Our U13s have recently returned from a trip of a lifetime and one which they will remember for the rest of their lives.

An amazing experience which saw boys and girls teams competing  in the Holland Easter Open – one of the largest tournaments in Europe which plays host to teams competing from all over the world.

The first day of the trip saw us all meet at Crossford Bridge before heading to the airport. It was great to see the excitement of everyone anticipating the days ahead. Landing in Brussels, we found are coach transfer and headed in and out of Holland before landing at our home for the next few days, just across the German border in Monchengladbach.

The first full day was an early 06:00 start for a quick breakfast before getting ready for our coach collection at 07:30 to take us to the first day of the tournament. Both the girls and boys would play 3 matches and hope to progress to the second ‘finals day’

The girls got dropped at their site first and started the day in perfect fashion with a 2-0 win. Overcoming a defeat in their second game, they managed to secure their place on finals day with a 1-0 win in the final match of the day. Backed by a German fan club of their own, they played brilliant football throughout with messages being sent home to tell of how the team are amazing and playing so well together.

The boys, having a quick 10 mins further to travel before being dropped at their match location, despite playing some great football and managing a win, didn’t quite advance to finals day. They would however still get a second day of football. Regardless, they truly encapsulated what grass roots football is all about and reminded the coaches why we love what we do. Upon winning their final match with a heavy score line, the opposition GK was approached by Sale players looking to offer some support. Suddenly and without warning the opposition GK, after conceding 9 goals, broke out into a huge smile and wrapped his arms around Sale Players. More lads from both teams saw what was going on and quickly rushed to share the embrace in what became a full on celebration in the middle of the pitch. A truly great sight. A bond was formed between the two teams who continued to support eachother on the second day of the tournament.

What a day.

The boys still got a second day of matches and again played some brilliant football. Following on from the scenes yesterday, they were cheered on by their new found friends who celebrated wildly with Sale at any opportunity. Sale reciprocated and supported them in return and upon scoring their first goal of the competition, Sale could be heard from a distance with matches on adjacent pitches almost pausing to see what the noise was about on the neighboring pitch. Again, it was great to see such scenes, perfectly encapsulating what grassroots football is about. A credit to themselves.

After securing their passage into the final stages of the tournament the girls continued to play brilliant football and after a brief wait dependent on one last result, quickly learnt they had progressed to play for the 3rd place play off. Excitement was building at the prospect of heading home with silverware in their bag. Relentlessly cheered on by the boys who joined up to loudly support them, Sale were eventual 1-0 winners in a closely contested game. Crazy scenes followed at the full time whistle with coaches…and of course they boys storming the field.

At the presentation, the girls were the loudest team there. Each girl proudly walked up to collect a medal before eventually being passed the trophy to lift together amongst jubilant scenes with bottles of water being thrown over them by the boys.

Day 3 allowed for a moderate lie in with a later coach collection at 10:00. Todays destination was Toverland Theme Park for some thrill seeking. After a quick 40 minutes on the coach we excitedly disembarked and headed straight in to the Theme Park. We watched as the group quickly dispersed, running off in smaller numbers to find their first ride of the day.

We managed a solid 7 hours at Toverland and were there on a relatively quiet day which was great because it enabled everyone to ride the big ones multiple times. Coaches around the park were with their teams and when we met at lunch all the talk was of  ‘the blue one’ (Fenix), ‘the wooden one’ (Troy)

Our last day of the tour saw us visit Borussia Park, the home stadium to Bayern Monchengladbach. A wonderful stadium that’s had significant investment in recent years. With access all areas – apart from the home team dressing room (considered a safe sanctuary where very few employees even are allowed) enabled everyone to experience what it might be like for a professional footballer on match day. We got to see the away teams changing room, physio and kit rooms, corporate hospitality boxes and even their on site jail cells. It was great to get in to the press room and role play with players taking centre stage and fielding questions about last nights performance and potential transfer activity. Of course a stadium tour wouldn’t be complete without wondering the dugout, technical areas and stands before finishing up in the club shop to take home a souvenir

Landing back in Manchester, most were reflecting on what was an unbelievable coming of age trip that they will never forget. A credit to themselves throughout and a joy for all us coaches to experience with them.

A huge thank you to all parents. For those that managed to get out and support them on match day and those following closely from home….and of course Shadow