Monday, 27 March 2017

British Summer Time

British Summer Time is here again. Take a moment to reflect on that as you peer into the murky mist this morning. This Friday will see us play in the light for the first time in months, but for now the attention is all on the previous week’s game, which saw us scampering around in the dark like footballing faeries.

Here are your two teams –

Yellows: me, Simon Gas, Alessandro, Mick, Tony, Joe, Nick (Joe’s mate), Liam and Paul

Blues: Ian Gooner, Paul Gas, Bearded Nick, Mark, Danny, Patrick, Mario, Yev and Andy

With just Yev arriving late, and then only by a few minutes, we got off and underway relatively promptly on Friday. Despite Tony’s scepticism about the fairness of the sides – we’d only just kicked off when he asked when we were going to “change it” – the Yellow team took the lead through Liam, who calmly scored following some typically deft work from Nick and Liam’s own fleet feet.

However, the Yellows lead didn’t last too long as Mario got the first of his four goals to equalise, scoring past Simon Gas in goal. Despite having plenty of running in Liam and Nick and Alessandro, the Yellow team were struggling in central midfield as I think it’s fair to say that Tony didn’t have his most effective game with the perceived imbalance of the two teams seemingly demotivating him.

Conversely, Patrick was running through the Yellow ranks with an irresistibility which did not bode well for the team in yellow and orange bibs, with his team-mates Mario and Yev enthusiastically joining in the fun. It is customary in these blogs for me to describe a series of goalkeeping calamities that I have been responsible for, but this week, just for a change, I performed admirably: in addition to pawing an attempted chip from Nick over the bar I stuck out a strong hand to black a fierce effort from Danny (and then saved the rebound with my feet) and managed to claw away a swirling, goal-bound corner from Nick. I’m saying that Andy’s Sheffield United murderer’s goalkeeping gloves were responsible. However, Patrick then undid all the good work with a firm and unerring drive into the bottom right hand corner as he advanced through the midfield like a Panza division on the Russian Steppes.

As the Blue team inexorably gained the ascendancy, a vestige of parity was restored by Mark being forced off with a calf strain, which gave the Yellows a slender advantage in terms of personnel (this was increased when Ian Gooner took an extended leave of absence to retrieve one of the balls that had been angrily ballooned over the fence adjacent to Coram Fields proper). The Yellows were looking to back into things with Liam again being their major goal threat, although Nick was also on the scoresheet. But the Blues continually got bodies behind the ball and Andy and Danny managed to repel many of the chances that the Yellows created, sometimes desperately, but always effectively.

With time moving on toward eight ‘o’ clock the Blues capitalised on the spaces inevitably left by the Yellows pushing forward as Mario capped a fine team move from the Blues with an adroit finish to steer the ball past Simon Gas (once again in nets) and then Patrick lashed in the final goal from an acute angle to deceive the Muswell Hillbilly on his near post.

Final score: Blues 8 – Yellows 4

And thus to the pub, with another smallish turnout. I repeated some of the stories that I’d heard at an evening with Ray Parlour, Perry Groves and Paul Merson last Tuesday; in other news, Yev was planning a dawn raid at Billingsgate Market and Paul Gas explained that he was away this week not seeing The Fall in his native Bristol. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Two penalties, a sinner and a patron saint

And around we go again, as another week hurtles past and the planet hurtles on its axis and our lives hurtle toward inexorable decay and ultimate demise. Still, there’s always the football, isn’t there?

Two teams of eight this week:

Blues – Liam, Ian Baggies, Andy, Callum, Joe, Danny, Simon Gas, Ed

Yellows – Mark, Tony, Peter, Alan, Steve, Nick (no beard), me, Bristol Paul

With all the usual late arrivals not arriving (because they weren’t playing) we started pretty much on time. I think it’s fair to say there was a reasonable amount to report on this week, including two penalties and five of the Queen’s goals, so I’ll crack on.

The Blue team took the lead as Mark began in goals for the Yellows and someone or other bagged the first goal, upon which I relieved the Scotsman for my customary roller-coaster ride in nets. After a quiet start I conceded the second goal, which was a snapshot from outside the area from Callum or Liam, or possibly Danny. 

