Was this the end of an era?
Were the Gammy Knees about to be consigned to the annals of history?
Would they go out on a high or would their frustrating record in Manchester tournaments continue?
All these questions and more answered in the following post…
The team featured stalwart Gammies myself, Rick and Mike and our other three were all newbies, Rick’s brother Sam, Josh and Usman. Probably the tallest six aside team ever assembled and hopefully an intimidating unit although we did not have the enviable luxury of a steady keeper. We were a touch worried that this would come back to haunt us.
Our first match was up against Dia de Muertos, a side packed with combative, uncompromising talent. We were a new team, slightly fudged together and needed time to bed in. Not the ideal fixture. After a tough game, we created a few chances but couldn’t break the deadlock. A 0-0 draw was a decent start.
Next up, we faced the lads from AFC Radcliffe. An unknown quantity, they clearly had some skill and were going to be tough to see off. A tidy finish on the break from me put us one up at the start of the second half and, thanks to Sam scoring a second quickly after, we were able to see out the game comfortably.
Atmos, Ally’s team from work, were our third group match. I managed to score virtually from the kick-off as they passed it back and back. I chased it down determinedly and eventually a panicked clearance bounced off my leg and into the goal. They all count! We then let Atmos back in to the game, conceding a daft own goal after our goalkeeper saved it but the ball ricocheted back in off Rick’s leg. Fortunately, we turned it round and ran out reasonably secure 4-1 winners to keep our unbeaten start going.
Real Madras had looked a promising outfit with some core players from Tuesday night involved and members from last year’s finalists. I was in goal this time as we continued to rotate our goalkeeper which was fine. A tight match ensued but one where we protected our goal doggedly. Mike gave us the lead before Sam rounded off the scoring once more. 2-0 and qualification secured.
Our final game was against Dynamo Chicken Kiev, a team thrown together on the day and lacking a bit of cohesion. Indeed, their biggest problem was an inability to take kick-offs, essentially giving us the ball each time from their centres and allowing us a free run on goal. Gregor was an agile and determined goalkeeper but we kept having free shots and rattling home the goals. A 9-0 win was brutal and we were ready for the semis.
In between, Bruce told his mesmeric testimony of coming to Christ. A Les Miserables style story of drugs, stealing and a life of crime totally turned out by the grace of a minister and the power of Jesus turning his life round. Awesome.
Into the semis and as group winners we played fourth, AFC Radcliffe. They were up for it and we had to be at our best to stop their swarming attacks from bearing fruit. We got our noses in front when Rick fired home the opening goal and that should have been enough but a bit of switching off at the back let them in to equalise.
No late crushing blow this time but a penalty shootout. We agreed three penalties each so I stepped forward first and slotted home. Sam, in goal, pulled off a tremendous save to keep our lead and Josh buried his penalty to put us 2-0 up. They needed to score but Sam tipped it over the bar and we’d won. Rick, who would have been up next, was spared the pressure. (Of course he’d have handled it!).
The only awkwardness was that the other semi also went to penalties and they did five each. Nothing like consistency!
Into the final and we were not for losing this one. Sam stayed in goal and we were well set up for our rematch with Dia de Muertos who also had stayed unbeaten. Once again, the first half was extremely tight. Their 16 year old, Jordan, was trying to prompt attacks whereas Rick, Mike and I scurried around to little effect.
The second half opened up and we took the lead effectively from a throw-in. Josh threw into my feet, I switched it onto my left foot and fired into the bottom corner past octopus-keeper Rob for the opener. Pandemonium!
Too much euphoria though and we were soon brought crashing back to earth when we switched off at their throw-in and they scored a headed lob over Sam. Bearing in mind he’s 6’4 and the goals are about 3 foot high, it was a ridiculous goal to concede.
Penalties loomed and we really didn’t want to go through them again. The game was tight but with seconds left on the clock Usman, who’d admittedly been very frustrated at the back, took a risk. He began a move and continued running. I passed to Josh who slipped to Rick down the left hand side. Out of nowhere, he squeezed out a cross which flashed in front of goalkeeper Rob to who else but Usman who’d bust a gut to get into the box and duly crashed home.
So little time to respond and we tightened ranks to preserve our victory. The trophy was ours!
With that, the Gammy Knees bowed out, possibly never to be seen again. But what a way to finish. I hope you’ve enjoyed these histories. Maybe they will make it to print one day.
Here’s a photograph of Mike’s ideal Gammy Knees team. Who would you add/take away from this bunch of characters?