The Many Shades of Grey played their first European fixtures this week, travelling to Cléguérec in central Brittany to take on the mostly ex-pats Brittany team and our old friends from Bristol City in a “Grand Tournoi International de Football en Marchant”, under the auspices of the Association Bretagne de Football en Marchant. A player each from Pompey ITC andMountbatten WFT joined us and played for Bristol City. This was Brittany’s first “competitive” event, previously only having played in-house training matches.
We played in a large indoor sports hall on the edge of the village that boasted a pitch about one-third the size of a full football pitch but had handball-sized goals and for the first time we were using a futsal ball. On the roof were solar panels capable of generating over 50kw. Our hosts had organised food and drink to keep us comfortable and very nice it was too.
We were drawn at random to play Brittany on the first game, and it has to be said that the Many Shades gave them an early lesson in possession, keeping the ball from them for long periods in the first half of the inaugural match, without finding the penetration to seriously trouble their keeper. Eventually a goalkeeping error allowed Rich Bishop to open the scoring, and the Many Shades were looking good for the win. Unfortunately we had forgotten to bring a goalkeeper along, so took turns between the sticks, and sure enough our first volunteer keeper also made a goalkeeping error to gift Brittany an equaliser.
Our next match was against Bristol City, and we quickly went one down thanks to what we felt was a somewhat dubious decision by the ref to allow a rather rapid piece of walking to go unpunished. We worked hard and gained our reward when aRich Bishop corner was diverted into the net. As the game progressed play was very even, both teams having plenty of opportunity to take the lead, none more so than Paul Sealey who hit the woodwork twice as we looked for the win. Sadly for us it was City who finally found what turned out to be the winner, and we ended up 2-1 losers.
The round robin matches continued after a short break, and we found ourselves up against Brittany again. This time we were able to effectively wrap the game up by half-time as a long-range Rich Bishop shot nestled just inside the left-hand post, followed by an almost identical effort from Paul Sealey, and then yet another from Rich Bishop. The game was played out in positive fashion, with both sides pressing for further goals, but we ended as 3-0 winners.
Our final game was against Bristol City, and once again we went a goal behind to them in a first half that we felt we had dominated. We knew that if we wanted to win this Festival, we had to win this game, as the earlier result between City and Brittany had been a 1-0 win for the hosts, so a win for City would have put them right back in the mix, with another game against Brittany still to come. Fortunately for us, Rich Bishop’s run of goalscoring form continued, and he drove home an equaliser shortly after half-time. With time running out we continued to press, keeping our shape and work-rate up to ensure nothing was “left out there”. With just a couple of minutes to go, a Stew Russell corner was deflected home in a similar way to Rich’s goal in the previous game against City. The Robins threw everything at us for those last couple of minutes, but we held out for a 2-1 win.
In the last game between Bristol City and Brittany, we knew that Brittany needed to beat City by five clear goals to overtake us on goal difference, and it took until deep into the game for them to register their first, and only, goal of the match, meaning that they completed a 1-0 win.
The final table showed the Many Shades of Grey top with 7 points and plus 3 goal difference, closely followed by Brittanyalso on 7 points but with a goal difference of minus 1, and Bristol City completing the Festival with 3 points and a goal difference of minus 2 .
The Mayor of Cléguérec, himself a former professional footballer, had come along to watch some of the action, and presented the trophies. The main trophy will stay in Brittany while the Many Shades were able to bring home a suitably impressive substitute trophy as well as each player being given a traditional Breton cider cup as a memento.
The Many Shades would like to thank everyone at Brittany Walking Football Association for preparing such a well-organised and thoroughly enjoyable event. They were able to provide a single referee for the whole tournament, which meant that we had consistent decision-making, resulting in no-one feeling the need to dispute any decisions.
That evening everyone went to a local gîtes complex where a truly delicious evening meal had been prepared, and then we all got our heads down in readiness for the next day’s matches. Needless to say your Many Shades stars, in spite of their glorious victory that day, were the models of restraint in their celebrations…
Day two was a very different experience, in that the serious competition had been completed, and now we were there to simply enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately both Rich Bishop and Brittany’s captain Phil Volz had to sit out Tuesday’s matches following a coming together during our match when Phil had kicked the bottom of Rich’s foot as they both went for the ball. The Many Shades volunteered Cathy Mitchell in Rich’s place.
Everyone drew a ticket out of the hat and were placed in either Team A, B, or C, which turned out to be wearing red, white or blue shirts in that order. Another round robin of games in the same pattern as Monday’s followed, with the pace significantly slower this time, and no great pressure to win, lose or draw. With each team fielding a lady player in a striking role, the hope was that one of the ladies would get on the scoresheet, and challenges on them were generously gentlemanly, and they were found with passes at every opportunity. The nearest any of them came to scoring was when Jill Harrisonplaying for the whites struck the post. Our Cathy, playing for the blues, and resplendent in her number 69 shirt, was involved in the collision of the day, when she and a rather large goalkeeper had a coming together and she ended up landing on him in an extremely elegant swallow dive manoeuvre!
As an aside, the Reds won, the Whites were runners-up, and the Blues just missed out on the play-offs.
So it was that we all headed for home, everyone having thoroughly enjoyed their time in Brittany. Many thanks to the Many Shades Ultras, Roma, Jenny, Suzette and Cathy for coming along to support the team of Martyn Bishop, Rich Bishop, Pete Dolamore, Barrie Gray, John Morgan, Stew Russell, Paul Sealey, and Ian Warren. It was particularly gratifying to see Roma’s tear-stained eyes as Tuesday’s incessant laughter overcame her!