Holland Tour 2024

Sunday 7th April 2024

Royal Wootton Bassett Town returned to the continent from Saturday 6 to Wednesday 10 April 2024 for the youth section tour of Holland. After the first post-Covid instalment in 2023, this year saw the tour resume its annual status with an action-packed few days in the Netherlands.

A day-by-day account of the tour is below.

Day One - Saturday 6 April

As is now tradition, it was a very early start with the tour party meeting at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground pre-dawn at 4.30 in the morning for a prompt 5am departure. A long day was in store, but despite the bleary eyes, excitement abounded. The Under 13 Blues were setting off for their second tour, with the Under 12 Blues and Yellows heading to Holland for the first time.

The elder age group will have had memories of the chaos they encountered waiting for the ferry at Dover last year. But there were to be no such issues this time. A relatively smooth journey across country led to an early arrival at the port - and that allowed the tour party to catch the 9.40 ferry rather than the planned 11.05 departure. On board the highly efficient Irish Ferries service, those adults in need of replenishment treated themselves to a hearty Full Irish breakfast, which was finished just in time for the ferry to reach Calais at 12.30 local time.

From there it was another smooth journey through northeastern France, into Belgium (with a stop just outside Antwerp) before finally arriving in the Netherlands and at the StayOkay Hostel in Dordrecht at 4.30pm.

Rooms were assigned, beds were made (with some needing the help of YouTube tutorials), before the rest of the afternoon that remained until dinner were spent relaxing in the hostel grounds.

Day Two - Sunday 7 April

Day two started with a much kinder start time - though with breakfast at 8am and a walk around the hostel grounds, it still meant getting up reasonably early.

It was then off to Sportpark Polanen, the home of SC Monster, for the first matches of the tour. Last season's games against Monster were unfortunately unable to go ahead due to the delays encountered the day before and their knock on effect on driver hours.

The return to Monster was therefore much anticipated - and Bassett received a superb, friendly welcome from their hosts.

The games were played in a friendly, competitive spirit too, with Bassett recording a win, draw and defeat.

The Under 13 Blues triumphed 1-0 courtesy of a Harry Bateman goal from a well-worked short corner. Edison Bardhoshi and Hadi Hassan netted for the Under 12 Blues in a 2-2 draw. Meanwhile Cole Cleary scored the Under 12 Yellows' consolation in a 4-1 defeat.

Results vs SC Monster

Under 12 Blue: Drew 2-2 (Player of the Match: Edison Bardhoshi)
Under 12 Yellow: Lost 1-4 (Player of the Match: Cole Cleary)
Under 13 Blue: Won 1-0 (Player of the Match: Harry Bateman)

The excellent hospitality continued after the match in the SC Monster clubhouse where the players enjoyed a post match snack.

The tour party then made the short trip to sister club FC 's-Gravenzande's Juliana Sportpark home where they enjoyed watching Feyenoord's 6-0 derby rout of Ajax in the clubhouse. There was also the opportunity for the players to enjoy a kick about on a beautiful, sunny day.

The party returned to the hostel in Dordrecht late in the afternoon before enjoying dinner at 6pm, with time to relax afterwards.

Day Three - Monday 8 April

After breakfast at 8am, the tour party headed west to Den Haag, the administrative capital of the Netherlands.

There, they visited the Bingoal Stadion - home of current Eerste Divisie side ADO Den Haag - for the first of two stadium tours on the tour this year. And it was an all-access tour with visits pitchside, to the changing room, media suite (where players and coaches underwent an impromptu grilling) and, last of all, the club shop, which did a roaring trade for late morning on a Monday.

After lunch it was then off to Scheveningen Beach and a chance to unwind ahead of the evening's games. Some took the chance to play beach football, while others explored the seaside amusements. Those most brave - or daft depending on your point of view given that there was some light rain, even took the opportunity to have a quick dip in the North Sea!

The final port of call on day three was then the Juliana Sportpark for games against sister club FC 's-Gravenzande with the Friendship Trophy on the line.

And it would be the home side who took possession of the trophy as they recorded a clean sweep across the three games. The Under 13 Blues played out a thriller before losing by the odd goal in five with Bassett's goals coming courtesy of a Harry Bateman penalty and a cool finish from Nana Opoku-Menkah. The Under 12 Yellows were edged out 1-0, while the Under 12 Blues were beaten 6-0.

