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Westlake Boys' High School UK and Spain Football Tour Blog - April 2014

Written by Jamie Wansey on May 14th, 2014.      0 comments

Posted on April 16, 2014

Welcome to the WBHS Football Blog, as we embark on our UK and Spain Tour, this blog has been created for families of our players to keep in touch with where we are going and what we will be doing.

The blog will be updated regularly as we travel though Manchester, London, Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.

Posted on April 22, 2014
Sunday 20th April

After thirty hours on a plane the group arrived at Manchester airport on an overcast, windy Manchester day.
We met our ground handler Keiran and our bus driver Anthony who are both great guys whose thick Scottish and Mancunian accents were immediate talking points for the boys. We headed directly to the ‘theatre of dreams’ Old Trafford for our stadium tour. After a quick browse through the museum our tour guide Alan walked and talked us through the history of the club and the stadium. This included visiting the press room, home changing room, players hospitality suite, players entrance tunnel and of course the stadium and pitch itself. The Everton Man Utd match was playing on several big screen TV’s throughout the ground…but there wasn’t a lot of celebrating going on as Everton won 2-0. The next day news broke of David Moyes’ sacking. The boys enjoyed lots of photo opportunities, Sean Crombie and Mitch Watts posing with a replica Champions League trophy. Ninety minutes passed quickly and it was soon time to head to our hotel and check in. It was an early night for all after a long first day and our busiest day of the tour awaiting us on the morrow.

Posted on April 22, 2014
Monday 21st April

The team awoke to a warm and sunny day with the promise of a 19 degree high. After a hearty cooked breakfast, where some players tried black pudding for the first (and for some the last) time, we headed for the Man city academy training centre at Platt Lane. The boys were separated into senior and junior training groups before being trained by academy coaches Mike and Ralph (who at 62 beat all our boys in a press up competition). Both groups got to train in the indoor dome facility and on the outdoor synthetic pitch. The senior team then took to the pitch at midday, taking on an under 18 team from Ireland, Drimnagh Celtic FC from Galway, who were on their way to London for a tournament.

Match Reports
Senior team: Cassidy/Naylor, Benbow, Nimmo, Dixon, Watts, Brotherton, kettle, Crombie, Ramsay, Hagan, Skeens, Curran, Jessup, Southey, Lough.

Westlake started on the front foot and were soon dominating possession and playing some nice football. Their opponents were physical and full of running but lacked Westlake’s technical prowess. After several half chances were spurned Westlake took the lead in the tenth minute when Sam Brotherton received the ball outside the box and smashed an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner of the net. It was a lead that was well deserved but unfortunately it was short lived. A hopeful long ball was not dealt with by the Westlake defence and Drimnagh’s striker (and best player) finished with a sweet volley. Westlake responded well and had the opposition pinned in their defensive third for most of the remaining 15 minutes of the first half. However against the run of play Drimnagh took the lead when another long ball split Westlake’s defence and was converted by the Drimnagh front man with ease. Half time WBHS 1 Drimnagh Celtic 2

Westlake began the second half with the bench being cleared, Curran, Cassidy, Jessup and Lough all getting their boarding passes. Some early pressure resulted in Kettle scoring from close range after Crombie had hit the post. Watts then had to make a brave and crucial tackle as the WBHS defence was again breached by a searching long ball. The game was opening up as both sides tired but it was Westlake who were looking more dangerous with Currans pace and tenacity worrying the Irish back four. Good chances fell to Benbow and Crombie but both fired wide before Curran found space on the right and crossed accurately for Benbow to head home, giving his team the lead again. Curran then underlined an impressive performance by playing a one two with Benbow before smashing a shot into the top corner of the goal from 18 yards. Full time WBHS 4 Drimnagh Celtic 2.

Junior Team: Shazell/Rogers, Booth, Baker, Reeves-Parmenter, Mcstay, Lough, Pirie, Bhagaloo, Skeens, Blackmore, Acarapi, Diprose, Van Orton, Nimmo, Ramsay.

