Monday, 22 May 2017

Lucky number

More fun and games this week, as nineteen players once again drew up at Bloomsbury’s Coram Fields to show off their footballing wares.

Here are your two teams –

Blues: Ian Gooner, Ian Baggies, Simon Gas, Nick, Mick, Peter, Yev, Mario and Callum

Yellows: me, Andy, Steve, Danny, Tony, Ed, Alessandro, Adolpho, David and Paul

Now, a word about the starting line-ups. As David, Yev and Mick were all late arriving to one extent or another, and all three had been slated to start for the Blues, I allowed Peter to play as a Blue, as the alternative would have the Yellows starting with ten against seven. This, I think we can agree, would have been absurd.

Mick was first to arrive, followed by Yev, while David rocked up at around 7.15 owing to a late-running train. As such, the Yellows had nine players for around fifteen minutes while the Blues had first seven, then eight and finally nine with the arrival of Yev.

I mention all of this because I think it’s fair to say that there was some controversy about the team selection with players on both teams complaining that they were not fairly balanced. As I’ve said time and again, if people could find it within themselves to arrive on time then we would have far fewer problems with perceived fairness, but my exhortations seem to fall on deaf ears.
Anyway, onto the match report.

The Yellows took the lead through a friend of Alessandro’s named Adolpho who turned out to what Jamie Redknapp would no doubt term “a proper player”. Despite his first name, the bearded Italian played not on the (far) right wing but what I believe his countrymen would label ‘centro campista’ (this based on the few bits of Italian I learnt watching Italia 90 all those years ago) and he had a very fine game.

Peter leathered in an equaliser before the Yellows scored twice more; first Alessandro coyly flicked his ankle at the ball in a highly speculative fashion, with his impudence being rewarded as he caught Ian Baggies unawares in goal. Next, another strange goal, this time from Steel City goal-machine Andy, who charged down a ball in midfield which careered off of his shins and trundled home from all of about twenty yards. Yellows 3 – Blues 1.

At this stage the relatively light clamouring from people about the fairness of the two teams reached a level I am going to label ‘tumultuous’, but the Blues had plenty of fire power and had they not been up against specialist goalkeeper Ed for much of the first half would surely have found themselves on terms. Nick struck the outside of the post with a deft flick; later either Mario or Yev also saw the ball come back off the upright. Later still, Yev contrived to miss of the most presentable chances of the evening after Mario picked him out with calmly delivered yet deadly through ball.

With Mick, Nick and Callum all teeing up Mario and Yev the Blues did get two more goals, but could never quite get the equaliser that they sought and the killer goal came after I prodded Ed through wide on the right, with the speedy netminder proving that he can score as well as save as he raced onto the through ball and volleyed home to make it 5-2.

There was still time for Mario to pull one back for the Blues before the final whistle, but that concluded the evening’s goalscoring activity. 

Final score: Blues 3 – Yellows 5.

No pub for me this week, as the outlaws were in town and She Who Must Be Obeyed was keen for me to put in an appearance before they left for Cornwall. Suffice to say that it looked like a wonderful evening for drinking beer in the open air.

See you all in two weeks’ time. I’ve won a competition to appear as centre half for Arsenal FC in the FA Cup Final after Stan Kroenke looked to assuage angry season ticket holders by holding a ballot for one lucky customer to appear alongside Rob Holding on Saturday. What can I say, my lucky number came up. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Twin Peaks

Yet another week rolls by as we head into glorious Summer and another match report for you to peruse while you sit in your office and complain about how muggy it is.

A bumper turn out again this week – here are your teams:

Blues: Simon Gas, Ed, Mark, Aussie Tom, Peter, Charlie, Mick, Liam and Alessandro

Yellows: me, Andy, Ian Gooner, Danny, Alan, Steve, Joe, Tony, Bristol Paul and Mario

Ten plays nine there, with the team featuring ten players having more than their fair share of duffers. The stronger Blue team took the lead through Liam, but the Yellows drew level from a fabulous equaliser from Mario who deftly volleyed in a centre from Alan that crept inside the near post beyond the grasp of our leading goalkeeping light, Ed.

The stronger Blue team then became even stronger, as Tony once again decided that the admittedly annoying tree pollen that swirls around Bloomsbury at this time of year was preventing him from breathing, (he managed to communicate this to his team-mates while still opening and closing his mouth and showing all signs of ingesting carbon dioxide). Thus we then had the seemingly weekly spectacle of Tony mournfully and deliberately removing his bib and trudging back to the changing rooms softly shaking his head.

With two teams of nine but with a weaker line-up the Yellows were now very much up against it and the Blues began to dominate possession, with Peter, Charlie, Mick and Alessandro recycling the ball and setting up chances for Liam in particular. Like the Luftwaffe in 1940, they also sought to achieve total aerial dominance with the Twin Peaks of Peter and Charlie combining to win most of the headers in midfield, which meant that the Yellows had to try and play out from the full-backs.

