With Nottingham Powerleague a thing of the past, the Gammy Knees legacy needed a way to live on, even in a different city.
Rick arrived to join my wife and I by living in Manchester so the two of us could vaguely keep it going. The weekly league wasn’t really an option but the team wasn’t simply going to fizzle out.
I was determined!
And besides, we still had that old chestnut of church football tournaments to enter…and this time I was organising!
What could possibly go wrong?!
April 2013 saw the launch of the first annual Grace Church ON:Side tournament, organised by myself and the legendary Dan. Check out the artwork at http://www.gracechurchmanchester.net/onside. Rick and I were signed up early but it was 7 aside and we needed some back up!
Cue a message to the other side of the world. Westhead, our former defensive stalwart, was living in Detroit but a whisper of the Gammy Knees getting back together and he was straight on a flight.
Nottingham captain Mike was also free and willing to join us, shooting up from Manchester that morning.
I’d lined up a colleague to play but the day before he had a sudden need to go to the hospital for a head check up. Ruled out.
Our goalkeeper Mike was a find though – a cricketing legend from India who attended our church. But we still had two spaces.
With only 24 hours to go, I was pulling in favours from all over – it reminded me of many a Sunday night before Powerleague games, desperately trying to get in some reinforcements.
Eventually, I managed to persuade Wilky from my home church, a fellow Rovers fan, and our next door neighbour Ed who I’d only met two weeks previously.
Remarkable then how well we gelled in our opening group match Eden Openshaw, the rugged, battling side who arrived in full kit and looked ominous in the warm up.
Wilky and Rick dominated midfield in an epic match, decided by a composed Mike finish into the bottom corner. Get in!
We won our next two group games, 7-0 in one match including one of my favourite goals ever with Rick. He crossed from the left and I slotted home a jumping side foot volley. One of five goals I got in the tournament!
Even though it was April, we had weather from all seasons – it was crazy! Snow, hail, sleet, howling wind and rain all got us at some point. Well played to our shivering supporters for sticking with us.
We were grateful that the sun came out when we were sat listening to Pete’s talk though – thanks to God for that one!
Qualifying as group winners put us against some Tuesday night stalwarts, including Mike and Dave, Us and Mark Till. It was certainly noisy. We scored early and ran out 3-0 winners to make it to the final against Eden Openshaw. They had been looking hungrily at us ever since booking their place in the knockout rounds. It was clear they wanted revenge.
The final was tight, but I think they were more up for it than us. Losing to us in the group stage cut out any complacency they’d experienced early on and had definitely fired them up. They were desperate to beat us and when a couple of long range shots went in, we were up against it. Tiring, I managed to pull one back on the stretch from Rick’s low cross but they scored again late on to give the result a more comfortable look.
So we finished runners-up and as my wife handed over the trophy to the just-about deserving victors, we cast a longing glance at the silverware. Having scored five, I thought I was in with a chance of the Golden Boot…I had come second but the winner had scored 11. Oh.
It was a great run out for the Gammy Knees though – and in Manchester as well. Onwards and upwards to the next tournament!