With three players backing up from half a game with the senior team, the junior team faced a stern test in the form of the Oldham Athletic U15/16 academy team who had beaten their man City counterparts 4-0 the week before. Westlake were on the back foot from the first whistle against a far more experienced opponents who leapt out to 3-0 lead within the first 15 minutes. The juniors battled on bravely but could not stop Oldham from adding to their lead and the final score was 10-0. Despite the heavy defeat the Westlake team had represented the school well and stuck to their passing style of play.
Next it was a trip to the Etihad stadium to watch the home team play West Brom in a must win EPL game. Adding to the excitement was the fact that the boys would be given VIP passes to greet the Manchester City players as arrived at the ground. It was a special memory for all as they high fived the stars in front of the Sky TV cameras. Many became temporary ‘Citizens’ as they bought city scarves and beanies as the evening began to grow cold. Taking our seats in the south stand we had a great view of the action as the home team raced out to a 3-1 halftime lead that they never looked like surrendering in a less exciting second half.

Day 4 Tuesday 22nd April

A two hour bus journey took us from the hustle and bustle of Manchester to the picture postcard rolling fields and dry stone walls of Burton and the home of the English FA St Georges Park. The complex is an ultramodern sports facility which all English football teams and many EPL teams use as a base to prepare for important matches. After we had settled into our rooms in the stylish Hilton hotel the boys were put through their paces by FA coaches Mike and Chaz who both commented on the good manners and responsiveness of their charges. Following the training was a hydrotherapy recovery session which saw the boys plunging into ice cold and then warm water for two minute periods. An unexpected bonus was a speed and agility session with Brock from the Michael Johnson performance group. After another full on day everyone enjoyed a buffet dinner in the hotel restaurant followed by watching Chelsea play Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final.

Posted on April 25, 2014
Day 5 Wednesday 23rd April

A three hour bus ride to London meant an opportunity for the boys to hone their card playing skills before we arrived at Motspur Park, Fulham FC’s first team training pitch. After getting a brief glance of the Fulham first team training we were introduced to Keiran and Charlie who took the players for a vigorous and enjoyable training session focussing on transfer and transition. Next it was straight to Wembley stadium for a two hour tour with ‘big Al’ our guide who was also an aspiring stand up comedian. Highlights included visiting the home team changing room, posing with a replica of the FA cup and testing the acoustics of the amazing 93,000 capacity stadium. There was an emotional moment for Mr Buckingham kissing the statue of his hero, Bobby Moore, at the stadium entrance.

We were introduced to the vagaries of London traffic as it took two hours to get from Wembley to Forest school a trip that bus driver Anthony says usually takes 30 minutes. Ben, the coach of their first XI, met us and the boys were soon matched with their billets and off for the night. Many were taken to the Man Utd themed Café Football (owned by Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville) for dinner and to watch the watch Champions League semi-final Real Madrid v Bayern Munich.

Posted on April 25, 2014
Day 6 Thursday 24th April

The team assembled at The Forest school at 8am and headed by bus to Tower Hill where we met our tour guide, Lawrence, who was, unfortunately, a West Ham fan. Overcoming this impediment the Lawrence took us on a fascinating ramble through the history of London told through its architecture. However the London traffic got the better of us and it was decided to take to the footpath to finish the tour which ended with spectacular city scape views, on a brilliantly clear day, from the London Eye. The team arrived at Forest school for a 4pm kick off on impressively kept grass pitches.
Match Reports: WBHS vs The Forest School

Senior team: Cassidy/Naylor, Benbow, Nimmo, Dixon, Watts, Brotherton, Kettle, Crombie, Ramsay, Hagan, Skeens, Curran, Southey, Blackmore, Booth.

