EFL Trust Women’s Walking Football Tournament – St. George’s Park – 4th August 2018

On Saturday 4th August, the EFL Trust organised the first Women’s Walking Football Tournament, at St. George’s Park.  Alison McMullan was one of 14 COGS who attended and her blog from the event is below:

“Fun, footballing friends, road trip, a spot of Startrekkin, hotel stay, illuminous birds (apparently…), tournament, medals and the amazing venue that is St George’s Park.  What more could fourteen COGs and one husband want?

Two teams represented COGs at the inaugural EFL Women’s Walking Football Festival on 4 August; the men’s one took place the week previously.  As it was being organised by the EFL, we had the honour of representing Crawley Town Football Club, flying their flag alongside a COGs one and wearing the rather lovely new black with yellow trim shirts.

Photo courtesy of EFL Trust

Twelve (including Ashley – I wonder if he really knew what he was letting himself in for…) travelled up the day before which while it afforded them the luxury of a hotel stay and the more relaxed morning on the Saturday, meant they had to endure lengthy queues on the motorways.  Three more set early alarms and met at 630 on Saturday morning but this did mean that our journey to Burton upon Trent was considerably less fraught.  It must now be said that what else happened in the hotel and the song choices in the cars will be left there and should not be featured in this piece!

To the festival then.  We played on the David Beckham pitch!  COGs formed two teams, an Over 50’s one captained by Sandra and an Over 40’s captained by Juppy, who did wear her new EFL captain’s armband with immense pride!  The Over 50s were joined by Linda who plays for Doncaster Belles and it was great to have her experience with us.  In the event, only six teams entered and so we all played each other.  Nicol wondered if there were any ladies left in Crawley!  The fact that it coincided with the opening day of the EFL seasons probably contributed to the low numbers but Nicol Meredith and Rachel Pavlou from the FA were not disheartened and only saw the event as another within the women’s game that would grow year on year.  We played against teams representing Birmingham City, Bradford City, Preston North End and Lincoln City.

As someone who has followed the game for many a year, it was really exciting to play against such names.  Some of the ladies had clearly played the game before but we definitely held our own.  Walking and not running was certainly a challenge and there were a few entries for the “Ministry of Funny Walks” while we practised before the games started!

The teams played each other with the top three going forward to play each other for the Cup with the lower three playing for the Trophy.

The Over 50s were on fire scoring plenty of goals and ending up with a goal difference of plus twelve!  Kim, Sandra, Karen and Lizzie all bagged goals in impressive styles; it was a shame that the rest of us seemed to be playing at the same time so that we could not watch more of it.  The team finished the first half of the festival in third place with ten points after winning three, drawing one and losing one game, behind Preston on thirteen points and Birmingham on eleven points.

The Over 40s did not have quite as much success but we thoroughly enjoyed it.  We went into our fourth game determined not to lose another and thanks to Juppy we won!  We finished fifth on three points after losing four and winning one, behind Bradford on four points and ahead of Lincoln on one.  We were still not out of it, however and relished the opportunity of still being able to play for a trophy.

In the final round robins, there were some close games.  The Over 40s celebrated a fantastic goal by Cat but ended up in third place, bronze medal winners!  The Over 50s had some really tight games and were really unlucky not to have won the tournament; one more goal and they would have done.  In the end, they faced a penalty shoot out against Birmingham; rather apt for the headquarters of England football one might say.  Kim did take a turn in trying out as a goalkeeper against Karen and Lizzie, earlier in the day, in a full-size goal so maybe she knew something that the rest did not.

Photo: Alison McMullan

It was Mary, however, who wore the gloves to face the Birmingham penalty takers after Ginny suffered an injury to a finger.  Mary served the team well saving the first penalty but it was not meant to be, Karen and Lizzie also did not score, which after Birmingham scoring two meant that Kim did not get to step forward and take one and they came out on the wrong side of a two-one scoreline for the shoot out.  Birmingham City won the tournament which, as we found out on our visit to St George’s Park earlier in the year, their men’s side won the 2017 People’s Cup and represented England, might not have been too unexpected.  Preston received their bronze medals and we celebrated receiving silver.  Rachel Pavlou commented on how it was COGs’ highest performance in a major tournament.

Most of the COGs finished the afternoon in the Hilton, having a drink in style to take in all that had taken place and some more of the surroundings that is St Georges Park.  It was amazing to see the footballing memorabilia on display from men’s and women’s football, including world cup trophies and a frame of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s handwritten words, “they think it’s all over; it is now” and so it was.  Some of the COGs were already on their way and the rest departed soon after, thinking of how COGs had afforded us another great, amazing footballing opportunity and memory.”