we noticed immediately was that there was one player we had played against the day before in a league match. The referee said it was not for him to investigate this matter. Then very soon I realised I was marking a big bloke wearing spectacles, who I had called ‘Big Fella’ when facing him the day before. We went a goal down which soon became two and finally we lost the game 3-0. (It turned out that teams under the same name were allowed to interchange players between teams, which still seemed a bit unfair, as it favoured those teams with larger squads).
Anyway, that was the end of our tournament and we duly received our runners-up trophy; we just had to look forward to the finals and closing celebrations, and hopefully an incident-free journey home!!
The finals, taking place on the main pitch in front of a large crowd, were greatly entertaining, not least the ladies’ final which demonstrated the superb standard of the women’s game. We also watched Chris Waddle’s Hallam team win their over 55’s final in an all English clash against our mates from Leyton Orient. The other team from Leyton Orient won the over 60’s final.
The closing ceremony didn’t really happen, as all the teams were handed their trophies as they were won, so the evening was more a chance to party and mingle with other teams. After a while we decided another one of Tony’s quizzes was our best option for some home-made entertainment, so we all returned to our hotel. Around this time Brendan made a presentation to his choice of the player who had made the biggest impact during our games, so congratulations to ….. Gerald!! We were advised to be ready for a morning pick-up at 10.45 ……… !!
(Monday 14th May) So, after a leisurely (later) breakfast, it was check-out time and packing for our return journey. Except that we had been misinformed about the time, and our coach arrived at 10.20, as per the driver’s schedule; confusion worthy of a ‘Carry On’ film ensued!!
The driver insisted on leaving before all our party of sixteen had assembled, so seven were left behind. We stopped at another hotel around the corner, to collect some more passengers, during which time Barbara arranged for the others to dash from our hotel to catch us up. Graham decided he could run back to the corner to meet them. However, that did not happen and when the driver said we had to leave without further delay, Rob Wilson went chasing after Graham, who, by then, had decided to go all the way back to our hotel. Realising this, Rob dashed back to the coach, just before ‘Fernando Alonso’ made off for the airport; the original nine on the coach had temporarily been reduced to seven, before being restored to eight, leaving ‘hero’ Graham to join those who then had to grab a couple of taxis in order to re-join the main party at the airport.
This duly happened and the rest of the journey back to the KCOM Stadium was, thankfully, incident-free, and our weekend adventure came to a close. So, was this team the first group of players representing Hull City in any format, to win a trophy in Europe? Will we return in 2019 to try and improve upon this initial performance? Watch this space!!
Summary and Attendees
League Knock-out Comp
P7 W4 D2 L1 Pts 14 P1 L1
Coaches Adam Newton and Brendan Townend
Committee Barbara Wilkinson and Rob Wilson
Players Mike Melvin (Capt); Tony Bilton; Graham Jenkinson; Martin Lingwood; Denis Mills; Rob Milner; Gerald Morrill and Trevor Richardson.
(Plus the wives – Cathleen, Eileen, Kathryn and Mary)