The senior team put on a performance of real confidence and belief to overwhelm the opposition in a very open and watchable encounter. After a cagey opening five minutes Westlake opened the scoring when Ramsay found Curran with an incisive through ball. The striker outpaced and out muscled his marker before cutting inside, beating the keeper and finishing with his left foot. Crombie then forced a fine save from Forest’s diminutive goal keeper who had to tip the looping shot over his bar. Forest then found an equalizer as their talented and strong running left winger was presented the ball outside the box before beating two defenders to score. Westlake responded by forcing a series of corners which ultimate led to the next goal. Hagan’s near post corner caused confusion in the defence and after a scramble the ball ended up in the back of the net off a Forest player. Westlake were dominating possession and territory and Hagan and Blackmore both had chances to increase their sides lead in quick succession without success. At half time the match was interestingly poised.
Westlake made an energetic start to the second half and were rewarded when Ramsay again found Curran with a beautifully shaped diagonal ball. A Forest defender lunged into a challenge and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Captain Brotherton gave the keeper no chance with a coolly taken penalty, 3-1 Westlake. A quick reply from Forest ended any hopes of an easy victory as possession was lost in midfield and the Forest left wing produced a devastating run and finish to bring his team back into the match. The game was opening up and it was no surprise when Westlake scored again to restore their two goal lead. This time it was Blackmore who showed impressive skill and vision as he played in Hagan who drew the keeper before slotting home with aplomb. Naylor, in the Westlake goal, was then forced to tip a Forest shot onto the crossbar before his team extended their lead and killed off any chance of a Forest comeback. It was Ramsay and Curran who combined again as the former sent in an accurate corner for the later to head past the stranded keeper, 5-2 Westlake. Curran then had an opportunity to complete a well-deserved hat trick but was foiled by a good save from forests overworked custodian. Ironically Forests left wing did complete his hat trick as he picked the ball up in his own half before beating several Westlake defenders to score the best goal of the match. The last word, however, fell to Westlake’s captain, Brotherton, who showed quick feet and good composure to beat three defenders and coolly clip the ball past the advancing. Final score – Westlake Boys 6 The Forest School 3

Junior team: Shazell/Rogers, Jessup, Baker, Reeves-Parmenter, Mcstay, M. Lough, Pirie, Bhagaloo, Skeens, D. Lough, Acarapi, Diprose, Van Orton.

The junior teams second match on tour was against a Forest school 2nd XI side who were mainly made up of bigger and more physical boys. The match started at a hectic pace, both teams were trying to get the ball down and play with limited chances created. The game came into life in the 25minute when Daniel Lough played a superb through ball to the onrushing Matt Van Orton who applied enough pressure to the retreating defender who sliced the ball into his own net to score the team’s first goal on tour. From this moment Westlake seemed to grow in confidence and started to play one and two touch football putting Forest under sustained pressure. We were unlucky not increase our advantage when, just before halftime, Braedan Acarapi hit a powerful shot from 20 yards against the crossbar.

The second half started with Westlake now completely in control and moving the ball nicely on the slick surface. In the 50th minute Daniel Lough played another superb through ball to Matt Van Orton who calmly slotted the ball past the keeper to put us into a comfortable 2-0 lead. The game then opened up with Westlake having a few long range efforts and the Westlake back four remaining solid to repel any Forest attacks. The game was then put to bed when Sean Skeens was put through on goal, he rounded the keeper and then slotted ball into the back of the net giving us a 3-0 win. The boys rebounded well after the tough defeat previously and showed they had learnt from the experience. The character and football shown will stand them in good stead for the Spanish leg of the tour.

We were treated to an after match dinner of sausage, chips and beans in the Forest dining hall before bidding farewell to our gracious hosts and heading to our hotel at Gatwick airport ready for the Spanish leg of our tour. Along the way we also had to say goodbye to Keiran our Inspire Sport representative and all round top bloke. He said the boys were the best behaved group he has worked with, before belting out an impressive rendition of the Scottish national anthem in our honour. Legend.

Posted on April 27, 2014
Day 7 Friday 25th April

A 4am start saw a bleary eyed group arrive at Gatwick were we bid farewell to our driver Anthony, another top fella who really took an interest in the tour and the boys, watching all our games and many of the training sessions. Not bad for a Man United supporter. His attempt at a version of ‘the wheels on the bus…’ was roundly mocked by all. Even so he was very complimentary of the boys and reckoned they were the most respectful teenagers he has ever, and is ever, likely to meet in his line of work. After a two hour flight we landed in Madrid and were introduced to our ground handler Sergio before transferring to the Spanish FA residence where we would be staying for the next three nights. While not as impressive as St Georges Park the boys were excited to settle into their rooms and explore the complex. After a delicious Spanish style lunch we headed to the home ground of AD Union Adarve.

Match Reports: WBHS vs Ad Union Adarve
Senior team: Senior team: Naylor, Benbow, Nimmo, Dixon, Watts, Brotherton, Kettle, Crombie, Ramsay, Hagan, Skeens, Curran, Southey, Blackmore, Booth.

