Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Barista Barrister

As this infernal and seemingly eternal Winter shows no signs of abating, we can at least warm our cockles on the recent memories of Friday night football, with (inter alia), disputed goals, contested restarts, late appearances and missing footballs.

Last Friday night’s game took place just before the most recent oriental beast arrived (is it just me, or does anyone else think the Russians are behind this so they can sell us more Gazprom at a vastly inflated price?)

With just the one withdrawal on the day – specialist goalkeeper Ed “tweaked his quad”, apparently, (no, me neither) – we had two teams of eight:

Yellows: James, Mick, me, Simon Gas, David, Mario, Peter and Ross

Blues: Charlie, Steve, Ian Gooner, Andy, Danny, Nick, Michele and Liam

Mick aside, everyone arrived on time and the Yellow team took the lead through James, (I think). Before too long Steve had got the Blues back on terms with a fierce header from a corner and at this stage the Blue team grew stronger as Danny ended his spell in goal. The Blues then took the lead before Ross - recently married, lest we forget - illustrated the blend of composure and aggression that you’d hope for in a striker by slamming home an equaliser from just outside the area.

With the match finely balanced at two apiece, there was a sense that the fifth goal might prove to be pivotal in the game’s eventual outcome and so it proved, as a succession of defensive blunders and downright bad luck saw the Blues rattle in three in fairly quick succession: David could only partially parry a corner and someone or other (Charlie?) was on hand to snaffle the ball over the line, while James’ clearance in goal careered off of Peter’s knee and came back at the goal with more pace than the original shot, leaving him with no chance.  

David also had a hand foot in the Blues’ next goal, and although his attempted backpass was intercepted by Liam who made no mistake, his apparent culpability may be slightly mitigated by the fact I was hovering nearby, to little or no effect.

I think it was after this goal that Mario saw Andy, the Yellow goalkeeper at the time, off his line and away from his area and the Italian maestro artfully slammed the ball home from the halfway line. Given that many in the Blue team seemed to think that Andy’s absence was attributable to nothing other than a lack of concentration, the goal stood, although evidently Andy had been in the process of kicking the ball from the adjacent game back to their pitch. As such, one could argue that this was ungentlemanly conduct, although it later transpired that Mario could have had another goal when he prodded the ball home after Andy had took an aeon to take a goal kick. Again, it was subsequently revealed that Andy had caught said ball, so with him placing it on the ground Mario’s ‘goal’ should have stood.

The cumulative impact of those controversies was primarily to make Danny Very Angry. On the next restart he sallied forth over the halfway line with the ball rather like a randy bull anxious to gain access to the juicy heifers on the lower field and the next Blue attack almost yielded another goal, albeit that the ball just missed the target. In doing so, it trundled over a set of goalkeeping gloves, and they received the full force of Danny’s ire, being blamed for the miss and then getting booted off the pitch for good measure.

There may or may not have been time for one final goal, although Charlie’s final effort was dispatched at least twenty seconds after the final whistle.

The final score is therefore open to dispute, but if we discount the final goal because it was after the whistle, Mario’s goal for ungentlemanly conduct, but award Mario a goal for the goalkick that never was you end up with something like

Blues 6 - Yellows 3

And so to the pub!

We actually sat outside for around the first twenty minutes or so before the temperature started to plummet, and during this time we were treated to a sort of Tribute to the Music Hall, with a glut of Ken Dodd jokes interspersed with other one-liners, some of which were delivered more adroitly than others. Upon moving inside the Skinners topics under consideration included Ian’s imminent weekend in Skegness, which would have seemed like a punishment in this weather, along with a slew of pitches for BBC4 European noir crime dramas from David and Ian, including Barista Barrister, in which a legal eagle normally found presenting at the bar begins an undercover assignment in a coffee house in order to solve a murder. They seemed to have enough material for a fairly long narrative arc, with a series of sidekicks, akin to those in Lovejoy and Kavanagh QC (no worries on the casting for that one), joining the cast ­ as well as an Attwoodesque dystopian ‘legapocalypse’ involving baristas and barristers run amok. Must have been the beer.

Until Friday… 

Monday, 12 March 2018

Danny Malbec: nice body, disappointing finish

Welcome back, one and all, to the Friday Night Football Blog following our inaugural Winter break (of one week). I trust that we all feel rested and refreshed, even if we didn’t get to jet out on a warm weather-training trip to Dubai like our Premier League idols.