After the games, the teams enjoyed a meal and social evening in the clubhouse, with the presentation of the Friendship Trophy also taking place. In addition, various players took the chance to watch the FC 's-Gravenzande Men's First Team in training.

As ever, the hospitality provided by FC 's-Gravenzande was fantastic and, although coming away empty-handed this year, a great evening was had by all.

Results vs FC 's-Gravenzande

Under 12 Blue: Lost 0-6 (Player of the Match: Noah Leakey)
Under 12 Yellow: Lost 0-1 (Player of the Match: Josh Rae)
Under 13 Blue: Lost 2-3 (Player of the Match: Corey Cooper)

Day Four - Tuesday 9 April

The final full day in the Netherlands started with another 8am breakfast before a morning spent at Eredivisie club Sparta Rotterdam's Het Kasteel stadium. There, the tour party enjoyed another insightful stadium tour before again having the chance to visit the club shop.

From there the tour party headed back to Dordrecht where they enjoyed a meal in FC Dordrecht's players lounge and a chance to visit another stadium.

The last m port of call was then local Dordrecht club EBOH for the final matches of the tour.

Both the Under 12 and 13 Blue sides played two matches against their hosts.

The Under 12 Blues won match one 6-0 courtesy of goals from Sam Gunner (2), Edison Bardhoshi, Frankie Gould, Jayden Mugadza and Liam Pocock. They were then beaten by the same score in match two.

The Under 13 Blues, meanwhile, drew their first game 1-1, with Harry Bateman scoring for the third consecutive day. They then fell to a 7-0 defeat in match two.

The Under 12 Yellows were 3-2 winners in the single match they played, triumphing courtesy of goals from Elliott Brock, Cole Cleary and Noah Marshall.

Results vs EBOH

Under 12 Blue: Won 6-0; Lost 0-6 (Player of the Match: Hadi Hassan)
Under 12 Yellow: Won 3-2 (Players of the Match: Elliott Brock and Stanley Candy)
Under 13 Blue: Drew 1-1; Lost 0-7 (Player of the Match: Finn French)

Holland Tour award winners

After the games against EBOH, the teams made their way back to the hostel for an evening meal, the presentation of that evening's Player of the Match awards and the end of tour presentations.

Player of the Tour award winners were:
Under 12 Blue: Hadi Hassan
Under 12 Yellow: Theo Barnes
Under 13 Blue: Nana Opoku-Menkah

The prestigious Chris Kirkland Outstanding Contribution Award went to the Under 13 Blue coach Tyler Affleck.

Commenting on Tyler's award, tour organiser Pete Yeardley said: "Chris Kirkland epitomised the word unselfish. For numerous years Chris devoted so much of his time and efforts for the benefit of others. In particular since its inception back in 1988, the Holland Tour has enabled countless youngsters associated, first with Wootton Bassett School and, since 2002, l with Royal Wootton Bassett Town Football Club to have memorable football and life experiences.

For a young man of 20, Tyler possesses many of Chris's traits. His empathy and popularity amongst the younger players is noteable. He encourages, listens and advises the players and provides that invaluable bridge between them the older coaches and tour organisers.

Tyler assists not only in a coaching role with the Under 13 Blues, but also runs the line and has helped with all logistical matters with running a tour of this size. The appreciation and vocal support he received from the lads when the award was announced spoke volumes of the high esteem in which he is held.

The highest praise I could offer is that Chris would be nodding in approval at Tyler for his hard work, effort and the selfless contribution that he has made to ensuring those players on tour have had the best time possible."

Day Five - Wednesday 10 April

Wednesday saw an earlier start than usual to ensure that rooms were cleaned, bags packed and breakfast eaten to enable an 8am departure from the hostel. It was a smooth journey through Belgium and onto Calais for the ferry back to the U.K.

There were then no issues with traffic between Dover and Royal Wootton Bassett. There was even time for a brief stop at Reading Services before arriving on time at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground at 6.30pm to bring to an end another successful tour.

Last modified on Thursday 11th April 2024 at 18:02.