Fulham DFC 5-0 St Johns Arsenal DFC
Saturday 4th May 2013
British Deaf Cup Final at Cardiff International Sports Stadium

Prior to making the British Deaf Cup Final, Fulham Deaf required an extra time goal to get past Rutherford Deaf (Newcastle) 2 – 1 in the semi final in Liverpool, so the team were under no illusions as to how difficult it would be to complete their task and take the British Deaf Cup. The final had all the makings of a classic as both sides are really seen as the giants of Deaf Football.

On the Friday night, the lads travelled to a hotel outside Cardiff and stayed overnight in order to ensure that they slept well through the night and prepared well for the big match against the favourites, St Johns. However, the Gaffer, Ayad Sarraf, couldn’t sleep well at all as his brain kept thinking about the team line-up throughout the night, following on from a brief meeting with his right hand man Assistant Manager Martin Willis and Club Captain Jonathan Evans to discuss about the team selection.

On the morning of cup final day, the boys seemed very relaxed and focused prior to travelling to Cardiff International Sports Stadium for the game. Unfortunately Senior Willis had to look after the lads for the morning as the Gaffer felt the need to re-live long dormant memories of past glories by turning out for the morning’s GB Over 35 team against France Over 35. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the supporters, he then left the match at half time as arranged so that he could be with the team for his pre-match team talk as well as having a quick discussion with the coach Chris McGinn and Senior Willis about a slight change to the team’s line up. Once they were all in agreement, Coach McGinn then set about reiterating how the team’s tactics should work on the day, building on Thursdays’ training session.

It has been said that English players can’t change systems but Fulham Deaf proved on Saturday that this is not the case with our players. They played a different formation with a different set of tactics to stop the threat of St John’s formidablefour International strikers, which included two former FDFC players Daniel Ailey and Oliver Manoochehri, along with James Clarke and Huseyin Er.

FDFC handled the changes fantastically and rose to the occasion, showing composure and were defensively the far better organised team; when this was added to their counter attacking force, the game really lived up to expectations.

However, the first quarter of the game saw St Johns dominating early proceedings and forcing Fulham back, pressing high up the pitch and ensuring that Fulham found it difficult to keep possession. Nonetheless, their pressing game soon subsided and Fulham started to switch back to their trademark passing and counter attacking game. The first chance soon came at around the 15thminute, when the Whites won a free kick just outside the box. Hogan played a great cross into the box, whereupon the approaching Joe Wylde met the ball with a firm header that bounced off the top of the bar and out. Another talking point came soon after when Jacob Willis used his pace and persistence to apply pressure on the St Johns back four to score a goal that was called back for an earlier foul on St John’s Darren Dunne.

With 20 minutes on the clock, Fulham then won a corner. Philip Swift floated an accurate ball into the area which was well-met by Alex Bovino, whose fine header found the top corner to give Fulham a 1-0 lead. On the half-hour mark, Fulham doubled their advantage; Daniel Hogan’s free kick found Jonathan Evans who flicked the ball in off the back post.

Soon after, there was some good football on the left side, which concluded with Swift collecting a pass from Sinclair, turning his man and firing in a shot towards the top corner, only to be denied by a superb one-handed save by Ali Er which was certainly one of the best saves of the day without a doubt.

Nonetheless, Fulham were not to be denied for long.Shortly before half time, the Whites scored their 3rd goal of the match, with the lightning quick Jacob Willis beating the St John’s keeper to a deep ball to give Fulham a three-goal lead at half time.

When the second half began, St Johns began to re-discover their pressing game and applied pressure on Whites defence for the first fifteen minutes of the second half. St Johns efforts proved to be in vain as Fulham defended superbly, drawing in the opposition and then creating a fourth goal on the counter; Willis adding his second and Fulham’s fourth after rifling home a first time shot past the keeper at the near post after being played through by Mark Sinclair. Daniel Waller finished the game off in the last few minutes, running through from midfield and slotting the ball past the keeper after some clever play between the front three. Fulham also had other chances to add to the scoreline, but St Johns were indebted to Ali Er for making some fine blocks and saves, most notably on Willis and Wylde. The game then ended with Fulham having won 5-0 on the day.

