A TEAM containing several Leeds area ex-pros hope they have set the tone for England success in Russia by winning the Seniors World Cup.
The all-conquering Harrogate Veterans team featuring the likes of Peter Beagrie and Barry Hayles returned from South East Asia on Monday having won the Seniors World Cup for the third year in a row.
Initially conceived by the Senior Football Association of Thailand to promote the country and its tourism in the wake of the 2004 tsunami, the competition has become an annual event, held in a different province of Thailand each year.
Selected to represent England, the Harrogate Veterans have now won the competition five times and their latest success was achieved in ultimate style with the Three Lions winning all of their five games played. After Iran were blitzed 4-0 in the semi-finals, auld enemy Scotland were beaten by the same score in the final on the same night that an England under-21s squad, featuring Leeds United stars Ronaldo Vieira and Tom Pearce, also lifted the Toulon Tournament in France for the third year in a row.
“I think the only ones to let the country down were England’s cricketers losing to Scotland!” quipped Harrogate Veterans manager Paul Bell, who was in charge for his 11th consecutive tournament in Thailand.
“This is a wonderful achievement for our squad,” he added.
“No country has won this tournament five times and to win three in a row is very special indeed. The squad has given everything for me. Five games in six days at any age is gruelling, but to do it in this heat, particularly for the over-50s in the squad, is quite something.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this England squad, let’s hope the Veterans have started something in Thailand that our senior team can finish in Russia.”
The success in Thailand formed the latest part of a stellar year for Leeds footballer Jonny Haigh who has also enjoyed success with leading grassroots sides Beeston St Anthony’s and HT Sports this year.
As well as having the usual strong representation of ex-pros based ‘up north’, the England side features several players to have plied their trade ‘down south’ such as Hayles, Andy Hessenthaler, Steve Phillips and captain Mark Saunders.
Squad: Back, left to right, Johnny Wilson (head of sports science and medicine), Paulina Czubacka (lead clinician), Rod Thornley, Dave Galloway, Lee Elam, Karl Munroe, Steve Phillips, Jason Price, Steve Dickinson, Mark Saunders, Nicky Southall, Steve Thompson, Jonny Haigh, Ian Nockolds (media), Mark Clifton (assistant manager. Front, Dean Barrick, Kevin Mooney, Wesley Reid, Alex Russell, Tristram Whitman, Andy Newell (assistant manager), Paul Bell (manager), Mark Smitheringale (coach), Peter Beagrie, Barry Hayles, Steve Jones, Steve King, Andy Hessenthaler.