Oops! We did it again!
(I promise that’s the last Britney pun – Ed)
The Many Shades of Grey returned to Cléguérec in southern Brittany on 11th and 12th September for their defence of the European title they won in 2016. Once again we were up against the might of Brittany’s very own side, augmented by a 38-year-old Brittany FA employee player sent along in place of the planned Brittany FA referee, as well as the re-branded Bristol United WFT (formerly Bristol City). The first day was the competition proper, followed on day two by a friendly kickabout as the squads were mixed up and a couple of the WAGs, a representative of the FFF, and a local journalist all joined in. A few of the walking wounded from day one opted out.
Your intrepid Many Shades adventurers were: (back row l-r) Mick Sidwell, John Morgan, Stew Russell, Martyn Bishop, Barrie Gray, Pete Dolamore, Paul Sealey, Keith McNeil in goal, Ian Warren and Rich Bishop.
Bristol are in black and Brittany are in sky blue.
Proving that walking football is more than just a sport, but is instead a great social opportunity were WAGs Cathy, Jane, Roma, Jenni, Suzette, Jacqui, and Janice who all came along to enjoy the experience.
Brittany showed not only how much they had improved, but also how to score goals as they opened up with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Bristol. Now that they had warmed up, and their 38-year-old Brittany FA employee player was fully integrated into their side, the Many Shades stepped onto the pitch to play the hosts. With both Rich Bishop and Martyn Bishop (no relation) nursing injuries, and Barrie Gray not fully fit either, the Many Shades started with Stew Russell up front and the energy of Paul Sealey in midfield. However the Brittany team’s movement and passing, inspired by their 38 year-old Brittany FA employee, meant that they scored three unanswered goals against a toothless Many Shades.
So for the next game, against Bristol United, we moved Russell back to defence where he belongs, and brought Rich Bishop on to test out his knee injury. The change worked, as Rich’s knee stood up splendidly enough for him to open the scoring. When Stew Russell took a corner and followed it up to toe-poke a rebound through the keeper’s legs the tactical genius was proved accurate, and 2-0 it finished.
After lunch we repeated the cycle of games, with Brittany again beating Bristol, this time 4-2, before their 38-year-old Brittany FA employee player was able to orchestrate yet another defeat for the Many Shades, but this time a long-range Paul Sealey effort and yet another Rich Bishop goal meant that it was by the far narrower margin of 3-2.
The final game was a ding-dong affair with Ian Warren putting the Many Shades 1-0 up, only for Bristol United to equalise and then take the lead. With time running out, and Fergie time on the clock, only a last kick of the match Rich Bishop strike rescued a 2-2 draw for the weary troops.
So it was that we ended up as runners-up to 100% winners Brittany. That evening we all enjoyed a really tasty slap-up meal, aperitif, starter, carvery, sweet, and just about as much wine as you could drink, all for €20 per head! How do they do that?
The three wise(-ish) monkeys are (l-r) our very own Stew Russell, Keith Gwilym (Bristol’s organiser) and Jeff Smith (Brittany’s organiser).
On to Tuesday morning, and a number of hangovers gathered together back at the sports hall. Barrie Gray had to miss the day due to his travel arrangements, and both Bishops Rich and Martyn sat the day out to rest their injuries. The rest of the players from all three teams were lined up in age order, and allocated into teams A, B, and C by just going along the line and creating squads that way. The good news was that two of our 7 WAGs joined in, Roma and Jane, along with the journalist and the FFF (Fédération Française de Football) representative.
In a thoroughly entertaining morning and afternoon of football, plenty of goals were scored, and eventually Team B ended up at the top of the mini-league on goals scored ahead of Team C. Both the journalist (Pascal) and the FFF lady (Corine) proved to be good players, and Jane and Roma enjoyed their “run” out, with Jane getting on the scoresheet, but Roma having her penalty saved by spoilsport John Morgan in goal.
Huge thanks go to Jeff and Sheelagh Smith of Brittany for organising it, and to Jill Patt and Phil Volz for fuelling us with their baguettes and cakes.