It was a day to remember for Aldersbrook Primary school’s under-11s football team recently when the Wanstead based school donned the Leyton Orient football kit to represent the club at the regional finals of the prestigious Kinder+Sport EFL Kids Cup.
A 10.30am briefing meant an early start for the team, team manager Aslam Hussain plus a few supportive parents as Wycombe Wanderers were hosting the event on their Adams Park pitch but the boys began well in drizzly and blustery conditions, defeating their school counterparts representing Crawley Town 2-1 in their opening game.
Fourteen teams representing League Two south were divided into two divisions and played each other to determine mini-league winners and runners-up who would then contest semi-finals and onto the ultimate game culminating in a chance to play at Wembley prior to the League Two Play-Off Final!
After a 0-0 draw with Cheltenham, the boys then had a run of three games in a row but excelled themselves with wins over Newport County (1-0), Barnet (2-0) and Yeovil (5-0) that took them into a top-two decider versus Portsmouth and a guaranteed semi-final place.
The road to the finals starts when the new school term starts. The 72 EFL clubs are first split into three divisions, in line with club’s divisional status, before being again split into two groups, north and south. Each club organises a Kids Cup competition for all local schools wishing to take part and Aldersbrook came through a twenty-team tournament last October.
The winners of the divisional northern and southern finals then qualify for the chance to play before the Sky Bet EFL Play-Off Final of the relevant division.
Howard Gould, Leyton Orient Community Liaison Officer, said, “Having experienced winning the trophy in 2014 with Chingford based school Chase Lane, the desire to repeat that day is overwhelming. It’s a fantastic prize and literally a once in a lifetime opportunity for these kids.”
A 0-0 draw with Pompey was enough for the O’s to win their league and play Colchester United in the semi-final. A pulsating game included both teams hitting the woodwork twice and each with goal-line clearances but a terrific flicked header from a corner by Noah that looped into the Colchester net during the dreaded ‘golden-goal’ period (after a 0-0 score line in normal time) meant the O’s team had made it to the regional final!
Hosts Wycombe had beaten Portsmouth in the other semi and were now the only team standing in the way of Aldersbrook living their dream but a well organised side with a couple of exceptional and tricky players took their chances and ran out 3-0 winners.
“It’s obviously disappointing and it would have been nice to get to Wembley once again but it just wasn’t to be. Wycombe are worthy victors. We wish them the best of luck on their special day at Wembley,” added Howard. “And of course, I would like to thank the Aldersbrook squad: Noah, Kamar, Kayden, Myles, Tugwal, Ezra and Harry, for representing Leyton Orient with such gallantry and enthusiasm. Their effort is greatly appreciated.”
Aldersbrook coach Aslam Hussain said afterwards, “This was a great day all round. We are all very proud of the team to reach this stage. Their determination and commitment throughout the tournament was second to none. There has been some real quality on display and we’re just glad we had the chance to be involved and it’s been really nice to be able to represent Leyton Orient.”
Team Captain, Harry, commented, “This was fun although it’s a shame we didn’t win. But Colchester and Wycombe were both good teams”, and Noah stated, “I think we did really well but Wycombe deserved to win. My favourite part was scoring a goal!”