IT was on the verge of collapse four months ago and has caused stress and financial heartache, but the Jobe Wheelhouse Football IberCup tour departs for Portugal on Saturday.
What’s more, Wheelhouse is confident the under-10s and 11s teams can help “put Newcastle on the map”.
The Wheelhouse academy sides will compete against teams from five continents at seven-a-side tournaments in Estoril (Portugal) and Barcelona (Spain).
“From our [previous] trip to Spain, technically the Spanish teams were superior to our boys but there was’n’t a huge disparity,” said Wheelhouse, who been working with the squads for the past six months. “We are hoping that, with what we have focused on in the lead up, we will be super competitive. Our goal is to get through the group stage and hopefully that is the case.”
The under-10s have been drawn alongside teams from France, the US and the home country in Portugal.
The under-11s face a Spanish team and three locals.
The draw for Barcelona (July 10-14) is yet to be released.
The tour, which is comprised of 64 people, had been in jeopardy over a financial dispute between Wheelhouse and Sydney businessman Manuel Camara. Wheelhouse had contracted Camara's company, MGC Match Event, to help conduct two tours. The dispute, which police are investigating, has left Wheelhouse tens of thousands out of pocket.
Community events have raised more than $30,000 but Wheelhouse sold his house and has taken a personal loan to ensure the two-week tour went ahead.
“A few months ago, there was no other option than for the trip to be cancelled,” Wheelhouse said. “It is a credit to everyone that has been involved. Not only the players and parents, but obviously the Newcastle football community have been a great help with the fundraiser. The kids are pretty pumped.”
Knights co-captain Mitchell Pearce addressed the squad on Tuesday and they did a session with sports psychologist Fiona McCarthy.
“Hopefully, the teams do well and the boys have a great experience,” Wheelhouse said.
“When we get home, I will weigh up what happens next. The players have done really well and all the parents have been supportive. It is time to try and go put Newcastle on the map. There are some pretty competitive young players in the teams who have a dream to play at a high level. They won’t want to get rolled over there by the Portuguese and Spanish.”
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