Monday, 20 February 2017


Hello and welcome back to what is rapidly becoming an occasional series of whimsical reflections on the comings and goings of a group of men in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties gamely trying to play football on a Friday night in central London, with wildly varying degrees of success.

I think that I’ve missed two match reports and three games, one of which I wasn’t playing in, and all that remains of them are slightly forlorn looking scraps of paper that relate who was playing. Memory can be capricious at the best of time, but I’m blaming my apparent amnesia on Simon blowing the footballs up too hard – a recent piece of research confirms that repeated heading can lead to memory loss. Patrick and Peter should beware their great height and aerial prowess; it may be that in ten years’ time they’ll be wandering around the foyer of the Renoir Cinema in the Brunswick Centre in a fugue-state of confusion, aimlessly looking for a Muswell Hill-based gentlemen in a linen suit.

I’m aware that since I last posted anything Liam has been Aitoned – Steve took not one but two swingeing attempts at his getting his man and duly succeeded in knacking Liam’s ankle ligaments, but not before the wee will ‘o’ the wisp had succeeded in scoring his usual brace of goals. And I think this was the same evening that Bristol Paul spent the majority of the evening in the company of a much younger lady in the Skinners, whose virtue I had the temerity to question when next I saw him.
The game two weeks ago was memorable chiefly because it ended in a draw, which always sticks in my head as it tends to prove that my team selection worked. (This despite a late withdrawal from Ian Baggies and Ian Gooner playing very gamely with a stinking cold).

Before my memory clouds over once again, let me report on what I can from last Friday’s game. At around 1.15 pm that afternoon I stooped to put down an empty mug of tea on my desk and suffered an alarming spasm in my lower back that felt as if some malevolent sprite was holding a match to my spinal column. I decided to take 400 mg of Ibuprofen and hope for the best and duly picked the following two teams to do battle –

Yellows: me, Ross, Patrick, Joseph, Simon Ink, Tom, Nick and Mario

Blues: Simon Gas, Yev, Peter, Michele, Mark, Geoff, Mick and Alan

No fewer than three players rocked up late, (Yev, Peter and Joseph) – NB: not Geoff – so the game began in slightly farcical circumstances, with seven playing six. Despite not being able to do much other than count the players and jog in a straight line, I meandered around the pitch while Ross started in goal for the Yellows and there was a quick exchange of goals as we waited for the full complement to arrive, (Patrick and Peter doing the damage, I believe).

At this stage I then decided to take over in goal from Ross: cue disaster. I duly conceded three goals in probably a little less time than Arsenal managed to ship against Bayern in midweek. The first was comfortably the worst, as I raced out of goal to try and bast the ball back upfield as Michele bore down, delivered an air kick and saw the ball bounce apologetically into an empty net. “Wow”, said Yev. Wow, indeed. Peter then advanced towards me and as I came out to try and narrow the angle and he deftly lobbed it over my head to make it 3-1 to the Blues. Goal number four arrived about a minute later; Alan had yet another one-on-one and despite saving the initial shot my aching back prevented any meaningful attempt at a recovery save and Michele pounced on the rebound.

I then accepted what I should have recognised about five hours earlier, i.e. that I was in no fit state to run, jump, turn or perform any of the other gross motor movements which are necessary to play football and left the field of play. Yev took my bib to make it eight v seven in favour of the Yellows, but as I sat on the edge of the pitch the Blues scored twice more. I then went off for a shower.

As I returned ten minutes later to drop the key back into Simon Gas’ ballbag (cough), I saw Patrick score one, with someone else reducing the arrears a minute or so later. Evidently, the final score was Yellows 6 Blues 8, which is a moral victory considering the plight of their start. And apparently I wasn’t the only casualty on the night, as Michele was also forced to depart, albeit with the somewhat more manly injury of knee ligament damage. Props go to Simon Ink, who evidently bagged a hat-trick on the night, and also to the other usual goalscoring suspects, i.e. Michele, Patrick and Peter.

