Willingdon footballers reunite for last match

Richie Firth's One Last Game team
Richie Firth's One Last Game team

TWENTY five years after they last played together, a group of 30-somethings fulfilled a dream of reuniting their Willingdon County Primary School football team.

The team gathered for ‘One Last Game’ on the Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio after co-host Richie Firth showed him an old photo he had been tagged in on Facebook.

Richie Firth (far left) with the winning Willingdon Primary School team in 1988

Richie Firth (far left) with the winning Willingdon Primary School team in 1988

It showed an 11 year-old Richie alongside his school’s cup-winning football team in 1988 just after they had just been crowned champions. (Richie is the one on the far left.)

The memories came flooding back for both Richie and Christian - the smell of deep heat, freezing cold football pitches and scraping the mud off their football boots.

What followed was a conversation about how, at that moment in time, Richie thought he was the greatest goalkeeper in Eastbourne of his age.

Christian then had a ‘light bulb moment’ – he would help Richie re-create that football experience, bringing the lads back together as a team for the first time in 25 years for ‘One Last Game’.

Their opponents would be a team made up from listeners who were ready to relive their youth and battle it out against Richie’s old boys.

‘One Last Game’ was held at Charlton Athletic’s The Valley Stadium on Friday (May 11) and despite Richie’s team losing out 3-nil, they said they were thrilled to play together again.

The Willingdon boys even managed to convince their former school coach Mr Ellis to manage the team, so it really was the full East-Sussex squad.

Meanwhile Christian’s team was chosen at random over the phone for the national radio station, and only met two weeks ago.

Gavin Milton, 35, played on Richie’s team and said: “The highlight was seeing all the boys again - it really was an experience of a lifetime.

“It was absolutely awe-inspiring playing at Charlton Athletic.

“It makes you realise what the professionals must go through.

“It’s a shame we lost but we still did ourselves proud after all these years.”

They were part of a 500-strong crowd attending the event, held in aid of The Prince’s Trust to help disadvantaged young people move into employment, education or training.

Christian said “My team were amazing and didn’t let me down. 

“I couldn’t play on the night due to injury but they had my tactical brain behind their brawn.

“You could say I’m something of a younger, better looking Sir Alex Ferguson.”

‘One Last Game’ was filmed and a special video podcast is now available to watch at www.absoluteradio.co.uk/onelastgame