By Wayne Gates
27 June
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We were only going for a laugh - but we ended up winning it!!!

Following yesterday's success of our Tornados, it was quickly back to competitive action for our Shaun - but this time he was joining eight of our other coaches actually on the pitch - as Breightmet Wanderers AFC entered the inaugural Gary Russell Coaches Tournament at our old mate Moss Bank JFC. All the money raised was going to WhysUp - a fantastic local charity and all-round good guys - so with Barlow taking the reins, off we went in search of glory...

As we arrived, the pitches looked good and our squad looked even better. Selected to represent the Reds - or rather Greys as they wore the Phoenix Tax Services away tops - were the following:

Darren Nicholls and Gaz Whittaker (u18's)
Brain Palin (u16's)
David Sheeran (u15's)
Shaun Swift (u11's)
Neil Lavin (u10's)
Ste Owens (u9's)
Scott Campbell (next season's new u9's)
Lee-Max Crompton (Goalkeeping coach)

Quality in there if we do say so ourselves. But in truth, we thought we were going over to have a laugh and chase around whipper-snappers - and if the first game was anything to go by, that's what could have happened. We lost it 1-2 - to two goals that we fed to their right and Kyle Derbyshire megged Lee-Max twice. We did manage to get a goal back straight after their second when we caught them napping and Neil took the kick-off and slipped it into Brian. He smashed his shot from inside his own half and it whistled into the back of their net. We thought we had levelled it before the end as well when we won a free-kick just outside our own box. Lee-Max sent a rocket in that hit their keeper then slammed into the back bar of the net and back out again. The lads in grey were buzzing - but the match official waved play on and despirte our protestations, the game went on - and we lost the first game...

There were two groups of five in this tournament and with the top two going into a Champions League semi-final and then next two into a Europa League semi, there was still plenty of time for us to pull this around - and that's exactly what they did in Game Two. Taking on Astley Bridge, we ended up as 4-0 victors - with the goals coming from Scott and a quality hat-trick from Shaun. One of his goals was direct from a corner-kick and with the laughter there for all to see, it was a good example of the great spirit this was being played in. But winning had made things interesting now - so it was onto Moss Bank JFC Team 4 in the next game...

And in a much tighter gane, we managed to secure a 1-0 win with the goal being grabbed by David Sheeran and that meant that if we could win the last group game as well, we'd be going through as Group Winners. FC Strikerz Greens were who stood in our way - but we managed to see them off with another clean-sheet and another 1-0 win - so into the Champions League Semi-Final we went...

We were expected to be making our way home by now but with the waters being gulped down, we were still here and now we were getting serious about it. Why not? We did come with many thinking we'd be the whipping boys - but three clean sheets out of four we felt we were in with a chance now. The draw was done - and it was to be FC Strikerz Blues who stood between us and the Final. Barlow prepped his boys by reminding them to breathe whenever they could and out they went into the second Final for the Wanderers this weekend? Could they do it? Of course they could...

Another fine team performance, another clean sheet and goals from Lee-Max and Shaun saw us into the Final and as the lads knew the momentum was with them - alongside the confidence flowing through our Club currently - we knew that the opponents would have to work hard to stop us now. It happened to be Astley Bridge - who we beat 4-0 in the group stages - that should between us and that trophy so the boss told his players to go out there and do what they'd done all tournament so far - just play football...

And that's exactly what they did - with yet another clean-sheet and another goal each for Scott and Shaun - and that 2-0 win meant that it was going to be Breightmet Wanderers AFC Coaches that had won the Gary Russell Cup! Yet another ceremony for us and this time Shaun got to be the one that lifted the Cup aloft and as he and his team-mates celebrated, it rounded off a tremendous weekend in the history of our great Club...

Each and every one of them did us proud today - from Neil and Gaz working their socks off to Darren Nicholls even playing his part - all of them had put in a shift out there. And to be coming home with such a glorious trophy really is pushing us into getting a trophy cabinet somewhere...

Great effort lads - who said it was going to be the wooden spoon eh? What do they know? Breightmet Wanderers AFC - winners again!!!


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