Given that I couldn’t file much of a match report, I decided to head to the pub. There, I was joined by Mick and Patrick, followed by Yev, Alan, Simon Gas, Geoff, Nick, Ross and Mark. Topics under discussion were many and varied and included: Nick and myself concluding that Tom looks, plays and sounds exactly like a chirpy Australian wicketkeeper in the manner of an Ian Healy or Brad Haddin; the potential next manager at Arsenal; a proposed trip to Kiev next Summer, with Vitaliy as putative travel agent. Don’t pretend that you’ve not been warned.

Hopefully the next blog won’t be as long, but much depends on the progress of my problematic lower back. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

No Mercy

Hello again, everyone – another week, another match report. 

Despite the freezing weather, the high turnouts continue as we lurch feet-first into 2017; here are your teams from last Friday:

Yellows – Simon Gas, Steve, Ian Baggies, Danny, Joe, Mario, Tony, Mark, Paul

Blues – Bristol Paul, Alan, Andy, me, Peter, Liam, Mick, Ross, David

As you can see, nine aside there – it was scheduled to be ten plays nine, but a friend of Peter’s with the somewhat unlikely moniker of ‘Braz’ was a late withdrawal.

Although the overall quality of the ensuing match left something to be desired – Tony opined that it was the “worst game of football” he’d ever played in – it was a close encounter, with just the one goal separating the two teams.

Mario scored what was comfortably the goal of the game, picking up a loose ball around the half-way line and chipping the ball sumptuously high into the night sky where it fell like a stone over the despairing head of whichever schmuck happened to be in goal for the Blues at the time. Mick Alan took a dangerous corner that brushed my head and shoulders before arriving sweetly on Liam’s noggin for the Blues’ first goal. 

In fact, Alan was in sparkling form, both assisting and scoring with ease, with a hand in all four of the Blues’ goals. Liam bagged one more courtesy of Alan, before Liam returned the favour with Alan tidying up and scoring after some nimble footwork from his celtic strike partner.

As for the Yellows’ other goals, Mario (?) capitalised on some loose defensive work from Andy and I believe Tony also troubled the scorers.  

The final score of the evening came after Alan yet more sterling work holding the ball up on the far touchline for yours truly to arrive and pass the ball home from close range with what I think it’s fair to describe as an uncharacteristic calmness. 

Final score: Blues 4 – Yellows 3

The major talking point of the evening was the irritating behaviour of two young scamps who spent at least fifteen minutes rolling around in a homoerotic tryst just inside the touchline before eventually getting bored and moving behind the goal to make fun of the middle aged men playing in front of them. Having been threatened with ejection from the arena they then waited until the ball had gone out (having hit the tree above the goal nearest the Foundling Museum), booted the ball as far away from us as they dare and then ran shrieking like a couple of One Direction fans off down the alleyway immediately behind the pitches to a volley of expletives. 

I appreciate that they were just looking for a reaction from us, but if they appear again next Friday we need to engineer a passage of play that involves Ian Gooner and Andy tussling for the ball and subsequently falling onto the pair of the young wretches. As they then lay squirming on the pitch, their breath becoming shallow and their very life-forces slowly ebbing away, they plaintively open the mouths to scream for help, but in vain, as nothing comes out. The two titans of the Coram Fields game rise very s  l  o   w  l  y to their feet, but too late.  As the whelps start to lose consciousness the last thing they’ll see is Tony leaning over their prone figures, wagging his index finger and calmly explaining that this is an inevitable consequence of Disrespecting The Game. There will be no mercy.

See you on Friday, as Simon regales us with tales of Alpine derring-do and evenings spent demolishing fondue.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Thumbs up for Joe and 2017

Happy New Year to you all and a very warm welcome back to your regular(ish) Friday night football review from the hurly-burly, rough and tumble world of Coram Fields.

Two games to report on as we head feet first into 2017, along with a player of the year award presentation. Firstly, we have the inaugural game of the New Year to reflect on – here were your teams:

Yellows – me, Andy, Nick, Mark, Danny, Joe, Yev (eventually), Steve and Mario

Blues – Ian Gooner, Simon Gas, David, Simon Ink, Tony, Peter, Liam, Alan and Ross

A slow burner this one, with the initial proceedings tempered by a lack of players as people gradually dribbled onto the pitch, with each side eventually evolving into the final line-ups shown above. Simon Ink actually started for the Yellow team – and opened the scoring – before the Morgan Stanley contingent and the perennially tardy Yev arrived. Simon Ink had by this stage reverted to his original colour team and the Blues ran out winners by something like two clear goals, with all of the usual suspects getting in on the scoring, including Alan, (disclaimer: I’m not sure if he did, but I’ve learned to find it politic to state that he’s scored, just in case I’ve missed something). 