The senior team faced an under 18 opposition that played in a league that included the Real Madrid’s academy team and other La Liga academy teams. The game was played on an inner city synthetic pitch surrounded by apartment towers. It promised to be a tough afternoon and so it proved. The Spanish team raced to a 2-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes due to some slick passing and some naïve defending from Westlake. Westlake had an opportunity to hit back immediately when Ramsay’s free kick found Curran unmarked 6 yards from goal but the pace of the ball seemed to catch the striker unaware and bounced harmlessly off his chest into the arms of the grateful keeper. After adjusting the team formation to provide more defensive cover Westlake held their own and defended with more confidence while making occasional raids into the opposition half. It was hard work though and the early start to the day began to show as Adarve scored two quality goals in the last five minutes to extend their lead to 4-0 at the break. The game continued in the same pattern in the second half with Westlake defending stoically but with energy levels low Ardarve were able to pick their moments and extend their winning margin to 7-0 by the final whistle. The Westlake team had given everything they had and had represented themselves and school superbly in a game that underlined the depth of talent in a football mad nation of 50 million. Mr Mc Bride singled out Sammy Brotherton, Sean Crombie and Jack Benbow for outstanding performances.

Junior team: Shazell, Jessup, Baker, Reeves-Parmenter, McStay, M. Lough, Pirie, Bhagaloo, D. Lough, Acarapi, Diprose, Van Orton, Booth, Blackmore.

Forewarned, the junior side set up to counter their Spanish opposition and held their own for much of the first half conceding only twice. Darius Shazell stood out in goal pulling off some impressive saves. As they tired in the second spell Ardave made the most of the space and ran out convincing winners 8-0. Once again the Westlake side never gave up despite the score line. Mr Dale singled out Darius Shazell and Daniel Lough as standout performers.

An early dinner and bed completed what had been a loooooong day.

Posted on April 27, 2014
Day 8 Saturday 26th April

Refreshed the boys woke up to an overcast and chilly morning. They met the Spanish FA coaches Jimmy and Alberto who took them for a high tempo training session focussing technique, possession and finishing. Both coaches were very impressed with the boy’s attitudes and behaviour, Alberto commenting that they were the best group he had ever worked with picking Sean Crombie as the stand out player.

After lunch the boys walked to the nearby factory outlet shops where they scored good deals at the Nike and Ralph Lauren stores. After a brief rest it was time to board the bus for the Santiago Bernabeu stadium to take in the Real Madrid v Osasuna match. Many of the boys bought Real Madrid scarves at stalls outside the stadium and in their tour tracksuits they looked like hardcore Madrid fans. Many of the locals approached the group to ask where we were from and a common reply to our answer was “Ahhh si All Blacks”. Entering the Bernabeu was an experience few will forget ,opera music echoed around the vast stadium as the home fans chanted for their heroes – one could imagine the gladiatorial days of the coliseum with Osasuna playing the part of the Christians. Our seats were in behind the Osasuna goal in stand D, up in the gods with a birds eye view of proceedings. The boys were amazed by the steepness of the grandstand…they had to lean forward to see the Osasuna goal below them. The fervour grew as the home team took the field showing off the recently won Copa del Rey (Spanish F.A cup). A huge roar greeted the kick-off and the pattern of the game was set with Real Madrid pushing their opponents back into their defensive third. Christian Bale was not playing but the boys were delighted to see Ronaldo run the match and score two outstanding goals in an easy 4-0 win for the home team. Still buzzing we headed home with the boys singing football songs all the way. It had been a magical night for all.

Posted on April 29, 2014
Day 9 Sunday 27th April

The day started with a five minute walk to visit to the Spanish FA museum. The highlights included photo opportunities with the Fifa World Cup trophy and the UEFA European Champions trophy and a video highlight compilation of Spain’s triumphant 2010 World Cup campaign.

Next it was a another training session with the Spanish FA coaches, this time the focus was on movement off the ball and small sided games. After lunch it was onto the bus for a return to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium to do the stadium tour. Highlights were getting to sit in the dug outs, the home dressing room and visiting the massive trophy room. Many of boys also got to take a selfie with the UEFA Champions League trophy. The night was rounded off with a quick bus tour of central Madrid before heading home for dinner which ended with several boys presenting impressive solo singing efforts to the group…though none could match Mr McBride’s rendition of Robbie Williams ‘Angels’.