But despite this initial setback the Yellow team were very much in the game, with Nick, Tony and Peter all pulling the strings in midfield. And it was the towering Peter who pulled the Yellows back into contention with a fierce low drive from wide on the right hand side of the area which nestled unerringly into the bottom corner. 2-1 and game on.

Then came the first of the two penalties. After a typically scrappy goalmouth scramble the ball squirted toward goal, whereupon Andy – NB: not the goalkeeper – instinctively stuck out his hand to prevent the ball going in, even though it wasn’t going in. Peter made no mistake from the spot. Two apiece.

Up the other end and a few minutes later Steve was adjudged, principally by Danny, to have handled, even though his hands were down by his side and the ball appeared to hit his stomach first. Steve certainly didn’t think it was a penalty, neither did I and I think we can safely say that neither did Tony. The temperamental midfield maestro, who I later learnt is a keen fencer (the swashbuckling variety that is, rather than someone who sells on stolen goods) was incensed for the second time in as many weeks about the apparent gamesmanship from his rivals and made to walk off. 

When all this had eventually calmed down Danny took the ensuing spot kick, which he fired over the bar. Still two all, then. Danny doesn’t strike me as someone who’d deliberately miss a spotkick, but it may well be that he didn’t address the ball with as much preparation and composure as would ordinarily be the case.

And so the game appeared to be meandering toward a draw, with Liam endeavouring to score but not quite getting there and yours truly passing up a great chance following a neat cut back from Mick which I could only squirt horribly wide.

However, with time nearly up I swapped passes with Alan on the left hand side and the Irishman clearly had some sort of canonical epiphany via his nation’s saint as he spied Andy straying away from the near post and rifled in a fabulous volley from a tight angle to register the final goal of the night.

Final score: Yellows 3 – Blues 2

And thus to the Skinners (after we’d had the usual madcap ball retrieval routine, that is), which was mercifully free of Oirish themed nonsense and people wearing comedy Guinness hats.

Conversation among the admittedly small throng touched on Manchester United’s pot-Ferguson era, Paul McCartney’s solo material and particularly Steve’s travel plans as he embarks on a three week sojourn Down Under, complete with the Aiton tribe. Let’s hope the charm bracelet pays dividends, eh, Steve?

Until Friday!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Don't Go!

Hello and a very warm welcome back to your weekly (usually) match report and general round-up from Friday night’s goings on in Coram Fields. Owing to overrunning building work on my house I was freed up to play this week, which was a pleasant surprise. Here are your two teams:

Yellows: the prodigal Liam, me, Tony, Ed, Joe, Nick (sans beard), Mario, Nick (the bearded variety), Steve

Blues: Ross, Ian Baggies, Danny, Peter, Patrick, chirpy Tom, Alessandro (one of Mario’s mates), Mick and Simon Gas

As you can read, nine aside there. Obviously, not everyone turned up at 7.00 pm with Mick running late, as was Peter, who seems to have a touch of the Yevs about him insofar as timekeeping goes.
In fact Mick’s tardiness was arguably to blame for the first goal – argued by Simon Gas in the pub, that is – as Liam marked his first game back after his mid-season Aiton-induced break with the first of four goals. The jinky Scotsman, put on the same team as Steve to safeguard team spirit, enjoyed a highly fruitful partnership with Joe’s mate Nick, who is one of the more gifted players we’ve seen grace the astro turf in recent times. Despite the Blue team having two colossi in Peter and Patrick, it was the diminutive triumvirate of Mario, Liam and Nick that did most of the damage for the Yellows as the soared into a four goal lead, with Liam bagging all of them.

That’s not to say that the Yellows were dominating play – far from it - but they struggled to get past Joe and Steve at the back who were providing cover for sometime specialist goalkeeper Ed. However, hope was at hand for the Blues as I took over in nets and the Yellows’ first goal soon followed – Patrick managed to get the better of Joe in an aerial tussle and gently slipped the ball past me and inside the near post. 4-1.

