The contrasting fortunes the end of any sporting season brings, offer up rich pickings for a sports photographer lucky enough to be present. No doubt when my team, Wigan Athletic takes to the field in the “must win” game on Sunday come the full time whistle if they’ve lost there will no doubt be the sight of players consoling each other, slumping to the ground and probably wiping away the odd tear. Should they win then of course there’ll be tears of joy, along with much badge kissing, chest thumping and over the top celebrations that any outsider looking in would probably see as misplaced given the cause for celebration is being the 4th or 5th worst team in the league rather than the 3rd worst!
Then you have the spectra that regardless of if they are tears of joy or sadness they will no doubt dry quicker than the transfer requests that will be slapped in on Monday morning by players feeling they deserve bigger and better, perhaps they have 6th or 7th worst team in there sights for next year!
Cynical – yes probably, the memories of Ellington’s transfer request on the eve of our first ever Premier League match or Chimbonda’s in the tunnel away at the Emirates whilst still in his kit upon the full time whistle at the end of our first ever Premier League season are still fresh. Of course there’ve been many more since, not quite as dramatic, but the revolving door at the Wigan training ground does seem to spin at speed in the off-season and even once the season starts the suspicion remains that there’s one or two already seeing there future elsewhere………..
In contrast there is a certain honesty that I like and feel drawn to in semi-professional/amateur circles. I was lucky enough to be invited by Saltney Town football club to cover two cup finals on consecutive weekends marking a superb end to the season for the club. Thankfully they went on to win both, the first by 8-0 in a match that started as a competitive cup final, passed through the stage were opponents Llanuwchllyn, knew they were beaten and a few tackles flew in and then into the coasting towards the final whistle stage were every attack looked likely to serve up a goal. It was a footballing master class, that said, with victory assured so early in the game it didn’t quite have that sense of relief the final whistle brings to the end of any cup final were the result has been in the balance. Still the champagne corks popped and the well deserved celebrations ensued. A link to my set from that match can be found here.
Fast forward six days and Saltney Town faced new opponents, in what from the off struck me as being a far more balanced affair, it had the ebb and flow early on of two teams not wanting to give anything away but still wanting to test there opponents. It was like two heavy weight boxers jabbing each other in the early rounds of a fight – jabs never intended to knock out there opponent more a gentle reminder of what’s to come. Castell Alun scored first in the 24th minute and if anything, this seemed to sting Saltney into life, the Castell Alun celebrations had barely finished when Saltney Town equalised 4 minutes later with a superbly taken goal and a “proper strikers” celebration – can be seen on my home page – Shane Parry one arm held aloft wheeling away towards celebrating team-mates. Saltney had to wait until the 70th minute for the 2nd goal. Parry scoring once more, this time with his head, setting up a tense 20 minute run in to the final whistle. Players asking referee and “liners” seemingly every 30 seconds – “how long to go?”, which all culminates in an explosion of emotion upon the final whistle – its hard deciding what and how to photograph so’s not to miss anything!
It was a superb experience and many thanks to Saltney Town manager Mark Edwards for the booking to cover it, was a privilege to be there and congratulations on your end of season double. My photos from this cup final can be seen here.
In contrast I’ve also been lucky enough to have photographed Manchester Futsal Club through what has, to date been an excellent season. To set the scene, almost two weeks ago MFC travelled to Middlesborough knowing a win would be enough to clinch the FA Futsal North League title. Whilst Manchester have been in fine form throughout the season and built an exceptional squad they have been pushed close by Sheffield all the way and there was also the “Ultras” of Middlesborough to contend with!
You have to see first hand to really appreciate how so few can create so much noise and atmosphere as the Middlesborough Ultras do, I’ve never seen anything like it in semi-professional or amateur circles.
So it was against this backdrop needing victory that Manchester lost control of there own destiny, losing 3-2, at the time this left Sheffield 4 points behind with 2 games in hand and 3 points on offer for a win, Sheffield have subsequently eased past East Coast 20-1 and now a draw or better away at Tranmere this coming Sunday will clinch the title for them.
Whilst “just” the photographer who’s role is to capture the match action on a Sunday afternoon, go home, edit and upload the photos, impartiality for the afternoon had gone out of the window and I was gutted! Then you have the players and staff, training 2/3 times a week, matches on a Sunday, plenty of friendlies to squeeze in to fill the blank weekends, along with the travel and time commitments coupled with working/university studies and you end up with very gutted!
There’s an argument that from a photography point of view, the losing side in any situation like this offers up an excellent opportunity for photographs, the range of emotions etched on players faces, the obvious black and white conversion opportunities, as it was, I stopped at this;
I’d switched to a wider angle lens and well, getting to close felt like over stepping the mark so left it at this sort of distance. Hopefully with the end of season play-offs and cup competitions on the horizon we’ll be back to photographs of celebrating! The full set of photos from Middlesborough v MFC can be found here.
From a sporting perspective a big hats off to the Middlesborough manager Damon Shaw and his players, in a game with nothing but pride to play for they gave it everything, fair play gents – I hope to see the same from Man Utd, Spurs and Wolves at the weekend – however, Stoke have had a tough week, so be nice to see them coast to the finish line!
I’d like to round off this longer than intended post by thanking the players and officials at Saltney Town FC, Llanuwchllyn FC, Castell Alun FC, Manchester Futsal Club and Middlesborough Futsal Club for the roles they played in the matches outlined above and in particular to the people that booked me for each occasion – many thanks.
PS – All future posting will be much shorter!
Keywords: Football, Futsal, Manchester Futsal, Manchester Futsal Club, Middlesborough Futsal, Middlesborough Futsal Club, Photography, Saltney Town, Sport, Wigan, Wigan Athletic
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