Great moments are made from great opportunities. Back in 2014, I was offered the opportunity to lead the University’s inaugural Mens Varsity Staff Football squad into the 2015 Varsity Shield against our Cardiff University counterparts. Given my extensive background in the beautiful game and my long association with the University, it was challenge that was simply too good to overlook.
One of the most important but daunting tasks confronted by all football coaches is the recruitment drive for talented footballers who possess the necessary attitude and work ethic. I had played recreational staff football at the University since 2001 so I had a strong network to draw on; however it was essential that the net was cast as far as possible across the institution to ensure there was an opportunity for colleagues to trial for the squad.
I arranged two evenings of open trials at Sketty Lane; I do recall that I prepared the trial matches to accommodate 20 to 30 players. Over the two evenings, more than 70 players turned up to trial! It was a remarkable start to our journey.
It is a source of great pride that we captured the attention of our wider community. Sport can play a significant role in bringing people together – in our final squad of 16 players many parts of our community were represented including senior academics, caterers, directors, lecturers and administrators. For me, gelling this diverse group into a high performing team was our biggest triumph.
Alas, our team delivered a fantastic result as we prevailed over an exceptionally experienced Cardiff University outfit at St Helens. I remember it was a prohibitively hot day and the surface was as hard as concrete, but our lads played some fantastically fluid football. During our training sessions leading up the big day, we had worked tirelessly through a corner kick set piece routine – it was almost poetic that the only goal of the game was headed by Andy Patton of the Marketing Department late on as the lads implemented the routine to perfection.
In more recent years, I was privileged to be appointed the Chair of Swansea University Football Club, one the largest student football clubs in the UK comprising mens and womens football teams. It has been an exciting chapter for football at the University - but I will always look back with pride and fondness on that wonderful day at St Helens and how our achievement transcended the game of football.