Tuesday, 27 June 2017

True Colours

And so it came to pass that despite poring over the team sheets for Friday’s game for longer than five minutes and thereby ensuring that the teams were evenly balanced, Fate took a hand and threw my plans up in the air and cast them to the figurative Four Winds.

Whoosh! Ian Gooner and Peter both withdraw on the day!

Blast! Callum and Adolpho decide not to turn up!

But, best of all, (hurricane-level gust!), Tom forgot the bibs.

To my reckoning, this hasn’t happened since we moved over to Coram Fields, which was about five years ago.

Now, in this eventuality there are a number of solutions. One would be to play shirts v skins, (as suggested by Danny), but the Coram Fields safeguarding team ruled this out in mind of the high number of under-18s in the vicinity.

Another is to ask the caretaker if they have any spare bibs (answer: no). Which leaves attempting to corral players into two teams based on the vaguest of colour themes, e.g. darks versus lights (question: how dark is red?), or monochrome versus colours. Bearing in mind I am horrifically colour blind, none of it makes much sense.

Without going on too much, here is what we ended up with, with a predominantly red, orange (i.e. Nick’s Cote D’Ivoire top) and white team (plus Charlie in light green) versus a darker blue/black team (plus Tom in what looked very much like green). If you add in that Yev was late, you get the following picture:

Reds and oranges, etc.: me, Nick, Steve, Charlie, Paul, Ed, Alan, Mick

Blues, blacks, darks: Joe, Tom, Yev, Alessandro, Simon Gas, Danny, Bristol Paul

Despite the haphazard nature of the team selection, we ended up with a pretty decent game. (Perhaps we should leave team selection up to the mythical Prince of Serendip more regularly in future?)

The Blue team were arguably stronger, particularly with their twin pillars of defence – Joe and Tom, (a little and large combo if ever there was one) - but this advantage was offset by the Red team boasting Ed in goals.

Yev and Alessandro pulled wide on either side of the pitch and stretched the Red’s defenders to take advantage of what was at times fairly agricultural approach play from the Blues (i.e. hoof it long to the front two), but Ed, Steve and Mick combined to thwart many of their attacks, with the crossbar coming into play on at least two occasions to save the Reds. Danny was the unlucky man on one of those occasions as the ball was tipped onto the bar by the feline Ed whereupon it crashed down on the goal-line before being hacked to safety. However, Yev did manage to get past Ed to grab two goals.
This lead stretched to three once Danny got in on the act, and thereafter the Reds struggled to play the final killer ball to test the various Blue goalkeepers. The one goal which they did manage came from Nick as he performed a deft shoe-shuffle along the by-line and flicked the ball past the keeper from a very tight angle.

My big moment came when Nick span in the centre circle and played a beautifully weighted pass, leaving me with the deceptively simple task of running in unopposed on goal and finishing past Joe. I was doing alright up to and including the moment when I gave him the eyes, dummied the ball a la Davor Suker and took it round him, whereupon one of his go-Gadget limbs poked out and took the ball away and thence to safety via an unseemly scramble. Foiled again!

And onto the pub, which was mercifully quiet this week. This may be in part due to the Young People being down on Michael Eavis’s farm in Pilton (one of them being Mick’s son, Patrick – as Mick said, why waste your time and money watching middle aged men indulge themselves when you could play football with Simon Gas et al), but whatever the reason it was a genuine treat to sit outside and drink cool beer.

Topics under consideration included Tony’s alleged retirement, terrorism (not related to the first item) and the last game of the season, which is likely to be Friday 14th July.

Until Friday, friends.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Lorum Ipsum

Another Friday rolls round and another match report to compile.

Given what was to transpire, you’ll be surprised / shocked / staggered (please feel free to delete as appropriate) to read that I had a genuine sense of satisfaction after preparing the following teams, as I fully expected a low scoring game settled by the odd goal.

Yellows: me, Andy, Bristol Paul, Tom, Danny, Peter, Alessandro, Adolpho and Yev

Blues: Ian Baggies, Ian Gooner, Simon Gas, Tony, Mark, Joe, Mario, Ross and Paul

Ten plays nine there, although with Yev’s inevitable tardiness it was nine aside for the first ten minutes. And let the record state that Peter opined in the opening exchanges that the Yellow team were too weak and needed reinforcements.

The Yellows took the lead in that opening period, i.e. before Yev’s arrival, with the improving Alessandro crashing home with a fierce effort that fizzed into the bottom corner. (I think this was the first goal; there were quite a few to recall and my brain is turning to fudge in the heat). Thereafter the Yellows took a two goal lead, courtesy of Peter, (I think) – by this stage Yev was on the scene and he managed to cash in with a couple of goals.