Then came the moment that the game will be remembered for. Nick was adjudged to have handled inside the area, as the ball was blasted at him from a distance of about three yards and he instinctively shielded his face with his upstretched arms. I wasn’t convinced that he was inside the area, but Nick himself called the penalty and there was little dispute – little that is apart from Tony, who, I think it’s fair to say, went ballistic. 

Tony wasn’t in the best of moods, having earlier accused the Blues of deploying unashamedly agricultural tactics in order to take advantage of their twin towers, i.e. Peter and Patrick, who have a collective height of just under 654 foot. But the award of the penalty pushed the working man’s champion into apoplexy. 

Exclaiming that he ‘didn’t play with cheats’ at least three times, Tony flung down his Yellow bib and stormed off. Despite the plaintive cries of “don’t go!”, “we need you!” and, from Liam, “get back on the fucking pitch now!”, he loped off to the changing rooms with an air of melancholy hanging around his hunched shoulders.

Peter duly dispatched the ensuring penalty (happily, he placed it into the corner rather than kicking it as hard as he could at the keeper, as I feared). 4-2. Could the Blues hold out having gone down to eight men?

When Peter hammered the ball into the far corner from an acute angle shortly afterwards the smart money was on a comeback of Barcelonaesque proportions, (dodgy penalties and all). But Nick scored what turned out to be the winning goal with a deft, calm and composed finish inside the post to make it 5-3. Bearded Nick also thundered the crossbar with a tremendous effort from around twenty yards and Ed had a great chance to put the game completely out of reach but went for the wrong side of the post when one on one with the ‘keeper. The Blues did get one more goal via Ross, who outpaced me and Steve to run onto a through ball and poke the ball past Liam, but that was the end of the scoring for the evening. 

Final score: Yellows 5 – Blues 4

A relatively puny turn-out at the pub this week, although we were gifted the presence of Danny for all of one ascetic lime and soda. Myself, Ross, Simon and the Kavanaghs discussed late 80’s / early 90’s indie greats the House of Love and comeback gigs in general, the mysterious rules of Rugby Union and maudlin Celtic folk songs. 

That’s all folks – see you Friday. 

Any of you muesli munching, sandal-wearing north London ponces who read The Guardian may have already seen this, but for those of you who take other national titles, here’s a great piece from former Loaded editor James Brown about the glories of five aside football.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

An Heurelho Gomes of Simons?

Good day, one and all, and welcome back to your weekly round-up of all things associated with Friday night football at London’s glamorous Coram Fields. Before last week’s game disappears entirely from memory, let us recall and pay tribute to the goals, the gaffes, the glasses of beer and the good feeling that can only come at 7.00 pm on a Friday evening.

Here are your teams:

Blues: Simon Gas, Callum (surprise appearance), Ed (no longer a specialist goalkeeper), Bristol Paul, Danny, Ross, Alan, Patrick, Nick

Yellows: Tony, Mick, David, Joseph, Peter (eventually), me, Simon Ink, Steve, Yev

In all, a very lively game, with plenty of goals and incident. Simon Ink started off in goals for the Yellows and conceded the first score of the game, narrowly failing to keep out a shot (somewhat surprisingly, for such a normally reliable ‘keeper). He promptly threw his gloves down in disgust, but it was far from the last goal that a Simon would concede during the course of proceedings.
With Peter arriving late, an unexpected guest in the guise of Callum pitched up to bolster the Blues’ ranks and this temporarily gave them a man advantage, much to Tony’s chagrin. A flurry of goals duly arrived for the Blue team, with yours truly letting in three: Callum steered one threw a thicket of ankles that I saw very late and could only parry into the goal; I think Patrick got the next and the final concession was the worst of the bunch, as I attempted an ill-advised Cruyff turn inside the area, which Ross read, seized on, and gobbled up in the most voracious and unforgiving goal-scoring fashion. Earlier, Danny had outjumped the far post defender from an excellent cross from Patrick to nod in, (that defender was also me).

By this stage Peter had finally arrived, Charge of the Light Brigade style, and this seemed to galvanise the Yellow team in terms of both espirit de corps and, err, goals.

