Ben's wonder-goal wins national award
- Credit: Torquay Academy
It was a nail-biting finish to match the tensest penalty shoot-out, and it looked right up to the last moment that he might have lost it, but Torbay teenager Ben Hopkins has emerged as the winner of a national Goal of the Season competition.
After the agony of Torquay United's Play-Off defeat on penalties to Hartlepool United, it was a Teesside rival whom Ben beat in the final - and it was the late votes of Gulls’ fans which might have done the trick!
Torquay Academy entered 17-year-old Ben's goal - a 40-yard 'screamer' in a friendly game against South Devon College - for the English Colleges 'Goal of the Year', decided by an online vote.
"I was happy just to have got in the last-eight," said right-back Ben, a Year12 student from Shiphay.
"I remember, in the game itself, when I took a touch, my team-mates all shouted 'Pass, Pass', but there was no one in front of me, so I went forward, and thought 'Why Not?'. His right-foot shot sent the ball into the top left-hand corner.
"The voting started with a quarter-final round last Monday, and I got enough votes to get through that," he said.
"Then I got through the semi-finals on Tuesday, which I didn't expect at all, and the voting in the final was on Wednesday and Thursday.
"The Hartlepool lad's goal had been a great touch and a chip over the keeper, which I thought was pretty good. I thought he was bound to win."
So it seemed, as the voting solidly favoured Ben's rival for more than 24 hours - Hartlepool United even 'retweeted' it to drum up support.
"When I woke up on the last day, I think the voting was about 60-40 in his favour," he said.
But a major drive by TA supporters, staff, friends and family narrowed the gap, especially after Ben sent the goal to the Torquay United 'Yellow Army' twitter feed.
His mum Daniela admitted: "It was just amazing.
"I'm a real beginner on social media, but I was so keen to help out that I pressed a wrong space at one point - and sent a vote for the Hartlepool lad!
"With 40 minutes to go, Ben only needed another 85 votes to equalise, but everyone kept pushing as the clock ticked down.
"When we thought the vote had ended, it looked as if Team TA had lost by .2%.
"But unknown to us, although the time for voting was up, some late votes were still being counted and when the result was declared - TA had won with 50.2%.
"It's a wonderful achievement for TA's Football Programme, and they deserve this - it's a real boost."
Ben will receive a new pair of boots and the Academy will have a free three-month Camera Trial to help with their coaching and match analysis.
Chris Hogg, TA's Director of Football, said: "It's a great story, and it showed amazing togetherness within the team and the school."
"A new pair of boots is the best prize I could get," said Ben, who still has big ambitions.
"If I take a third year with the Football Programme, I hope to go to the USA to do a football scholarship there," he said.
"I want to try and get to the highest level I can and, whatever happens, be involved in football as long as possible."
And, of course, he'll keep shooting too..!