by Steve Bott
IT all began in Burnley as a bunch of ageing former footballers gathered for lunch prior to setting out on what was to prove a historic journey.
The venue was the The Mix café bar/restaurant, home to the Vintage Clarets new sponsors. After getting over the shock of seeing some of the lads for the first time in over 20 years – Graham Lancashire’s beard is indeed a sight to behold – we sat down to an excellent carvery lunch before departing in a mini bus to Leeds-Bradford airport with the best wishes of the good folk of Burnley ringing in our ears.
The hour or two we had awaiting take-off at Leeds-Bradford was spent getting to know the Yorkshire contingent of goalkeeper Dickie Lee, Paul Atkinson and Liam Robinson and renewing acquaintances with Peter Mumby and Roger Eli.
A trouble-free flight saw us land in Dusseldorf unscathed and after a rather weary train journey of over an hour and a quarter we finally arrived at our destination
Anyway, after much more reminiscing, mine with physio John Dawson, who it turned out had worked with several managers I had come across in my journalistic career including Stan Ternent, Mick Docherty and Frank Casper, we went off for some much-needed sleep.
Suitably refreshed everyone assembled again between 9 and 10am for an excellent breakfast in the hotel restaurant where the first of what were to be my many tour misdemeanours was revealed to the group.
Justin Dyson, my room mate, informed them that I must be the noisiest snorer he had ever heard. Suffice to say that provided Loafy and the rest with all the ammunition they needed and fire away they did.
Justin managed one more night and then there was a knock on my door the following afternoon. I opened it to find George Oghani standing there complete with luggage. He informed me that I was changing rooms and would now be bunking up with kit man Glenn McMillan, who George had had similar trouble of a noisy nocturnal nature with.
It proved not to be a marriage made in heaven. I awoke after my first night sharing with Glenn to be greeted with Glenn groaning: “Botty, that must be the NOISIEST night I have EVER spent in my life!” Justin had said it was like sleeping in a farmyard.
I couldn’t understand it as my partner of four years standing had not complained overmuch recently.
Anyway, on to the football and things did not get off to a good start when Peter Mumby was injured in training on the first day, sustaining a groin injury that sidelined him for the tour before a competitive ball had been kicked.
Things had not been helped by the fact that the squad had to climb over a 5ft fence to get in and out of the training area – a feat they managed without further injury, although it can’t have done Mumby’s groin any good at all.
Once the games started, reports of which you can read elsewhere on the site, the injuries did begin to pile up. Gerry Harrison, Roger Eli and Paul Atkinson all picked up knocks of one kind or another. Most of the rest of the squad were frequent visitors to John Dawson’s treatment table with Graham Lancashire taking the award for Player In the Prone Position most frequently over the three days.
Nonetheless the squad rallied round and with George Oghani switched to an unfamiliar centre back role they soldiered on.
On the morning of the first game there was unrest in the camp as Loafy decided to take the new-tech route to team selection and Tweeted the team before anyone had even sat down for breakfast.
After talk of defection by one squad member to the understrength Dutch team in the tournament, peace was restored and normality resumed – and Loafy didn’t even have to buy a round. His application to join the Diplomatic Corps has however been binned, or should that be deleted?
So despite injuries and political unrest, the squad’s resoluteness in the face of adversity played no small part and allied to not a little skill and endeavour they went on to lift the Veterans Trophy for the first time at their fourth attempt.
The celebrations started immediately and went on long into the night and following morning. At one point kit man Glenn went on stage to dance with the rock band providing the entertainment at the outside concert and barbeque laid on by the club. He did a fair impression of Bez, or should that be Linda McCartney, with his tambourine.
The celebrations were thoroughly deserved and the squad’s success was down to a totally committed team spirit and togetherness that showed itself on and off the pitch throughout the weekend.
Congratulations to all involved in any shape or form and here’s to next year!