Pat Nevin was able to get his boots on for the second time in a week, representing the Kowloon Cricket Club at the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens Masters tournament, which finished on Sunday.
The previous weekend our former winger had helped lead a Chelsea Legends team to the final of the LLL Cup at Brisbane Road, the home of Leyton Orient. The altogether more glamorous location of Hong Kong provided the setting for his latest outing, where a Masters tournament ran parallel to the main one, in which a Chelsea Academy side competed.
Kowloon exited at the quarter-final stage of the Plate competition and despite not tasting success, Nevin told the official Chelsea website he had thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Far East.
‘I knew about the set-up of it because I had been asked to play before, but because I had been covering cup finals and things like that I hadn’t actually made it out there,’ he said.
‘It fitted in this time. It was really nice because a lot of the teams got a couple of former pros, or in some occasions six or seven pros, to come and play for them. It was nice folk that were involved in it, and also my brother, who was involved with the Hong Kong football club for a long time, lives over there, so it was a good chance to see him as well.
‘I had actually got injured a week before so I was struggling to get 100 per cent fit for it. In the first game I had rested my calf and so I came on at half-time. The first thing that happened to me on the pitch was that I was tripped up and fouled by Gordon Durie! We were rolling around on the floor laughing about it!
‘I knew all of the Rangers boys, having played with or against them, and they were saying if I got the ball they were going to make sure I didn’t do any tricks! They were targeting me right from the off, which I am used to. In fact, it would be unusual if it didn’t happen! It’s not changed at all.
‘What it does tell you is that you never lose that competitiveness. You might have a laugh, but beneath it all everybody still wants to win. Everybody that plays in the competition loves it, though I think those in the veterans’ tournament have a few more pints and a few more glasses of wine than the younger players, who have to be a bit more professional!’
Nevin was able to cast a watching eye over the Chelsea team playing in the main tournament, and though results didn’t go our way as we lost in the Plate Shield quarter-finals, he believes it will be an invaluable experience for our youngsters that competed.
‘I don’t know how much you would worry about winning that competition for our kids. It’s on field turf, it’s a very different style of football, and you can’t do certain things you can do on grass.
‘It’s very hard to run or dribble on artificial turf, so you need to pass it. For our lads, I felt when I was watching them quite closely during the games that the biggest thing they will learn is playing against different styles in different conditions, and understanding the expectation.
‘Obviously some of our boys had played in the Under-21 competition and beaten Manchester United in the final, but this was a totally different thing. The expectations were incredibly high on them.
‘They did okay, it was tight for most of the games, but in actual fact it’s learning how to cope with competition that’s the main thing – and particularly competitions that aren’t season-long but are just loads of games in a row. A lot of these lads will eventually play in European competitions, or if they’re lucky European Championships or World Cups. You’re dealing with tiredness and expectation over a short period of time. That, more than anything else, is what you need to learn.
‘There were interesting tactical things the boys learned as well. The systems are very different in a seven-a-side game and you have to learn as you go along. You probably end up having to go there two or three times to really understand what you have to do.’