Having seen how bad my goalkeeping had been, Simon Gas clearly felt honour-bound to compete and manged to let in a hat-trick of goals, all of which were scored by Yev. Each of his three goals saw the Ukrainian hitman either intercept one of Simon’s goal-kicks or else spot Simon being wrongfooted in goal, with some calmly assured finishing ensuring that Simon’s suspect footing was met with the maximum punishment. I think that ninety percent of the week’s goals were down to suspect goalkeeping from the three Simons, which begs the question what is the collective noun for goalkeeping Simons? An Alan Rough of Simons? A Fabianski of Simons? Or, after last weekend’s tour de force from Watford’s current goalie, an Heurelho Gomes of Simons?

Relatively few incidents this week bar the traditional call and response ‘was it over the line?’, ‘no, not all of it’, some guttural growling and Peter’s by trademark attempt to blooter a football into the Earth’s Troposphere.

The final chance of the evening fell to Alan, who received the ball wide on the left and eschewed the option of passing to a team-mate and went for glory, with the ball whistling over the crossbar.

Final score: Blues 5 – Yellows 5

And thus to the pub, where there was once more a very good turnout. Topics under discussion included ‘Would you rather be deaf or blind?’, breastfeeding, possible future Labour leaders, ladies from the past and also football.

I’ll be taking a week’s sabbatical on Friday, barring a last minute change of plan, so see you all again in around ten days.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Go Wilde!

Hot on the heels of last week’s game and the ensuing patchy match report comes… another game and hopefully a more comprehensive blog, as (happily) I was able to play the full hour this week.

Here are your teams:

Blues – Chris (another Morgan Stanley alumnus), Danny, Simon Gas, Ross, me, Mario, Nick and Patrick

Yellows: Bristol Paul, Tony, Steve, Yev, Ian Gooner, Mick and Peter 

Antonio was supposed to play for the Yellows but never arrived; with Yev rocking up at around 7.15 the Yellows started with Nick as a make weight, meaning that we kicked off with seven aside.
Danny began in goal for the Blues and conceded when Peter prodded home from close range after the Blues defence failed to cut out a whipped centre. I believe that Patrick equalised very shortly afterwards and at this stage first Chris and then Tony had to go off injured. 

The Yellows opted to bring on a pair of young ringers at this point, with the two boys alternating, which is never great for the team they’re on. I think it’s fair to say that one of them was better than the other, with the young black lad being a bit better with his feet but far too small to make an impact against a group of middle aged leviathans. In fact, their collective major contribution was to win a free-kick after Mario accidentally clipped one of their ankles.

Despite all of the chopping and changing, the late arrivals, the non-arrivals and the young ringers, we actually had a pretty decent game that ended up all square. I know that I let in two goals during my stint in nets, with one finish coming from either Mick or Peter after I was left unsighted from a cross from the left and the next coming from the young ringer after I’d not got out quickly enough to close down a Yellow attack. 

Simon Gas then took his turn in goals and kept the Blues in it with a string of superlative saves, chiefly from Peter – one triple save had the tall financier gripping his head in disbelief as Simon got something to all three efforts, all of which were travelling at his customary Mach 3 velocity, with the final one coming off the post and thence to safety. Simon was eventually beaten on his near post from yet another ferocious attempt from Peter, which made it 5-4 to the Yellows. 

At the other end Mario, Ross and Patrick were enjoying one another’s company in the manner of three Edwardian school chums out on a Summer’s bicycle ride and were able to drag the Blues back into things; I think Patrick got at least three of the goals, but Mario was there or thereabouts and Ross had a tremendous chance toward the end after Patrick squared to him, but Steve managed to get out and smother his effort. 

Simon, Danny and Nick were (just) able to repel the increasingly ferocious attacking from Yev, Mick and Peter and it ended up with both teams leaving the field with their chins up as the final score was five apiece.

And thus to the pub, in mine and Steve’s case via Yev’s chauffeuring. This week’s various conversations are perhaps best summed as ‘The Trouble with Wives’, or maybe ‘Men and Women’, which is probably less sexist. (But in the sort-of words of Nigel Tufnell, ‘what’s wrong with being sex(y)ist’?) 

And as Oscar Wilde said, women are not meant to be understood; they’re meant to be loved. And he should have known. Ahem.