Sunday, 22 June 2008

Much more than just a chip off the old block

While many of my fellow Hounslow councillors were attending the Sports Jam in Gunnersbury Park, organised by the Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust, I was in Yeading cheering on my son Joe at the 20th Annual Summer Tournament organised by Yeading Wanderers FC.

Hundreds of players between the ages of 6 and 15 years of age competed for medals and trophies in this well-supported two-day 6-a-side tournament.

Joe plays in the Harrow Youth Football League as a defender for the Brentford-based Spartans Under-11 B team. Most of the other teams in the league play out of Harrow, Wembley, Greenford or Ruislip so taking him to away fixtures requires much travelling.

Last season the side won promotion from Division Three with an impressive 39 points from 14 matches, their 100% record only being marred by a slightly complacent 1-0 reverse in the final game of the season.

Unlike his father, who was always hopeless at football (the highlight of my career having been being picked as an unused substitute for one match from amongst a pool of about fifteen possible players for my primary school team at Worple Road), Joe is an intelligent player who reads the game extremely well for a lad of his age. More Tony Adams than Cristiano Ronaldo, his party piece involves upending forwards who have the temerity to cross the half-way line.

Spartans B were one of twenty Under-11 sides competing for The Brian Cox Cup (no less). Drawn in his group were Isledon Wolves, Heathrow Club B, Yeading B and Hillingdon Youth.

After a disappointing 0-0 draw against Isleton in a match which they had completely dominated, their next fixture against Hillingdon saw them emerge as 2-0 victors. A second one-sided goalless draw with Yeading followed, before they finally found their scoring boots and thumped Heathrow 5-0 to finish the first round as group winners.

In the Quarter Finals they were drawn against Bedfont Green B, and Joe was inconsolable after conceding the penalty which allowed Bedfont to cancel Spartans' 1-0 lead and eventually to force the match into penalties. I hope I don't sound too biased when I say that most of the neutrals watching felt the forward had dived, but at a good twelve inches shorter than Joe he was always going to have the ref's sympathy.

Fortunately for Spartans B, and for Joe, they won the penalty shoot-out 3-1 and went into the Semi Finals ... against Spartans A!

Well the dream stopped there, and The Brian Cox Cup was not to be. Joe was rested for the first half, the coach fearing that he and the other "big 'un" who normally lines up in defence with him could be wrong-footed by the nippy 'A' team strikers. Unfortunately as it turned out the fast kid who was put in in his place was not a natural defender, and when he was brushed aside twice within a minute or so the 'B' team were never going to catch up in a twelve minute game. Once the 'A' team had scored a third just before half-time Joe's team were playing for pride.

Joe came on in the second half and a much better display by the whole team ensured that their opponents did not add to their tally, but the fixture finished 3-0 and, after watching Spartans A win the Final, Joe and his team-mates went to the organisers' tent to collect their bronze medals.

As a parent it is sometimes difficult to juggle political and family priorities. As the Lead Member working with Brentford Football Club I would also have liked to have attended the Sports Jam, but my children didn't choose my vocation and I believe it is right that I should support them and encourage their development in their various interests and pursuits.

After all, if I don't they could end up becoming councillors!

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