Adventure of a Lifetime – Chapter 5

Excursion

written by T Kirk Nov 20

Today was an early start.  Ahead of us was a packed day in which we would travel to the rainforest to do a canopy walk, and to the City to visit an former slavery castle.  Being a self-diagnosed hyperactive who cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes, the thought of spending 4 hours on a coach did not exactly have me bouncing with joy, but there was no doubt that the boys were brimming with excitement! What helped pass the time was the various interruptions from hawkers trying to sell all manner of objects (some edible some seemingly inedible!) each time the coach lurched to an abrupt stop.  Sometimes I was thankful for the break.  The roads are not exactly….well, roads in Ghana.  Pot holes do not do justice to the gaping gorges that sometimes appeared in the road, but it did not deter the driver from casually ploughing through whatever obstacle came his way, and that whilst drinking coke, dancing in his seat and occasionally answering his phone.  Shane closed his eyes.

Unfortunately, some were feeling the effects. Having done much preparation with them boys so that they could make good decisions to keep themselves fit and healthy, we were beginning to think that we may escape the usual travel bugs.  We were wrong.  The familiar acidic smell reached my nose before the first hollas of horror echoed to the front of the bus.  Shane being useless with anything squidgy and smelly, quickly pretended to be a sleep and so I was left to battle my way towards poor Swanny and Angel who were both looking rather on the pale side.  I was rather relived when we eventually arrived at our first destination.

The rain forest was different than I expected.  Firstly, the lush green canopy was sometimes intermittent with dry barren areas where trees had been cut down for whatever reason.  The further we ventured the more mountainous the terrain became and the temperature changed.  Secondly, the area had obviously been well visited and so the concerns I had regarding the potential threats from curious animals, any manner of insect and man eating plants were unfounded.

We followed the guide along a narrow wooden path and found ourselves suddenly above the trees.  It was very high, so high that some of the parents began to reconsider their further participation.  We were hoping to see at the very least some monkeys but were told they usually appear at sunrise, and that avoiding them may be advantageous; apparently monkeys really are as mischievous as their reputation demands, if not worse! As it happened, there was enough to wonder.  In every direction trees reached towards the sky, some piercing the canopy stretching to impossible heights.  The wooden bridges between the trees quivered with every step, the parents glancing nervously from side to side and flashing with huge relief each time they made it across to a tree trunk for apparent safety.  The boys of course thought this was very amusing and preferred to make sure the walkway bridges swayed and dipped as much as was physically possible.

The next part of the day involved a dash across the region towards the coast, our destination Accra and more specifically Cape Coast Castel. Jane explained how Ghana, once known as the Gold Coast of West Africa, was one of around 40 slave castles that served as prisons and embarkation points for slaves en route to the Americas (the Caribbean, South America, and the U.S.). Thousands of enslaved Africans from regions near and far, sometimes hundreds of miles away, were taken to these castles to be sold to slave ships. The boys knew this of course from our research, but we were actually ill prepared for the feeling of foreboding within the castle walls.

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The Road Less Travelled

Since the foundation of Bath and Wiltshire SFA in 2003 the organisation has had the pleasure of looking after hundreds of boys and their families.  One of the greatest privileges and pleasures is being able to accompany young people at the start of their ‘journey’.  We are aware that it is football that brings us together, but recognise that each individual’s path will be unique and can lead in any direction.  There is no judgment of one boy’s path being more successful than an other’s; ‘in the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important to them than their own destiny’. In this sense, we see part of our role to cajole, energise and support whilst the boys figure out for themselves what their destiny could be – it is both intriguing and exciting.

One such journey stands out perhaps slightly more.  Jacques Miche attended Newbridge Junior School and was a definite late developer.  He may have been small, but he was lightening quick, with great acceleration, agility and a bit of trickery.  This made him the perfect offensive player!  He was a fantastic addition to the year group which also included Max O Leary and Zak Vyner who currently play for BCFC.  Whilst Jacques played for Larkhall too, he was unable to attend all of our training sessions owing to many other commitments alongside his school work; music and dance.  It was perhaps this fantastic mix that gave Jacques the skills, confidence and athletic ability that made him stand out from the crowd.  It also highlighted the importance of not specialising too early; it was a practical example for us as coaches that the boys should be encouraged to do as many different things as possible pre-adolescence.

Jacques’ dedication and commitment paid off quickly.  He was chosen from hundreds of hopefuls to play the role of the Artful Dodger in Oliver in the West End.  And boy was he good.  Indeed, it was remarkable how such a young boy could hold an audience and excel whilst showcasing a variety of talents.  He sang, he danced, performed numerous gymnastics moves and acted all at the same time.  Truly incredible, and a real inspiration to us all.

But what was most impressive was his humility.  Jacques may have been a star in the West End, but he took it all in his stride and with the support of his lovely family, continued giving his all in school and on the sports field.  No easy feat when one considers that he was leaving school early and travelling continuously up and down from London, sometimes returning at 0200 in the morning after a show.  Jacques remained the polite and thoughtful young man we came to know, and even agreed to do school assemblies to inspire others to work hard for their dreams.