Just the odd bit of drama to report on as Nick and Tony exchanged New Year’s pleasantries, no doubt born of being cooped up with recalcitrant family members over the festive period. Who had that last jar of pickled onions?

Joe received his 2016 Ballon D’Or / Golden Plimsoll award in the Skinners after the game to universal acclaim and a series of high fives from some Spanish teenagers. Simon’s largesse had stretched to a bottle of Lanson champagne to mark the occasion – no modish Italian fizz for the Muswell Hillbilly – and much merriment was made, including a discussion of whether or not the CIA would rub out the President-elect this side of the inauguration.

Onto this week’s game, which gave me the slightly difficult task of picking two even teams from an odd number of players. Happily, this proved to be no challenge for the Player Attributes Scoring System, as the final score and general tenor of the match proved. Here’s what said system came up with:

Yellows – Tony, Steve, the prodigal Geoff, Antonio, Nick, Danny, Mario and Liam

Blues – Ian Baggies, Simon Gas, me, Andy, Joe, Mark, Mick, Yev and Ross

As you can see the Blues had the extra man, while the Yellows had the extra ability.
A nine-goal thriller ensued, with Ross opening the scoring in the first few seconds to start the ball rolling on what consensus held to be a very good game. Just the one latecomer this week, with Mick eventually rocking up at around ten past seven, but by this stage the Yellows had levelled things up. Thereafter no one team got more than a goal ahead of their opponents as the lead changed hands several times. 

In amongst the goals this week, as well as Ross (who later scored a fine drilled finish over the ‘keeper’s head) were Mario and Tony, who picked out two excellent finishes into the bottom corners, as well as Steve who nodded home from close range following a corner. Yev also smashed one home as Geoff could only parry with his feet and into the back of the net, but it was Liam who had the final word for the Yellow team.

By the latter stages of the match Antonio, Danny, Mario, Tony and Nick were pinging the ball around to the general dismay of their opposition who I think it’s fair to say lacked the guile to hang onto the ball in midfield, for all of their potency on the break. 

As the game wound down, Antonio handled a backpass and in the ensuing debate as to whether to award an indirect free kick, or rather more sportingly, kick the ball back upfield for a Blue goalkick, Liam decided to stray off script and score a goal, which was quite rightly chalked off.
However, this had the apparent effect of giving the Yellow team an undeserved sense of injustice and just before the final whistle Liam rattled down the Blues’ right hand flank, jinked past Andy and slammed the ball into the bottom corner. 

Final score: Yellows – 5 Blues – 4

I think that it’s right to declare football the real winner, as the late Graham Taylor may well have said.
No pub for me this week, so your report ends there. 

Until next time…

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Have a smashing Christmas!

The weather last Friday night was anything but festive, with an uncharacteristically balmy evening culminating in al fresco drinking. I think that we had something similar this time last year, so proof of global warming would be appear to be incontrovertible, in Judd Street at any rate.
Another round-up for you to compensate for recent radio silence, with three games to catch up on, two of which I played in and one I’m relying on second-hand reports for.

Three weeks ago now we had an eight asider which lingers long in my memory for the principal reason that I scored a goal in it – Grazie, Mario, for the assist as I drilled a ball in from the edge of the area which the Italian dynamo had cushioned and stopped dead. This was one of a few high points for myself that evening, the others coming in the form of what I am going to describe as a cavalcade of assists for Mario and Patrick as the team I was in, captained by Danny, ran out winners by something like 6-4. Other participants that night included Mick, on the opposing team to his son, a tardy arrival from Andrea which had the Blue team in a flap about perceived fairness and Tony, who was grumbling menacingly on the edge of the D and generally being fairly excellent on the ball.
The full line-ups, for the sake of posterity, were as follows:

Yellows – Ian Baggies, me, Andy, Joseph, Simon Gas, Mario, Danny and Patrick
Blues – Paul, Ed, Tony, Charlie, Ross, Alan, Mick and Andrea

With a weekend away with the in-laws leaving Simon Gas in full control of proceedings, including team selection, the second game in this week’s round-up finished with the Muswell Hillbilly on the winning team – plus ca change. Apparently he did agree to make a change to the suspiciously wonky looking starting line-ups, with one diminutive and highly prolific striker being swapping for another shortish man who scores lots of goals, (Mario and Liam passing on the halfway line like ships in the night).

