Vital Leeds: Oakwood Owls Update
Oakwood Owls have formally entered the U15`s Soccer City Premiership league and Owls youth worker/ head coach Rod Christopher gives us an excellent report of the events of the first day in competitive football.
We came, we saw and we so very nearly conquered!
The Owls headed for their first ever competitive league match on Friday 17th August 2007, but lost out in a very close match against Leeds Youth in Soccer City`s' U15s Premiership league.
I arranged to meet 3 of our boys on the way to the centre. Elland Road stadium was our meeting point and we somehow found a bit of time to pose for photos at the Billy Bremner statue capturing a few pictures of the lads on this historic day for us! We then headed for the venue, which is only minutes away from the ground (behind the kop & under that little bridge!) We all gathered in the changing area, where I firstly informed the group of other planned football activities during the school holidays, then I cornered (not literally I hope ed) captain Nathan Gerrard to hear which 5 players he thought we should start with.
I knew we had a pretty strong side today, but did we have enough there to defeat such organised and experienced opposition? Only 28 minutes would tell, but I was quite confident that we could get a result against any team with the players at my disposal today.
Our boys really did themselves and me proud today. We had to play a team that were last seasons champions, the current unbeaten league leaders (5 out of 5) & the centre staffs' firm favourites to collect the title again in our very first game for points as a group in a league. A tough baptism in anyone`s eyes, but my boys seemed to take to it like seasoned professionals!
None of us seemed nervy at all, but I could clearly see the opposition squad & officials appeared bothered, as they sized us up before kick off. I saw a look of worry in their eyes. A look that told me they knew they were in a real game today, a look that I`ve seen so many times in the past. Not one single player let me down; playing great team football that deserved far better rewards at the end of the day.
All 7 in the squad were a credit to the Oakwood Owls youth service group. Our passing game really impressed me today too, as we created chance after chance & at one point we were 5-2 up! It was brilliant to watch & the comments coming from the sidelines were very very clear. 'Watch these boys' seemed to echo from the observing coaches, supporters & officials and I can't blame them either.
For me, we fell short due to having 3 regular squad players missing and also lacked a bit of know how in this league (i.e., when to slow things down to our own pace). A few of our lads had gone away on family holidays, meaning that my first choice squad was diminished beyond recognition. Had Jack, Bryant & David been involved they would have definitely given us a different result as it was clear that we missed them in this 5 v 5 match over 28 minutes. No disrespect to the squad I took however who are all good players, who performed out of their skins, but perhaps we were inexperienced at this level at times and I do feel that this cost us in the long run.
Obviously the Leeds youth side also had the advantage of having played together at this venue for the past few years & we eventually ended up on the wrong end of a 7-6 defeat, a result that was only literally confirmed on the final whistle. To me experience of playing regularly at the venue & together is very important, as players can get used to the turf, surroundings, their team mates strengths and weaknesses plus the dynamics of the place. They were not a better team than us, in fact I really do feel that we played the far better football overall. I can honestly see us running them even closer the next time we meet in week 15 of the 18 fixtures that we have to play, so what could the score be next time?
By then the league SHOULD be well and, as we have started this league 15 points behind all others, due to joining after the league began, but as you all know - 'football is a funny old game', so I will hang onto this proverb for a little while at least! Putting things into perspective, I think we played some hot stuff today and there was a great ambience among the group from the time we came together today. Every honest person that witnessed this game will tell you that we gave these boys a real fright. I can assure you that that is not a biased opinion at all, but a very honest and open one. I'm being realistic and truthful to you all, as a youth worker, coach & role model to young people. I really look forward to sending you our results from here on too, if only because i know in my heart of hearts that things will only get BETTER with our time involved in this league!
Oakwood Owls: Richardson, Owino, Kinghorn, Rodley (Captain), Walker, Shaw, Farrar
'Well done boys, it really doesn't get any tougher than this for our baptism!'
Youth worker/Owls coach)