Posted on April 29, 2014
Day 10 Monday 28th April

It was an early start as we boarded the bus for the four hour journey to Valencia. The boys got their first look at the Spanish countryside which included an impressive vista of a huge dam and reservoir and acres of grape vines and of course Valencia orange trees. Valencia is a coastal city and was a balmy 26 degrees, after checking into our hotel the senior team had a light training session with Valencia CF coaches as they had a late kick off that evening. The junior team had the early kick off so got some rest before their game against the Royal European Football Academy U16 team who were a team from Malaysia that had been based in Valencia on a long term residential camp.

Match Reports
Junior team: Shazell/Rogers, Baker, Reeves-Parmenter, McStay, M. Lough, Pirie, Bhagaloo, D. Lough, Acarapi, Diprose, Van Orton, Booth, Blackmore.

The match kicked off on a tight synthetic pitch that would test the players touch. Trent Baker was handed the captains arm band on his birthday. REFA were a very sharp and technically gifted team and raced out to two goal lead after 20 minutes. However Westlake hit back within five minutes as Daniel Lough was played in on the left and beat he keeper with a delicately placed finish. REFA hit back immediately to reclaim their two goal advantage in what was a very open game. After a Westlake was corner cleared Diprose drove the ball across the face of the REFA goal and Booth was well positioned to head the ball home and celebrated with appropriate enthusiasm. The game continued to ebb and flow with Westlake working hard to close down their more skillfull opponents and launching dangerous counter attacks of their own. However it was REFA who finished the half stronger scoring two quick goals to lead 5-2 at the break.

After falling further behind early in the second half Westlake began to dominate possession and should have had a penalty when Acarapi was crudely brought down in the penalty area. However justice was swiftly served when Acarapi was again put through on goal, the strikers first shot was saved by the keeper but he slotted home the rebound with confidence. Several more chances were not converted by Westlake but they did have the last word when Michael Lough had his shot blocked by the keeper but reacted first to slot the ball home. Final score REFA 6 WBHS 4. Coach Dale singled out D. Lough and K. Bhagaloo for exceptional second half performances as well as goal keeper D. Shazell who made several vital saves. He felt the team were much more disciplined in keeping their defensive shape and was impressed with the attitude, commitment and work rate of the whole team.

Senior team vs Torre Levante U18
Naylor/Cassidy, Benbow, Nimmo, Dixon, Watts, Brotherton, Kettle, Crombie, Ramsay, Hagan, Skeens, Southey, Blackmore, Booth.

The senior team faced a team that competed in the Valencia B academy league and whose club is a feeder club to Atletico Madrid. The games was played largely under lights and Westlake made a bright start when they had the ball in the Levante net from a free kick but Crombie’s header was ruled out when the referee blew for a foul. Levante were making most of the early running but Westlake were keeping their defensive shape well. On 30 minutes a long ball caused confusion in the centre of the Westlake defence and the Levante striker was on hand to roll the ball into an empty net. Westlake then had a golden chance to get back in the game when the ball was played into the far post, Kettle was the first to react beating the keeper only to see his shot drift agonisingly wide of the post. The first half ended dramatically with the referee awarding a penalty for Levante after a harmless looking challenge by Kettle was adjudged to be illegal. Keeper Cassidy reacted well to block the conversion attempt but the ball fell kindly for the taker who slotted it home to give Levante a 2-0 lead.
Westlake were on the front foot from the start of the second half and were back in the game when Ramsay crashed home a shot from the edge of the box after a long throw had not been cleared by the Levante defence. Naylor, who had replaced Cassidy in the Westlake goal, then pulled off a great save to deny a Levante striker from scoring from close range. Brotherton then played in Skeens down the left, the strikers touch took him wide but when he drove the ball across goal Ramsay’s shot was just wide of the mark. Levante then restored their two goal lead when a long range free kick deceived Naylor and found its way into the back of the net. As Westlake began to tire Levante added a fourth and were allowed to score a fifth blatantly offside goal. It had been a brave effort by Westlake with the final 1-5 score line flattering their opponents.