Jaques has just completed his run on the West End starring in Jason in Saving Jason (Park Theatre) Previous credits include; Bugsy Malone (Lyric Hammersmith); Bugsy Malone(Lyric Hammersmith); Isaac Tallentire in The Hired Man (NYMT, Nikolai Foster); Brett in 13 The Musical (NYMT); The Artful Dodger in Oliver! the Musical (Cameron Mackintosh ltd); Chip in Beauty and the Beast (UK Productions); Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol (The Royal Northern Ballet Company). Television:Daniel in The Revolting World Of Stanley Brown (Retort Productions).  We are sure the journey has lots of twists and turns yet.

you can follow Jacque on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jacques_miche

West End Star Packs A Punch At Bath Theatre School Master Class

 

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‘Baby Ben’ returns to Bath Schools

Former player Ben Griffiths has joined the coaching ranks of Bath & Wiltshire Boys.

Nicknamed ‘Baby Ben’ owing to his small stature and young looks, Ben has now graduated from University and is embarking on as a career as a teacher.  Still living in Frome, Ben has agreed to take one of the teams alongside his playing commitment for Frome Town FC.  Ben has had a lot of experience already and had the full experience as a kid growing up.  He joined Bristol City from Bath Schools and then went to Southampton FC for their U18 programme at the Bath Centre.  When the centre amalgamated with Yeovil Town FC, Ben played for Yeovil Town before pursuing a more academic route at Hartpury.

No longer Baby Ben, we are delighted that ‘grown-up Ben’ will now share his experience with the younger boys in the programme, we are sure the kids will love having him as one of the coaches.  Ben’s appointment also helps complete the cycle, whereby ex-players reengage in some way with the organisation.  Ben also joins Alex Harrison who has coached with Bath Schools for over a year now having played himself almost 10 years ago.  Welcome back Ben!

 

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October 2020 Match reports

Bath and Wiltshire Boys vs Gloucester Schools u10s team

 The game started off with some quick passing to peoples feet and good pressing forward when we lost the ball. It was fast paced and there was lots of movement up and down the pitch. Early in the first quarter, BWB surprised Gloucester with a quick early goal and a nice assist from midfield, but they were quite strong and equalised 1-1.  

Defence played very well and got in the way of the Gloucester attackers with some good tackles, moving the ball out from their feet to the midfielders. Our goalkeeper made some great saves and firm passes back out to the defence. Gloucester had lots of shots on goal, but BWB were always running back to help defend. A few minutes into the second quarter, Will slotted the ball into the corner of the net from an awesome assist. By half time, the score was 2-1. 

Throughout the second half of the game, we kept the ball forward, stopping any attacks from Gloucester. During the third quarter, Gloucester got a lucky goal. The ball was switching between sides quickly, as it was nearing the end of the match. In the last few minutes of the game, the ball was passed to the midfielders from the defence, who brought it up near the goal. They shot, but it rebounded off Gloucester’s goalies hands. Luckily, Harvey backed up the attack and put himself in a perfect position to score. The final score was BWB 3-2 Gloucester. 

Charlie McDonald

 

Bath and Wiltshire Boys vs Bristol Inner City u11s team

On Monday 12th October the U11’s played against Bristol Inner City. We took the lead early on and had most of the possession but two attacks and two goals from Bristol meant we were 2-1 down. We dominated the rest of the match, scoring 5 goals and making the score 6-2 at the final whistle. The person I think played especially well was Alfie K because he was always getting behind the defenders and making space. I think the team improved on our passing and stretching the opposition by playing wide, which made gaps to attack.

Alfie Walker

Bath and Wiltshire Boys vs Bournemouth hampions

On Saturday the 8th of February 2020 BWB played a football match against Bournemouth champions. The boys played a great game in the bitter weather but unfortunately lost.

The first quarter the boys tried to go up and attack, but Bournemouth champions won possession and counter attacked following up with a great goal to put them 1-0 up. The boys did not get disheartened instead quickly took the ball up to the halfway line and kicked off again and managed to get the ball into the opposition’s half but got tackled inside the penalty area by Bournemouth. Bournemouth countered and out skilled BWB’s defence and scored again. 2-0 Bournemouth champions kept getting the ball into the opponent’s half but could not finish and near the end of the quarter we had a brilliant chance to score but the ball went over the bar and went out for a goal kick.

At the first quarter break the coaches changed the teams around and BWB got ready to kick off the second quarter. BWB passed the ball into the attacking half but could not get past the Bournemouth champions backline of defence. We had a couple of good chances and brilliant passes but BWB still could not score. The ball went out for a lot of throws and the boys defended them well. It was a pretty even game even though we were losing 2-0 until finally the ball went out for a corner and both the defence went up to get a short corner but the right winger chose to whip it into the box and unfortunately Bournemouth champions won possession and counter attacked to score and make it 3-0.In the 3rd quarter break BWB wanted to try and pass more and the coaches told the team to run more to win the ball back so the BWB boys went back out onto the pitch and ran loads trying to win the ball back and when they did the team won the ball back and tried to pass out wide and they succeeded a couple of times but could not find the back of Bournemouth champions net. Eventually BWB passed out wide and the winger got the ball and struck it to the top corner to make it 3-1 to Bournemouth. After that goal BWB got inspired but Bournemouth champions managed to pass the ball out wide and the BWB midfielder did a bad foul on Bournemouth and they got a free kick. The opposition’s winger booted the ball into the box and scored in the bottom corner to make it 4-1 to Bournemouth.

