The Liverpool dressing rooms were surprisingly bare

The 3 January was a highlight of the tour. We started the day with a tour of Anfield where we learnt just some of the rich history of the incredibly successful English club of Liverpool FC. This stadium tour was extremely special for all boys and staff, particularly for the Liverpool supporters in our group. Similarly to the Stamford Bridge tour, we were lucky enough to see the museum, player tunnels (we enjoyed touching the ‘This is Anfield’ sign) and stands including the famous KOP stand which previously held 36,000 standing fans. After seeing the Chelsea dressing rooms which were kitted out with everything you could imagine, the Liverpool dressing rooms were surprisingly bare, infact they hadn’t changed in over 50 years. Overall the stadium on its own wasn’t as amazing as others we had visited so far but the history and tradition that is Anfield made this tour something the boys will treasure forever.

After the Anfield tour, we took our first trip into Wales for our second game against The New Saints Academy, who were slightly less intimidating than Pro Touch Academy but they were certainly as skilful. It was a great effort from the Junior boys against quality opposition seeing as it was only our second time playing together as a team. Even though the boys played well and got off to a positive start, we were unable to restrict the opposition and they scored three goals in the first half. We also had some chances but were unable to convert them into goals. The boys lifted for the second half and played good football, but despite this were unable to score or prevent the opposition, who once again put the ball in the back of the net, bringing the game to 5–0.

Manchester City is arguably the best team in England currently and all the boys were extremely excited to see them take on Liverpool at Etihad Stadium. Liverpool is a traditionally very strong team and the boys were ready to witness a great game. Compared to the Wolves vs Chelsea match, the atmosphere was slightly disappointing but the football itself was some of the best on offer in Europe. The boys certainly found out what watching football in England is really about at half time, when the ever present rain was blown uncontrollably into the stands. This, added to the already cold conditions, made the boys glad to be sitting in row Z of the top tier. However the cold weather was unable to stop a red hot Manchester City rolling Liverpool and the final score was 3–0. Overall the 3 Jan was definitely the busiest day of the tour but also arguably the most enjoyable.

We had worked hard and had fun in the rain

After a 75-minute bus ride, we entered the Chelsea FC Training Facilities where we were to undertake a light training session held by prestigious Chelsea training staff ahead of our first game of the tour. As we drove through the facility we witnessed some of the prestigious fields that Chelsea have to offer. This included 34 professionally cut fields, giant astroturf domes and a large building for the first team, including a gym, pool and hotel. Due to the security being so strict, no photographs were allowed to be taken. After getting dressed we moved towards an astroturf pitch where the younger and older groups parted to undertake their individual sessions. The younger team focussed on their first touch and skills with the ball before having a entertaining end with a volleying contest. The older team focused on one-touch football as well as finishing, and shapes and patterns of play. On the way out of the facility we were lucky enough to see some of the first team players including John Obi Mikel and Didier Drogba along with Petr Cech who was still wearing his face mask. Overall the session was an enjoyable and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

We arrived at the grounds of Pro Touch Academy (PTA) with high hopes of winning our two games, but soon realised we had a tough assignment ahead of us. Both games were 80 minutes with 15s match split into four quarters and the 17s game split into two halves. In the Senior game, both teams shook hands and soon after Andrew Liakopoulos brought down a PTA striker who subsequently missed a penalty shot. A minute later we went down: 1–0. Soon after it became 2–0. Half time arose and was taken easily with comforting advice from Coach Burgess and some words of wisdom by Mr Graham ‘Dr Potteropoulos’ Potter, of which no one actually understood. We still don’t know how we could manage to “keep [our] body weight between [our] shoulders”. Shortly after a third and fourth goal was awarded to PTA. Overall though it was a great result for our team as we managed to hold the opposing team, comprising seven professional players, to only four goals. It was a commendable effort by the whole team, with Andrew Liakopoulos no exception as he saved a penalty and saved many shots with Kathmandu woolen gloves.

After Evan’s sensational sliding tackle on fellow teammate Patrick, Alex Stern found great space and was certain to score. Unfortunately, his left leg had other ideas and he tackled himself. Lachlan ‘McLovin’ Yule rendered the offside trap useless, due to his ability to form his own defensive line 20 meters behind everyone else.McLovin also missed yet another header, due to his so called ‘lazy eye’.The end possession count was 95% to PTA and the other 5% to Newington College, although the 5% included 3.83% of possession by the goalkeeper and the other 1.17% of possession off the kick-off.  All in all we knew we had worked hard and had fun in the rain.

The 15s team walked into the dressing room feeling fairly optimistic. After shaking hand with their opponents, the boys started very brightly, holding possession well and looking confident on the ball—the back four looked settled on the ball and the midfield always looked bright. By the first quarter, the score was 0–0 and it was a fairly even game. PTA scored from a set-piece early on, lobbing David Macarounas from the side on the penalty area. Newington soon hit back with Liam Hetherington making an awkward shot that looked to be sailing wide, although Josh Manton took a gamble at the far post and tapped it in: 1–1. The third quarter was end-to-end and with both sides being tired, the game opened up. PTA scored their second goal of the game with their No.10 hitting home a screamer. The fourth quarter was 0–0 and so the game ended 2–1 to PTA.

