England might not be bringing football home this summer, but the SCL and Whitstable Town FC Academy players certainly are.
Crowned Barcelona Cup Champions 2018 earlier this month, the Whitstable boys have arrived home victorious, having battled against four elite u-19 teams in the hottest summer for years.
Touching down in Barcelona at the start of July, the boys kicked off their journey through the streets of Margrat de Mar, led by captain, Lewis Loxston, and greeted by applauding locals. Their opening ceremony finished in the impressive Margrat de Mar stadium; the arena for the Academy’s first match later that evening.
Going up against Deportivo Boca, English team with ties to Deportivo La Coruna; a La Liga side with great Academy status, the boys showcased great skill, maintained possession and hit Deportivo on the counter, earning themselves a respectable 0-0 scorecard.
Match two saw the team face Barcelona-based Cosecha Mundial. Getting off to a strong start, the boys created clear cut chances, with striker, Rhys Brain, troubling the opposition goalkeeper with a series of shots that whizzed past the post. Heading into the second half at 0-0 gave the boys a strong foundation to build on.
Two quick goals in the final 10 minutes from Cosecha sent Whitstable 2-0 down, but with the motivation and determination for their next game.
Whitstable’s final game of the group stage came against CF Cabrera, a Spanish team based on the outskirts of Barcelona. With a win needed to progress to the final, tactics and positional changes were made to secure early goals, making an instant impact and bringing Whitstable 3-0 up at half time.
With the final in their sights, the boys pushed on to build the high scoring margin they needed. The second half saw two quick goals from Rhys Brain and Teddy Nelson, with the referee blowing the whistle on a final score of 5-1, giving the boys a well-deserved 3 points and the all-important goal difference that they had been chasing.
Whitstable were through to the final, finishing top of the group with 7 points, closely followed by Deportivo Boca, finishing second on 6 points.
The last day in Barcelona saw the u-19’s final; the last match to be played in the tournament. The Whitstable Academy boys were met with an incredible atmosphere, playing in front of a packed stadium, as the remaining 48 tournament teams watched on from the stands.
The game started with a handful of chances and both teams keeping possession well, forcing Academy Manager, Josh Algar, to rally his players at half time and make a few tactical changes.
While Deportivo were undoubtedly the better team throughout the second half, creating more chances and keeping Whitstable goalkeeper alert, priceless saves kept Whitstable in the game.
As the final whistle blew on a goalless final, the boys were sent to penalties. Stepping up to take the first penalty was Whitstable’s Teddy Nelson, who calmly slotted his penalty into the bottom corner. 1-0 Whitstable.
With Deportivo’s first penalty saved by goalkeeper, Ryan Birch, the opposition were under pressure to score their final penalty and take the boys to sudden death. The nerves of sudden death were not needed, as Ryan Birch effortlessly saved the decisive penalty, crowning Whitstable Town FC Academy the Barcelona Cup Champions 2018.
Captain, Lewis Loxston, led his team once again to lift the trophy before spending the next few days celebrating with a tour of the Nou Camp.
To find out more about the Whitstable Town FC Academy programme in partnership with SCL, or if you know someone aged 16-18 years old who would like to apply, visit http://wearescl.co.uk/whitstable-fc.