In its first year of entering the competition, King Edward's Witley has been crowned champions in the English Schools’ Football Association’s Premier League Under 16s Small Schools’ Cup for state and independent schools.
The nail-biting final, against Blacon High School, Chester on Wednesday epitomized a game full of dramatic twist and turns. King Edward’s was a goal up going into half-time against the school which has reached the English Schools’ Small Schools final no less than three years in a row. However, in the second half, Blacon High School was awarded a penalty which was duly converted, followed by another goal. After King Edward’s was forced to bring on substitutes following muscular injuries to three players, the School’s chances of success hung in the balance. With just five minutes to go, King Edward’s scored an equalizing goal which meant the final score was to be determined by a tense penalty shoot-out. Five rounds later the game went to sudden-death and when the opposition missed their fourth shot at goal it was up to King Edward’s goal keeper – the player responsible for so many vital saves throughout the match – to score the winning penalty. The victory, which represented the School’s second national football final in three years, was met with rapturous applause from both the King Edward’s supporters on the ground at Manchester City Academy Stadium as well as back at School where the game was being beamed live.
Commenting on King Edward’s performance, the School’s Director of Football Dan Abraham says, “I am so proud of all the players, who not only showed great technical skill and fantastic team work on the pitch, but who also demonstrated the importance of self-belief and tenacity. Coming back from the brink of defeat with such gritty determination and composure is in itself a massive achievement and the team definitely deserves their win today and the prestigious national title of English Schools’ Under 16s champions.”
Preparations for the big game on 4th May, included some unusual training tactics. In addition to the regular technical, tactical, physical and mental fitness sessions players were required to embrace their flair for music by learning to play the African Drums! With the assistance of the School’s Music Department the team worked together on their timing and rhythm to produce some excellent music, helping to develop teamwork, communication skills and trust, all skills crucial to success on the football field. The musical training not only contributed to the massive win on Wednesday, it also helped the team achieve a very commendable second at the recent prestigious Godalming Music Festival!
The U16 Small Schools’ Cup is open to all state and independent schools in England with less than 65 boys in Year 11. King Edward’s Witley has an impressive heritage when it comes to boys’ football, spanning over 100 years and despite its smaller pupil base, regularly competes with many of the high profile independent schools such as Charterhouse, Eton and Westminster. In recent years the School has enjoyed its most successful period in its long footballing history, seeing four pupils from King Edward’s represent the Independent Schools’ National squad and gaining regional or national recognition in each of the past five seasons in both boys’ and girls’ football. In addition, King Edward’s is currently the Independent Schools’ FA Futsal National Champions.