I then took my stint in goal and shortly after parrying a dipping shot from Tony I managed to oversee the one Blue goal of the night; Andy went to intercept a cross from the Blues’ right, but the ball got stuck under his feet and Ross managed to steal in, take the ball around Andy and steer it into the empty net.

At this stage the two little sods who have clearly been taking lessons in how to be as irritating as possible were the cause of a five minute interregnum in proceedings. Having asked several times if they could play – answer: not likely – they then scampered off with one our balls again; I understand that Danny thought they had taken one of our bags. Cue much angst, an averted headbutt from Yev and a highly vocal exchange with Danny which resulted in the two lads being ushered away from the pitch.

It’s probably fair to say that this hiatus in proceedings fatally harmed the flow of the game. Tony became increasingly vocal with his disgruntlement about the fairness of the two teams as the goals continued to flow for the Yellows; I squared one for Peter to rifle in, (after I missed a great chance following a terrific centre from Alessandro); Danny burst up the touchline and passed home from a short distance and toward the end Andy bagged a couple.

By this stage things had become somewhat farcical, as we had the all too familiar sight of Tony trudging off disconsolately, soon followed by Mario and then Ian.

Other notable incidents, and there’s been a few recently, included Danny and Tony having a contretemps by the corner flag. Danny stood (just) the requisite few yards away from Tony as he took a corner and the outspoken Brexiteer took the opportunity to blast the ball at Danny’s arse not once, not twice, but three times. As Tom said, time to turn the other cheek. 

And there was still time for another flare up as they tussled on the touchline.

All in all, a week to forget. David suggested I post the blog in lorum ipsum. Perhaps you would agree?

PS – A sighting of the lesser spotted Spizz before the game, as the Arthur Daley of punk stopped on his push bike on his way to the Roundhouse to see The Skids to deliver some flyers. More news to follow…

Monday, 12 June 2017

Of coppers and choppers

Good morning, all. With the main man flying back to Blighty from his brief sojourn in Lousanne, I was asked to Take Care of Business on Friday, picking two teams of ten (and getting the keys, taking the money, etc.) And here they are:

Yellows: Paul, me, Steve, Alessandro, Charlie, Nick, Mick, Joe, Tony and Liam

Blues: Ed, Andy, Tom, Simon Ink, Ian Gooner, Danny, Alan, Adolpho, Mark and Yev

Incredibly, everyone turned up on time and we were able to kick off at 7.00 pm with no need for further adjustments, a turn of events that’s as rare as hen’s teeth. Another word on the starting line-ups: owing to an elbow injury specialist goalkeeper Ed was not in goal, which probably helped the overall balance of the two teams. Onto the match report.

Just the three goals to relay this week, as with twenty men on the pitch space was inevitably at a premium. Nick started in nets for the Yellows and I went in for the first change and promptly let in the two goals that the Blue team scored.

The first was regrettable, as I was fiddling with the goalie’s gloves and trying to keep an eye on the young scamps messing around behind the goal when Yev spied me slightly out of position and shrewdly passed the ball to my left and beyond my outstretched hand. Shortly afterwards a great Blue move culminated in a cross to the far post where Adolpho was unmarked. He crashed the ball home off his chest with tremendous panache for one of the more eye-catching goals we’ve had at Coram Fields. Blues 2 – Yellows 0.

There on, chances and space were limited for both teams. The Blues found it difficult to get beyond Joe and Steve, for all of Adolpho’s midfield scheming and Danny and Alan’s box-to-box runs. And at the other end the Yellows too struggled to make any clear cut chances, with Liam ploughing a lone furrow for much of the game, despite Nick, Mick, Charlie, Tony and Alessandro seeing plenty of the ball in the wide positions. The one goal which did come, with about twenty minutes to go, saw Tony spring Liam with a wonderful through ball which gave the jinky Scotsman a rare run on goal. He made no mistake and clinically slotted home.

All in all, a fairly decent game given the paucity of space with relatively little controversy. The game ended at around 7.55 with the score at 2-1 to the Blues.

Circumstance behoves me to relay details of the other events of the evening. The two young scamps I referred to in the sixth paragraph narrowly avoiding being drop-kicked off the pitch by Tom as they successfully garnered our attention by continually encroaching on the field of play and stealing one of our balls, which they later returned after Tom’s characteristically vocal intervention (“Get off the fucken pitch, mate!”). Happily, they duly fucked off.

More seriously, at around half seven what looked like an armoured police car screeched to a halt outside the entrance to the Foundling Museum and three coppers ran out to chase a troop of hooded youths that were straight from central casting in terms of looking like urban gang members. With sirens screaming and lights flashing the ball had gone out for a corner and we all naturally paused to see the ensuing drama, with me and Yev both suggesting that the constabulary use all reasonable force in their quest for justice. Alan’s reaction was to tell us to get on with the game.

