Varsity 2019: Post Match.
Following the success of the Nottingham Varsity event, we caught up with some of the players and staff from both Uni of Nottingham and Trent University. These were only intended to be used as quotes within the two articles (second one will follow), but such is the quality of the responses I think it’s fair that these see the light of day:
Marc Forrest [University of Nottingham | Head of Performance Futsal]:
Q: Congratulations on staging what was a memorable event and for the amazing comeback. Can you sum up how you are feeling, following the game?
I am really happy for everyone. The ambition was to create an event that would showcase English Futsal and provide a memorable experience for everyone whether involved as a player, student, spectator or watching online and I think we did that. Grateful to the University for helping make it a reality, it was an incredible night and a special occasion. I’m pleased and proud for the players, club and University as we showed our togetherness, ambition, quality and character all in one night. The players deserve huge credit.
Q: The story of the event was the perfect second half performance – can you share what the magical words were during that half time break?
No magical words. We were just overcome by the occasion a little bit in the first half which is to be expected and didn’t play our game, so we spoke about playing with more confidence, courage and some tactical details we needed to get right that would allow us to but not much to be honest. We felt that it was in our hands going into the second half, we have a way of playing and it was about focusing on ourselves.
Everyone contributed, the players were positive, Edu is a great support and England Partially Sighted Futsal Captain, Steve Daley joined us for the day who was a positive presence for the boys. I said that Varsity 2019 would be the best varsity yet because it would be remembered for their comeback to win and they proved that to be right.
We won because we have a team of great people that are also talented players with quality on court which they showed in the second half. Huge respect to Nottingham Trent University also who have good players and applied themselves incredibly which set up a fantastic game.
Q: In terms of the event, the biggest and best domestic futsal game we have seen so far – surely a proud moment for you to see it all come together?
Incredibly proud moment for the club and University. Personally, to be honest it was a huge relief of emotion at the end of the day with the way the game and event played out with the different pressures. The players invest a lot of effort and commitment into the team so was over the moon for them all to enjoy such an occasion.
Important to recognise that the Women’s team also did an amazing job too. The University were extremely supportive and accommodating in making the event a spectacle on the scale hoped. A huge thank you to the UoN SU, TEC, UoN Sport and everyone that made the event possible.
Hopefully the event will be the catalyst for similar events for Futsal throughout the country and excited people to want to play or watch Futsal in the future.
For the growth of the game, I think it is important as a community we challenge and aspire to achieve moments on and off court in our own environments that have never been done before, as that contributes to the collective progress of English Futsal. At University of Nottingham Futsal, we try to pride ourselves and give attention on the details that are not essential too but do them because it is the right thing to do. We are evolving like everyone.
Q: What next for Uni of Notts? Does this indicate, along with your work in the National League that you are on the right track?
The season has been the best ever for the club. From Tier 1 to BUCS Premier, top four University, European Universities Championships qualification, FA Cup Finals weekend, Varsity Winners and still currently unbeaten in National League as well as our 2nd and 4th unbeaten winning their leagues. It has been a special year. The focus is now to build on the successes and learn from the failures of this year to continue to improve moving forward as a club.
We are a club, not just a team with incredible people throughout evident from their support we had on Thursday; it is an exciting time hopefully we can next year compete in BUCS Premier and the top tier of the FA Futsal League which will be another huge step forward and first for the programme.
Becky Langley [University of Nottingham | Head of Women’s Football and Futsal]:
Q: Becky, congratulations on the varsity win – can you put into words what the feeling is amongst the team?
Thanks, we are delighted to have won Varsity for UON! The girls are ecstatic. I am so pleased that the hard work over the season has paid off. The girls showed off what they can do. They were aggressive and hard working out of possession. And had that real flare and creativity in possession. With some excellent goals being scored!
Q: Your first varsity and your first win, what does that feel like for you as a coach?
First Varsity for myself and I couldn’t be prouder. It’s a fantastic tradition for both universities. It was an excellent contest. We knew Trent had a strong side after some real competitive football fixtures this season, but I’m delighted on this occasion we have come out on top!
Q: The first half was a fierce contest with nothing between the teams – what changed the game in the second half for you?
In the second half we started being a bit more patient in possession. Probing to then find the pockets to exploit. I thought we forced possession a little too much in the first half. We grew in confidence in the second half and our movement was much more fluid. You could see how much it meant to the girls when the ball hit the back of the net and at the end of the game. We are all delighted!