It was the final break before the 4th quarter and again the coaches changed the teams. BWB wanted to make a change to the first three quarters and try and win the game. The final quarter kicked off and Bournemouth started. They started passing the ball and going on attacks, but they couldn’t get the ball past the BWB backline. Every time the BWB boys lost the ball they sprinted hard to win it back and when they won possession BWB would pass the ball out wide again and again, but we just could not get it passed their keeper. The Bournemouth side had a couple of shots but our keeper handled them well and played them out to the  left wing backs who played the ball down the line to the left wing who had a shot and hoofed the ball into the top left corner to make it 4-2 to Bournemouth. BWB got a bit too confident with a corner so the defence agreed for one defender to go up to receive a short corner and one to stay back. The right wing chose to whip the ball into the box but the Bournemouth keeper snapped out and grabbed the ball then kicked the ball up the pitch towards the two Bournemouth strikers to make it a two on one then the Bournemouth players passed to each other than slotted the ball home to make it 5-2 Bournemouth. In the last ten minutes BWB played the ball out wide and won a free kick from a bad foul by Bournemouth. The defender slotted the ball into the box for the striker who scored so the score was. 5-3 A bit later after both teams had lots of shots, passed a lot and had some corners but eventually the final whistle blew.

Reggie Johnson

 

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Online with World Champion Freestyler Patrick

Whilst Shane enjoyed a night off, Patrick from Freiburg in Germany put the boys through their paces with a freestyle session.  The new lockdown has meant that training has once again halted, but fortunately Patrick jumped at the chance to help out the Smurfs by agreeing to run some online sessions for a few weeks.  Initial tricks included around the worlds and different ways to flick up and catch the ball.

Boys did really well and we plan to run the session again next Monday.  Thanks Patrick…and wake up Shane!

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Online Training

Bath Schools would like to congratulate Patrick Bäurer on achieving one of his life’s dreams.  In August, Patrick achieved the most sit down football (soccer) crossovers in one minute (male) – 118.  Patrick from Baden-Württemberg, Germany helped the Bath & Wilts boys with various freestyle activities during the first Corona period.  The sessions were very popular and we hope Patrick can enthuse the boys once again now with the new lockdown. The boys have a session with Patrick every Monday at 17:30. Here is Patrick in action:

 

 

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Ross County sign Jordan Tillson from Exeter

Ross County have signed ex-Bath Schools Player Jordan Tillson from League Two side Exeter, pending international clearance.  The 26-year-old midfielder departs the Grecians having been a lengthy servant at St James’s Park, playing for the club since 2012. He has made 136 appearances but now he has opted for a move to the Highlands.

During his time at Exeter, Tillson almost helped them into League One. They were denied that feat by Blackpool in the 2016/17 play-off final. This season though, Tillson’s only made seven appearances in all competitions.

The new County man has cited his reasons for joining the Staggies. He says that they are a club with a positive future and that he can’t wait to get involved in SPFL action. Pending international clearance, he could make his debut away to Ayr United in the Scottish Cup this weekend.  Tillson said: “It’s a club on the way up. It’s been sold to me in a really good way and everyone seems really friendly. Coming from a club like that, it’s been really easy for me to settle into. I want to play as many games as I can for the club.”

County co-managers Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell told the club website: “We are delighted to bring in somebody like Jordan, who, at 26, has had great experience in English Football.

“He came to us very well recommended and we really look forward to him joining up with the group and becoming part of our club.”

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Max handed new contract by BCFC

BRISTOL CITY have announced that ex Bath Schools lad Max O’Leary has signed a new three-year contract – with a one-year option – which ties him to the Championship club until 2023.  Although uncapped at international level, the 23-year-old goalkeeper was called up to train with the Republic of Ireland squad last year by previous manager Mick McCarthy. O’Leary was born in England but qualifies to represent Ireland through his grandfather, who hails from Kerry. “I’m really happy, over the moon,” he said of his new deal. “It’s something I’ve really wanted. I’ll continue my career here and to know I have that stability is really good.” While he’s currently Bristol City’s second-choice goalkeeper, Max is regarded highly at a club he’s been with since the age of 10. In 2018-19, he played 15 times during a Championship season that culminated with Bristol City narrowly missing out on the play-offs.

He accumulated more experience of competitive senior football last season while on loan at League One club Shrewsbury Town, for whom he made 34 appearances.  He has played in both of Bristol City’s recent games in the Carabao Cup and showed up well during last week’s clash with Aston Villa, despite the 3-0 defeat.  Bristol City manager Dean Holden said: “I’m delighted for Max, who is a great professional on and off the pitch. He’s still young, he’s still learning and you can see the hunger and the drive that he has in training every single day.  “He has benefitted from his loan spells in recent years, he’s fully deserving of his new contract and I’m really excited for his future.”  Along with Reading, Bristol City are the early pace-setters in the Championship for the 2020-21 campaign after taking maximum points from their three games so far.

We wish Max the best of luck for the next 3 years in Bristol!

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Zak is seizing his opportunities

Former Bath Schools boy Zak has at last been given a chance to show his worth at BCFC.  Here is a recent interview with him with James Crawley

Written by James Crawley 01:10:20

Zak Vyner says regular game time is proving a massive benefit to himself and other young players in the City squad.

