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Author: Mike Smith - Tue 9 May 17

Vintage Celtic were crowned GMWF Spring League 2017 Champions last Friday over at Heywood Sports Village, for the over 60ís Walking Football monthly league.

With teams initially being allocated divisions through selection out of the hat, and promotion and relegation after each monthly session, eventually the better teams found their way into Division One.

In this final session of the 2017 Spring League, Vintage Celtic, were without two important players. The two were the leagueís top striker, up to and including the April session, Paul OíNeil, and play maker and Captain, Brian Coll. Added to this, the fact that Barry Whitmore was unable to play in all four games due to other arrangements on the day, it was always going to be squeaky bum time before we could be confident of winning the league. Vintage Celtic started this final league session with a four point advantage over second placed Nash Amblers.

We started with a 0-0 draw against Rochdale Strollers, a team always difficult to gain points against, and the outcome was a fair conclusion to the game. With nearest rivals, Nash Amblers, beating Chadderton FC WF 1-0 on the adjacent pitch, it meant that Vintage Celticís four point lead at the top of the combined division standings was reduced to two points and this didnít instil confidence in the prospect of becoming league champions.

Next up came Chadderton FC WF, another team we had only beaten once in this Spring season. Chadderton FC WF always seem to play well against us, and once again we managed to hold on for a 0-0 draw. So now we had a 3 point advantage over the Nash Amblers, who had a game in hand on Vintage Celtic.

The third encounter was against Bolton Wanderers, who had just been beaten 3-0 by Rochdale Strollers. This time Vintage Celtic were the dominant team but despite a few chances we just couldnít put the ball in the Bolton net. Riddy Walker had to be replaced in this game due to an old injury flaring up. Once again the result was a 0-0 draw and with the Nash Amblers going down to a 2-1 loss against Rochdale Strollers, Vintage Celtic now were back to a four point advantage but having played a game more.

Vintage Celticís final match in this May session was the the encounter which could decide the league winners, Vintage Celticís fourth game on the trot, the game against Nash Amblers. With Vintage Celtic down to the bare bones and no substitutes available it was hoped no further injuries would be incurred.

Neither side could afford to lose this game and despite Vintage Celtic having slightly more possession than the Nash Amblers, the match finished 0-0. With very few chances to either side and neither looking a threat on goal, it was a fair result and meant that Vintage Celtic couldnít be caught even if their nearest rivals won their last game. In the event the Nash Amblers drew against Bolton Wanderers to give Vintage Celtic a three point advantage at the top.

So it was Vintage Celtic GMWF Spring League 2017 Champions and the fifth winners trophy, to add to the five runners up awards, in the Vintage Celtic cabinet in their 2Ĺ years existence. With Nash Amblers finishing runners up, it meant the two Tameside teams finished first and second in this inaugural season of the GMWF Over 60ís League.

Mike Kieran, our 71 year old goalkeeper. With fifteen games played in this Spring league, Mike has kept fourteen clean sheets and fully deserved the Golden Gloves trophy he was presented with at the after match award winners ceremony. Well done Mike, and despite all the mickey taking, what would we do without you?

Celtic are lucky to have some excellent defenders who conceded only one goal in a fifteen match unbeaten run and that was an own goal. You could pick any three from six without weakening the side, all have done a magnificent job. Our absent Captain, Brian Coll, the ever improving Eric Williams, Keith Whitmore, Tony Wade, Riddy Walker and Barry Whitmore. Barry covers more ground than any two other players, in every match, despite his advancing years.

Up front, the ever dependable Derek Drabble and the absent Paul OíNeil, who is a nightmare for any defender to play against. Keith Burrows has also been a valuable addition to the striking squad in this tournament. In this session Martin Dunkerley stood in for Paul. This was Martinís first venture into walking football and he later admitted that he found it strange after being use to playing normal small sided football.

Martin performed admirably on the day, shielding and holding the ball up well, despite some questionable challenges by defenders unable to master him. With little support up front, unfortunately his normal shooting skills were limited on the day. Hopefully Martin will appear for us again as he did enjoy the occasion and with Paul alongside him, what a striking duo that would make.

Last but certainly not least, two guys who accept their playing involvement will be limited but never the less always show up at the league sessions. In Gordon Fenton and Mike Taylor, we have two excellent club men whose commitment is appreciated by all the lads and especially by me. Fortunately, in this session they were able to get some game time by guesting for Maccabi Old Codgers and AFC Blackpool Very Senior Seasiders respectively.

Vintage Celtic have the possibility of adding another trophy on Thursday, 11th May, in the Cheshire Walking Football League down in Northwich, it is all to play for and letís hope we can maintain our momentum and come away champions once more.

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