Fifteen schools from across Hertfordshire, Essex and Waltham Forest have been battling it out since September last year for the title of Soccer 7’s Champions and in a thrilling climax, St John Fisher Primary from Loughton took the trophy, winning their last game by four goals, relegating Henry Moore Primary to the runners-up spot on goal difference.
Now in its fourth successful year, the Year 6 tournament (under 11’s) takes place on the Score 3G astro-turf opposite the West Stand and is designed to invite schools from a bit further afield, welcoming the players, teachers and parents to enjoy an Orient experience and hopefully retaining some as future O’s supporters. And as an added bonus, some players may even be invited back for Academy trials and who knows…we may find an Orient star of the future!
At each of the knock-out rounds, an Orient star is on hand to present all participants a certificate as well as pass on advice and have photos taken. Goalkeepers Lee Butcher and Jamie Jones plus Kevin Lisbie have all attended the previous tournament days but Mathieu Baudry was on hand to present the awards for the finalists and also presented the trophy to the winning team on the pitch during half time at the recent Leyton Orient game against Carlisle.
The ten player squad, 7-a-side tournament has seen over 30 different schools participate during its time and has also included teams from the LOFC Academy and LOASS (Leyton Orient Advanced Soccer School) on occasions, with some schools participating every year since its concept whilst others have had to do with the waiting list.
Colin Williams, teacher and current manager of the St Andrew’s team from Hertfordshire, said: “The idea came from a supporters meeting whereby Matt Porter (Orient Chief Executive) asked how Leyton Orient could reach children outside of the local community. As a teacher in Hertfordshire and stalwart Orient supporter, I suggested the idea of inviting schools around that area and into Essex to play a tournament and maybe watch a game afterwards and here we are today! It’s supported really well by the club who supply the trophies, match tickets and obviously the players attending as well as the community side (LOCSP) who provide the pitch and staff. The response is always amazing and I know personally via my own school team, that the players and parents love the whole day’s experience.”
Howard Gould, Development Coach and Community Liaison Officer, who facilitates the tournament, said: “When I took over the reins the tournament had already completed a successful first season so it’s just been a case of tweaking and trying to improve on the experience for the participants. Last year we introduced the first-team players presenting the certificates at each round and now we have the team manager’s nominated player from each squad coming onto the pitch at half-time to take a penalty against Theo, the mascot. These little extras hopefully go some way to give all those attending a really positive day here at Orient and one they will hopefully want to repeat, ideally with visits back to watch games in the future.
“It’s also a really good opportunity for our Academy scouts to watch the school teams they would not necessarily be able to see and I know a few players have been invited to attend trials in the hope we may find an Orient player of the future.”
Trish McGrenra, manager of the successful winning team, said afterwards: “I can’t believe it! I hadn’t worked anything out so didn’t realise just how close it all was. My team are a great bunch and I’m so happy for them. We love coming to the tournament and what Leyton Orient do is fantastic. The whole day is exciting and to win the trophy is just brilliant. I can’t wait for next year!”
A big thanks must go out to all the school teams who took part this season, not forgetting the teachers and parents/families who helped organise and transport the players, namely; Yardley, St Andrew’s, Henry Moore, Epping, South Grove, Shelley, St Patrick’s, Ainslie Wood, Potter Street, Holdbrook, Northgate, Howe Green House, Hillmead, Noor Ul Islam and of course, winners, St John Fisher.
If your school team would like to participate next season, please contact Howard Gould for more details on 0208 556 5973 or email [email protected]