Little did we know that the MCFC U11 football tournament on Friday 6th March would, in all likelihood, be the last time the team would compete for Bridgewater Prep. Events around the world have taken a tragic and worrying turn for the worse and have and will continue to have an impact on all aspects of society. Sport is usually one of the ways in which nations and different cultures come together. Political and religious differences and all kinds of boundaries are put to one side. However, even the power of sport can do nothing but watch and wait and prepare for when normality can return once more.
Although in the greater scheme of things school sport would appear somewhat trivial, for those who commit to hours of practice week in week out in readiness for events and competitions, this is as big a loss as any. The U11s have had a fabulous year, becoming the ISA Northern Basketball Champions, collecting five gold medals in the AJIS Indoor Athletics, taking bronze in the Salford Cross Country League and in football, the team were on the brink of even greater success. Having finished runners up in the ISA Northern 5-a-side competition, the team were looking forward to going to the National Finals at St George’s Park in May. Meanwhile, the team were in the semi-finals of both the ISA and the AJIS Cups.
With 20 schools taking part in the MCFC tournament, this was going to be an excellent opportunity to have a run out before the matches that lay ahead. Bridgewater had a tough group to navigate if they were going to go through to the knock-out rounds. Up first was Forrest Park and Bridgewater took charge of the game very early on. George was rarely troubled in goal and Harper and Craig were in control of every situation in a defensive capacity. Matteo dominated the midfield and ensured the team retained and turned over possession frequently. David caused problems for the opposition back line, whilst Josh and Regan provided threats from out wide. Jackson, Jaydon and Thomas came on to add more energy to the team as the game wore on, but Bridgewater were never under any threat and collected the first win of the group. A 5-0 win with Regan, Josh (2) and man of the match Matteo (2) was no more than the team deserved.
In the next game, a much tougher opponent lay in wait, Altrincham Grammar School. Both teams went for the win that would boost hopes of qualifying further and either team could have won the match. Bhargav made his debut in the Bridgewater goal and made a vital save early on. In the end, a long throw from Matteo was volleyed home superbly by Harper. The 1-0 win eased the pressure on needing a big result in the following game against St Ambrose. The game followed a similar pattern to the Altrincham game and was another tense affair. Bhargav was once more outstanding in goal and Craig was a rock at the heart of the defence. With time running out and both teams looking to bank a vital point, Harper strode forward and hit a rocket into the top of the opposition net. Another 1-0 win meant a point in the final game would be enough to win the group and qualify for the quarterfinals.
In the fourth and final game of the group, Terra Nova went after Bridgewater from the kick-off to try and top the group. George resumed keeper duties and made several key saves, whilst at the other end, Regan, Josh and David had chances to win the game. With Alfie missing for the tournament, Matteo was outstanding in midfield, but he was visibly tiring as the game concluded in a 0-0 draw. Bridgewater had finished top of the group, but the effort it had taken took its toll in the quarter-final against Manchester Grammar. The team conceded an early goal to their illustrious counterparts and try as they might could not get back in the tie. In the end, Manchester Grammar progressed to the semi-finals with a 2-0 win over a valiant Bridgewater team.
If this is to be the last time the team play together for Bridgewater Prep, they can console themselves with the thought that their achievements this year are already ones to be proud of. We can only hope that there will be some cricket, rounders, tennis and athletics to come before the academic year comes to an end. If not, I hope to see the team play in Year 7 as their journey is just beginning. Perhaps the words of a famous football song is now more appropriate than ever for us all and I can safely say to Bridgewater sports lovers of all abilities: “You will never walk alone.”