And then at around ten to seven the air ambulance arrived. After a low pass over the three Coram Fields pitches which prompted a stop in play, the helicopter came back around and landed on the pitch. Unlike St James’s Park in 1984 we did not see Kevin Keegan step in, but rather the paramedics step out. Match abandoned.

And thus to the Skinners, where a disbelieving Simon Gas awaited news of the night’s events. As he said, something dramatic always happens when he goes away. Aside from the tales of coppers and choppers, other items up for discussion included the generous chests of Dundee’s young ladies, (which got Yev’s attention) and the fallout from the most extraordinary general election result in recent times.  

See you on Friday. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Ed ache

Good afternoon, all. Another memorable game to report on today, as we all try and Get On With Things despite the best efforts of the imbeciles out to terrorise us. Here are your two teams from last Friday:

Yellows: me, Bristol Paul, Steve, David, Adolpho, Mario, Charlie and Simon Gas

Blues: Ian Gooner, Nick, specialist goalkeeper Ed, Alessandro, Will, Liam, Geoff (and not Vitaliy)

The last player mentioned there, Yev’s mate Vitaliy, failed to show, which meant that the Yellow team had a man advantage once David arrived at around eight minutes past seven.

Despite this numerical superiority the Yellows managed to sieve three goals in the first ten minutes, all of them coming from defensive mistakes that were punished with cool and clinical precision by Alessandro, Will and Liam – I won’t name names here, as the Yellows’ lack of defensive cover for all three goals was as much to blame as the individual errors.

At the other end Ed made the first of what even by his own standards were an array of extraordinary saves as I let off what looked like a great shot only to see the lithe young ‘keeper claw it out from under the top left corner of the goal.

Liam managed to charge down an attempt from myself to lob the ball over his head and into midfield, the wee striking sprite racing onto goal unopposed and calmly slotting the ball past the goalie and into the far corner, which made it 4-1 on the night. I then took my turn in nets and hoped to see our team regroup, although the next goal came from Will and not anyone wearing a Yellow (or orange) bib.

All that said, the scoreline was somewhat misleading of the game itself, as although the Blues were worth their lead in terms of quality – I think we’d all forgotten just how good a player Will is, (for my money, he is, pound for pound, year for year, the best player to grace the Coram Fields arena when one factors in age, work-rate, all round skillset and the fact he will pass to people who might not be as good as him), while Liam was in mean form – the Yellows did enjoy plenty of the ball. Some of you might say that this is because they had the extra man (hello Ian!), but in Mario and Adolpho they had two wonderful players who worked tirelessly to recover both possession and position to try and get the bloody ball past Ed.

Ah, the headache of a specialist goalkeeper… for all the Yellows’ effort and determination there is something genuinely dispiriting about trying to find a way past a shot-stopper as effective as Ed. Time and again he thwarted the Yellows best efforts to score, parrying, pawing and tipping the ball away to safety, over the bar, and onto his own defenders. After a while you start to overthink things; rather than striking the ball you take an extra touch, consider squaring to someone else who may be better placed, or just shank the chance. Even someone as naturally gifted at shooting as Mario is affected, let alone a duffer like me – countless opportunities were squandered, with posts struck and hands clutched to heads. Steve’s miss was a great example: having seen an initial shot saved, Steve uncharacteristically tried to lift the ball high over Ed’s head (rather than closing his eyes and putting his foot through it) and succeeded only in spooning it over the bar. Mario did something similar a few minutes later, while I had one chance tipped round the post and suffered an embarrassing brain fade for another.

Will got one more from the penalty spot after Simon Gas craftily handled a goalbound effort from Liam (not so craftily that it was not spotted by the Blues), but Mario and Adolpho both managed to finally find a way past Ed (Mario’s goal coming from a trademark swivel and low drive) to lend a modicum of respectability to the final score.    
The last action of the evening saw the ball come loose to me on the edge of the box as the final whistle was peeping; I hit the ball on my laces and it soared over Ed’s head, but not past his fingertips and it crashed down off the crossbar and down off the goal-line whereupon it was hacked to safety, which rather summed up the night.

Final score: Blues 6 – Yellows 3

And thus to the pub, for three much needed and wholly refreshing pints of Yardbird. I failed to shift my spare ticket for Depeche Mode on Saturday at the London Stadium (who were spectacular, should you be interested), but got more interest among the assorted middle aged men then I got on social media all week. Other topics under discussion were the wonderful FA Cup final, Geoff’s upcoming theatrical performance as Colonel Pickering, the general election and Simon Gas’s imminent journalistic assignment in Lousanne. Which means I am in charge on Friday; bibs, subs and all.

Until then… 

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!