With the snow thawed and temperatures safely above five degrees we had nineteen people slated to play on Friday just gone, but a slew of late withdrawals and one cancellation (David) meant that we ended up with seven playing eight:

Yellows: me, Steve, Danny, James, Simon Ink, Antonio, Liam and Geoff

Blues: Simon Gas, Stu, Mark, Bristol Paul, Nick, Joe and Mario

(For the record, Geoff was the makeweight in an ultimately forlorn attempt to rebalance the sides following the last minute cancellations).

As is custom, Danny started off in goal for the Yellows and the two teams looked fairly even for the first ten minutes or so. Liam’s opening goal for the Yellows was cancelled out by Stu, who was in the right place at the far post to steer home a centre, (Lord alone knows where the rest of the Yellows’ defence was).

At one apiece I went in goal for the first change and Mario was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet as he thundered the ball against my near post from an acute angle. However, the superlative footwork of Antonio, the ceaseless running of Danny, now liberated from his tenure in nets, and Liam’s tenacity gradually took the game away the Blues as they edged further and further in front, with the jinky Scotsman causing most of the damage.

With the score at 4-1 to the Yellows we decided to tweak the teams to give the Blues the extra man for the final fifteen minutes and I gamely cross the Rubicon and donned a new bib. Fat lot of good it did: the Yellows went on to score another three goals, the pick of which was a ferocious shot from Danny that fizzed off his right boot and flew into the top corner.

Stu steered in the Blue’s only other goal towards the end; he chipped the ball forward more in hope than expectation, but James was inexplicably performing some gardening on the other side of the area and the ball sailed gently into the net.

Not too much else to report on; with a fine mizzle descending ceaselessly from the early Spring sky, following a real downpour earlier that afternoon, the playing surface was what you’d call ‘greasy’ and all but the deftest of touches resulted in the ball skidding off the pitch and out of play. We don’t get that many mismatches these days and this was one to chalk off to ill fortune.

Final score: Yellows 7 - Blues 2

And thus to a very busy Skinners Arms, where we struggled to get a table until around nine ‘o’ clock. Craig, the landlord, regaled Simon and I with details of his Portuguese retirement plan, and conversation turned to the merits of Buenos Aries, for reasons which escape me. (Although it did give me the opportunity to make a good gag about ‘Danny Malbec’). 

But much of the evening’s conversation revolved around Ross’s wedding on Saturday evening. Suffice to say that Simon Ink, currently flying solo, left the establishment with what we hope was a loin-girding pep talk from me, Geoff and Steve, (along with some terrible advice re: successful conversational gambits to use at a wedding reception). Full report to follow.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Popcorn for the eyes

Morning all, from a snowy East London. Another match report for you here, as I returned to the fray after a one-week absence during which Simon Gas resumed team selection duties for the first time in a few months, (and made an absolute Horlicks of it, by the sounds of things).

Here are your two teams…

Yellows: me, Stu, Paul, Bristol Paul, Simon Gas, Danny, Charlie, Joe and Liam

Blues: Ian Baggies, Ian Gooner, Geoff, Andrew, Steve, Mick, David, Michele and Ross

Pretty much everyone arrived on time and we enjoyed a decent game, fairly evenly contested with six goals. Michele very nearly scored in the opening exchanges but his first time shot from a decent cross from the right rattled the crossbar, possibly via a touch from Danny in goals. 

Liam snaffled the opening goal of the contest, but the Blues were soon on terms (Michele doing the damage?), before Liam once again outwitted the Blue defence and shuffled the ball home from an acute angle. At this stage the Yellow team were good value for their lead despite surrendering much of the possession to the Blues, who had monopolised midfield in the sort of sterile possession-style beloved of recent Spain teams. However, with Danny’s tenure in goal ending around the quarter hour mark the Yellow team gradually found their way out of defence and Stu and Charlie started to find the space for Liam’s merciless attacking.

The Blues equalised after I got caught trying to dribble out of defence and the ball got nudged through to Geoff, who demonstrated some admirable panache by wrong-footing Stu in goal and rolling the ball into the back of the net with aplomb. Two all.

The game could have then gone either way, but it is now my solemn duty to report on the next goal. A splendid move down the Yellows’ left, starting with some deft work from Liam to set Bristol Paul scampering down the touchline culminated in the ball being pinged across the byline where I had the task of tapping home from all of about two feet having burst through from midfield. 3-2 shortly became 4-2 as Charlie lolloped forward and gently guided the ball home to complete the evening’s scoring.

Not too much else to report; Charlie also managed to lose one of the balls over the Coram Fields side of the pitch and everyone else conformed to their usual playing styles, whether that be competitive, combative, skilful, cajoling or stoic. (Or just plain rubbish). 