Vyner, who has played in all five of City’s games in both the Sky Bet Championship and Carabao Cup this season, featured in the 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa and he is now looking ahead to bouncing back against Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday.

He said: “We look forward to the league and to keeping that league run going and putting in a good performance over Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday.

“We’re getting consistent game time now. Me, Tayls (Taylor Moore), Tyreeq (Bakinson), Antoine (Semenyo) and the other young lads are showing we can do it. We’re getting the chances game after game, it’s a big thing and to get the experience and consistency into our game you need games.

“We’re taking it with both hands and we’re looking forward to the next one whenever it comes.”

Vyner was talking in his post-match interview, in the aftermath of the Carabao Cup exit on Thursday evening. Anwar El Ghazi, Bertrand Traoré and Ollie Watkins fired the Villains into the fourth round and Vyner admitted the fixture was City’s toughest challenge yet.

He added: “I think they were a bit more clinical than us. It’s not nice to go out or lose any game. We wanted to win, to challenge and we knew they were a good team. The two goals in quick succession didn’t help and then we went a bit gung ho to chase the game they showed their class in punishing us at the end. The boys dug deep and the best thing about football is we can go again on Sunday.

“That was a big test today, they had a good team out with good quality players, we dealt with it at times, at others we needed to control it a bit better, but it was definitely our biggest test of the season so far.”

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Adventure of a Lifetime – Chapter 4

written by T Kirk, Nov 2020

Breakfast at the side of the beach was a definite daily highlight, the strong waves pushing against the fishing nets, the lively hubbub of people hoping for a day’s good trading, and the sun bright but caressing rather than beating at this time of day.  We were up fairly early as we were due to take part in a congregation at the school next to the pitch we were helping to build.  We dressed in clean white shirts, some even braving trousers and made our way.  I doubt we will ever forget the scenes whilst walking through the village.  Most lived in small huts with no access to running water.  It was not uncommon to see children washing from huge dishes, nor to see people carrying as if by magic huge buckets of water delicately placed on their heads.  Babies, toddlers and children alike played absentmindedly in the street with whatever would come to hand: used bike tyres, sticks, plastic bottles. On almost every building was sketched a religious image or quote proliferating the mantra of god. It seemed religion played an important function in people’s lives in Kokrobite, but more important was a sense of duty to the family.  Everyone had a role to play to ensure that the day’s basic needs were fulfilled.  Indeed, it amazed us all how happy everyone seemed, I have never seen such vibrant and honest smiles.  Yet, our perception was that they had so little.  And here was one of our first grave errors.  In our arrogance and naivety we seemed to have adopted the belief that we, having more opportunity, more possessions and material wealth, were in some way, dare I say it ‘better’ than those smiling back at us with wide eyes.  This was wrong.  It was a lesson we hoped the boys would someday really come to understand.  Firstly, what gave us the right to judge others when we ourselves walk imperfectly?  And more importantly, the concept of happiness is surely not about getting everything you want, but more about enjoying and making the most of what you have.  For at the end of the day, whether it be in Africa or in Europe, the same things are important: family, friends, daily sustenance. Perhaps the people in the village saw this more clearly than we did.

By the time we arrived at the congregation the heat of the day was already challenging.  I was amazed at how elegant and smartly dressed everyone was.  We were, in fact, underdressed for the occasion and I admit to being slightly embarrassed and hoped that we would not offend the Pastor.  However, we were shown a warm welcome and guided towards a section of seats.  Not that we needed them, for as soon as we had taken our places we became part of a truly extraordinary service that had the boys clapping, swinging (but thankfully not singing) and exchanging animated looks whilst the congregation sang and danced between snippets of sermon.  What we had not bargained for was the length of the service.  It was becoming clear that some of the boys, in particular Hugh and Archie, were becoming rather drained, their smiles withering and the faces becoming more pale by the second.  The bottles of water we had brought with us had long been eagerly guzzled and I puzzled how we might make a respectful exit before the boys collapsed into a sweaty heap.  Certainly, the thought of a bucket shower was like a mirage in the desert.  Thankfully, the answer came in the form of Jane who had also noticed that we were flagging, so a hastily arranged handing over of bountiful donations enabled us to wander back to Big Millies and refresh before preparing for our first game of the trip!

We were to play on the old pitch in the village.  Upon arrival, it appeared that half of the village had come to see the Oburoni, the name given to white visitors in Ghana.  They gathered around all sides of the pitch and there was a definite vibe of anticipation and festivity.  Me being me, the first thing I frowned upon was the thought that the white shorts would never be white again: the brown dust mixed with sweat was to cajole into a clay like substance that would accompany us for the whole trip.  The players concerned themselves more with some areas of the pitch that seemed to disappear amongst high grass.  And was that a chicken? This should have been no surprise as chickens seemed to be everywhere.  And we should be reassured.  If there was a chicken around, then there was definitely no snakes!  However, it all seemed to add to the experience.  This was Africa after all, this is what we had come for, this was a challenge that few 12/13 year old boys from England would ever experience.

