Birmingham Over 50’s confirmed their status as the leading lights in Walking Football as they took their second major National Trophy in as many months, as they were crowned National Champions in the most prestigious WFA Tournament.
Up against two previous winners and a three times finalist they took the spoils with an impressive all round display, their first game against Leggy Mambos from Barnsley was a cagey affair Darren Bradley and David Castle kept things tight at the back and only limited opportunities for Ian Ward and Dave Norton meant a statement 0-0 result . In their second fixture against Stroud, Birmingham totally dominated as shots rained in on John Hammonds in the Stroud goal, some incredible saves and the post kept Birmingham at bay, then an innocuous shot found its way to the back of Birmingham’s net. Mike Milligan was proving a handful for Stroud’s defence as he continually found Ward and Norton with superb passes, Andy Struthers and Dave Wright both went close when yet another Milligan pass slipped in Ward and his low shot beat the keeper only for the referee to have adjudged it as encroaching the area. With time ticking away Birmingham were staring their first defeat at impressive Solihull base, when a brilliant Bradley pass saw Dave Norton fire home .With the Brummies totally on top Norton scored again with only seconds remaining to mean only a draw was needed to qualify for the final.
Last year’s Champions Herne Bay stood in their way, another Dave Norton rocket put Birmingham in control and their flowing game meant a comfortable passage to their first ever WFA National Final as the Bradley and Castle partnership again proved solid. If their group stage game against the all conquering Leggy Mambos was cagey, the final was anything but, both teams had chances in the first few minutes with Derek Hughes making an excellent save in the Birmingham goal, Two minutes before half time Ward and Norton exchanged passes brilliantly and Norton coolly slotted home in front of the jubilant crowd to put one and on the cup.
Shortly after half time Norton swivelled and shot to put Birmingham two up with seven minutes to play, Leggy Mambo’s then threw everything at Birmingham and gave themselves hope with a goal two minutes from time, in a breakaway Norton had a chance to complete his hat-trick but blazed over from close range. Milligan calmed everyone’s nervous with a faultless display retaining possession for long periods and the referees whistle meant Birmingham were National Champions.
Dave Norton was duly named Player of the Tournament for his brilliant 5 goals and all round play, but the secret of their hugely successful season has been the journey they have made has been as a team with everyone contributing at important times. They now represent England in the Home Internationals in Wales in December with the hope of been crowned British Champions.
After the game Birmingham Manager Paul Murtagh said, “I can’t tell you how relieved I am that we finally won in this major tournament! These guys deserve it after all the near misses and disappointment they’ve had in the previous years, always a bridesmaid tag can now be officially removed! The team played tremendously well today and all got behind the ball and defended their lead when it really mattered. Respect goes out to our worthy opponents Leggy Mambos who battled till the final whistle.”