Manchester and Middlesbrough intent on Grand Finals success.
The FA National Futsal League
The Grand Finals
12-13 May 2012
Ahead of this weekend's FA National Futsal League Grand Finals in Barking, we look at the two contenders from the Northern League...
Manchester Futsal Club
Preparations for The FA National Futsal League Grand Finals are hotting up and in Manchester, the memory of last season’s disappointing play-off experience is still haunting the minds of the Northern League champions.
At Surrey Sports Park last May, Manchester were left disappointed despite recording the largest win in Grand Finals history when they beat Chippenham 20-1. But defeat to Helvecia in their other group game saw the London side qualify and go on to beat Sheffield in The Final. It left a bitter taste in mouths of all of the Manchester squad and was something they were determined to put right.
“We are always looking to improve and the challenge that awaits us at the Grand Finals gives us that extra motivation to push ourselves even further,” said club stalwart Ilya Ovenchkin, a key member of their talented squad.
“We have trained hard all season and feel we have the quality to give a good account of ourselves this weekend.”
As they left Guildford last season, many felt that the Manchester squad hadn’t really fulfilled their potential, not being as close to the national crown as their league performances had suggested they might be.
Their fine FA Futsal Cup triumph in Birmingham just after the Finals did little to silence these comments as Manchester’s performance at the Cup Finals proved to the rest of the country just what the club from the North West was capable of.
“For the club’s progression, it is important we improve each year,” he added.
“Going into the Grand Finals it is our aim to maintain our good form and improve on last year’s performance.”
Despite the loss of Head Coach Peri Antoniou in the summer, Manchester started the season in fine form, intent on setting the records straight.
In Marcos Leon, Chairman Simon Wright found the perfect replacement for Cardiff bound Antoniou as Head Coach and with key players Stuart Cook and Sam Richardson, their 32-goal top scorer, stepping to the forefront of Manchester’s league title push, the Velodrome was full of a positive atmosphere.
Leon’s appointment brought a coach to the North West with a wealth of Futsal experience. He brought new ideas, a new direction and helped to enhance the winning mentality that was starting to emerge.
A number of emphatic victories at the end of the season sealed their Grand Finals berth and Ovenchkin believes that this year could be one of the best yet.
“All of the clubs that qualify for the Finals deserve their place,” he added.
“This year it is even harder to predict the outcome with the level of competition out there.
“Helvecia are obviously one of the favourites, having lifted the title four times but I’m sure there will be a few surprises.
“All six are good strong teams and the Grand Finals never fail to disappoint.
“We are looking forward to it. We know that we need things to go our way but we are ready.
“Our preparation has been good and we are sure we can deliver some good performances.”
Middlesbrough Futsal Club
Just a few days away from the Grand Finals of The FA National Futsal League for 2012 and preparations for the six competing teams is really hotting up.
The final touches will be put to all game plans in this week’s final training sessions and each team will be looking to ensure they have enough in the tank to carry home the national crown.
In Teesside, Middlesbrough and their manager Damon Shaw believe that this is their season. After a three year exodus from Grand Finals competition, Boro return with a young and hungry squad absolutely brimming with confidence and self belief.
“We have been preparing for this all season and having already experienced the Grand Finals before we know what to expect,” said Shaw, who has had success as a manager this campaign, having lifted the BUCS Championship trophy with Teesside University back in March.
Key Boro players such as Marc Caballeria and Mikey Roberts were part of that Teesside squad in Sheffield and those individuals will be hungry to prove themselves again on the biggest stage in English club Futsal.
“We’ve shown we are competitive against the top teams around the country,” continued Shaw.
“Manchester proved by winning The FA Futsal Cup last season that the gap has closed in the National League.
“We feel we have shown we can beat Manchester and that puts us right in the mix.”
Prior to last season, the two main competitions in English Futsal had been dominated by the South, namely Helvecia since the formation of The FA Futsal League back in 2008. But after Sheffield had pushed the southern giants so close in the Grand Finals last May and Manchester’s triumph, many feel that other regions are inching closer to the levels set by their Southern counterparts.
“Helvecia are still undoubtedly the favourites for me,” claimed Shaw.
“They have the knowledge and experience of exactly what it takes to win these things.
“We will need to be on our game from the word go, that is for sure.
“The Grand Finals is the chance to become champions.
“Winning the Regional Division does not get you a European spot. Nor does it make you the best in the country.
“For me, it is all about the Grand Finals and we head there with one thing in our minds.
“It is a massive occasion for us.”