I cannot remember the end result, as usual such things become irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  What is memorable is the hilarity of our boys trying to play their typical possession based game on a surface that was as far away from the flat and reliable astro turf of Odd Down as could be possible.  The ball bobbled, bounced, flew in all directions and even disappeared occasionally in a bush – I even think we lost Archie at some point as he went to take a corner lol.  The Ghanaian boys had no trouble however, their touch sublime and dribbling begging belief in such difficult conditions.  Pressing was also a no-go.  In fact running around at all was in my view out of the question; it was hard enough standing on the side line and moving the odd limb in support, let alone racing around the field trying to catch 11 ‘Boatengs’!  Nevertheless, the boys had a great time, their smiles clearly beaming past their dishevelled and filthy appearance (the poor white shorts…).  After the game, the boys felt like superstars.  Everyone wanted to talk to them, to have photos with them, to touch them and be part of the festivity.  Thinking of ‘happiness’, well this was it, and it was another example of the power of football to bring people together.

We sent the boys into the sea to cool off before trekking to the Learning centre for dinner.  Here there was also much to be done.  Jane has some lovely ladies who help her to prepare much of the food, but we were keen to give the boys as much as responsibility as possible.  Whilst their culinary skills may not have improved a great deal, their ability to wash up and eat spicy food certainly did.  Of course, there was some apprehension at first to eat some of the dishes that looked and smelled a little different (I think Sam was hoping for pie and chips of some form), but in the end hunger took over and most plates were returned licked clean.  Jollof rice was to become a favourite dish for the week, one of the best activities was trying to find meat on the chicken lol!  Once again, we watched the stars and listened to the unusual night sounds, whilst also being wary of showing any flesh in case the mosquitoes fancied a meal of their own at our expense!  Fortunately, they seemed to enjoy the sweetened flesh of the accompanying parents more than that of the boys!

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Adventure of a lifetime – Chapter 3

African soil

Written by T Kirk Nov 2020

Just one glance at Shane confirmed that he too had found sleep evasive.  Despite being on African soil for less than 12 hours, we both had dark eyes and drawn expressions, as much owing to the boys’ snoring orchestra than anything else.  However, once up, we made ready to have breakfast at the seafront.  Sitting 15 m behind a number of fishing boats we had the best view of the comings and goings of the locals.  Jane explained that the work for the day was almost done and that the boats were steadily coming in with their haul.  Even the children had been since 05:00am cleaning, preparing the day’s food and getting ready for school.  It seemed rather strange to be sitting there awaiting breakfast to be served as people either heaved at ropes dragging huge nets in from the sea, or they prepared some stall selling fish, nuts, pineapple and some type of egg that I vowed never to touch let alone eat!  The boys ordered mostly toast and cereal, although the toast went down far better than the cereal owing to the milk tasting rather odd.  We had to explain that a lack of cows in Ghana meant that dairy products were difficult to come by – I think the milk was powdered, but needless to say we had to have our first ‘talk’ on not finishing meals particularly when there were children just metres away on the street feeling rather hungry.

 

The first task of the day was to visit the Chief of the village.  Martial explained that this was a rather important and formal affair, and that there were certain customs that needed to be observed.  If he gave us his blessing then we would be allowed to wander the village, if not…well, Martial explained that walking around the village might not be as ‘leisurely’.   Now we were nervous!  We should not have worried, the Chief and the elders were very nice and made a friendly speech translated by Martial.  He then offered myself and Fin some form of liquid.  It smelt rather petrol like so thankfully we did not to drink it (not sure what it might have done to Fin, who is already rather lively and adventurous!).  We merely threw it on the floor before us and made some chants.

By this time the sun was beginning to stretch its arms, Shane being on sun cream duty frantically went round pasting pale limbs and faces (to which there were many).  He must have forgotten his own face as his nose was soon a raging red colour, the sort that makes you grimace when looking at it.

The area that was to be converted into a football pitch had already been cleared of trees and bushes using diggers.  Apparently they had found all sorts of reptiles, the reminisce of which we still sometimes to be found amongst the dust, the occasional shriek from the boys a clear sign that a snake’s head or something similar had been found.  There also seemed to be a lot of plastic bags. Some of the boys thought collecting the bags might be an easier task than trying to unearth stones sunken in the cement-like earth, but their attitudes soon changed when they discovered that the bags contained more likely than not…someone’s faeces – definitely a polaroid moment.  However, the boys and the small group of parents who had accompanied us on the trip did a grand job of clearing rocks, roots, rubbish and stones.  At this point enthusiasm was still high and it felt good to get our hands dirty at last.  Here the boys could very much picture what was to be achieved, but we only had 6 days to do it before the tournament on Friday.

 

I never thought tipping a bucket of cloudy water from a well over myself could be so satisfying.  But that is the pleasure in which we revelled before getting ready for dinner at Big Millies.  As this was the location of the previous night’s party, I think the boys were hoping (and perhaps more so the parents) that the revelry was perhaps a nightly occurrence.  And so indeed it proved to be.  Once again the loud African drumming, which was ever present day and night, provided the background to a relaxing and exhilarating evening in which we first took stock of where we were.  The boys played table tennis and drank cola just like at home, but every breath, every sniff and every glance to either side confirmed that this was nothing like home.