Charlie and Peter were both on the scoresheet as the Blue team roared ahead, and had it not been for a veritable tour de force of a performance from Joe, which Andy rightly described as a pleasure to watch, the score could have become silly. Time and again Joe’s last-gasp tackles and coolness under pressure snuffed out Blue attacks and he capped what was arguably a man of the match performance with the Yellows’ other goal. Gathering the ball inside his own area, Joe steadily and remorselessly advanced through the Blues’ half with the √©lan and grace of a stately Rolls Royce and unleashed a defiant shot that flew into the top corner. Bravo, Joe.

Other than Tony’s inevitable departure there were few other talking points this week, although we had some customary handball shouts, one of which was given against Steve and one that was not, while Charlie and Andy were responsible for the two occasions on which the ball left the playing arena.

Final score: Yellows 2, Blues 3

To the pub once more then, with Mick bringing along his banjo ahead of a folk gig in north London. Ian, Steve and Alan were all going on a bike ride to Leigh-on-Sea on Saturday and thus only stayed for two, while Simon Gas, Alan and Bristol Paul stayed on to discuss Chelsea’s inevitable League title win. The less said about that, the bietter.

Until Friday, enjoy your week.   

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Crushed by the wheels of industry

More fun and games to report on this week, as no fewer than twenty players were slated to do battle at Coram Fields. As luck would have it Nick withdrew – twenty being plenty, and all that – so we had a slightly more manageable nineteen people lining up. 

Here are your two teams – 

Blues: Andy, Paul The Guvnor, Bristol Paul, Simon Ink, Tony, Mario, David, Patrick, Liam and Eventually Yev

Yellows: me, Ian Baggies, Simon Gas, Aussie Tom, Danny, Mick, Peter, Joe and Ross

With Yev arriving fashionably late the teams were eight aside for the first ten minutes or so, but the Yellows could not take advantage of this temporary equilibrium. With Danny starting in nets for the Yellows they were slightly weaker than was perhaps first apparent and after conceding their first goal – David taking advantage of some poor marking to volley home unopposed from a corner - I went in to relieve Danny. (He likes a bit of relieving, does Danny).

The Blues thereafter looked the stronger side, with Patrick and Mario resuming their splendid Big’un and Littl’un partnership and Liam, Tony and Yev all looking to hoover up any sniff of a chance. But with around fifteen minutes gone we lost first Tony, who had been theatrically clearing his throat and complaining about the pollution in the air, and thereafter Ross, for reasons unknown. Clearly, the dark Satanic mills around Bloomsbury were pumping the air full of noxious fumes, with esoteric poets and foreign students alike adding to the toxic atmosphere with their effete intellectual musings and delicately worded stanzas. Something must be done! 

Or perhaps it was just tree pollen?

With Tony collapsing with the black lung and Ross AWOL the game drifted for around five or ten minutes and it was during this woozy interregnum that the Blues took a 2-1 lead. However, the Yellows managed to regroup, spurred on by Mick’s relentless chiding and it was the silver fox himself who got the Yellows on terms with a sensational finish from wide on the right, with the ball screaming into the top corner, deceiving the ‘keeper who was clearly expecting a cross. In fact, it was a trick that he very nearly repeated later in the game, only for David to claw the ball out from under the bar. 

I had another shot come back of the upright this week as I turned and span a left footed effort against the post following a delicate through ball from Mick. As last week’s hat-trick hero Andy cleared the rebound, the ball came loose again in the same passage of play and I managed to squirt a square pass to Danny who shot from outside the area. Peter cleverly opened his knees to let the ball past and with his eight foot seven frame unsighting the goalie the ball calmly nestled into the goal. 

That made it 3-2 to the Yellows and one would have expected the winning team to hold out, but a storming, slaloming run from Patrick took the all the Yellow defenders with him and his runner, Yev, to leave Mario unmarked at the far post to stab home the equaliser. 

The one remaining outstanding chance fell to Mick with literally the last kick of the game, but in attempting to score past David the chance went begging and it ended up three apiece.

To the Skinners, where discussion this week, at least from Mick, David, Simon Ink and myself, focussed on the current general election campaign and the inevitable evisceration of the Labour Party and what hope might remain for progressive politics after June 8th. In amongst this discussion was debate about how Diane Abbot reached the giddy heights of the Shadow Cabinet when she clearly has jam for brains, and what next for this septic isle.

Still, it’ll be Friday soon!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Class finishing

With Simon Gas returned in one piece from North Africa, virtue seemingly intact, it was business as usual at Coram Fields on Friday. Here are your two teams:

Yellows: me, Ian Gooner, Aussie Tom, Simon Ink, Alan, Bristol Paul, Tony, Joe and Liam

Blues: Andy, Ian Baggies, Steve, Simon Gas, Ed, Ross, Danny, Mario and Yev

The Yellow team had the man advantage for the first ten minutes as the Blues awaited the inevitable arrival of the prodigal Yev, but failed to make the best use of this time. The nearest they came was when I thundered a sweet volley following a post-corner melee, but specialist goalkeeper Ed showed why he is the specialist goalkeeper by somehow managing to tip it onto the bar. I had another presentable chance soon afterwards and once again found Ed an unmoveable barrier, although his save was slightly theatrical given my shot was probably drifting wide. Soon afterwards Liam did manage to find a way past the seemingly impregnable Ed as he hit a clever shot into the ground which squirmed under the young keeper.