Final score: Yellows 4 – Blues 2

And so onto the pub, where we managed to squeeze around one table and away from the Artic draught coming in from the doors. Topics under discussion included Ross’s recent stag do and upcoming nuptials, PPI payments (upsetting “financial Darwinism” was Ian’s memorable description) and the grapefruit beer on sale at the Skinners, which was surprisingly palatable.

I think we also briefly previewed yesterday’s League Cup Final. Incredibly, out of 45,000 other Arsenal fans I had managed to buy a ticket seated next to Ian Gooner, which we only realised when we compared tickets in the pub before leaving for Wembley. As for the match itself, the less said the better. My highlight was Ian bequeathing a giant bag of popcorn to me as he left the ground following David Silva’s goal.

Until next time…  

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Mr Busy

(Author’s note: I’ve been reading lots of Mr Men books recently).

This is a story about a man called Mr Busy. Mr Busy was very busy. He had to get on a train every day, which was so busy that some people had to stand up, and sit in an office where other people asked him questions all day long. ‘What time is it, Mr Busy?’ they asked. 

‘Half past ten’, Mr Busy would reply.

‘What should I put in this email’? another person would, ask and Mr Busy would tell them.

‘Is it alright if I eat my lunch by the canal’, said another and Mr Busy said that he didn’t mind one way or the other. 

But it wasn’t just at work that Mr Busy was busy. 

At home Mr Busy had to wash up, busily, run a bath for Little Miss Busy, busily, stroke his (busy) cat and wash his clothes, as well as Mrs Busy’s and Little Miss Busy’s.

And then he’d go to bed and dream about being busy, before waking up the next morning, making two cups of tea, busily, feed his cat, go busily to the bathroom where he would brush his teeth, have a shower and then get dressed. The he would have to get back on the train again for another busy day.

Once a week Mr Busy would get on a different train, one that went underground, and play football with Mr Angry, who supported a team called Tottenham Hotspur, Mr Elbows, who was originally from Scotland, Mr Loud, who was a big man that supported the same team as Mr Busy, Mr Polite, who collected everyone’s money and Mister Mister, who sold lots of records in the 1980’s. (Some other people also played, including Mr Tall, who worked in a bank, Mr Writer, who worked for a pink newspaper, and Mr Competitive, who got very cross if he didn’t win).

Mr Busy busily picked two teams to play each week and if Mr Polite was away he sometimes collected the money from the other Mr Men and told some of the men to wash the bibs and carry home the balls they kicked around. This also made him very busy. 

And sometimes, Mr Busy had time to write a report on what had happened in the game and put it on the internet. But often Mr Busy was too busy to get this done, so he made up a story about how busy he was and used that instead.

In any case, the report was often very similar: Mr Tall had usually kicked the ball so hard that it had disappeared over the fence; Mr Angry had left before the game finished; Mr Scotland scored some goals, as did Mr Likesthechicks, (although he had hurt his legs recently) and Mr Competitive and Mr Angry were very angry with one another. 

The one time of the week when Mr Busy didn’t feel too busy was when he went to the pub after the game of football. In the pub Mr Busy would drink a pint of beer and talk about the game he’d just played, then drink another pint of beer and talk and about his busy job and his busy wife, as well as Little Miss Busy and the busy cat. 

And then he didn’t feel busy anymore, (until he went back home on the train).

So the moral of this story is that if you feel busy, drink some beer and try not to worry too much.

The End.

Friday 9th February, the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eighteen

Yellow team: Ed, Paul, Steve, Andy, Charlie, Simon Gas, Michele and Joe

I hope you enjoyed that little story. Despite being Very Busy, I thought I’d try and post a match report from last week; the two teams were as above and the final score was something like 7-2 to the Yellows, chiefly because Peter – prizes if anyone could identify him in the Roger Hargreaves homage above – had to leave the field of play owing to his long-term ankle knack.

That said, Peter performed valiantly in goal, and the score only got out of hand once he’d had to retire hurt. For all that, the Blues put in a very honourable effort, with Danny being on hand to bag both goals, courtesy of some muscular Number Nine play and could have had a hat-trick had his heading been on song.

A warm welcome to Danny’s mate Stuart, or ‘Stu’, or “Stockport” if you’re Ian – he’s played three games in a row now and scored a very fine goal in last weeks’ match, the report of which may be lost to the mists of time, I am sad to say.

As for the Yellows, with plenty of young legs in Ed, Charlie, Joe and err, Andy, they were always going to be a tough proposition but the last word should go to Michele, who capped a characteristically impressive performance with some wonderfully understated finishing.

I may or may not be available for selection tomorrow as I’m on domestic duty, but hopefully this post will whet the appetite for future match reports.