Saturday 15th December was a massive step forward for Powerchair football in Scotland. Although the game itself would end in defeat there was so much more to this day.
Firstly a massive thanks to Middlesbrough, their players, coaches, officials and parents/carers. We needed to learn and you were an amazing support. Also thanks to Sport Scotland our hosts in Inverclyde, our national team sponsors and partners Mobility Central Sport, The SFA Para Football Association and MDUK, our league sponsors who’s support has helped get us to this level. Last but certainly not least to Donal Byrne, president of the EPFA who attended the day, presented the trophy and gave invaluable support.
The day began with an emotional and inspirational presentation from the SFA’s David McArdle to all player’s on what representing Scotland means, what the anthem means and what is expected of the players as international footballers.
The thirteen players all listened and took on board every word. The full squad for this historic day was
Carolyn Bean, Middlesbrough coach then set up some drills for players of Scotland and Middlesbrough, and the learning began.
Then came the action, The 13 Scotland players were split into two teams, both faced up to Middlesbrough and although both games ended in defeat every player played a part, they competed well with the English Premiership team and showed the spirit, desire and respect that David McArdle, and coaches Garry Johnstone and Craig Peattie had asked for as well as scoring a couple of goals from Ben Hetherington and Connor McCole.
After a break we set up for the Final fixture of the day, Scotland v Middlesbrough. The coaches had a tough job to select a team for the game meaning some players were left disappointed not to be part of this historical game, they did play their part by showing tremendous support for their squad mates.
Scotland Line up
It was an even start to the game with both teams competing well, Scotland started to make in-roads on the Boro defence and the first chance fell to Eythan Galloway but his shot was blocked. Boro hit back and it took a couple of clearances from Colin Shields and Kein Speed to keep the scoreline level before Boro got the break through a pass by Cath McNicholl that split the Scots defence and was turned in by number 48 Tyler Reece. The same pair combined again shortly after to make it two as the shot unluckily deflected of Colin Shields. Boro were dominating now and the speed of play was electrifying culminating in a third for Cath McNicholl as she intercepted a kick in. Scotland were finding attacks hard to come by as Boro kept the pressure on and a 4th goal followed by Lee Armstrong. Scotland didn’t give up and to loud roars from the home support youngest player Eythan Galloway knocked in a fantastic goal at the back post after a pass from Kieran Burns. 4 – 1 and that was only half time!!
Scotland brought on all four subs at this point but before they had settled in to the game Boro almost made it five but for a miraculous goal line save form Logan Mitchelson but the fifth did come soon after from a kick in from Jonny Howsley that was knocked in from the edge of the box by Ryan Dack. A sixth came soon after and a 2nd for Armstrong from a Howsley corner. Despite a concerted effort from Scotland Dack scored again to make it seven. That was the end of the scoring a seven one defeat for Scotland that maybe slightly flattered Boro but this was real development for Scotland in our first game and we move on to Leeds in February.
Middlesbrough were presented with the Peter O’Brien trophy, a former Clyde player who passed away recently, by EPFA President Donal Byrne following the game.
And so we have started on a journey, we didn’t know quite where we were in comparison to more experienced nations and this test allowed us to see where we need to develop. Our Coaches and the SPFA International Committee will look to see what we can take from this, we have plans in place for future games and training events that we will review following Saturday. Next up we will be taking part in a friendly tournament hosted by Leeds PFC. We are in discussions with Donal about future fixtures and our aim at this point is to host an international tournament, here in Scotland in 2020.
Finally thank you to the players, you were magnificent and a credit to your country, to your clubs and to your families. Also thanks to the coaches, Craig and Garry and to the other members of the International Committee Ryan Galloway and Gareth Mitchelson who were key in ensuring the day was set up and ran smoothly, as well as organising lunch and repairing chairs. Also thanks to the referees from Middlesbrough and our own Jill Galloway and Neil Speed, a learning day for them too.