Following the historic first WFA walking football international between England and Italy on Sunday, in which england were triumphant 2-0, I caught up with our England player Paul Kirby.
How tough were the trials and were they well organised? What sort of things did you do?
The initial trial consisted mostly of games. A short warm up followed by a number of six-a-sides on small pitches. We then switched to the bigger pitch which was harder to cover but the rests between the games increased. The second trial saw us have an extended warm up followed by passing and moving drills and on to some possession games with and without an aim. We then went into games, all of high quality with few goals as the teams cancelled each other out but with hindsight the nucleus of the final squad was in place by the last round of games.
How did you feel when you heard that you’d made the England team for the game v Italy?
Paul Murtagh, the Over 50’s manager called me on the Tuesday after the second trial. He told me I had made the squad for the Italy game and was pretty gobsmacked to say the least. Especially when he told me what they had planned for the weekend! Training, Gala Evening and game on the pitch at The AmEx Stadium!
What were the facilities like at Brighton? Did you play on the main grass pitch?
Brighton’s Stadium, for a new build is quite a thing of beauty. It looks like a Space Ship has landed in the car park as you drive in! As you can imagine, everything is on a large scale including the changing rooms and tunnel areas. The pitch had a lot of rain on it the previous day and was quite slippery on top other than that, it played really well if not quite as true as the 3G we’re all accustomed to now.
Standing there in the England shirt whilst the National Anthem was playing must’ve been quite moving – did you have a tear in the eye?
I think by the time we got around to getting changed my mind was fully in the game and pulling on the shirt and singing the anthem although moving didn’t stir me as much as I’d imagined. We had had so much bestowed on us over the weekend that putting on a performance and possibly getting a win for the management team, the committee from the WFA and the many sponsors, seemed to take on a greater importance.
How did the game against Italy go from a team perspective?
The game itself started slowly with both teams unwilling to commit in the early stages but possession wise, we held the upper hand all game. The first goal came just before half-time with a turn and well taken finish from Neil Evans from Barnsley. That settled us down and we continued to dominate possession as they began to tire. We spurned several chances before Dave Norton (Birmingham) finished a one-on-one with the ‘keeper.
How did you feel about your own contribution?
On a personal level, I was happy with the way I played. I had a good strike early on which settled the nerves and moved play on nice and quickly and settled it down at the right times I think. Got cover on when required and joined in the attacks without over committing with the score being 1-0 for so long. Got involved with set pieces and even got in a couple of tussles which ended up with me on the floor and the Ref awarding us a free kick!! I think you’ve seen me do that before <winks>.
How well were the games refereed from a walking football perspective; especially with regards the physicality and the running?
The Refereeing was fine. Just a few bits and pieces here and there. Just enough for me to have a moan! I apologised afterwards, I think we’re OK!!
What was the post-match atmosphere like?
At the final whistle, as you can imagine, everyone was delighted with both the result and the performance. The manager told us he was justified in his selections and we were pleased that we had fulfilled the faith he had put in us. So possibly relief as much as anything.
What was the gala evening?
The Gala evening on the Saturday night was held at The Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton where the Italian teams were staying. A three course meal followed by the usual speeches and a Singer to end the night. Nessun Dorma obviously!!
So a great experience all round then and the win making it even sweeter?
Definitely. I'd like to thank everyone at Stamford for the chance to go and all the support and best wishes. When I rang you less than 2 years ago about the possibility of coming along on a Thursday evening, who would of thought it would have turned into playing for my country!!