There was a cup rather than a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow
It was about 8-15 in the morning - in fact, sometime around when the pitches were being watered (above) - when Leisure Leagues two Andy’s were chatting.
Andy the Geordie was in contemplative mood: “You know what?” He said to his namesake, “if I ever get married I am going to do it on a day when we have a tournament.”
Whether either of the eligible bachelors will ever find a woman daft enough to walk down the aisle with them is a different argument for a different day, but he did have a point.
Quite simply, we at the home of five and six a side football know how to pick the weather and a glorious autumn day greeted the teams the early arrivals at Cannock Cricket and Hockey club.
A gorgeous day as the flag flys above
Early doors is largely the domain of the local teams, and there was, as always, some skilful attacking football on show. Special mention, though, has to go to Solihull G (who are better known as Baverstock Monchengladbach from Moseley on a Wednesday night, but will be known as Solihull G for the reminder of this report as I am not typing that out again) who trounced Chester A (Chester Athletic) 8-1.
At which point we started to worry for Chester, as lets be fair, it a long way to come to lose heavily, but thankfully they won their next match – against Swadlincote B – and drew against Loughborough A to go through.
Solihull won all three of their group games and were installed as early title favourites alongside White Lions of Tamworth, and two Cannock sides – Warriors and Knock – who also won their three openers.
Plenty of excitement to watch.
The afternoon was a chance for us to welcome friends from further afield, ones we had met before – Dougie Imrie Rovers from Glenrothes, who were again a welcome addition – and others such as Lyonesse Law Society from Falmouth, who we had not.
Debate raged as to which one of these teams had travelled further, so armed with my encyclopedic knowledge of geography – and my ability to work Google Maps – I would like to hand out the inaugural Leisure Leagues Phileas Fogg award to …the Falmouth boys.... who travelled 277 miles, compared to a "mere" 247 from the Glenrothes lads.
Banners supplied by Midland Signs (www.midland-signs.co.uk)
Unfortunately the two sides suffered contrasting fortunes, with Falmouth being knocked out, while Rovers made it to the knockout stage for the second successive time.
We also had great pleasure in welcoming teams from South Wales for the first time, with a couple of teams from Cardiff and a coach load turning up from Tonyrefail - their two teams had a 50% record in the groups. One through, one out. Now, it is an obvious and long-standing cliché in sport that it is harder to retain a trophy than to win it in the first place, and so it proved for Random Allstars from Widnes. They had swept all before them in at the Spring tournament in May, and were in confident mood about their autumnal prospects when they registered, “I think our cup is bigger,” said one of their players, casting a somewhat critical eye over the gleaming silverware, “still at least it’ll look good when we take it home again.”
The official Leisure Leagues Photographer had to apologise for hitting one of these lovely ladies with his tripod.
There was, however, to be a shock of pretty seismic proportions and Random were dumped out in the group stages – without managing to win a game.
With the round robin stages out of the way it was down to the crème de la crème of the crème de la crème playing knockout football.
And what a thrilling set of games we were treated to, with Birmingham L’s 6-4 dismissal of Worcester A providing an obvious highlight, while Tonyrefail enjoyed a 4-3 ding-dong with Newbury.
It was at the first knockout stage we waved a fond farewell to the Glenrothes outfit too, as they were beaten 2-0 by Cannock H.
The second round of the knockouts saw Cannock Warriors maintain their ominous form, thumping Cannock E 4-0 in a tough and uncompromising local derby, while Loughborough H matched that score and finally putting an end to Chester A’s mixed day.
The North West had provided the three National Tournament victors thus far, so thoughts of a quadruple began to cross the minds of some seasoned pundits as Runcorn A terminated Tonyrefail’s brave resistance with a 4-0 success.
By the third round the two halves of the draw had taken on distinctly different characteristics, with the bottom half seeing tight games and penalty shootouts being the norm, while the top half saw the nets continue to rattle, with
Bavers…urmmm… Solihull G prevailing 3-1 against town rivals Bugle Boys, and Cannock Warriors crushing Worcester F 4-0.
The boys rest between games.
At this point BV Saints were emerging as potential dark horses, having slipped under the radar somewhat earlier on in the day, they announced themselves by seeing off the much-fancied Cannock Knock 2-0.
Chunny from Solihull are always there and thereabouts at these tournaments and were battling through some penalty shootouts to reach the quarter final stages. Here they needed again to rely on spot kicks to send Runcorn home – and with it the North West’s last representatives, meaning for the first time a team from elsewhere in the UK was going to find its name on the cup.
Their counterparts from Solihull, Baverstock Monchengladbach (name in full as it’s the last time we’ll mention them), were beaten by Cannock Warriors, who were fast emerging as tournament favourites, 2-0.
The victory set up a semi final clash with BV Saints, while joining Chunny in their last four battle were FC Asda from Dunstable who had been looking like a team to “checkout” (sorry!) all afternoon.
Those last four games ebbed and flowed and kept the watching throng spellbound, but in the end Cannock beat Saints by a heavenly (sorry again!) 2-0 margin, while Chunny needed their customary shootout success to see off Asda.
All of which meant that after nearly eight hours of the best and toughest contested 6 a side football possible there were two teams left standing at the end of a hard, hot day.
Cannock had started as favourites and backed those pre-game assumptions up as they raced into an early lead.
However, you don’t get to finals if you are easily deterred and Chunny battled back and could have leveled matters, before a late thunderbolt from Warriors sealed the points and caused joyous celebrations amongst their ranks.
As the dust settled on another fine day – and the champagne that had been liberally sprayed about by the winners dried, Warriors took home their prizes and Chunny were left to walk through the lengthening shadows and contemplate a tale of hard luck and what might have been.
But history belongs to the victors and Cannock Warriors will always be the fourth winners of the Leisure Leagues National 6-a-side Championships, and the first team to end the North Western domination of the trophy.