Harrogate Veterans denied fourth consecutive Seniors World Cup triumph by Iran

England line up before their Seniors World Cup final loss to Iran.
England line up before their Seniors World Cup final loss to Iran.

The Harrogate Veterans side flying the flag for their country at the 2019 Seniors World Cup in Thailand were denied a fourth consecutive title by Iran.

The Harrogate Veterans side flying the flag for their country at the 2019 Seniors World Cup in Thailand were denied a fourth consecutive title by Iran.

Paul Bell’s team have been chosen by the Football Association to represent England at the annual tournament for the past 12 years and have won it on no fewer than five occasions.

Harrogate’s coaching staff and several of their key players form the core of the group, but their enhancement by several other ex-professionals from around the country has enabled them to compete with other nations who have similar squad profiles.

And having won the previous three tournaments, Bell and his men appeared to be on course for more glory, only to suffer a 1-0 defeat to Iran in Saturday’s final.

Although obviously disappointed, boss Bell felt that his team had to overcome so many challenges during the week, that to go so close again was still a great achievement for a much-changed squad.

“Playing five games in six days is difficult enough but when you factor in extreme weather conditions, you need quite a few things to fall in your favour,” he said.

“Unfortunately, by the middle of the week, we had lost three of our four strikers to injury leaving a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Barry Hayles, who had to play every minute of the knock-out stages.

“He had a great week scoring seven goals – which made him the competitions leading marksman, but I had been looking forward to seeing Barry and Deon Burton resume the international partnership they had with Jamaica.

“Unfortunately, Deon was injured in a pre-tournament friendly and was restricted to just a few minutes. It was a big loss.”

Earlier kick-offs in temperatures of 35-degree sun were also to take their toll – at half-time in England’s group stage clash with Hong Kong, Bell had to substitute three of his midfielders due to heat exhaustion.

The final also kicked-off with the afternoon sun beating down, and for Bell, it was a question of managing the game until the temperature started to drop against the Iranians, who were better used to the conditions.

“We couldn’t go chasing the ball in that heat and had to accept that they would have much more possession in the first half – but apart from Steve Dickinson having to make a couple of good saves, they were not really hurting us.

“We were able to have more of a go in the second half, and Lee Elam had two good chances saved as the game became more evenly balanced.

“With 15 minutes to go I thought it may go to penalties, but then Iran got a late break.”

In a cagey, often ill-tempered affair, the Iranians produced a strong performance, not letting a Three Lions side featuring Harrogate regulars Jonny Haigh, Lee Elam and goalkeeper Dickinson settle.

Iran had spurned a number of opportunities to go ahead in the game, but finally found a way through with 15 minutes remaining.

Having launched a successful late fightback in Friday’s semi-final success over Scotland, England piled forward looking for an equaliser in the closing stages, but salvation was not forthcoming on this occasion.

Bell’s men had qualified for the knock-out stages of the competition courtesy of a 4-2 victory over Taiwan and a 1-1 draw with Hong Kong.

They then took on New Zealand in the quarter-finals, the Kiwis grabbing an early lead before being undone by the inimitable ex-Fulham man Hayles, who put his team in control with three goals in less than half an hour.

Cheltenham Town Chairma Andy Wilcox added a fourth in the second period before New Zealand netted a late consolation.

In a re-run of last year’s World Seniors final, England once again found themselves trailing when they met Scotland in the last four.

With time running out, Hayles scored an 85th-minute equaliser from close-range before Burton won and converted a controversial stoppage-time penalty to win the game.

“The semi–final against Scotland turned out to be probably the game of the tournament and certainly the most dramatic we have been involved in over the years” added Bell, who said he was more than satisfied with his charges’ overall efforts.

“The players showed tremendous resilience throughout the competition. Over five games, we had to come back from a goal behind in three of them to achieve a result.

“We just didn’t have the time left to do that in the final. Well done to Iran, they are a very good side.

“This week has shown just what a difficult competition this is to win, which really puts our achievements of the past three years into perspective.”


Whilst the Harrogate Veterans team representing England were disappointed not to return with the Seniors World Cup for a fourth consecutive year, Manager Paul Bell shared that they had to overcome so many challenges during the week, that to go so close again was still a great achievement for a much changed squad. “Playing five games in six days is difficult enough but when you factor in extreme weather conditions, you need quite a few things to fall in your favour”.

“Unfortunately by the middle of the week, we had lost three of our four strikers to injury leaving a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Barry Hayles, who had to play every minute of the knock-out stages. He had a great week scoring seven goals – which made him the competitions top scorer. But I had been looking forward to seeing Barry and Deon Burton resume the international partnership they had with Jamaica, but unfortunately Deon was injured in the pre-tournament friendly and was restricted to just a few minutes. It was a big loss.”

Earlier kick-offs in temperatures of 35 degree sun were also to take their toil – at half time against Hong Kong, Bell had to substitute three of his midfielders due to heat exhaustion. “ you can’t mess about with player’s health. We had a great physio in Paulina Czubacka, who was constantly keeping an eye on players throughout the games, so we could act pro- actively and minimise any risk”

The final also kicked off earlier in the afternoon sun and for Bell, it was a question of managing the game until the temperatures started dropping against the Iranians who were used to the conditions. “ We couldn’t go chasing the ball in that heat and had to except that they would have much more possession in the first half – but apart from Steve Dickinson having to make a couple of good saves, they were not really hurting us. We were able to have more of a go in the second half, and Lee Elam had two good chances saved as the game became more evenly balanced. With 15 minutes to go Mark Smitheringale and I thought it may go to penalties, but then Iran got the late break that mattered from close range.”