By this stage in proceedings Tony had vacated nets having conceded the first Yellows goal, although if memory serves he was undone by a very uncharacteristic defensive slip from the usually immaculate Joe, with Mario (?) capitalising. The game thereby continued with neither side going more than one strike ahead; for the Blues, Danny, Mario and Yev enjoyed plenty of possession in midfield, but arguably won the game at the back. Steve returned to action following his antipodean sojourn with no ill-effects from his three week holiday and formed a formidable defensive holding pattern along with Simon and box-to-box Danny.

With either Mario or Yev scoring the Blues second goal, Andy pounced from all of about six inches to make it 3-2 following a rifled centre from Yev. Alan then scored a tremendous headed equaliser, timing his run into the box to perfection and thumping his header down into the ground and beyond the grasp of Ed. 3-3.

With the game beautifully poised, the coup de grace was applied by Andy – twice. Both finishes were rather similar to his first in that he managed to capitalise on some generous defending from the Yellows and exploited space to knock the ball in from close distance following expert approach work from Yev and Mario. Bravo, Andy.

Final score: Blues 5 – Yellows 3

Mercifully little controversy this week, although we really need a seminar on the handball rule, as there are a number of us who appear to be under the illusion that if the ball hits someone’s hand it’s automatically handball. Please see here for a definitive guide.

Onto the pub! Topics under discussion this week ranged from social class and its impact on 1970’s children’s photographs, the patronisation of the arts and crafts by the hyper-rich, Joshua versus Klitschko, government policy on tobacco, alcohol and other substances and the plight of the catering at Wembley stadium.  

So, all in all, a standard Friday night out. 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Marrakesh Express!

Welcome back to the Friday night football blog, after a somewhat lengthy Easter break.

With our spiritual leader absent overseas, (he’s currently smoking rolled up carpets in a souk in Marrakesh), I was handed responsibility for not just team selection, but for key retrieval, subs collection and bibs and balls allocation. It is very important to allocate someone three balls each week. One week we gave Yev this responsibility and he was asked on the way home if his surname was Oojanickabollokov.

Here are your two teams:

Yellows: me, Simon Ink, Andrew, David (eventually), Mario, Ross, Patrick and Ed

Blues: Ian Gooner, Bristol Paul, Danny, Mick, Nick, Peter, Liam and Charlie

No fewer than three no-shows this week – Tony, Yev, and Paul all failed to arrive. Perhaps Tony had joined Simon in his North African sojourn, contemplating life over a strong coffee and jazzy cigarette. Perhaps Yev was there, too, admiring the svelte frames of the local street vendors. Perhaps Yev was just otherwise engaged. As Doris Day sang, Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

To help balance the sides Ed was co-opted to the Yellows’ ranks and when David finally arrived he made the teams eight aside. Game on.

The Yellows were struggling to see much of the ball in the early exchanges, with the Blues’ man advantage paying dividends as they took the lead. But the Yellow team had potent weapons in young Patrick, who was linking up nicely with super Mario, to say nothing of Ed ‘The Cat’ in goals, who repelled countless shots from Nick and Peter, much to the growing frustration of the Blue team. Mario scored a marvellous equaliser for the Yellows following a slaloming run from Patrick – who I think it’s fair to say has a Good Touch For A Big Man – and a deft and unfussy cutback from the byline.

I believe that Patrick himself put the Yellows ahead before Peter or Nick got the Blues back on terms. With Liam making life difficult for Andrew and David, who were doing sterling work at the back for the Yellows, the game was delicately balanced. In hindsight the turning point came when Liam and Andrew clashed leaving the Scotsman with a gyppy ankle. Liam then went in goal. Despite his injury he pulled off at least one tremendous save from Mario but could do nothing to prevent Simon Ink from putting the Yellows 3-2 ahead after some great play saw Romford’s answer to Keith Moon get the ball out from under his feet to nudge home from all of about twelve inches. Not that he was finished, mind; soon after came his party piece as Simon hammered home from wide of the left with a vicious, swerving effort that managed to snake past Liam in goal. 4-2 to the Yellows.

Back came the Blues, with Nick, Peter, Ian and Charlie flooding midfield and creating plenty of chances. Bar one late goal from Peter, however, David, Andrew and particularly Ed in goal managed to keep everything out and the Yellows duly prevailed by the odd goal in seven. Against all odds, a fairly even and decent game.

A relatively controversy free game – which is always a good thing – with the sole incidence of contention surrounding two handball shouts, one given against Charlie and one not given against me after I vehemently objected to being penalised for handball after Nick blasted the ball at my right hand, which is down by my side, from a distance of about eight inches. It was handshakes all round after the game.

No pub for me this week, as I was out all day at Wembley on Sunday and wanted to keep my powder dry, but a more comprehensive account of this coming Friday will arrive after the conclusion of the Bank Holiday weekend.

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!