Wallsend Boys Club at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens.
The weekend of the 20th – 22nd May will again see Wallsend Boys Club, along with the Newcastle United youth team, return to Hong Kong for the annual HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens held at the Hong Kong Football Club.
Newcastle United will appear in the main tournament in group A along with Aston Villa, Kitchee and Hong Kong Football Club.
Wallsend Boys Club will appear in the Masters tournament in group B along with Citi All Stars, HKFC Veterans, Singapore Cricket Club Tigers and Yau Yee League Masters.
Back to Hong Kong for a third successive year, Wallsend Boys Club boast one of the most esteemed production lines in English football with the likes of Alan Shearer, Steve Bruce and Michael Carrick all having spent their early days at the North Tyneside institution.
Another of its former graduates Peter Beardsley is among the notable players to have turned out at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens for Wallsend in the past two years. Michael Bridges, Robbie Elliott and Alan Thompson each amassed a wealth of Premier League experience during their playing days and have also starred for the team at the Hong Kong Football Club.
Other notable names that have originated from Wallsend Boys Club include former Newcastle United players Lee Clark, Steve Watson and Neil Mcdonald, along with former striker Adam Campbell who starred for the Newcastle United team here two years ago.
Wallsend’s debut campaign saw them advance from the group stage before losing to Hong Kong side USRC in the quarter-finals.
Last year, the team beat SCC Tigers 1-0 in the semi-finals after coming second in group A only to ultimately lose out once more to USRC 2-1 in the final.
It is a difficult tournament to win so to achieve this they will be up against it. The last two years they have been beaten by a local side USRC who often field a team of one-time Brazilian stars and many play regularly in the Hong Kong league and are used to the stifling hot conditions. The captain of the USRC team that won the final last year was Capone who played for Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup semi-final against Leeds United.
Ajax often field a team of top former internationals including former Liverpool player and Champions league winner Jari Litmanen. Rangers and Nottingham forest attend the tournament every year with a squad full of former internationals such as Andy Gorman and Des Walker. Former Newcastle United legends Rob Lee and John Beresford have also taken part in the tournament in recent years.
The Wallsend Boys Club (WBC) participation in the Hong Kong tournament began in 2013/14 when HKFC soccer representative and passionate Newcastle United fan Neil Jensen sat down with Tony Sealy who is the HKFC Director of Operations and himself a former product of WBC.
The pair discussed adding something to the tournament and in particular the boys club’s mission to raise GBP1m to fund a new coaching building in Wallsend after damage to the previous one in Station Road due to strong winds left it unusable. After further discussions with WBC Chairman Steve Dale it was clear that donations and fundraising were only part of what was needed and ultimately there was a real need to spread the message globally while also keeping the club on a grass-roots level. A decision was then made to enter a WBC team (last year’s team pictured above) into the Masters tournament with the aim of getting the WBC community involved.
The first year saw players such as Alan Thompson, Peter Beardsley, Mick Tait, Paul Malcolm, John Watson and Michael Bridges arrive to take part in a successful tournament. Last year this success was built on with the arrival of Robbie Elliott who flew over from the U.S.A to take part along with Steve Cuggy who was a 3-times FA Vase winner with Whitley Bay and now runs their adult team.
Last year a loyal club servant was also flown out by the team organisers for a trip of a lifetime in recognition for their long service and dedication to WBC and the same will happen again this year. This tournament will also see NUFC legend Terry McDermott fly over to be the WBC special guest for the weekend and he is bringing along ex-Liverpool legend David Johnson. Word must be spreading as John Gibson from the Evening Chronicle is also coming over to cover and take part in events.
It is a requirement each year that 50% of the squad must have a link with WBC. This year there are Peter Beardsley, John Watson, Darren Timmons, Michael Bridges, Tony Sealy and Ben Watson playing, while Neil Jensen and Chris Vale alongside Terry McDermott will be taking care of the management side of things.
The kit for the tournament is designed and made in Hong Kong every year in WBC colours and it is then sent back to Wallsend for the first team to use. As a special touch this year, Tsunami have designed a great kit and every one of the 78 players who have made it as a professional player from WBC will have their name printed on the kit.
Wallsend Boys Club is an institution in the North East of England and in an era of premier league billionaire owners and mega money TV deals, local clubs like this should never be forgotten. Particularly in a time of need, as this is a place where local lads can take their first steps to football greatness.
Apart from 1994 when England didn’t qualify for the tournament, WBC have had players such as Beardsley, Shearer, Carrick and Fraser Forster in every World Cup squad since 1986. Alan Thompson also earned a full England cap while Steve Bruce played for England B and Steve Watson England under 21s.
This is reflective of the hard work that goes on in regard to youth coaching and instilling some much needed pride for the north east region when following the national team. The competition will be strong but let’s hope Wallsend Boys Club can go one step further than last year and go on to win the tournament this weekend.
For anybody in the region, this Thursday before the tournament at 5pm the players and coaches will conduct a coaching clinic to around 40 kids at the HKFC followed by a session with the HKFC junior coaches.
This is then followed on Friday lunchtime by a fundraiser which will also be run at HKFC and hosted by Peter Beardsley, Michael Bridges and Terry McDermott, so any Newcastle United fans in the area try and make it down to lend your support.