Posted on April 30, 2014
Day 11 Tuesday 29th April

On a brilliantly fine morning the group set out on a tour of Valencia with the temperature quickly meeting the expected 24 degree high. First stop was the ‘old town’ district where the boys were amazed by the renaissance and medieval architecture and beautiful town square. The highlight for many was the amazing fresco on the basilica of the Valencia cathedral where we witnessed a benediction service being delivered in latin. The centre of Valencia is made up of tree lined boulevards punctuated by elaborate fountains and quaint back streets. Our guide, Sergio, told us that a one of the hundreds of Georgian style apartments that overlooked the café lined streets would cost around two million euro (3 million NZ) despite the Spanish economy being in recession. We then made a quick stop at the port area where Team NZ still has base from their unsuccessful America’s cup campaign in 2007 before heading to the ‘Science Park’ district which offered a stark contrast to the old town. This area is dominated by futuristic buildings like the clam sh L’Agora and huge shallow reflective pools.

Some of the boys entertained the group when they had a go on the water walkers (inflatable plastic bubbles) before we headed to two nearby malls for a bit of retail therapy. Most agreed that Valencia was the best city visited so far on tour. We headed back to the hotel for an early dinner and for the junior side to prepare for their final tour match – a 6:45pm kick off against Valencia U15 academy team.

Match Report
Junior team: Shazell/Rogers, Baker, Reeves-Parmenter, McStay, M. Lough, Pirie, Bhagaloo, D. Lough, Acarapi, Diprose, Nimmo, Skeens, Blackmore.

This match was played on the number one training pitch was an immaculate grass field…probably the best any of our players had ever played on. Westlake made a confident start, keeping their defensive shape well and congesting midfield to frustrate their opponent’s attempts to play their natural passing game. In the 16th minute an awkwardly bouncing ball found a Westlake arm in the penalty area and a penalty was awarded and duly converted by Valencia for a 1-0 lead. Eight minutes later Shazell produced a great block to stop the Valencia striker from scoring after he had been put through on goal. Westlake’s defence was split again two minutes later and this time the Valencia striker made no mistake to extend his sides lead to two goals. Bhagaloo then did well to create space for himself on the edge of the opposition box but his shot did not trouble the keeper. With half time approaching Shazell made another good save getting down sharply at his near post to deflect the ball wide. It had been a solid effort by Westlake to go to the break with a respectable 2-0 deficit.

The second half continued in a similar pattern to the first. However Valencia’s roaming left back began to make some dangerous forward runs and soon latched onto a raking diagonal ball to coolly draw Rogers and score. It was the same player who took advantage of a quickly taken free kick to cut inside the box and deftly chip the ball home for a 4-0 lead. Westlake began to tire and Valencia had their fifth goal after some hesitant defending. It has been a brave effort from the Westlake juniors who never stopped working hard but struggled to match their opponents guile and close control. Mr Dale singled out Liam McsStay, Daniel Lough and Darius Shazell for their performances while recognising another fully committed performance by the whole team.

It was 10pm by the time the group returned to the hotel just in time to catch Real Madrid destroy Munich 4-0 in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final on TV.

Posted on May 1, 2014
Day 12 Wednesday 30th April

Another glorious morning saw both teams train with the Valencia academy coaches Magdo and Tony on an artificial pitch. Intelligent movement and interchanging positions was a focus. After quick shower it was off for a spot of shopping at a local mall and factory outlet centre before heading back to the hotel and lunch before the juniors had their final training session and the seniors played their final game on tour. The juniors enjoyed their training session with ‘mad dog’ the flamboyant Valencia coach as they focussed on one and two touch passing and pressing the ball when out of possession. The whole group received a nice surprise when they were presented with a full Valencia playing kit prior to the senior’s game against Taverenes Blanques U18 that evening.

Match report
WBHS Seniors vs Tavernes Blanques U18
Naylor/Cassidy/Shazell, Benbow, Nimmo, Dixon, Watts, Brotherton, Kettle, Crombie, Ramsay, Hagan, Skeens, Southey, Curran, Blackmore, Booth, D. Lough.

