Yesterday, we followed a thin blue line everywhere, but this morning hoodies were discarded as we awoke to – well actually, when we got up it was still dark, but very quickly the sun began to shine, and we began to appreciate the warm Valencia weather. Once we’d awoken – unusually on a foreign trip, most of our children this morning required a morning call after the excitement and busy nature of the previous day. Down to breakfast and the first team effort – doing justice to the huge breakfast banquet spread before us. One of the children was having difficulty with the tongs to serve themselves with a croissant. “Use the grabbers,” came the helpful advice. “Grabbers,” scoffed another. “Use the croissant pickers.” A little more VCOP work required back in Bridgewater when we go back.
Resplendent in our Bridgewater kits, we walked to the Valencia training facilities where we met our coaches for the morning, GiGi, José and Angelo. The children rotated around the three coaches, learning new drills and skills with each of them. Playing in the hot Spanish sun was a new experience but with plenty of water breaks the children did well to impress their Spanish hosts.
Back to the hotel, there was great excitement as we got to experience the cool refreshing waters of the rooftop pool here in the hotel. Parents, you’d have hated it. Honestly, cool refreshing waters overlooking the Valencia training ground, hot sun beating down, everyone having a fabulous time, is not actually as good as it sounds.
Lunch then, another carbo-loaded feast to prepare us for this afternoon’s games. Time for a truly Spanish experience before kick-off: meeting the grumpiest supermarket checkout worker ever. With money to burn and time to kill, we visited a local supermarket to stock up on supplies of everything a player probably shouldn’t eat before kickoff in a crucial tour match. In fairness, thirty-five children passing through her till with large denomination bank notes would have challenged the friendliest of customer service relations.
Back to the hotel, a change into our black tour kits (perfect for the hot Spanish sun) and then off for our first matches on tour. Sadly, our match reports will not be up to the standard of the usual tomes posted by Mr. Altdorf and Mr. Rooney. However, our Bridgewater children did us proud in games against local club sides that have been playing together for far longer than any of our children.
Our U10s were involved in a ding dong battle with their Spanish opponents – in fact, we were trailing after just two minutes, taking time to adjust to the tic-tac passing of the opposition. However, once our own tic-tac game got going our hosts knew they were going to be in for a battle. What a game: Dravid’s brave defensive header that nearly knocked him out, Dexter running his heart out, Matteo and Harper solid in defence, Craig and Alfie creative and tireless in the middle, Jaydon, Josh and Toby running the channels, Luca and Thomas swapping goalkeeping duties, the whole squad contributed in a game that was tied at 5-5, before Jaydon scored from a stunning free kick and Luca with a cheeky backheel to run out 7-5 winners. Alfie with three goals, Luca with two, Jaydon and Craig one each.
Unfortunately, our U12s received a Spanish lesson from their opponents who have been playing regularly together for the last three years. Alfie P stood out on the left, whilst Reis threw in some strong challenges in the midfield. Archie and Owen tried to stem the constant Spanish onslaught, while Oliver A strove to keep the scoreline down with a string of important saves. All the other boys contributed, but it was a tough ask against a more organised and experienced side. The team will be eager to get back on the pitch tomorrow morning to demonstrate how good a British school side can be.
Our girls benefitted from a huge cheerleading section as they ran on to the pitch for their game. With little playing experience together, it was fantastic to see a Bridgewater girls team taking the field in a competitive game abroad. We were not helped by the fact that Freya in goal was injured in the first attack: a super save from a fierce drive sprained her wrist, and she was forced off from the start (as a measure of her resolve, she returned to the field in the second half, even donning the keeper’s gloves again). Once again, our hosts have been playing together for three years, and our girls much less than that, but they did themselves proud: if nothing else, what was a delight to see was the huge enjoyment every girl displayed on their face as they stood up to their opponents. Not talking to each other is not an issue with these girls – they are masters at it. 6-0 down at half time, the girls never gave up, and the biggest cheer of the day (louder than the one Nyla gave herself with her first touch of the game) came when Isabella wove her way through the mustered defence to score Bridgewater’s first. When Lilly twisted her way through the defence and was hacked down in the area, Isabella stepped up to the spot only to see her penalty come down off the cross bar and bounce away to safety. Or so it seemed – but both Mr. Aldorf and Mr. Suter had videoed the penalty and BOTH clearly showed the ball across the line. Shades of Russian linesman in 1966 – but the other way. Undeterred, from a Bridgewater corner, Isabella wrapped her foot around the ball and blasted the ball in the net for her official second but actual third of the game – a Turley double hattrick for the day.
And so back to the hotel, and yet another vast spread of food, and unsurprisingly our children were tired tonight and went to bed fairly early…