Richard Taunton Sixth Form College’s footballers clinched the league title in dramatic fashion, but sports teacher Luke Roberts said the squad have gained far more than just medals from their successful season.
The college’s team won the Hampshire Colleges League Two title after beating nearest rivals Portsmouth in their last home game of the season. They went into the game just a point apart knowing whoever won would be crowned champions.
With just a few minutes remaining the home side were cruising at 3-0 but two late Portsmouth goals were compounded by a Richard Taunton player being sent off to set up a frantic rearguard action.
“We had been very comfortable and the boys had played superbly but within the space of three minutes it turned into absolute chaos,” said Mr Roberts.
“It made the last minute or so very edgy and we were defending for our lives on the edge of our box trying to get the ball as far away from our goal as possible. But the boys pulled through and were the champions.”
He said the triumph and a season of close-run games, during which they were only beaten twice, has taught his young side the value of teamwork and working hard together. “Throughout the season they have had some moments when they’ve had lapses in concentration but they have learned to show mental strength and character,” he said.
“All the hard work they put into that last game to get into that 3-0 lead really paid off. Looking at the season as a whole, as well as showing their ability on the pitch, they have really developed their mental resilience and I’m very proud of them.”
Most of the 17-strong squad are studying a two-year BTEC Level Three Sports Coaching and Development course but others come from courses across the college. The boys studying the BTEC train twice a week as well as studying developing coaching principles and applied coaching skills to learn how to set up and lead sports sessions. They also study careers in sports, sports funding and how the sector operates.
“Quite a few are going to university to study courses such as sports coaching or sports science and some have done their coaching badges as part of the course so they are going into coaching,” said Mr Roberts.
He said although winning the league was not the aim of the course, it has been a bonus. “A lot of hard work has gone into the season and the boys have given up a lot of time so I’m pleased for them that they have got something to show for it,” he said. “There’s no better feeling than picking up a trophy at the end.”
The team will start next season on League 1, with Mr Roberts looking to build a side around the five first year players who will be around next season. He said: “It’s always a challenge but that’s the nature of college football. We are hoping that winning the title will help attract another crop of good players into the college because we’ve shown that they get a great grounding in sport and that we can perform well on the pitch as well.”