Deaf Sports Events15th January 2015

GB Deaf U23 Football Opens New Pathway to International Honours

Playing their first development game the GB Deaf U23 football team perform well against seasoned opposition

by Sarah Lawrence

Deaf Football has been around for ages, with the GB team enjoying a proud history on the international stage. However, with an ever increasing gap between deaf youngsters and the opportunities within Deaf Sport, managers of the GB Deaf Football team were keen to do something that would provide a clear pathway for young deaf footballers into the full international team.

Putting in place an Under 23 GB Deaf Football Team, manager Ryan Lewis arranged the first training weekend on the 10/11 January, the weekend hosted by the Leicestershire and Rutland FA. Pulling players from all over the country the weekend was the first time the players had got together over a period of time allowing them to gel as individuals and on the pitch.

Following skills and tactical training, arrangements were made for the team to play a local men’s team Kegworth Imperial. Arriving early at the small but impressive venue, Ryan was busy working with youngsters form the local area in a 5-a-side enclosure. Listening in to the youngsters taking part, it was good to learn that they were asking about Ryan, his background and the Deaf football setup.

With kick off due at 1230, the teams were out early doing the all-important warm up. Taking the opportunity to chat to the players during this session, it was pleasing to have a choice of players to interview who were fluent in BSL, including the impressive Captain on and off the pitch, Adam Breeze. Faced with their first proper match, the players were delighted with the new setup, each one I spoke to, excited about the opportunity.

As is traditional with Deaf football matches, the referee took the field with a flag, ready to officiate using both a visual signal and the whistle. In what promised to be an open and attacking game, the GB team nearly carved out a chance early on when James Paull put in a good through ball for Harry Potter to attack the goal, only to be ruled offside.

With both teams looking to play passing football through the midfield, periods of possession followed with rare forays into the opposition penalty box. There were a couple of long range half chances for each side, but neither keeper was forced into a save. The first clear cut chance fell to Kegworth’s Dave Gourlay in the 16th minute following a swift move from the back, but his long range shot went well over the bar.

A minute later, the lively Gourlay was given his second chance when a good cross from Phil Lynch, reached the striker, only for his shot to once again clear the bar. The first real chance of the game fell to the GB Under 23 team following a foul just out the Imperial box. A nicely floated ball into the box was met powerfully by Joe Norton whose powerful header was saved by the Kegworth keeper.

With the GB skipper Adam Breeze confident, calm and energetic in the centre of the park, the GB team were to take the lead shortly afterwards. A long ball was crossed into the box where good close control by the skilful Danny Rea, allowed him to put a slide rule pass into the box to the advancing Haskwat Kerk, who coolly slotted the ball low left into the Kegworth goal.

The GB lead was due to last only 5 minutes with Kegworth increasingly looking dangerous down the flanks. 26 minutes into the game a ball down the left resulted in a good cross to the edge of the 6 yard box by Oli Brown, where Joe Reynolds headed the ball past diving keeper Adam Thomas.

Good solid endeavour followed from both teams up to half time, with further half chances. The clearest chance to take the lead fell to Kegworth’s 7, Phil Lynch who found himself through on the goal, with the GB defence claiming off-side, drawing a good save from Adam Thomas.

Just before half time, the game was graced by a rare act of fair play on the football field, with Tommy Wright from Kegworth, telling the referee that he had fouled one the GB players.

Chatting at half time to some of the supporters present, one person commented, “It is really noticeable how much the Kegworth side are using their voice to communicate and how much that influences the game in respect of runs down the line, or tacklers closing in. The GB skipper, Adam Breeze is signing a lot to his players, but it just can’t be used the same way during the game. It’s quite an advantage to Kegworth.”

I also took the opportunity to chat to Clare Bryant, mum of GB Deaf footballer Luke. I asked her what she thought of the formation of the new Under 23 team. “It gives Luke something to aim for,” she told me, “It is an opportunity to be seen at this level and of course to get involved.”

With a squad of 21 players at the game, the GB management made some changes at half time, and the first chance of the half fell to Joe Norton. A through ball from James Paull, saw Norton take a snap shot on goal, bringing a decent save from Hedworth, a feat he would copy moments later when Danny Rea tried his luck.

Minutes later the GB fell behind. A cheap foul was committed about 25 yards out from goal. Taken by the influential Tommy Wright, the ball was whipped over the wall, beating Thomas low down to his right. On this occasion, it was the Kegworth lead that would last only 5 minutes with the GB team showing some determination to get back into the game. Good interplay between Breeze and Rea had the Kegworth defence at sixes and sevens, with Breeze finally driving a dangerous ball across the 6 yard area, and Kegworth’s Ashton Danby putting in through his own net.

A dicey game followed, with both teams looking for openings, but no-one over-committing in attack. The stream of substitutions saw some players changing positions and team structure. Looking destined for a 2-2 draw, Kegworth unleashed a quick attack from the back with minutes remaining on the clock. A nice pass from Tommy Wright to Jordan Davies in space, saw the player slide the ball into the left hand corner of the goal.

With the game drawing to a close, the GB players could not be faulted for their efforts to rescue the game in the final moments. Showing great spirit, they pushed forward, with 15 years old Tom Jackson gaining some great experience at this level of the game, leading the line for the GB team in the final minutes.

Understandably disappointed with the result, there was much in the performance of the GB Under 23 side to be positive about. They might have lost the game but they had gained valuable experience playing with teammates they have barely just met, something that bystanders would not have believed if they had watched the performance of the team.

Chatting to Ryan Lewis immediately after the game, he was delighted with the way the weekend had gone, with players showing a willingness and desire to be involved in the development of the Under 23 squad. We wish Ryan and the whole team the best of luck for the future, and we look forward to tracking their progress and supporting them in the future.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events

15th January 2015