David Tapia Owens [Nottingham Trent University | Head of Futsal]:
Q: David, commiserations on the two defeats, can you share what your thoughts are now, across the two games?
Both the girls and boys are understandably disappointed with the end results that will be widely spread across social media, despite two excellent performances. I just hope that the fans and futsal fans saw our exciting and intense style of play in the first half and understand what NTU Futsal is all about. I thought that our boys were incredible in the first half especially where we had meaningful and long spells of possession, creating a lot of chances along the way. We have an extremely young squad with 4 first year players and in the second half, I think their experienced international players managed to snatch the momentum from us completely and hats off to them for doing that as we are usually unplayable when we have our tails up as seen in the first half. For the senior players, I hope that their incredible ability has been noticed and I’m excited to see them progress even further at National league teams next season.
The girls have had an incredible unbeaten season across football and futsal and many of the girls were exhausted from their BUCS Playoff just 24 hours before the Varsity game. I think this showed in the second half where we were physically and mentally drained. Despite that, I couldn’t be prouder of the group and their achievements there record breaking season have been remarkable and shouldn’t be shadowed by this result at all. I feel like both teams truly showed the potential of women’s futsal in the country.
Q: The women’s game was fiercely contested during the first half, were there any changes in the second half that swayed it, or perhaps just running out a steam, a little?
The girls had played their BUCS Football Playoff the day and trained on the morning of Varsity. I was extremely proud of the ability that our girls showed and many of them are looking to find national league clubs also. At half time, we decided to set a higher defensive line and this seemed to go against us when energy levels started to drop and their pivot, who was excellent, continued to offer the long option. Despite the result, it capped off an excellent season for our girls all round across football and futsal and I can’t wait to see their progress next season. Similar to in the men’s game, I have to applaud UoN’s performance and their futsal training shows. They are one of the best women’s teams in the country and we felt like we’ve restored our reputation of playing positive and exciting futsal once again.
Q: In terms of the men’s game, what was the message during half time? Would you say it was a bad Trent performance in the second half or a good UoN performance?
The aim was obviously to keep doing what was working and we made a few little tweaks to areas but nothing major as we were unplayable in my opinion. I feel like half time came at the perfect time for them as we could’ve had a few more just before the break. I feel like the second half shows the real psychological impact of futsal and how important it is, regardless of tactics. Just before their first goal in the second we had two great chances to extend the lead which we should’ve scored. Two minutes later they had scored and a penalty was given.
Their players are extremely experienced futsal players and our young squad struggled to grasp the momentum back. I have to admire the performance of some of their key players in the second half and their mental strength to come back was outstanding. Overall, we are upset with ourselves for our second half performance and hope that the final score doesn’t shadow the stunning performance in the first half by a team full of players with no prior experience in futsal before university, other than our world class goalkeeper Cameron Riley.
Finally, I hope that our individual performances were noticed and that our players begin to get the recognition that they deserve following two BUCS Premier titles and two Varsity wins in the previous two seasons. I can’t wait to see how both sides cope with the outflow of players ahead of next year’s event when we will look to get the bragging rights of Nottingham back.
Emily Gunn [Nottingham Trent University | Women’s Captain]:
Q: Emily, commiserations on the varsity defeat – can you sum up your thoughts on the game and how the group are feeling following it?
Considering we are a group of footballers who aren’t very well trained in futsal I am very proud of the teams performance. As UON are in the league above we were definitely the underdogs going into the game. All players put in 100% and I agree with many people saying that it was the best futsal varsity performance the girls from Trent have played! Hopefully with a bit more training we will be able to secure the win next year.
Q: The first half seen great performances from both sides with nothing between them at the break, what would you say the difference was in the second period?
The first half was very competitive and some great bits of futsal were played. We wanted to go back into the second half and make Uni Of be the ones chasing our lead but unfortunately they got 2 goals in quick succession and we were unable to claw it back, however we remained composed until the final whistle and didn’t allow for them to lead by more than the 3 goals.
Q: Can you describe the feeling of playing in a game with hundreds of spectators watching on, particularly one that holds such a close rivalry?
It was a great experience for all the girls to play in front of so many people who were cheering us all on, it’s definitely an experience that most of the team have probably never had before and we all thoroughly enjoyed it - minus the defeat!
Brooklynn Meinke [University of Nottingham]:
Q: Brooklynn, congratulations on the win and on a player of the match performance, can you describe what it means to play in this fixture and to get the win?