DCIM104MEDIA

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Adventure of a lifetime – Chapter 2

this is actually happening…

written by T Kirk Nov 2020

An exciting, warm and strangely scented air enveloped us as soon as the doors to the aircraft opened.  It was already 22:00 and very dark, but still the humidity was overpowering.  We made our way through the usual customs and temperature scanning checks, assembled the mountain of luggage we had brought with us, and then descended the treacherous ramps leading from the luggage hall to the arrivals area; it is no exaggeration that I have negotiated black ski slopes less precarious than this walkway.  Certainly, it provided the first skip of a heartbeat as 16 excited boys hurtled at great speed with overloaded trollies towards a melee of people awaiting the arrivals. How no one was injured I will never know!

Thankfully Martial and his team of workers were there to steer us through the market-type hustle and bustle of the arrivals lounge and we climbed upon the coach for the hour long journey to Kokrobite. Jane was waiting on the bus and plied us full of local delicacies and more importantly water!  I remember Jane enthusiastically explaining what was no doubt very important and useful information, but it was all a bit of a blur and I cannot say I processed much of what was said – I was worse than the boys!  Young and old eyes stared hungrily out of the window keen to take in as much as possible from this new and mysterious land about which we had heard so much.

Evident was that driving in Ghana is akin to white water rafting, just without the water. Whilst trying to avoid gaping holes in the road, cars were continuously hooting their horns, diving into gaps not even Lewis Hamilton would have seen and when miraculously everyone obeyed the traffic lights and things came to a standstill, we were descended upon by countless locals selling anything from food and drink to sports equipment and car parts!   This is when Jane came into her element.  As she dismissed the hawkers, the boys were in no doubt that Queen Jane was now the boss!

By the time we arrived in Kokrobite, I think we were all starting to feel the effects of the day’s efforts.  I hoped we could unload and get to bed as soon as possible so we could wake fresh for the morning.  As I was soon to quickly learn, time has another interpretation in Ghana so my naïve optimism of a quick shower and bed soon evaporated.  After some time we acquired half a dozen taxis for the 200m journey from the main road to the accommodation. The side road was both too small and had craters so big one could only imagine a battle of enormous significance had taken place here, it would have been impossible for the coach to venture any further.  The taxis were not the black cabs of London you may be imagining.  I think we were too tired to care, but it was noticeable that in some there were holes in the floor reminiscent of how Fred Flintstone would propel his car forward with his feet, spider web cracks artistically spread across the windows, and one taxi even had a door missing!  Luggage was crammed into every crevice of the vehicles as well as on top and we suddenly found ourselves shaken and stirred at the entrance of Big Millies where there was evidently a big event taking place.  Unfortunately, the loud drumming and impressive dancing were not for our benefit and we had to cajole quite forcefully some of the boys away from the party goers and towards what would be our residence for the week.

The house in which we would sleep had two floors and one bathroom.  Bunk beds were stacked in every corner and mattresses lay in every other space, interspersed with giant fans trying to disperse the warm air around the room.  It was quite tricky finding space for all the luggage but somehow we managed.  More of a worry was the bathroom arrangement.  There was a solitary toilet and we were told that flushing anything that does not come out of your body was forbidden.  I cannot even begin to describe the assault on all senses upon entering the room after just 30 minutes of arrival!  Worst still, the shower was attached to the wall next to the basin and close to the toilet meaning anyone using it would drench the entire room and everything in it.  We decided it might be best to do it the African way and pour water over our heads outside from water collected from the well – the bucket shower became a rare treat.

And so the first night in Africa ended with a light refreshment at the bar, the boys bewildered by the new sounds of the live African drumming group, the staff trying to remain as still as possible to keep the heightened levels of perspiration at bay.

Posted in BWB

Royals take on Matthew and Toby full time

 

Matthew Goulding and Toby Mawer have committed their immediate future to Reading FC.  The two under 15 youngsters had spent many years playing for Bath & West Wiltshire and have now decided that moving to Reading is the next step for their progression.

They have now joined the club’s partner school and are staying together with a host family, an experience they are currently very much enjoying.  Matthew made his debut recently for the under 16s against Leicester, whilst Toby is playing for the under 15s in his usual position between the posts.

Here Matthew reflects on his new life in reading:

How did you find moving away from home?
I found moving away from my family very easy because I really want to do everything i can to become a professional footballer, so there was no question. And I am so glad I did decide to go. I was injured on the 21st October 2019 with a fractured foot therefore I hadn’t been with the boys in a long time so I went into this new lifestyle virtually alone. But for me there is only two things that matter; performing the best on the pitch and performing the best in the classroom. It is very difficult and I have to admit that without your parents it is difficult because they are not there to remind you to do your homework or anything; you are on your own, you are independent, you have to do things and remember things because no one else is going to do it for you.

I have had 2 host families in Reading so far. My first host family was very nice and I stayed there on my own. The food was very good and I was being treated well. I am now with a second family becuase i am together with fellow Bath & Wilts player Toby Mawer. He is a very good keeper and even better friend. He had been at this host family for a while so he helped me settle in very quickly. We do our homework together and we help out each other with organisation, school stuff and everything really.  The host families are welcoming and friendly. They want you to be as comfortable as you would be at home and the club check up on how things are which is good. We have no complaints at all because you get treated better then you get treated at home haha!