And so to last Friday. Here are your two teams:

Blues – Patrick, Simon Gas, Steve, Ian Gooner, Mario, Tony, David

Yellows – me, Danny, Bristol Paul, Alan, Liam, Paul, Michele, Joseph

In what was by unanimous consensus a very even game, and therefore a victory for The System, the Blues triumphed by the odd goal in eleven.

Danny started off in nets, as is custom, and I think his tenure in goal saw the first score of the night as a breakdown in communication between him and Bristol Paul saw Patrick steal in to slot home. That was the first of at least three goals for the tall LSE undergraduate, another coming after he took advantage of some goalkeeping largesse from myself to lob the ball over my head from all of about eight yards and another after his stretched his long legs to ease past me and fire home. Patrick and Mario took a while to get going, but by the midway point had established your classic big ‘un and littl’un partnership, pinging passes between and betwixt and generally using the space to terrific effect. A little further back Tony was prompting and poking the ball around. Someone other than Patrick (probably Mario) managed to shoot past Bristol Paul, who had unwittingly unsighted me so that I did not see the ball until it slid inexorably past me and into the goal.

Not that the Blues had it all their own way. Liam and Alan also enjoyed a prolific evening with the Caledonian maestro opening his body up to slot home from an acute angle in one excellent move and being unceremoniously upended by his compatriot Steve for Danny to score from the penalty spot. Alan also scored two (?), the second a classic poacher’s finish after the ball had ping-ponged around in the penalty box. Although Simon Gas received some brickbats from his team-mates for slightly errant kicking from goal, he pulled off a number of decent saves, one (rather irritatingly) from me as I volleyed a shot which had been cut back from the byline by Alan. Grrr.

Final score: Blues 6 – Yellows 5

To be honest, a combination of me feeling very out of breath and a blizzard of goals in the middle of the game meant I was labouring under the tragic misapprehension that it was actually 6-5 to the Yellows until Alan broke the news that we’d lost the game. Given that we now live in a post-truth world I think we can all believe what we like.

And thus to the pub, where Steve, Ian, David, Simon, Paul and Bristol Paul all enjoyed a few pints outside. Topics under discussion included mods versus punks versus what Ian assures us where known as ‘Jam Boys’, Christmas itself and lastly the gentrification of Forest Gate which has led to artisan cheese stalls selling wares to bourgeois arrivistes, shops selling overpriced and utterly superfluous hipster tat (this is also something I’ve seen in Crystal Palace) and the bizarre phenomenon of independent coffee shops hustling punters to leave pound coins in a jar to buy coffee for the homeless. So now you know why your classic tramp has a can of Super Kestrel or White Lightening on the go – it’s to take the edge off all of those heritage flat whites they’ve been mainlining.

I’m away this weekend but will await reports of the return of the Christmas curry night with baited breath. Have a great Christmas with you and yours, have a wonderful New Year and here’s hoping that 2017 isn’t quite so batshit mental as 2016.

PS Don’t forget to text Simon Gas with your nominations for player of the year.


Monday, 14 November 2016

A new Low

It seems like I’m always apologising for the delay or dearth of match reports recently, but I’ve no option other than to begin by stating that this post contains two reports as I’ve been so busy what with one thing and another, the another being work and the one thing being my family. Don’t worry; I’ve not fallen into some sort of post-Trump ennui – I’m old enough to remember Ronald Reagan getting elected as US President, so I know that Americans electing people totally unsuited for public office is not without parallel. This is a country which has Arnold Schwarzenegger as a state governor, lest we forget. Why would we be surprised by the latest turn of events?

Back to the football. The game two Fridays ago represented a new low, hence the image above – never in the decade I’ve been playing football on a Friday night have I seen people leaving the pitch before the final whistle en masse, (if three people can qualify as a masse). The teams were completely wonky thanks to people saying they were coming, then not coming, then coming afterall but instead of someone else who was supposed to be coming. Ergo, we ended up with Peter and Patrick on one team, while his brother John transmogrified into Callum. Oh, and Yev was late, just to put the tin hat on things. 

