In an attempt to get Alex away from computer, Lego and Meccano, and onto something more active, we got him going to a Saturday morning football club. It took a bit of cajoling, but once he’d been once, he was hooked. Absolutely sold on the whole football scene. His talent and skill is taking a bit longer to catch up with the enthusiasm, but we’ll get there.
The way it works is that every 10 weeks, they hold a mini-tournament, and arrange the kids into 5-a-side teams. That cycle ended this week, and Alex had been looking forward to the tourney for a fortnight. There were six teams, each named after a middle-to-lower ranked Premier League side. The parents were asked to volunteer as ‘managers’, and so, naturally, I took over the running of Stoke City. I had three pretty talented players at my disposal, a couple of middle rankers (Alex being one), and an interesting little chap who acts more like he’s going for an aimless stroll across a country park.
There were two group games, a semi-final and a final. We had Wigan and Everton in our group, and while we lost narrowly to Wigan, in good Stoke style we had a draw against Everton. Luckily for us, the tournament manager got the Wigan result the wrong way around (although we would have got through on goal difference anyway). We got a strong QPR team in the semi-final. After battling through the first half to switch over at 2-1 down, we put in a resurgent second half to win 3-2. Alex had a couple of crucial saves, and started enjoying the goal-keeping duties (something new for him). The two older boys really came into their own and I found myself getting really engaged in the game. Shouting encouragement and praise from the sidelines, and seeing the positive impact it had on the boys was great.
Unfortunately, we were thrashed 3-0 by Sunderland in the final. There was a classy 9-year old, who was aggressive and quick, and while we held our own in the first half, and kept him to just one, he got two more in the second.
So, a runner-up trophy for the bookshelf after his first tournament. And it wasn’t just Alex that had a good time.