What is the training like?
At Reading we train Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during school. We have 1 lesson, then the mini-bus picks us up and we travel to training. After training we get the buses back to school where we have a last lesson. And depending on the day we have a lesson after everyone goes home to catch up. In this catch up lesson we do Sports Studies, English or Geography, 3 times a week for an hour. Tuesday’s training session is normally a lighter session as we are preparing for training during the week and we slowly build it up. The quality is always high though. Wednesday and Thursday are very intensive. And on Friday it is a very technical and specific training session preparing for the game at the weekend. As well as training through the day on Tuesday and Thursday, we also train in the evening for 2 hours. This session normally consists of a game and passing patterns.

What goals have you set yourself with your new life in Reading?
At the beginning of the season I set 2 goals for myself to achieve before the end of the season. 1 was to play up for the U16s 3 times. And on the 31st October I played my third game for the u16s. But I realise that I can’t be overly pleased as there is still much more work to be done. My other goal for this season was to score 2 goals for the team. I haven’t scored for Reading yet so watch this space. Dominating my opponent and not conceding, is a goal to achieve every game automatically for me. As I have already completed my goal of playing up with the 16s 3 times this season. My next goal is to train with the 18s this season at least once.

How do you find the enw school?
I found moving schools quite easy. Yes I was leaving friends. Yes I was going to the unknown. But this was an exciting new start. This was a chance to make new friends and make new memories. It’s good that I can have a laugh and joke. But I always have to be careful because I am representing Reading football club and anyone can be watching.  Furthermore, I know there are kids at Forest (my new school) who want to play for Reading and so I do not want to ruin the opportunity i have been given. Lessons at Forest are 100 minutes so that was a shock to the system for me and seem very long. However, now that I am used to it I much prefer it as on a non-training day I only have 3 lessons. The school teachers are always checking up on me and making sure I am alright.

How is the Games Programme?
Game day is by far the best day of the week whether playing at home or away, in the cold or hot, in the rain or sun, no matter what it’s the best day. If it’s an away game we will travel together on the bus to the training ground for the game and we will have someone on the speaker playing the songs to prepare us for the game. For me as a defender, playing football is going to war, I have to prepare mentally to not let anyone past, to put everything on the line. ANYTHING TO WIN.

We arrive at the changing rooms and we get handed kit with position specific numbers. We wear our training tops out to warm up in and leave our numbers in the dugout. Our warm up takes place an hour before kick off with our sports scientist and then in with our coach for the last 30 minutes playing a possession type game. After the game we head back to the changing rooms as a team and get dressed and get back on the coach. Depending on the score or how you played, creates the atmosphere on the coach. But we never dwell on it for too long as we got training the next day and analysis.

Can you give your younger BWBs any advice?
You never lose. You either win or learn.

Everyone at BWB wishes Matthew and Toby the very best.

Posted in BWB

Adventure of a lifetime – a look back at Ghana 2015

Chapter 1 – from seed, to sapling, to bloom

August 2015.  It is typical English late summer’s day, the sun is warm but not overbearing and there is a crispness to the air that hints at autumn’s awakening.  There is nothing unusual about the café in a bustling shopping village, but the conversation between myself and Jane Z was nothing but unusual.  Since meeting Jane a few years before at a school where we were both employed, Jane had cleverly spiked my creative nature for an adventure I then could have never have imagined.  Similar to the manner in which a Netflix series grips you and you are left eagerly awaiting the next episode, so had Jane awakened a curiosity in me that I was finding difficult to ignore.  Indeed, her tales of a sun drenched fishing village in Ghana with wild snakes, crocodile infested waters in lush forests, strange spicy dishes and a city with disturbing slaving trade history had sent my imagination into overload.  And so, much to my colleague Shane’s dismay, out came the black book and that evening I wrote feverishly an endless list of uninhibited possibilities.  I had renamed Jane Queen of the jungle, and together we started to throw some balls in the air.

It was not long before I realised what a unique opportunity lay before us.  Bath & Wiltshire Boys’ FA had been founded in 2003 with the intention to develop 4 values through the medium of sport: Responsibility, Resilience, Compassion, Curiosity.  What better way could there be of nurturing the values by embarking on a project that would allow  a group of 12/13 year olds the opportunity to find out more about themselves and the world than they could possibly imagine.  What better way to showcase and develop the four values? What better way to show them a contrast to the ‘me, myself and I’ culture that has enveloped generation Z and the generation before it?

And so there it was.  Untidy scribblings on 18 pages in a small black book of ideas that I had no idea how to bring to fruition.  All I knew was that it must happen.  Jane and her husband Martial suggested we explore the wild idea of building a football pitch in the heart of the village currently occupied by what can only be described as a small jungle!  It was outrageous, it was ambitious, it was brave, but it was a way to make a real difference, so we had to find a way.

Numerous phone calls and emails with Jane followed and then it was time to overcome the first challenge, the parents.  I pretty much knew the boys would jump at the opportunity.  We had taken them already across Europe and they had grown into a very tight-knit and capable group of young people.  This trip was exactly what they needed before delving into the depths of teenage-hood.  Until then the parents had supported every endeavour with open arms so I had no reason to believe they would baulk at the venture, but this was different.  This was Africa.  Completely different culture, different climate, different peoples….different.  I need not have worried.  The parents thought it was a fantastic idea and so the process began.

