9th October 2020 - Akrotiri 7s - Cyprus
In trying times, the RAF is renowned for trying and try we did. Covid had decimated the opportunity of many to travel to Cyprus for the annual Carter Cup/Aki 7s but no matter, the Vets would have a team there by hook or by crook. Even Ulrika had to get tested before travelling. Now that I’ve mentioned Ulrika, I may as well tell you that the current jockey is the legend that is John Bartley and why. John was due to travel out with Danny Bartley and Andy Laurie on the Tuesday of game week but, having done the covid test himself, he travelled to Stansted Airport by taxi hoping his result would come back negative. It didn’t. It came back inconclusive as he’d done the test wrongly. He travelled home by taxi. Not to be outdone, he quickly arranged another test hoping to try again on the Thursday. Again he travelled to the airport by taxi, this time though to Luton. Negative!! He flew out Thursday morning and on arriving at Paphos airport he proceeded to the carousel to collect his luggage. After 45 minutes waiting, he realised he was at the carousel for the Manchester flight and went to find the right one. It was only then he realised he hadn’t brought a suitcase and he only had the backpack that was already hanging off his shoulders!! Ladies and Gents, I give you a...Most Deserved recipient of the Honour of Ulrika Award!! (or HUA pronounced “hooer” for those of limited ability).
Anyways, there was football to be played on the Friday and just 5 had arrived from the UK with only 2 of those, potential players. Luckily, there are a number of Vets representatives out in Cyprus so we would cope. People had been asked to join us, one in particular was slightly reticent as he was working but we got that sorted so we had a squad. Danny Bartley was in charge of the football side and pre first game gave his players the gen on how he wanted them to play. It was all simple stuff and he used the cones to get his points across but would/could the players carry it off? Well, the first game was upon us, we’d soon know.
Game 1 v SBA Police
The local camp police team are not the best but play a slow methodical game which should suit our style of play to a tee. It did. Goals from Jim Schofield (2), Lando Davies and Mike Bartley eased us to a 4-0 victory without too much exertion but the style of the win certainly looked good.
Game 2 v PWRR
Early days and an army side up next. We knew they would be a much harder test as a) they are an army team and b) they won it last year. With the same system as game 1 and Jim Schofield (Skipper for the day) having his say, the boys took to the field. Danny’s system works again. A simple 2-3-1 and play keep the ball till the gaps arrive proved too much for the PWRR boys and goals from Mike Bartley (2) and Jim Schofield ensured a 3-0 victory.
Game 3 v Mercians
Another army side but not as fit as the PWRR boys so they didn’t chase all over the field as the previous side. This just meant that it was a little slower and the gaps did not appear as often. That said, it suited our boys to have a bit of a breather and we ran out easy 2-0 winners with goals from Jim Schofield and Steve “Reg” Hollis who, having started the move in our box, smashed home in their box after a superb passage of pass and move play involving everyone in the team.
Game 4 v RAF Akrotiri
This was the biggie as far as we were concerned...both sides unbeaten up to now and Aki ahead of us on goal difference. Lando Davies and Greg McHale were most certainly up for this as being members of the Aki side normally they had points to prove. A superb performance from all the players however saw us win 2-0 with both goals scored by Jim Schofield. I think the skippers armband “suits you sir!!”
Phase 1 over...we have qualified as Group A Winners. Next up would be JSSU who qualified as Runners Up in Group B.
Semi Final v JSSU
This was probably a tougher game than the others in so much as they looked like a minor units side on paper but they had some great players on the pitch. That said, “the system” we played was suiting us perfectly and the players and management staff were salivating at the opportunity we now had. Another pass and move masterclass saw us run out 3-0 winners with goals from Jim Scofield and Mike Bartley (2) and it was on to the Final not having conceded a single goal.
Final v RAF Akrotiri
We’d have to play them again. They beat Limassol Police in their semi final in a testy affair with the police not happy...nothing different there then. Would the psychological advantage of that first victory help us? Would they now know are system and prepare to counter it? Time would tell. At half time, it looked to all intents and purposes that we had the upper hand. 2-0 up with goals from Mike Bartley and Lando Davies had put us in the driving seat but at the start of the second half, a rare mistake from Ben Mears, in goal for the Vets, let Aki back into the game when he was slow in getting down to a shot and it found its way under his outstretched arm and into the back of the net. First goal conceded, would it affect us? It did. Within a minute the scores were level 2-2 and Akrotiri were going for the jugular. Suddenly the lads realised they had to get back to the simple stuff and to their credit, that’s just what they did. When Mike Bartley scored to make it 3-2 we thought that was it but the referee had other ideas and 3 minutes into added time in a 12 minute half, which seemed a bit extreme, Akrotiri were back in it again after a mix up in the Vets defence. The final whistle went immediately and I for one was deflated. Extra time and penalties loomed, 3 minutes each way. How the players were feeling I couldn’t tell but I have to admit, I was worried. The game had been won and yet it hadn’t. Could they respond. Danny had a few words, Jim SChofield spoke up and our “Battle of Cyprus” had begun. The boys got back to simplicity and despite the best efforts of Aki to stifle the movement they couldn’t hold out and the calmest man on the pitch, Jim Schofield, slotted home. This time, all on the sidelines let the referee know how much time was left and even began a countdown. Aki threw everything at us for that last minute or so and the lads kept strong. 5...4...3...2...1 we screamed and the ref blew, we had only gone and won it 4-3 AET.
One of our number Alex Price said he felt a bit of a fraud having only played a few minutes all tournament but as I told him, “there are no frauds in this family. Your few minutes gave one of the other players a much needed breather and so you have played your part young fellah and now you can enjoy yourself with us”. Everyone played their part, all players got some minutes and everyone did what they had to do. This was a true team effort from getting there to picking up the trophy...Superb!!
Danny Bartley (Manager/Player), Jim Schofield (Capt), Steve Hollis, Mick Clarke, Mike Bartley, George Pappa, Andy Laurie (GK Coach/Player), Ben Mears, Greg McHale, Alex Price, Aaron Lewis, Landon Davies, Gus Payne (Staff), Mickey Bartley (Staff), John Bartley (Staff), Dave Pye (Staff), Jim Sheehan (Staff).
Special mentions must go to...
George Pappa, a midfield general who helped us out at the request of Mike Bartley. You had an amazing tournament young man.
Mickey Bartley who supplied the balls, bibs, cones and gazebo and who took the pre game warm ups. .
To John Bartley who now proudly holds Ulrika after such dedication in getting out there.
To Danny Bartley who managed the side magnificently from start to finish.
To Mick Clark who kindly supplied the kit even though the first one had been hijacked by the Army Cyprus Rep side for the Wednesday IS fixture as they’d forgotten theirs!!
and finally to Lynn Bartley who tirelessly drove people around or picked people up from the airport...
THANK YOU from ALL of the RAF FA Veterans Family!!