Academy Manager Eric Ramsay looks back on the last couple of days of the tour
The final two days of the Iber Cup saw more drama on and off the field for our two Academy sides. The U15s/U16s lost their quarter final tie with eventual tournament winners Fylkir of Iceland. In-spite of a strong performance in which the side dominated possession, they were unable to find an equalising goal that would have taken the tie to penalties. They chased a goal for the majority of the game having conceded in the early stages but, ultimately, were found wanting. However, it was a performance to be proud of.
Following a comfortable 3-0 semi-final victory for the U18s on Friday, the group moved into Saturday’s final vs the tournaments hosts Esbjerg. Whilst the two sides drew 1-1 in an intense game earlier in the week, this tie lacked the energy of the previous fixture with the five games played already - and the 30 degree heat - noticably effecting both sets of players. We conceded two goals in the opening fifteen minutes of the game and looked a shadow of the side that had performed so well up to this point. The second half saw an improved level of performance, a goal from Jamaine Turner, and a number of chances to take the game to penalties. However, it wasn’t to be and our players had to settle for second place.
Later that evening the real fun and games started. Whilst both groups waiting to depart the accomodation we learnt that the evening’s flight had been cancelled! With chaos at the local airport caused by a severe storm and disruption at Stanstead, our destination, making alternative arrangements proved to be immensley challening. With the staff working into the late hours to try and get everyone home, the resolution we settled upon saw the group split into three: two groups were to fly from Copenhagen the following evening and a small group was to fly from Hamburg two days later.
This was typical of a number of the challenges that we faced as a group during the week and, whilst difficult, was galvanising for the players and staff. The way in which the group reponded to this adversity was representative of the way it approached the entire week. This was the tournament’s big take-home. It was an opportunity to develop more than just our ability to compete on the pitch. We had time to establish some common values, build a one-club feel across three age-groups and afford the players some ownership in shaping the way that their teams played and the way in which they conducted themselves off-the pitch.
The Iber Cup was excellent preparation for the coming season and a trip that will set the players up really well for their battle to become Scholars and Professionals at our club.