AIMS

To realise a sense of responsibility, beyond oneself. To explore new depths of compassion and its relevance to one’s personal outlook To build strategies for resilience in pursuit of a goal To value the significance of curiosity to enrich one’s experience

The first task was to organise a fundraising programme and a schedule to prepare the boys through a series of educational seminars in which various tasks had to be completed.  The boys were told to raise the money on their own.  That meant that donations from parents and grandparents were not allowed.  They had to use the four values to raise the money individually and as a group.  I could not have been more proud of them.  Not only did they organise a number of events such as quizzes, race nights and competitions, but each individual embarked also on a personal journey of entrepreneurialism and bloody hard work to achieve the target set.  I believe that they really learned in this time the value of a pound.

BWB Quiz Night A4

The seminars were put together by myself working with Jane from afar.  We created a booklet to accompany the seminars which encouraged the boys to research such topics as malaria, hygiene issues, water issues, the climate and dealing with dehydration.  It was not just useful for the boys – it was an absolute education for me as well!

In order to organise the days in Ghana, we split the boys into groups, each group having the responsibility for organising a particular aspect of the trip:

– Travel and packing list

– Activities & Itinerary

– Accommodation and food requirements

In addition to this, the boys were to design an English and Maths lesson that they would then deliver to a group of children from the Kokrobite Chiltern Centre run by Jane and Martial. Although daunting at first, it was to be for me one of the highlights of the whole experience, and also a lesson.  We should never underestimate the capabilities of young people and their ability to surprise, excel and fly.

I have to confess at not ever being so exhilarated but also apprehensive about a trip before.  I had lost count of the number of tours and trips we had done over the years, but this was on another level.  I could even forgive the parents for feeling nervous about this one.  And so the day finally arrived.  The endless hours of preparation, painful injections and tedious communications to acquire visas were behind us, and there we were with a mountain of luggage ready to board the plane for Ghana via Turkey.  I am not sure Shane would ever forgive me!

Joe debuts for U23s against Sheffield Utd

Former BWB captain Joe Porton made his debut for Bristol City’s U23 team last week.  Playing a strong Sheffield united side, Joe played in his familiar midfield role but could not prevent the Robins losing 4 – 0.  Nevertheless, it was a good experience for the Welsh youth international, and we hope to see him get more chances in the coming future.

Evander is snapped up by Huddersfield Town

Former Bath Schools player Evander Grubb has been signed by Huddersfield Town. Still only 16, Evander Grubb impressed the coaches at Huddersfield Town following his move from Bristol Manor Farm.

The 16-year-old was released by Bristol Rovers last year, but after an impressive start to the season in non-league at The Creek he found his way back into the professional game, earning a two-year scholarship with Championship Huddersfield following a trial.

Evander, from Radstock, made headlines in September after becoming the youngest scorer in the history of the FA Cup, netting a brace for Manor Farm in a 5-1 win over Cadbury Heath in the preliminary round. At 16 years and 54 days old, he beat the previous record by nine days.

Evander was always very slight, but always very lively and creative.  In the Scharr Nations Cup in Stuttgart he managed to take Bayern munich apart 🙂 I am sure he will continue in the same spirit further north.  We wish him all of the best.

Fundraising 2019/20

BWBs Fundraiser for Julian House. Thank you for helping us help others.

To Donate

If you would like to make a donation you can do following this link below: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/phil-s-2-6-challenge-x26

Julian House provides life changing support to over 1,400 vulnerable individuals across the South West, including those suffering from homelessness, women and children escaping domestic abuse and adults with learning difficulties. Alongside our emergency hostel, we also provide supported accommodation and training and education opportunities to help people gain confidence, re-build their lives and fulfil their potential.

Season 2019/20 Trials

Thank you to all for registering and trialling for season 2019/20. The process is never easy, much as we would like to support all players with additional training, our numbers are limited by funding, facility space and coaching staff available. We congratulate successful trialists and would encourage those who didn’t succeed this season to try again … keep enjoying football and we will see you on a touchline we’re sure in the not too distant future.

The U13/14 squad will be finalised wk comm 1 July (probably on Thursday 4th July by email.)

We would reiterate that our programme is FREE of charge, this means that we have to limit numbers of players to coach / facilities available to us.

Sponsors

If your business can support us and what we do please get in touch and email Damian.

Fixtures

If your club would like to arrange fixtures in 2019/20 – please email Damian Hodge and we will get some dates in the diary as an extension to our and your games programme.

Posted in BWB

U10s 2018/19

The following boys were selected to represent the districts in the under 10 age group:

Andrews D Fitzmaurice
Barker A Bathford
Blajek G St John’s RC
Bryant D Steiner Academy
Cole W St Vigor & St John
Derwent L King Edwards
Lemaire O King Edwards
Lewis F Widcombe
Maggs L High Littleton C of E
Nairn T St Vigor & St John
Ponsford B Christchurch BoA
Poole E Westbury Leigh
Sze J King Edwards
Boden J KES
Randall K Widcombe
Richards J Fitzmaurice
Posted in BWB

U9s 2018/19

The following boys were selected to represent the districts in the under 9 age groups

Wright A St Martins Garden
Fisher B Paragon
Pellicci H King Edwards
Hodge T Chew Magna
Smith S Weston All Saints
Franklin Smith D Weston All Saints
Puzey B Newbridge Primary
Gray B KES
Baird A Christchurch School
Mayhew L Freshford
Goulding M Christchurch BoA
Montgomery O The Mead
Posted in BWB