Premiership football scouts were out in force at Craven Cottage to witness the William Wates Memorial Trophy on 7th September. This annual tournament has been gathering a reputation for unearthing some interesting raw talent, though this year seems to have been the exception, the overriding impressions being that players seem to have let their waistlines go a little bit and that 80 minutes football was quite a big ask. Grandma Wates, who knows a good footballer when she sees one, summed it up when she was over heard to have said: “They’re not very good, are they?”
Nevertheless, the WWMT remains the No.1 football competition in Europe for players who smoke fags and eat pizza at half-time and, despite the evidence that the football bubble may have burst, the organisers are confident that income from television rights will not dip when they go out to the market place next year. ITV Digital, who went bust a few months ago, are thought to be considering a relaunch with the WWMT as their flagship football product, particularly now that the champions are the younger and slightly more attractive team, Monty’s Reds.
But Monty’s Reds certainly didn’t find it easy, particularly with the temporary loss in the middle of the afternoon of Dan Wormall who felt the need to unload his breakfast on the side of the pitch. However, Hugo Plowman’s dominating performance in defence, James Lock’s command of the left midfield and a pair of outstanding goals from Alex Burmaster were enough to see them through and they will be an even stronger force next year as Wormall has promised to adopt a more professional approach to pre-match nutrition.
The afternoon started with Jonny’s Whites, the defending champions, taking on Rick’s Blues. Jonny’s Whites starred Stephen Snowdon, a Wates employee who played as if his job depended on it, and Stan Owen and Anthony Adorian, a large and lugubrious pairing at the back.
Somehow, against the odds and against the run of play, Rick’s Blues managed to go a goal ahead. Whites battled hard, but old campaigners like Jamie Keaney and Marcus Phayre-Mudge do not let a lead slip and thescoreline remained 1-0.
Indeed, in no time it seemed as if Rick’s Blues had the whole tournament in their clutches. They were next on against Monty’s Reds, theywere 2-0 ahead at half-time and it seemed such a foregone conclusion that some sections of the crowd were seen to leave early. It was then, however, that the Reds staged the most extraordinary recovery and the atmosphere in the stadium was electric as they worked their way steadily back into the match. First, a goal from the trusty head of Mike Barker, then the first of Burmaster’s wonder strikes. Confidence suddenly drained from the Blues, they seemed content simply to get the whole team behind the ball, but no one could stop Burmaster’s last minute, long range effort from stealing thegame, 3-2.
All Reds needed to do, then, was draw with Jonny’s Whites. But there are no easy games in the WWMT these days and Monty required all his infamous leadership skills to hold his team together against the classy and slightly greying veterans. Reds went 1-0 up early, but Whites stole one back in the second half and the pressure thereafter was relentless. But Monty’s Reds held on to take the match and the championship.
Any doubt as to the quality of the new champions was eradicated in the penalty shoot-out that followed. The standard of penalties was generally shocking, all three Wates boys missed, indeed Whites scored with only three of their 11. Monty’s Red were top with eight, Rick’s Blues second with five.
Monty was indisputably king and Craven Cottage stood to acclaim him when he climbed the famous steps to receive the trophy from Grandma Wates. Celebrations continued afterwards in the Salisbury Tavern.
All who played and watched are to be thanked for their support. The raffle raised £300 on top of a further £500 from the football. Particular thanks to Juliet Slot and Fulham Football Club for organising use of the stadium, and for everyone in a blue or white shirt who helped make Monty’s special day.