Thank you! Nottingham varsity as a whole has been one of the coolest events I have experienced since I’ve come out to the UK. All week I’ve had such a great time getting involved in the rivalry and so to give into this big event by playing been an incredible highlight of my time here at uni. I won’t lie, I was really nervous coming into the match but once we kicked off I was really up for it. This fixture also meant a lot in that it was my last time suiting up with my girls and we were going to be able to showcase how far we’ve come as a futsal team this season and to pull off an amazing win on that stage was unbelievable
Q: The first half had everything in terms of play, goals, with nothing splitting the teams at the break – what gave you the edge in the second half, do you think?
From the time we arrived to the event, I knew it was our game to win so at half time we just had a moment of remembering that this was our turf, our stage and our time to show the university that we’ve got what it takes to really make something out of the futsal programme here at Nottingham. However, the edge was definitely gained when we scored within the first few seconds of the second half and established we weren’t ready to mess around anymore. We took the lead, the crowd was backing us and from that point on every player we had on the pitch did their job and gave it their all until the final seconds of the game.
Q: Is futsal something that you paid much attention to, prior to being with Uni of Nottingham?
I did see how the sport started gaining more attention in the U.S. but nothing that would have made me pay any extra attention to it. To be brutally honest, growing up I hated futsal because I thought it was just for very technical players and didn’t think it catered well to my skillset. However, playing futsal here showed me how fun and exciting the game is and has me wishing I would have gotten more involved with it from a younger age. Now, playing at the uni and seeing the ways they’re starting to invest in the sport with coaches like Marc Forrest being a great influence, I realise how great this sport is and how beautiful it will be to see it taking off and better recognized not only at university level, but nationally.
Jonathan Alvarez [University of Nottingham | Men’s Captain]:
Q: Jonathan, surely you are one proud captain following this result?
Everyone knows how much I love this team and how I feel about this Club and to captain the lads to varsity victory is a special feeling. All at the club couldn’t be happier with the way that game unfolded. From 1-4 down at half time, the comeback I believe showed the hunger and desire from the team. We have a great group of players all the way throughout the club, evident by not only our lads playing, but also our additional BUCS team players who sang their hearts out for us all game. Personally, I’m honoured to be the captain this season, not just following this result, and I will continue to give 100% every time I wear the Green and Gold colours.
Q: Can you sum up your thoughts on the first half and what the words were during the half time break?
Regarding the first half, I think Trent pressed us well, they played some good stuff, credit where credit is due. We started slowly, maybe nerves, maybe the occasion getting the better of some of the lads, etc. however after watching back the footage and reflecting on how we played, we also had chances, that should they have gone in, the story of the first half may have been a completely different story all together. I think our first goal was crucial, as it showed C. Riley could be beaten after several good saves early doors, giving us confidence in going forward and attacking the oppositions goal.
At Half time, we did not really talk tactics, or reflect on the first half. The focus was more on us bringing the level up, and raising our own standards, as we knew we had so much for to offer. We knew we had to work tirelessly on court for each other, encourage each other from the bench, and the goals would follow, which they did. So, I guess you could say half time came at the right time for us! Gave us chance to regroup.
Q: The second half was flawless – was that tactical? Psychological? The crowd?
I think it was a mixture of all. We have a lot of strong characters in the team, but also everyone is very humble and wants to work hard for each other, which I believe showed in the second half. Tactically speaking, we just calmed down after a nervy first half, and played our game. Our philosophy is the same throughout, whether we are winning or losing. The coaching staff helped us settle the nerves allowing the lads enjoy every minute and have confidence on court!
Having Edu, as well as Steve Daley, on the side-line, with all their experience as knowledge proved very helpful in making sure we didn’t lose our way.
I think Marc is a great coach with a big desire to develop futsal in this country, that is evident. I respect him as a person, and as a coach. He genuinely cares about people so, I’m sure I speak for the team in saying that to be coached by him is great, and we are glad we could thank him by reducing the deficit from the first half in what was an outstanding performance from all.
The crowd was also outstanding; never stopped believing. The sense of togetherness across the club is amazing with team spirit very high. I think that’s why we’re having success on court because of our club cohesion off of it.
Q: And on a personal note a special moment for you being presented with the shirt following your senior England debut – how does it feel to be able to say that about yourself?
Obviously, I’m very proud to have been given the opportunity to represent my country at the Home Nations championship earlier this year. It was great to be rewarded with my first cap against Scotland, following my first senior camp the week prior, after a number of good performances with the England Futsal u23s/Development Squad.
For me now, it is about being able to cement a place in the Seniors and help the squad progress through the World Cup main round in Italy later this year.
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