Manager Ayad Sarraf praised ‘The team spirit, and commitment in one of the clubs greatest victories in this competition.I thought the lads did a very professional job on the pitch and full credit to them for showing passion, hunger and determination. Indeed, it was a great pleasure to see all those quality goals well-taken by our scorers. The spectators admitted they thoroughly enjoyed watching the big battle between two giant clubs. I must remind everyone that it was not only the 11 players on the pitch who won the cup for the club, it was also down to all those players and officials who had participated in every round starting from the away match at Everton Deaf in Liverpool, then at home against Black Country Deaf and on to the semi-finals against Rutherford Deaf (Newcastle) in Liverpool so all had a part to play to win the cup which has made this triumph a very special one’.

Head Coach Chris McGinn said ‘ It’s one of my proudest moments at Fulham being part of such a tremendous win in the most prestigious of competitions, the British Deaf Cup.The British Deaf Cup is the biggest competition for us here at Fulham, it’s a bit like the FA Cup, but it covers the whole of the UK. St Johns are a real formidable side and their front three are Great Britain International players. They have a real quality about them and we worked Thursday night on our tactics to change the formation and the way that we play. I have been at the Club for five years now and it has sent a bit of a shockwave through the game here. We have had a massive response from fans and on social networks, a little shocked that, not only did we beat St Johns but that we gave them a bit of a battering. This is probably my proudest time at Fulham. To get there is such a great result and I am so proud of everyone here for what they have achieved’.

Fulham Deaf Captain Jonathan Evans paid tribute to his team-mates: ‘It has been a long season, with a number of highs and lows. It speaks volumes for the team’s character, application and talent that they were able to deliver such a stunning performance on the highest stage in British Deaf football. I’m very proud of them. The challenge now is to maintain that standard’.

Fulham FC Vice Chairman, Karim Fayed, said ‘ I would like to congratulate Ayad Sarraf, Martin Willis, Chris McGinn and the entire Fulham Deaf Team for a remarkable achievement in becoming the 2013 British Deaf Champions and qualification for next season’s Deaf Champions League for the first time since 2008. The squad has been together for a decade and this is the fourth time the players have lifted the British Deaf Cup. Next season promises to be another exciting campaign for the Fulham Deaf Team, well done to everyone involved.’ 

Fulham DFC Chairman, Nick Beese, said ‘A big congratulations to Manager Ayad Sarraf, his Assistant Martin Willis and Coach Chris McGinn, captain Jon Evans and the boys on bringing home the British Deaf Cup!  Beating our London rivals and European deaf football giants St John Arsenal DFC who were littered with internationals and semi professional footballers playing for other clubs is always sweet, but to hammer them 5-0 in style is something special and a moment that must be cherished and celebrated! The icing on the cake was hit man Jacob Willis returning to his influential best by smashing in two goals just one year after his life was turned upside down when Guillain Barre Syndrome left him paralysed and unable to communicate. He deserves all the plaudits for fighting back in style and being such an inspiration to everyone!’.

Honorary President Christof Niklaus and Vice-Chairman Leo Mansell also extend their congratulations to everyone involved in bringing back the British Deaf Cup to the Fulham DFC trophy cabinet inside Craven Cottage, Fulham FC’s stadium.

In the ten years since FDFC’s establishment back in 2003, the club has already won the British Deaf Cup four times, with triumphs over Luton Deaf (7–0) in Glasgow 2004, Belfast (3–2) in Bridgend 2006 and Doncaster (3–2) at Everton FC 2010 being the other occasions that FDFC have triumphed. This is a remarkable and amazing feat, which we hope that FDFC will be able to add to in the future.

Final score Fulham Deaf FC 5 – 0 St Johns Arsenal DFC (HT 3 – 0)

FDFC Line-up (4-2-3-1) :- Sam Kemp, Jack Harding, Daniel Hogan, Jonathan Evans (Capt), Nick Gregory (Daniel Rumney 80), Daniel Waller, Alex Bovino (Thai Rickford 80), Philip Swift, Mark Sinclair, Joe Wylde (James Paull 75), Jacob Willis

Subs not used :- Sam Arnold and Ross Ward
Man of the match :- Mark Sinclair

Many thanks to Lucy Hawes for the photos. All photos are the property of Lucy Hawes, please do not use without permission.