We trained on a night one day during the week, I can’t remember which day it was but that doesn’t matter. We were on a five a side pitch and that was next to Ossett Town’s football pitch and trained for about one hour, went home and got ready for school the next day. Our games were played on a Saturday and I was a defender, which is quite a hard position to play but it was great fun. We had a good team and they were a good set of lads, I remember one game when our keeper was ill and because I was tall they put me in the net, bad idea - we lost. The lads gave me some right stick after the game, all I said was “I am a defender not a keeper so don’t blame me!’’. That soon shut them up, you should have seen their faces it was a picture. We had a good season.
Then came a blow to me playing football, I got knocked down by a car. That happened when I was going to play football with my mates on the playing fields in Ossett on Station Road. That’s me done playing football because I ended up in a wheelchair at eight years old and that is not very good. So I had to have physio to make my legs stronger and after a while I began to walk again. I joined in with every sporting activity I could at school especially football, but having a disability didn’t help because I was always picked last. It was actually quite annoying but I got on with it, I remember one accident I had when I tripped and fell on my bad leg, it hurt, but they all came running over to me and helped me up and took me back home. After that I didn’t play football again.
I am now 31 years old and about 4 or 5 years ago a team was set up for disabled people called Pontefract Pirates, I had a hand in setting it up. That’s a good achievement, I am still playing as a defender in five a side football team but it has helped me out a great deal. My confidence has boosted a lot, I have achieved my goal of playing football in a great team. Playing for a team like this has opened doors for me as I am now playing for MENCAP Great Britain team.
We had a training weekend in Wales. It was near Cardiff so I got to meet all of the lads who will be playing for the team. We stayed in Bridgend Collage where we had our own room it was like a bed and breakfast. I was nice and quiet on a night so sleeping was great. We arrived at 5pm where we were introduced to our team manager Mark Summers, a great man for setting all of this up for us. We also met Richard Howe who is one of our coaches who is from Wales. There is also Trevor Waddington, and Jimmy Graham both of them are from Pontefract Pirates that’s the team I play for.
Stephen Moore and Kristian Northend are the other two coaches, after meeting everyone we went out for an evening meal at a place called The Four Winds Hotel in Aberavon. The food was lovely and we got back at about 9pm where we were given our training kits for the weekend. On the next day we got up and had to be ready for our breakfast at 9am, it was a full-English and it did set you out for the morning. After that we had a team building where we got to know where we were playing in the team. I played defence as normal so I was happy.
Then we went to Heronsbridge School for our first training session where we all gelled as a team and we all enjoyed it. We then had our lunch, just something light and after that we all went sightseeing. We saw where Swansea City do their training. Then we had our first match against Swansea City Bravehearts, we played them 15 minutes a half so in total it was 30 minutes and we won! It was hard because it was the first time we had played together, it was fun and I enjoyed it. We went back to the Tavern pub for our tea for a discussion on how we played and if we needed to improve on anything. Then we went back to the collage and got our heads down because it was a long day.
On the last day we got up at the usual time and had some breakfast then we had to get ready for our last game against Heronsbridge School which was for the Paul Ridd Memorial Cup. It was being played at Riverside Hardware Brewery Field Bridgend. It was a tough game and unfortunately we lost. Mark told us that we played very well and we should do very well in Geneva, then we had a presentation and a laugh and then we had to get ready to go home. It was a brilliant weekend and it was good to meet all the lads who I will be playing football with in Geneva. We also got given our kits for Geneva which is a blue polo shirt with the Mencap logo on it and also it has our initials on it; they said it is so we don’t lose the shirts. As well as all of that we were given some tracksuit bottoms again with our initials on, and we got our Geneva kit which is a red top, red shorts and red socks and it looks very nice.
I can’t wait to go; I am looking forward to going and just to have the experience of playing for Great Britain. I hope to come back with a medal and better football skills so I can improve with Pontefract Pirates.
Got back now from Geneva, had a brilliant time and we won the final and got a medal. It was hard work playing against teams from Europe, because they were all very good players and had different ways of playing and moving with the ball.
We got there on Thursday went to the digs where we stayed and dropped our bags off, picked our beds to sleep in and had something to eat. Then after that we got our heads down. The next morning we got up got ready and had our breakfast which was bread jam and a coffee. We then had our first game which we drew. The games were 15 mins each half. The next game we won 2-1, about time all of the lads were happy we then went back to the digs, had a team talk and got ready for our tea. We had our tea in a big tent with all of the other teams, we had pasta and a tomato sauce it was nice. There was entertainment on an evening the first night there was a group on singing we all got up and had a dance.
The next day was very busy day of playing football. We had three games on that day, we drew and lost some of the games. So I was pretty disappointed because the win that had I thought might have made us play a lot better than what we did. The last day came and we had another three games, we drew and won these games. Then came the final and we played a team from Belgium it was a tough game and we all played well.
The funniest moment was when I got the ball kicked right in my face from a free kick outside the area. There was no wall so I stood in front of him. I thought he would kick it around me or over me. He didn’t he kicked it right in my face, it hurt I was dazed for about two minutes. I looked up and all the coaches were laughing at me it was quite funny. We drew at the final so of course it came down to penalties, we had our players who took them and we won when Guy made two great saves. On the last save we had won so we all charged at the keeper and dived on him poor lad. We had the closing ceremony and after that we got a cup and a medal we were all very tired but very happy. We went back to the digs packed our bags and went out for tea. There was a disco on the final night we all enjoyed it, we didn’t stay out too late but we had a laugh and went back to our digs and went to bed. The next day we went home all very happy and tired.