Westlake set up with a 4-2-3-1 formation against a side who played in the top academy teams in the region and had beaten Valencia u18’s in their recently completed season. Tavernes were a big side and played a similar expansive passing style to most of the Spanish teams we had met. Westlake though looked very solid and settled into the containing and counter attacking mode that they had needed to adopt in Spanish leg of their tour. However when a Westlake defender dwelled on the ball just outside the box the Tavernes striker was able to steal possession and finish with a well-placed shot into the far corner of the net. Westlake then had to weather a sustained period of pressure as their Spanish opposition pressed forward in search of more goals. After a free kick was headed clear by Brotherton a Tavernes midfielder smashed a shot against the underside of the cross bar but luckily for Westlake the ball did not cross the goal line and was cleared away to safety. Cassidy then made a good save, getting down sharply to his left, to deny the Tavernes left winger. Westlake though were looking dangerous from set pieces with several corners and free kicks being unconvincingly dealt with by the home team. Seconds before half time Westlake almost drew level when Ramsay drove a dangerous free kick goalwards the keeper was deceived by the bounce of the ball as it struck his chest and fortuitously rebounded off a defender back into his arms.
Westlake started the second half in a confident manner winning two early free kicks in dangerous positions. Ramsay delivered both into dangerous areas but Westlake could not find the vital touch as the Tavernes struggled to clear their lines. The game began to open up as both sides tired and Naylor made a good save when he pushed an angled shot around his right hand post. Benbow, who was having another solid game, then came to rescue as he cleared a goal bound shot off his own goal line. Westlake then rolled the dice as Curran returned to fray to join the hard working Skeens up front and the tourists pressed forward in search of an equalizer. A frenetic last ten minutes saw half chances come and go for both teams but at the final whistle the score was unchanged. This had been an accomplished and disciplined defensive performance from Westlake that showed how much they had learned from their time in Spain. To man they had worked tirelessly and shown a greater collective tactical awareness than in previous games.

Posted on May 1, 2014
Day 13 Thursday 1st May

The news of the day was of Atletico Madrid’s upset victory over Chelsea in the Champions league semi-final which meant a showdown with Real Madrid in an all Spanish final. Most of the boys had watched the game on TV the night before and there were some cheerful Liverpool supporters amongst them. The group enjoyed their final training session with ‘Mad dog’, which ended with a 7 aside tournament before all the players were presented with medals and responded with an impromptu Westlake haka. After a quick shower and lunch it was time to leave Valencia and begin our four hour bus journey up the coastal highway to Barcelona. With the azure Mediterranean shimmering in the Eastern distance we passed acres of orange, mandarin and olive groves and countless fields of onion and other crops as the boys slept. Satellite towns with names like Torre Blanco , Benicarlo and Peniscola flashed by and a bone white, stately villa nestled into the crook of a stony ridged hillside and still the boys slept. Long ranks of prim and verdant poplars lined the motorway as thick, serpentine irrigation canals slithered into the distance and still the boys slept. At 2pm the bus sulked off a slip road and sighed to a stop at an Autogrill and the boys arose from the arms of Morpheus to gorge themselves on ice cream, chips, chocolate and other nutritious culinary delights. As we approached the border to Catalonia the motorway was surrounded by mountains and we travelled through long stoned-walled tunnels before emerging into the outskirts of Barcelona. We quickly found our hotel and settled in for the night.

Posted on May 2, 2014
Day 14 Friday 2nd May

An early start saw us traveling the 30 minutes to RCD Espanyol’s training ground for a 9am session with Espanyol academy coaches. The foucus was on shooting with both feet and ended with six aside games. We returned to our hotel for lunch and a short rest before heading back out to explore Barcelona and our tour of the famous Nou Camp stadium, home of FC Barcelona. A brief visit to the city’s famous cathedral the Sagrada Familia and then the boys grabbed their last chance for some shopping in the renowned Las Ramblas outdoor market. Our last stop was a stadium tour of the amazing Nou Camp. This was an unguided tour and the group enjoyed an hour and half of wandering around this state of the art stadium and three storey gift shop. It was a fitting end to what had been an unforgettable tour. A nice surprise was waiting for the boys back at the hotel as the Spanish national team strip that they had been promised in Madrid had arrived. This tour group had been superbly led by Mr McBride and the behaviour and attitude of the students had been exemplary, there is no doubt that all involved will remember their experiences for many years to come. The players have grown both as footballers and as young men and their understanding of the game and of the world and, perhaps most importantly, themselves has expanded. It has been a privilege to have been a part of this.

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