That said, the two teams were unbalanced – I didn’t hear Tony, who was on the victorious team, offer to change things, but I’ll take him at his word as he insisted after the game that he had made this offer on the half hour mark. As it was, a team with Mick, Peter, Patrick saw off the opposition boasting the not inconsiderable attacking talents of Liam, Mario and Callum by something like 9 goals to 1. Callum got the one, with Peter and Patrick being the chief beneficiaries of their opponents’ defensive largesse. 

In actual fact, the winning side’s final two goals arrived after Mario, Simon Gas and Ian had all deserted the ship, with Simon Gas scurrying after a fitful Mario to let him into the changing rooms and Ian Gooner deciding that he’d seen enough to warrant further participation. In mitigation, the losing team (posterity forgets which colour they donned) did keep the score at 3-0 for about 10-15 minutes, but they never got hold of the ball in midfield and featured very few ‘defenders’ worthy of that mantle.

Funnily enough, the final few minutes saw the losing team threaten more than when they were at full strength, but it’s probably a game best consigned to the dustbin of history, (including cyberspace). Onwards. And thanks to Paul for the sympathetic email. 

Slightly lower numbers were present this Friday just gone, although we had enough for seven aside. Simon Gas heroically made it back from Madrid in time for kick off, complete with novelty straw trilby. His arrival left the two teams like this:

Blues: Michele, Patrick, me, Mick, David, Simon Gas, Bristol Paul

Yellows: Ian Baggies (welcome back!), Mario, Paul, Tony, Danny, Alan, Ross

(No Scotsmen this week; obviously all at home shouting into their salty porridge). 

There was a little shilly-shallying to begin with as Tony’s slight lateness saw me start for the Blues, briefly join the Yellows and then return for the Blues, but I think it’s fair to say that this had a negligble effect on proceedings. There was another deluge of goals this week, although there were more evenly distributed that the previous game. In a break from the conservative and orthodox style of match reporting, I’m opting for a kind of ‘beat’ non-linear reportage which is more akin to freeform jazz than the restrictive oom-pah-pah of traditional match write-ups. 

Mario got the goal of the game, and quite possibly the season, by seizing on a loose ball in the centre circle and pinging it deliciously into the night sky whereupon it fell like an Autumn leaf over Simon Gas’s shoulder and just inside the crossbar. A close second was a score from Tony – I was tracking his run with subtle caution when he shaped to shoot from around 20 yards. ‘Go on, then’ I thought. And go on he did, the ball sailing off Tony’s left foot and nestling into the top corner. The Yellows may have had all the best tunes in terms of goals, but the Blues had more tracks to fill an album and bar an odd ten minute spell in the middle of the game when Mick, Patrick and Michele were clearly comparing sleeve notes and radical finger placements on their instruments, the Blues hit the strings more often than their counterparts and ultimately blew their horns harder than their opponents. Michele and Patrick shared the lion’s share of the goals for the Blues, linking up time and again to slot, ping and scat the ball home. Mick, as bandleader, cajoled and threatened and eventually conceded that his maverick son was playing his own way by eschewing some of the more obvious passes to his father and team-mate. In one move he demonstrated his attacking √©lan by swerving over a delicious twenty yard cross to his father’s feet; the father being so proud of his son’s skill he couldn’t overcome his proud tears to pass the ball into the net from about three yards.

What else happened? Not much, other than I managed to get on stage for the encore and steer the ball past Ross in goal. 

Final score: Something like 9 – 5 to the Blues. But scores are for squares, man!

And so the pub, which was showing the England v Scotland game. A Caledonian vision in pink were bested by a very poor English team which scored with three headers to get past the auld enemy, and with Raheem Sterling contriving to miss an open goal in a manner which would have had the Coram Fields contingent shaking their heads. The only other pubchat worth reporting was of the existence of celebrity Bristol Rovers’ fans. I give you Roni Size and Rod Hull (not sure about the Emu). Oh, and Ian Holloway, who they could probably do with as manager, never mind fan, judging by the result at the New Den last Saturday.

Until next time….