So where do I start? We seemed never destined to get there and if the airline had their way we wouldn’t have (or got home! ) but that’s another story.
Saturday group stages produced some mixed results for both teams:
Blues – Started the day playing against their friends, the Whites, but started with a 2-0 win, the highlight being a Charlie Haynes freekick. Onto the second game against Sporting Lisbon’s academy team we went into the final two minutes of this game 3-1 up and unfortunately drew 3-3. Third game lost 1-0 against Povoense, the eventual winners of the tournament, in a very very rough, tough game. Fourth game was against our friendly foes the Stalybridge Celtic Juniors Colts and this battle against friends ended in a 3-1 win.
Whites – Had on the face of it a poor set of results but the results definitely do reflect the performances. They, as mentioned, started with a loss against their mates, who they play with and train with week in week out. Second game onto Allstars F.C. from Wigan, and my lads put absolutely everything into this game too, which earnt them a hard-fought 0-0 draw. The third game saw the whites play the third Stalybridge team in the tournament, the Colts. The Colts were victorious on this occasion 2-0. Next up for the Whites was Povoense who shown their class throughout to a well-deserved victory.
Up next on Sunday was the highlight of the trip playing inside Sporting Lisbon’s José Alvalade Stadium for the final group game and respective finals.
Blues – So the Blues needed to avoid defeat to qualify for the main cup final when they played Allstars F.C. and boy did they deliver. Not only did they avoid defeat but won the game 1-0, how it was only 1-0 I will never know although their keeper had an immensely good game. On to the FINAL against Povoense, the only team to take points off them the whole tournament. For all but one minute and ten seconds, the time it took to concede all the goals, the blues match them and did not only me but the whole of Stalybridge Celtic Juniors proud. 3-0 loss.
Whites- First up on the final day was Sporting Lisbon’s Academy and we concede an early goal and the writing seemed on the wall, but a goal from Zack Smith changed it to 1-1 and the result stayed the same up until virtually the last kick of the game when we conceded and lost 2-1. On to our respective final where we played our friendly ‘rivals’, the Colts. The Colts ran out 3-1 winners, which was deserved barring an excellent game from Freddie Kewley.
Before a ball was kicked, I went to the manager’s meeting on Friday evening inside the Presidential Suite at the José Alvalade Stadium. It was here when I sat in the big comfy leather green seats looking out into an empty stadium that I realised why all the hard work, stress and worry to get the boys there had all been worth it. In addition to all the football, the boy’s bonding around the pool for hours on end, eating meals together, and watching the mighty Liverpool win their 6th Champions League! It was these moments beyond football that made the trip for me as yes I am their coach but my most important job is to try and help these amazing boys grow into amazing young men which here at Stalybridge Celtic Juniors almost, yes almost, preceded football. Would I be mad enough to do it again? Roll on 2021!!
Words: Will Stewart
Well done to Will (and Leanne for putting up with him!) for the mountain of effort he has put in over the last twelve months to plan, organise and fundraise this trip for his team.