March 26, 2019
The East Manchester Academy sits in the shadow of the Etihad, but on Saturday March 23rd it was the school not the stadium that dominated the football landscape. At 1.30pm Lee Parkinson’s North West Wanderers kicked-off against Martin Bailey’s North East Elite. The match was a charity game raising money for mental health charity Mind, and all the players were teachers.
Despite the philanthropy, it was clear from the kick-off that both teams had a real desire to win. Perhaps the players were spurred on by regional pride or maybe it was the fact that many of them had travelled well over 100 miles to be there, but whatever the motivation the result was fast-paced, attacking football that would have Jurgen Klopp applauding from the touchline.
Lee’s brother Adam (pictured) opened the scoring on two minutes after adding a neat finish to an inch perfect through-ball. Within five minutes the North West were two nil up and the feeling in the crowd was that we were headed for a whitewash.
However, after a slow start the North East’s attacking trio, consisting of Vinny Turner supported either side by Simon Blower and Sam Keys (pictured), put the pedal to the metal and kept it there for the remainder of the game. What followed was 85 minutes of nonstop attacking action from both teams. There was a veritable smorgasbord of goals on offer, including a sublime header from Vinny Turner and a cheeky backheel finish from the North West’s James Brammer.
With the final whistle fast approaching the North West were leading 7-6 and looked likely to see out the win. But, perhaps sensing his presence in the Manchester air, the visitors channelled the power of ‘Fergie time’ and Sam Keys netted the equaliser in the dying minutes, meaning the game would be decided by penalties.
The seriousness of the situation was displayed when both teams, rather than crowding the edge of the penalty box as you would expect from a charity game, huddled in their teams on the half-way line with the spot kickers making the lonely walk in a hushed silence. As if any more drama was needed, the first kick saw North West captain Lee Parkinson face-off against North East skipper and shot-stopper Martin Bailey. Although he conceded 7 during the game Martin had played well, pulling off a number of top-class saves, and he added another after getting down fast and low to deny Lee from the spot.
Despite the recent performance against Colombia in the World Cup, English teams have never been known for their penalty prowess, and this shootout was definitely lost rather than won. With more missed than scored, the final tally was 2-1 with the North East clasping victory by the narrowest of margins.
But whatever the final score, both teams could hold their head up high. Not only had they given everything on the pitch, but they had also helped raise almost £5,000 to support the vital work done by Mind. The trophies were provided by BeeDigital Ltd and presented by former headteacher and trained opera singer Rachel Orr, who had also delivered a pitch-perfect rendition of Nessun Dorma before the game. The North East’s Sam Keys picked up the player of the match award, and a special mention was also given to Manchester FA referee Aiden Taylor-Dickinson, who had given up his time for free to officiate the game and did a fantastic job.
The day ended with a well-earned drink at the local pub, kindly sponsored by eSchools Ltd. The game provided plenty of talking points which all received MOTD worthy post-match analysis over a pint.
A final thanks goes to the TES who kindly sponsored the pitch, and a special mention goes to Casey Lynchey and Hayley Duckworth who were the only female players taking part in this match. Both women did the North West proud and we are determined to get more women involved going forward.
You can view the full event photo album on Facebook.
#EduFootyAid is a national initiative that uses football to promote teacher wellbeing and raise money for Mind. Every region of England has a squad so if you’re a teacher and you’d like to get involved with your local #EduFootyAid team, get signed today! Our next fixture is on June 8th between the Midlands and the South.