Vintage Celtic European Champions – As L & C Vintners
Vintage Celtic European Champions should really be L & C Vintners Algarve Champions but we will allow a little poetic licence in this case and continue to use the term.
Four of the Celtic squad combined with five players from Clitheroe Walking Football Club, who incidentally had never played in a tournament before, in the name of L & C Vintners (Lancashire & Cheshire wine lovers not makers) to play in the Algarve International Walking Football Tournament at Browns Sports & Leisure Centre in Vilamoura, Portugal.
The Celtic 4, in alphabetical order, were Bill Murney, Ian Parker, Barry Whitmore and Keith Whitmore. The Clitheroe lads were Simon Clark, Stuart Downham, John Royal, Stuart Thomson and Barry Wood. With Ian arriving on a later flight the Celtic 3 met up with the Clitheroe lads for dinner and a few drinks. Our new team mates proved to be great lads and a sensible crowd which is more than can be said for rest of us.
They retired reasonably early and our 3 stayed in the bar waiting for Ian to arrive at just gone midnight. We left Ian to check in and were undressing in our villa ready for a decent nights sleep before our 10:00 kick off in the morning. Suddenly Ian burst in and asked if we were going out for a drink. Well as Oscar Wilde said “I can resist everything except temptation” and the 3 of us went along with Oscar’s quote. After a taxi ride we ended up in an Irish bar in Vilamoura and 5 hours later another Oscar Wilde quote seemed appropriate “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”.
What a great preparation for a football tournament and the day’s results proved it. How could it be Vintage Celtic European Champions? The Clitheroe lads must have thought what have we let ourselves in for here as the Celtic boys were not in their greatest form. The tournament consisted of 8 teams in 2 pools of 4. The first match in Pool A was against Suffolk Strollers and ended in a 0-1 defeat. The second of the 3 matches was against the Scottish team Gala Fairydean Rovers and we went down 0-2. The final match of the league format was against Stamerton Stalkers A and L & C at last gained a point thanks to a John Royal goal which made the score 1-1.
So in the evening at dinner the league tables were published and L & C Vintners were bottom of Pool A with 1 point.
It looked impossible and only a dream for the headline to be Vintage Celtic European Champions. The next day’s format was a knock out with L & C drawn against Pool B winners Browns, the hosts. The author missed this game still recovering from the previous nights lack of sleep but was awakened with the great news that we had beaten Browns 2-0. Apparently the Clitheroe lads had played remarkably well with goals from Stuart Downham and Stuart Thomson. Only ever present Celtic keeper Ian and Barry Whitmore played in this quarter final with Keith having turned an ankle and unable to participate any more.It was now felt that with Ian in goal and the younger lads from Clitheroe playing some great football, this gave us our best chance of advancing in the competition and making Vintage Celtic European Champions. The semi finals brought L & C up against Stamerton Stalkers B and this proved to be almost a walk over with L & C passing the ball around beautifully and Stuart Thomson scoring 2 great goals to give a fairly easy 2-0 victory to the new look team.
Thoughts went back to the St Helens and Frodsham Tournaments where we started badly and came good to win both competitions in one weekend, could it be Vintage Celtic European Champions this time? With a few hours break before the final it became a nervous time for all concerned with L & C Vintners but nerves prevailed and the same team stepped out for the final match versus Caterham & Crawley Casuals.
The opposition took the lead and L & C were 0-1 down at half time but the way we had played gave every confidence that this would not be a problem. Indeed shortly into the second half Stuart Thomson scored a well deserved equaliser to make it 1-1. This was the score at the final whistle so it was now down to penalties. Once again could we do what we had done at Frodsham and win on penalties to make Vintage Celtic European Champions?We won the toss and as we had talked about beforehand we all felt we should go first and hopefully put the opposition under pressure immediately. It was 3 penalties each, then sudden death. Stuart Thomson took the first penalty for L & C and a well struck ball gave the Caterham & Crawley keeper no chance. Now it was their turn to put the pressure on us and they did that with a finely struck shot that sent Ian the wrong way.
It became squeaky bum time for L & C now and when John’s shot was saved things began to look decidedly bad. Fortunately we had our keeper of the tournament on board and I for one knew Ian would save at least one of the three penalties. Ian didn’t disappoint and duly saved their second penalty. So after 2 penalties each the score was 1-1.
Stuart Downham stepped up to the plate and despatched our third and last penalty with aplomb. This now put Caterham and Crawley back under pressure and Ian saved the day with another great save to make Vintage Celtic European Champions.
We were all ecstatic at this fine end to a disappointing start and it was handshakes and congratulations all round. The bar beckoned and the evenings celebrations started. The presentation time soon arrived and after the minor trophies we were presented with the International Cup. Ian made a short speech and Stuart received the well deserved golden boot award for the best player in the tournament. This rounded of a fine couple of days for the Clitheroe lads and although they graciously offered us the trophy it would not have been fair to take it as they had contributed far more than the 4 Celtic players.Let’s hope it’s given them a platform to compete in more competitions and I feel they have certainly got a taste for it and the ability to do well. It has also got to be said that there were some bitter comments from one or two teams who couldn’t accept that a team finishing bottom in the league format went on to win the trophy. Others were gracious enough to admit we were the better team overall.
So all in all it was a fantastic occasion, well organised and enjoyed by all the L & C Vintners. We have already promised the Clitheroe lads that we will invite them to Stalybridge for a friendly and hospitality afterwards and hopefully they will reciprocate with a game at their venue.
Lets hope we can increase our squad for next year’s May tournament in the Algarve as it is highly recommended.