Saturday 9th July 2016 @ Carrington Training Complex, Manchester
English Schools’ FA and Premier League National Districts Finals 2016
Team: Rob, Pharrelle, Sam, Kye, Taylor, Tion, Kane, Ilani, Rio, Cameron, Samim and Troy
Erdington and Saltley 0 – 0 Thurrock
Erdington and Saltley 0 – 0 Stevenage
Erdington and Saltley 1 – 0 Sunderland (Ilani)
Erdington and Saltley 0 – 1 Liverpool
After twelve months of unrivalled success on and off the pitch, the boys of 2015/16 travelled to Manchester in monsoon conditions to proudly take their place in the national finals.
At no point during the two hour journey did any of us think this day would go ahead, so harsh was the rain. Yet the boys from The Ton and the other 15 districts, put the water logged pitches and horizontal rain to one side to put on a show of battling, determined football, even if the conditions meant it was far from free flowing.
Our three group games were dictated by the rain. Passes often went no further than a few inches, whilst dribbling was near impossible. It was clear for all to see that the winning team was more than likely going to be the team that adapted to the terrible conditions. All ambitions to play the attractive football that has come to represent this group of talented young men went out of the window, as the only option was to get the ball off the ground and forward as quickly as possible. Mistakes were aplenty for all teams and matches became a battle of the wills.
Proudly watching on, we couldn’t have asked for more from the lads during the first two games. They had the upper hand regularly and met the conditions and the opponents head on. Unfortunately the goal just wouldn’t come. With both games ending 0-0, we knew we were very much still in the contest.
Squaring up against Sunderland in the final group game, the boys were aware that only a win would do. Showing signs that they’d truly adapted to the conditions, the boys got the ball forward much quicker than during the first two games and were rewarded when Ilani stuck a peach of a shot from outside of the area to give The Ton a one goal lead.
Safely out of the group, it was Liverpool who stood in our way for a place in the last four. The first 7 minutes of the 12 minute contest were very much evenly matched. Both teams were showcasing their talents with confidence. However, with five minutes to go, the Liverpool winger burst down the right before cutting into the box and rifling home low into the bottom corner of the net. That proved to be the only goal of the game and brought the curtain down on our season.
Immediately after the game we told the boys to forget about analysing the game and to forget about worrying about what could have gone better. Now was the time to celebrate rather than mourn. Twelve months ago these boys, plus Oakley, Harvey and Diago, came together to form a team. A fine team. A team that made history and won admirers the length and breadth of the country. A team that we’ll never forget.