Stamford Bridge "dream come true" for Ightham FC

The players of Ightham FC got to live the footballing dream recently with a full professional player experience at Stamford Bridge as part of the Lucozade Sport Performance Day.

The Kent club - whose website is powered by Club Website - swapped their usual surroundings of the Sevenoaks and District League for the home of Chelsea FC, after player Christian Hitchcock won a Club Website competition.

The first ever Lucozade Sport Performance Day gave four amateur teams a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play 90 minutes on a pitch graced by legends of the game, whilst receiving sports science and tactical advice from top professionals and an in-depth ProZone analysis of every player's performance.

With professional treatment from start to finish, the Ightham FC squad and fellow Club Website side Barn Elms United got a day they would never forget.

Having each been assigned a top FA coach on arrival, the teams got straight down to business with expert advice from Lucozade Sport scientist Tess Morris, who explained the importance of hydration for good performance.

Every player then began state-of-the-art hydration testing, which would include urine tests and body weight tests (left) before and after games to give players an insight into when and how much to drink to achieve optimum performance.

Click here to find out more about the hydration testing, including expert insight and player interviews.

After a tour of the famous Stamford Bridge stadium and trophy room, the teams walked out through the tunnel and onto got their first taste of pitchside action as they were put through their paces by their assigned FA coach.

Ightham were placed in the capable hands of Jo Potter - a recent FA Cup winner with Birmingham City Ladies FC and FA Skills Coach - who put the squad through some speed and agility work to get them ready for their big game against Barn Elms United.

The game itself couldn't have got off to a much better start for Ightham, who took the lead in just the third minute.

Centre back Dan Palmer caught Barn Elms' right back Paul Harvey napping as he stole in for a header to put his side 1-0 up.

As he wheeled away in celebration (right), there was no mistaking the joy of getting to play out every young footballer's dream of scoring at a Premier League ground.

It was downhill from there for Ightham, however, as a Trevor Symons penalty, a Dan Quinn strike and a Samuel Smith own goal gave Barn Elms a 3-1 lead at the break.

During the extended interval, both teams received expert tactical advice from their FA coach, discussing ways improve their performance in the second leg of the game.

Potter had noticed that Ightham were leaving Barn Elms too much room to play between their defence and midfield and so asked them to focus on tightening that up during the second half.

Barn Elms' FA coach for the day, Jamie Godbold, asked his back four to play a higher line and also for his side to up the tempo in the final third.

With the expert analysis fresh in their ears, and their bodies fully hydrated after their testing and advice, both teams upped their game in the second half, but Ightham found a recently-promoted Barn Elms side in red hot form, with the final score ending 7-1.

Click here to see more on the coaching advice, including expert insight and player interviews.

Despite the scoreline, there were nothing but positives to take from the day for Ightham, according to the man whose competition entry got them there.

"No-one really cared about the result too much," Hitchcock told Club Website. "It was more the experience of running out on the pitch and playing in a place like that. It was very special. A real treat.

Hitchcock is confident that the expert advice Ightham received will stand them in good stead for the season ahead, both in terms of hydration and coaching.

“A lot of people assumed that you have a pint of water before the match and you should be properly hydrated, but it doesn’t really work like that and having it explained by a professional really helped," he said.

“The coaching from Jo was great. She went into detail about how the team should press the ball or sit off. Just little things like when you press the ball you should bend your run to force the player out wide – things that don’t really get explained at our level.”

"It was really useful. A long time after the result is forgotten we’ll still be using the information we found out on the day."

To top it all off for all four teams taking part at the Lucozade Sport Performance Day, every single player received an in-depth statistical analysis of their own performance, courtesy of Prozone.

Every stat was covered from blocks to clearances, pass success rate to entries into the final third and distance covered to sprinting distance. Video highlights were also provided to every player showing clips of their individual contribution to the game.

Click here to see the full Prozone stats: Ightham FC / Barn Elms United

It really was the sort of treatment that amateur teams can only dream of and helped make it a day that will live long in the memory of the Ightham FC and Barn Elms squads.

“It was a really great day," said Barn Elms captain and scorer of a brace of goals, Michael Short.

"We learned a hell of a lot from the guys and girls in the Lucozade Sport team. It was an unbelievable experience playing over here."

"It’s been a really fun day so I’ve got to thank Lucozade Sport and Club Website who got us here today."

The whole of the Ightham squad are forever grateful to Christian for entering the competition, but the day was extra special for two players in particular: goalscorer Dan Palmer and lifelong Chelsea fan Rupert Sargest.

"Dan hasn’t really shut up about his goal," said Hitchcock. "In answer to any question now he just replies: ‘Well I’ve scored at Stamford Bridge!’

"The photo of him wheeling away is probably going to get framed and put on his wall.”

Sargest reflected on an "absolutely terrific" day at the home of the team he supports.

"Being a long time Chelsea fan, it’s just a dream come true to play at Stamford Bridge," he said. "Standing here on the turf, I just can’t believe it really."

Lucozade Sport - Helping amateur footballers go Faster. Stronger. For Longer.


More from the Lucozade Sport Performance Day

Check out this video and click on the links below for loads more from Stamford Bridge:

* All the photos from the Luoczade Sport Performance Day

* Luoczade Sport Performance Day - Hydration

* Luoczade Sport Performance Day - Coaching

* Full Prozone stats - Ightham FC

* Full Prozone stats - Barn Elms United

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