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27th October 2018 v England FA Vets

Here we are at St George’s Park again for another double header, the first one up being against England FA Vets.

In what was to become a sad weekend for football (we didn’t know at the time what was to occur with Glenn Hoddle and the Leicester City owner), we had our own memorial with a minutes silence for Colin Burns, RAFFA Life Vice President and former Chairman, who sadly passed away on 23rd October. Colin was one of life’s gentlemen, always having time to talk to you whomever you were, very knowledgeable about football and an excellent servant to RAF Football. He wasn’t a bad goalkeeper either. Colin will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with his family. The minute’s silence was impeccably observed by both sets of players and supporters alike. RIP Colin.

Then it was on to the game. England kick off but they don’t have the ball for long as Schofield wins it back again and plays the ball forward to Seddon. His square ball to the far post is tapped in by Young and it’s 1-0 RAF in the first minute. The boys in blue were playing a very high line and were pressurising when not in possession and creating the beginnings of some promising play when with the ball. All to often though, the extra touch, poor final pass, an opposition toe or poor finishing brought the good play to an end and we were still in the very early stages of the game. That said, good work from Young in midfield sees his pass played out to the left corner of the penalty area and the incoming Schofield curled a beauty, right footed, into the bottom corner. 2-0 RAF and just 16 minutes on the clock. The RAF Vets were dominating proceedings in terms of possession as they harried and chased every ball with England struggling to find any rhythm whatsoever and losing the ball quite quickly. Schofield, Young, Seddon and new boy Watkins were defending from the front and it was a pleasure to watch as time and again the lads in white surrendered possession within 25 yards of their own goal. Shots were raining in on the England goal but hitting the target remained the problem. Watkins was whipping in some great balls from the left and was happily bringing in support from the overlapping full back, Martin or the marauding centre back McCormick who was captaining the side in the absence of Rooney. Seddon then thought he had scored after a great cross in from McCormick. The keeper saved the first effort but Seddon slotted the rebound only to be given offside originally. Yorkie Bryan, one of our own, was captaining the England side and he must have wished that he was wearing blue instead as England struggled to cope with the pace of the RAF. Young then got his second of the game to extend the lead after some great chasing back, and winning the ball by Seddon, saw the RAF launch a quick counter attack. 3-0 RAF. Schofield was then unlucky as he saw his shot come back off the post before Seddon shot narrowly wide. This is great stuff from the RAF. Brilliant football, pass and move and a will to win every tackle...a joy to watch. This wasn’t all about the front four though. Every one of the RAF lads was putting in a shift here. Macek and Stewart in midfield were immense as were the back four of Clarke, Bartley, McCormick and Martin. Algar in the RAF goal however was just glad he was wearing gloves as it was mighty cold just standing around although he did get the odd pass back. HT 3-0 RAF

One again, the half time team talk accentuated the positives (there were very few negatives although actually hitting the target was one) and the lads were sent out for the second half to continue what they had done in the first. Algar was given time to get warm and was subbed by Laurie in the RAF goal, Edwards came on for Stewart, Rooney for Watkins and Bartley made way for Barker.

An early chance for England at the start but the forward was stretching for the ball and couldn’t keep his effort down before the renowned left foot of Watkins let him down drastically as he forced his way to the edge of the box before blasting his shot miles wide...ooops!! Young then hit the side netting as the RAF continued where they’d left off before Martin got in a shot that was narrowly wide. Edwards had come on at half time and he too was quick into action getting in a shot from 20 yards but again it was wide. England were a much different proposition in this half. They were playing some nice football now and creating chances of their own but a long ball over the top from the RAF defence found Seddon through on a 1v1. It looked as if he was going to go round the keeper before he nonchalantly put his foot under the ball and lobbed him. The ball bounced into the back of the net. 4-0 RAF and the type of goal you will never see in a training manual. A couple of minutes later Seddon is at it again when he smashes it in after brilliant work by Barker bringing the ball forward before passing to Edwards whose cross was gratefully accepted by the inrushing forward. 5-0 RAF. Edwards then had a shot of his own which went wide before Clarke made way for Pugh in the 70th minute and McCormick made way for Robinson. England then scored from a free kick when a weak free header was allowed to squeeze through/under the body of Laurie. Barthez admitted he had taken his eye off the ball as he looked for where his throw out was going to go and he would pay a heavy price for that mistake but more on that later. 5-1 RAF. Richards and Butt then came on for Martin and Macek. Laurie was then called into action as he saved brilliantly with a strong left hand from a bullet of a shot from 12 yards...some way to redemption? We shall see later!! Seddon then had a chance for his hatrick in the 83rd minute but he too was denied by a great save from the keeper. He didn’t have to wait much longer though as he took a corner. The kick was headed back out to him and he fired in another curling cross then went high over everyone including the England keeper and found its way into the back of the net. 6-1 RAF and Seddon will claim he meant it. He then got onto the assist list again as he pulled the ball back for Schofield to smash it home. 7-1 RAF. Great work at the back from the RAF defence in winning the ball back then sees Edwards come forward. With players either side, he slots a lovely ball in behind the England defence and Seddon is there to slide it past the keeper. 8-1 RAF and 87 minutes gone. Laurie was called into action one more time with another great save before the referee blew for full time.

Are there any superlatives that I haven’t used for this performance? This group of players, and I include ALL the family here as it hasn’t just been this game but Rhyl, Liverpool and Cyprus previously, are doing themselves and the RAF proud. They are playing some of the best football I have witnessed in a long long time. I think I’d struggle to get into this squad even when I was in my prime...keep your comments to yourselves please!! Yes, not everything is 100% but the players are still learning what the coaching staff want, and expect, of them. They are proving incredibly quick learners. The pace of their game is immense, they play for each other and when one makes a mistake the rest stand up. They are playing a standard of football that belies their years and those of us on the staff who don’t play are immensely proud of every one of them. Matt still only “likes” you though.

There was a presentation after the game, as usual, but we also presented the RAFBF with a cheque for £10,666.61p which was our contribution to the Benevolent Fund throughout the year of fundraising. Massive thanks to Tony Reeves and his team for pulling that all together. Thanks to all the ladies that attended and braved the cold and to Sir Chris Coville who was there in his capacity as Chairman of the RAFFA Vets. His speech was incredibly funny (we thought he’d drank the raffle prize earlier and refilled it with water) and, if we are both still around, I’d like him to be guest speaker at my 75th!! He is a fellow scouser but is a massive Everton fan so it must have been an even greater pleasure for him to witness some decent football for a change (sorry Sir Chris).

Starting XI: Algar, Clarke, Bartley, McCormick, Martin, Macek, Stewart, Watkins, Young, Seddon, Schofield. Subs: Laurie, Rooney, Barker, Edwards, Richards, Robinson, Butt.

Other RAF family members: Sir Chris Coville (Chairman), Hancocks (Mr A), Beattie (RTM), Salkeld (Coach), Wilkinson (Coach), Robison (Coach), Milam (GK Coach), Payne (Therapist), Reeves (Fundraising), Sheehan (Comms), Bones (Photography), Jones, Peel, Pettitt (Super Vets), Robertson (future party planner).

Apologies if I’ve missed anyone again but I knew I had to finish on the presentation of Harry the Horse. Stu Algar had taken care of him since Cyprus and he was now to be handed over to another deserving victim. The all important nominations were read out and the lucky recipient was Andy “Barthez” Laurie (another goalie...is there a trend here?) the citation for which reads...

Letting in a stupid goal AND wearing your Veterans tracksuit top on a night out!!

The voting was unanimous. No other nominee received a vote so “Well Done Barthez!!”

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