We were put through our paces

We started the day with a short bus trip to Chelsea, where we had a tour of Stamford Bridge; learnt about the history of Chelsea FC, checking out the great change rooms for the home players and the poor ones for the away teams; and took a number of photos in the press rooms. At the museum James found out that all the boots were Adidas—what a coincidence that Chelsea is sponsored by them— and so another nomination was added to James, making him a short-priced favorite to wear the hat for the second day running.

We then went to the home of Chelsea’s rivals, Fulham, where we witnessed the amazing training facilities. We were put through our paces on the numerous outdoor grass fields and the indoor astro turf by the Fulham Youth Academy coaches Derek and Vic. The training was intense, felt especially by the Junior team session, as the boys all thought they would be scouted by Fullham. The sessions were finished with a much awaited grudge match between the Juniors and the Seniors. The ‘team of champions’ (i.e. the Seniors) were unlucky not to score early thanks to superb keeping by David Macrounas.

The team of champions took advantage of the opposition’s weak keeper and ‘French superstar Joey Faux’ scored a cracker. The Senior boys had clearly frustrated the Junior team and Henry resorted to slide tackles to break the Senior spirit. The scores finished at 2–2 with the longest penalty shootout in history going to the Juniors, even though Nicola hit the cross bar, Kristina was not even close and Liam missed the ball all together. Nick Chapman showed the Juniors how it was done by lining up to shoot with his right and neatly slotting it with his left. With a smile on our faces, a pile of sweaty soccer gear and with an extra few pounds in the swear jar, we ended an awesome day with a nice dinner and the awarding of the hats. Surprises all round as James Mehmet received a number of nominations for his quotes. Peter Solomou was also chosen for believing that Argentinians spoke Brazilian.

We kicked back and went bowling

We started early in the morning, with a wake up at 6am for our match against Allsp High. We arrived on a wet and slippery turf and began to prepare for our game.

We had the opposition frustrated for the first quarter of the game, until some sloppy defending rendered the offside trap useless. After the first goal, the Newington defence was caught unawares as suddenly a striker completed a bicycle kick within the penalty area.

In the second half we put up another great effort and had several chances to score, but unfortunately some good goalkeeping kept us scoreless. With the game up and lost, the  whole tour decided to kick back and go bowling.

While bowling, the boys decided to have a competition to see who the best bowler was. Mr ‘Dr Potteropoulos’ Potter decided that he was the so called ‘bowling guru’ but he soon faced a tied competition with Peter Solomou and Taylor ‘Reji’ Saito-Patch. Potteropoulos had a chance to become victorious but (un)fortunately choked under pressure and made a gutterball. Reji thought he had the crown with a winning with a total of 106, only to be denied the title of ‘Newington’s best bowler’ by dark horse Patrick Macri who scored a total  of 160.

An excellent learning experience

We went into the game unsure what to expect after seeing magnificent footballers from the previous Pro Touch Academy. As we departed the bus, the senior group separated from the junior group and wished them the best of luck for their up-and-coming game. When the time came for us to play, we were eager to test out our abilities against a quality opposition. As kick-off commenced, our opponents immediately took control of possession and we knew that it was going to be a tough game! With both teams performing well, it was unfortunate when we succumbed to an early goal. The first half continued to push us, and at half time we were down 3-0.

As we headed into the team huddle, heads hanging low, we were greeted with an inspiring speech from Mr ‘Burgo’ Burgess. This resulted in better play from our boys as we only conceded one goal and created more of our own chances. Despite the final score of 4–0, we were proud that we were able to hold our own against such a fierce opposition, whose skills which were at times immaculate. The match was certainly an excellent learning experience.

By Patrick Macri and Cameron Reddin

A tale of two hats

After some tears and hugs from the parents we departed Sydney Airport at 3:30pm. A quick eight-hour flight to Hong Kong primed us for the long haul to London. With the flight not full, many of the boys jostled for extra seats to grab some sleep. We arrived in London at 4:30am and made our way to customs. Mr Potter’s worst fears were realised when Jono Aspropotamitis couldn’t find his passport while we were on the plane. Some quick detective work came from some very nice immigration officials who managed to find it and after the delay we travelled by bus to the Holiday Inn Shepparton. We arrived at 6:45am and it was still exceptionally dark although the weather was as good as it has been in Sydney. We settled into our rooms, had a well earned shower and attacked the Kingston Shopping District. Many people bought jerseys, boots, clothes and even the odd container of hair gel.

We arrived home by coach and trained outside for about an hour before we ran out of light— it gets dark quickly here. Dinner was at 5.00pm and the food was really good! After Henry put away three plates it was time to nominate the ridiculous quote award winner from the Junior team and from the Senior team. James Mehmet was a multiple nominee with his “the roads look just like they do in Australia” followed by the “the houses look the same too”. Before the boys could add more, James conceded defeat and took possession of the red hat. Andrew then nominated Vangeli Kollias for an unfortunate observation that Ronald McDonald’s owned McDonald’s. On any other day he would have been wearing the green hat, but the boys felt that Jono was more deserving for losing his passport. They wore the funny hats for the next day. Our first day was very long, but enjoyable.

James Mehmet and Jonathan Aspropotamitis wear their hats

Vangeli, Chris, David and Taylor

Editor’s note:
I received this post form the boys about their first day this morning, despite it having been sent from Mr Potter on the 29/12. My sincere apologies; the IT team here at Newington are investigating the delay. I will continue to update the blog as more information comes to hand.

Communications Officer, Newington College