It was like a scene from a Biblical epic. Or at least one of the better performances by the great Leeds United squad of the 1960’s. After 5 years of defeat after defeat at the hands of Czech Factory team Altech there were suddenly ‘No more years of hurt’ as Bridgwater International refound their form and smashed their twin town opponents into the hallowed (and slightly undulating) turf of Cranleigh Gardens. “Without a shadow of a doubt the performance was simply down to the genius of one man, centre forward Brian Smedley” said Centre forward Brian Smedley, after the game.
Being the 21st Anniversary of the Bridgwater-Uherske Hradiste twinning, Czech co-founder Antonin Machala had agreed to bring his company football team Altech over to Bridgwater for the Fair. And also to play a couple of matches against old rivals Bridgwater International and Sedgemoor Unison. Confident as they were, despite lacking several of their usual key players, and having just travelled 24 hours across Europe by coach, Altech were raring to go and had already brought along 2 barrels of Czech beer for the ‘inevitable’ celebration.
|1.Altech (blue) v Sedgemoor Unison (white)|
For 10 years, Sedgemoor Unison had travelled to different foreign destinations with Altech on an annual basis and played mini tournaments against the local teams – Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro etc. But the main event on these occaisions was the Altech v Sedgemoor match. However, in recent years Unisons trips had petered out into a welter of bath chairs and middle aged ambience. So this time Altech were surprised to see a fully formed and fit body of Spartan legends waiting for them on the Victoria Park playing ground.
Unison had a couple of secret weapons this time round. Rob Semple, fresh from saving someones life at the Fair, was fit,fast and furious and put Sedgemoor into an early lead while Matt ‘Basher’ Weston, fresh from moving someones furniture, devastated the Altech defence with a string of well taken goals. Despite a brave fightback by the still sleeping Czechs the game ended 7.3. “The English are back” noted a bemused,but inwardly pleased, Machala afterwards.
|2.Altech (blue) v Bridgwater International (white)
But it wasn’t all over yet for the Czechs. After a night out at the Bridgwater Arts Centre where a lavish feast of fatboy proportions weighted down by litres of moorish Pilsner beer, prepared Altech for the next match. To their dismay that was to be 10am the following morning in Cranleigh Gardens against a revamped Bridgwater International team which this time included several people who could play football.
|3.Hot footballing action as both players miss the ball|
For years now Bridgwater International have formed scratch teams from the groups of various tourists who have travelled with us to Uherske Hradiste and played against Altech on their own factory pitch, always losing by cricket scores. But this time it would be different.
The rain stopped on cue and the drizzle parted like a curtain for the opening act and off went the Bridgwater team quickly taking the lead as a miskick by Stevie ‘Steve’ Miles fell at the feet of the goalhanging Smedley who pounced like a leopard waiting for the traffic lights to change tapping the ball across the goal line.
Lightning fast wing action from former quite good player Alan Hurford saw another cross into the centre, another miskick from Miles , again the ball fell at the feet of Smedley and, without the aid of his glasses, a chip over the small fat goalkeeper and Bridgwater were 2 up.
|4.Hurford, about to ‘nutmeg’ a Czech|
Altech fought back valiantly but were outclassed by the skillfull Bridgwater midfield, the fierce Bridgwater attack and the dirty as anything Bridgwater back 4. The game mashed backwards and forward with 2 more goals from the home team then 2 replies from the Czechs until finally the hat trick came via an edge of penalty area shot from Cannonball Smedley, well, from the evidence of the pictures it looked like he had swallowed a cannonball, with the final result a devastating 5.3 victory for the Bridgwater team. Councillor Smedley said after the game “I’m 55 you know”.
There was nothing left for the Czechs to do except visit Bridgwater Fair, eat a massive pot of Slovakian Goulash, made by Slovakian Goulashateer Milan Hajster, drink yet another barrel of Czech beer and join the Mayor of Bridgwater, Dave Loveridge, in the Town Hall for acknowledgement of a great 21 years of Twinning.
|5.In desperation to even get a single goal Miles gets dirty|
But the misery didn’t end there. On the Sunday the Czechs were forced to watch the Stoke City v Norwich game. A scintillating 1.0 snooze in the park for the East Angular team, before heading home.
|6.Antonin Machala with wallplaque
Bridgwater and Uherske Hradiste were the first British and Czech towns to form a twinning link after the Velvet Revolution and had signed the oath back in 1992. In acknowledgement of Antonin Machalas consistent support and good natured optimism from foundation to humiliating football defeat, the Mayor presented him with a 21st anniversary commemorative wallplaque and his co-founder, Cllr Smedley, with the match ball. Which he then ate.
7,2,3,4 Photos by Andy Slocombe
5,6 by Jana Branecka