Cambridge United U10’s represent in Verl
Head of Academy Operations Tom Pell blogs his final piece of the 2014/15 from the SportLife Cup in Germany.
“Friday 5th June saw the last of the Academy tours for the 2014/15 season, with the U10’s travelling to Verl, Germany to take part in the Sportlife Cup.
It was a stressful start to the day with many of the players and staff stuck on the M11 for an hour and a half with a major road block, following a serious accident on route to London Gatwick.
Anyway, we made it to the airport and this time a flight being slightly delayed worked in our favour. We arrived at Dusseldorf at 7pm local time, an hour after our scheduled time into 30C heat!
After a drive to the Holiday Inn Gutersloh our hotel for the weekend, we dropped our bags and headed to Pizza Pasta Land. A restaurant myself and Marc Tracy had been too many times before on previous tours. Great for kids! Lots of Carbs, reasonably priced and with TVs for the boys to watch football perfect.
After a short walk back to the hotel it was time for bed ready for action in the morning.
The tournament is one of the most prestigious in Germany and played host to 72 clubs. There were 12 groups of six and we were in group six. The first six groups kicked off in the morning with groups 7-12 kicking off in the afternoon and early evening.
So a 9.32 KO for game one meant an early start and with the day set to get hotter and hotter as it went on, we were happy to get the games in as soon as possible.
Rot Weiss Essen were the first opponents for the U’s and although it sounds cliché the first game is always very important should you want a chance of qualification. The top two went through so that was our objective.
The game did not go to plan and it took us a while to get going which you can ill-afford to do when the games are 14 minutes straight through. Anyway, a last second (not minute) header from Tom McCarthy secured a point and as the ball hit the net the whistle went for full time. 1-1.
The second game was against a local club called Tuspo Surheide and it was a comfortable 3-0 victory with Jamal Obeng getting the pick of the goals with a long range effort that screamed into the top corner…..Very impressive! 3-0.
Our next game was the most comfortable of the weekend. Although the score line suggests we walked the ball into the net one after the other, the types of goals we scored in the match were the most impressive aspect, as I think we scored every type of goal going!! I just hoped we hadn’t used them all up in the one game. 11-0 to the U’s!!!
Game four was against Fushe Berlin from the German capital, who at the time were on the same points as us. A 2-0 victory saw off the qualification contenders with two goals from Justin Ahlin, one of which was extremely well taken.
The last game of the first group stage was played with both teams having already qualified so it was a case of who would finish top? Our toughest test yet and the boys passed it with flying colours with a 4-1 victory.
The group had finished and the U’s were top of the tree with 13 points out of a possible 15, what a start!
We were then placed into another group of five, of which we played teams who had similarly finished first in their respective group and third too.
Wattenheid 09 were the first team up in the new group who had finished 3rd in their previous one and it was a 5-0 victory, the perfect way to finish the day’s play! Rory Gillham scored a brilliant goal which smashed into the stanchion, a goal which also meant that every single outfield player had scored on day one.
Following the games in the morning, it was time for the Opening ceremony to take place where all of the teams walk through and round the arena for a round of applause in their nationalities. It was ourselves, Luton Town and Arsenal who were flying the flag for the U.K.
After the opening ceremony and just when the lads thought it couldn’t get any better, a certain David Beckham appeared to which carnage unfolded around the venue! After all of the chaos had calmed down, the boys managed to get a quick handshake with the ex-England Captain (myself and Marc also thought it would be rude not too) before getting some food.
Beckham was their watching his son Cruz play for Arsenal’s U10’s, something that the boys are used to having seen him and Victoria up at Hale End when playing the Gunners earlier in the season.
We decided to stay and watch some of the games taking place in the afternoon as there was some of the top clubs from around Europe taking part including, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach, FC Schalke, AC Milan and IF Brondby to name but a few.
After we left we headed back to Pizza Pasta Land following a meeting, shortly followed by the Champions League Final. The Holiday Inn had a few different clubs there so there was quite a nice atmosphere for the boys to watch the game in. However, due to the early start in the morning again and us wanting to do well, the boys watched the first half before heading to bed.
So to day two of the tournament and this is when we would really find out which of the boys could play under that little bit more pressure, with the quality going up a notch. It would be interesting to see who would really fancy playing against the best!
Our first game of the day, was again a slow start and due to missing a lorry load of chances we drew the game 0-0. That was disappointing as it should have been a comfortable victory but it was only half an hour before we had chance to make up for it.
Hannover 96 stood between the lads and a place in the last 16. A last minute counter attack saw Jamal Obeng bundle the ball home whilst the music was blaring (the tunes come on every game with a minute to go on the countdown). A 2-1 win saw the lads through and it was a great achievement!
That result once again meant that the final group game was a case of deciding who finish at the top of the table between ourselves and Werder Bremen. With the temperature rising the tempo dropped and it was a case of both teams trying to break down each other’s deep defence and unfortunately it went to the Germans.
A 0-1 defeat meant that our first defeat of the tournament say us finish second and although the lads were slightly disappointed with the result, it was all about the last 16 now and we had to turn our minds to that.
FSV Frankfurt were to be our opponents which would see the winners face one of the tournament favourites FC Schalke in the quarters.
We started brilliantly and an early goal from Justin settled the nerves as he rounded the goalkeeper to finish into an empty net. Then with literally five seconds to go, Frankfurt equalised! Right, let’s see who wanted a penalty?
The best of three and after Rory Gillham smashed home the first, it was Frankfurt who missed their first. Jamal then curled his just over the bar, so with Frankfurt equalised. No problems for Justin who put the U’s back in front it was Matt Jones our goalkeeper made a telling save down to his right which sent the boys through! 1-1 (2-1 on pens).
So, FC Schalke it was in the quarter final. The German giants proved to be a step too far. Despite contentious goal which looked to be extremely debatable as to whether the ball had crossed the line, it was Schalke who were the better team, so we struggled to argue the result. The boys can take huge pride from coming so close to causing a major upset. The game finished 0-1 and we were unfortunately out the tournament.
Bowing out in the quarter-finals meant we could finish from anywhere between fifth and eighth
FC Koln had also been knocked out in the last eight. so were our first opponents in the placement games. My message to the players after the FC Schalke game was to hold their heads high as we performed really well, but we were beaten by a better team, in my opinion anyway.
I did say that if they can perform like that in their next two games I would be surprised if they didn’t win. And so for a change…I was correct.
We brushed aside FC Koln 3-1 on the 3G with Kai Yearn finishing off the win in style with a goal just inside the opponent’s half, and then a solitary goal against Borussia Monchengladbach meant that the boys had finished fifth out of 72.
Andi the tournament organiser had told me that it is the highest an English club had finished in the tournament since he had been involved with the tournament which was nice for us coaches to hear.
A great tour was finished off when sharing a bus back to Dusseldorf airport with FC Starbaek from Norway and AC Milan. The lads decided to swap kit, memorabilia etc. with the Italian boys, which was really nice to see. Neither could really understand each other but the fact they interacted all together was nice and I’m sure will be more memories they can take away from the tour for a long time.
The tour concludes all activities for our Academy squads for the 2014/15 season and it was a nice way to finish for the boys and ourselves! It has a been an extremely challenging 12 months but incredibly enjoyable and we all look forward to seeing the lads back at the start of next month in pre-season.
Roll on next season!
2. AC Milan
3. Armenia Bielefeld
7. FSV Mainz 05
8. FC Koln
9. Werder Bremen
10. VfL Bochum
11. Hansa Rostock
12. FSV Frankfurt
13. Luton Town
14. Vejle BK
15. Dybbol UI
16. FC Monchengladbach