Sunday 10th May 2015
By Colin Mant
No respect for their elders as Young Vets mug the Seniors
With the season taking its toll, our numbers today in our 36th game of the season had diminished to a bare eleven - which included two goalkeepers. Ageing legs, creaking joints, straining muscles and micro-tears withering the ranks. Our younger counterparts also struggled to make ends meet, and could only muster 9 from their squad, with Roger French and Obi Ugwumba Jnr being inducted into their starting line-up. At least one of them had youth on their side. The pre-match music also had a youthful feel to it, not supplied by Mick O’Flynn, but by one of the teams that were playing on the top pitch, the deep-base permeating through the walls – not a tune I would imagine that Micky Gearing carries on his I-pod, although he does favour Whistling Jack Smith I’m told. Obi Ugwumba had stepped straight out of the ‘Uptown Funk’ video to play today too.
Bright conditions had brought in a bumper crowd; those noted spectating were Jane Martin, Vicky Tanner, Amanda Sim, Daisy Thomas, Louie Dwight, Simon Thomas, George Kleanthous, Mehmet Bozyigit, Jim St John, Barry Grainger, Eden Grainger, Neil Connelly, Patrick Connelly, Isabelle and Thomas French, Hannah Kleanthous, Maddison Clunn, Dean Murphy, Rebecca Coles, The Ugwumba family, Mick O’Filth, Pam Shoebridge, Jo Colyer, Mrs Gearing and Steve Viner amongst others. Watching over and recording the event was Colin Brazier. Apologies to anyone missed off.
Mickey Gearing was given the day off from refereeing as Andy Gable took charge, and Mick found himself in a less familiar flagging role. We’d all be flagging later. Talking of game officials, the game on the top pitch was being overseen by a celebrity in refereeing terms, with former Premier League whistler Steve Bennett in charge. Bet he’s not a patch on our Mickey. We knew we faced a stiff task against a team that had only lost 5 games all season, we’d lost more games than that in 2015 alone, and we lined up as follows:
Paul Scotter, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Obi Ugwumba;
Ian Shoebridge, Sinisa Gracanin, Steve Palmer, Nick Waller;
Colin Mant, Andy Faulks.
Whilst the Young Vets XI looked like this:
Mark Friend, Neil Pearce, Andy Cobham, Roger French;
Jon Redman, Matt Wright, Dean Wyatt, Ben Clunn;
Pete Harvey, Obi Ugwumba Jnr.
Mr Gable began the game; although the tardier than usual Andy Faulks hadn’t even had time to tie the laces on his boots. Both teams got stuck in quickly and were looking to take advantage. The Young Vets were moving the ball around and we were being made to work hard to get it in the heat. Their touch was surer than ours to begin, but we started to get some flow in our game and get forward with some purpose, even though the final ball was either slightly too long or snuffed out by their competent defence. They had some class in their play, but we were determined not to go down without a fight and forced a few corners. From one of these clearances Ian Shoebridge came pretty close to breaking the deadlock with a fizzer that just about avoided Rosslee’s upright.
With about 20 minutes gone the Young Vets took the lead and it was our season’s Achilles heel, a free header from a corner that saw them in front. A pin-point delivery saw Dean Wyatt ghosting in unmarked to nod powerfully past Gary. This put them at ease and they began to play more expansively, breaking with more frequency. Pete Harvey then stretched their advantage to two and we were left with a mountain to climb. However, Obi Ugwumba Snr nearly halved that deficit from a free-kick. 30 yards out, and with Rosslee a spectator, the ball came thumping back off the post from his powerful effort. We had given a fair account of ourselves, without giving the youngsters too many heart stopping moments. At half-time, the opposition left-back unusually came in to our huddle to rally the troops.
We started the second half with a slight reshuffle in tactics, although we soon shipped another goal, in identical fashion to the first, with Matt Wright tucking away a free header for their third. Our defence was by far the busier but holding manfully, anchored by the ever reliable Coles and Blanchard combination, although we were finding it difficult to build any momentum. Speaking of which, Ben Clunn had plenty of momentum on the ball when kicking it out, only to smash it into George Kleanthous’ tender ribs. His look of pain was to match ours as a short corner was worked between Colin M and Shoey, and Shoey’s good cross was almost converted by Gary Fentiman….yes, our goalkeeper, who hadn’t swapped to an outfield positon. This proved a disastrous ploy as the ball was scrambled away to Pete Harvey, who advanced forward to bag his second, and their fourth, rolling into an empty net.
This seemed to suck the life-force out of us and we had no answers as they played around us, through us, and Gary had to make a fingertip save to prevent further damage. Obi Ugwumba Jnr was showing his old pop a few moves, went close to scoring and was playing through balls that Andy Faulks was probably wishing he could have been on the end of. Even Roger was not required to call on his retro style of tackling and seemed to have inherited a rare composure on the ball – prompting an almost apoplectic Sini to ask in the dressing room how he can do it when he’s not playing for us! The fifth goal from Jon Redman gave the score line a gloss, not entirely undeserved, but entirely unwelcome from our point of view. The final whistle blew with the bragging rights resting for another year with the youngsters, and deservedly so. If Tuesday’s game doesn’t pan out, then we’ll have one more chance to end on a high. Hopefully, we’ll have a few more available for our trip to Langley Park next week.
Back in the changing rooms, we were again met with the thump of bass music from the opposite side of the corridor; and celebrations were in full swing with much whooping as one team had become champions. In our changing room there were dissenting voices as our usual tipple of tea was missing, and it hit me that the gulf between competitive youth football and vets football was starkly illustrated by these extremes. As is the tradition, our inter-club game carries with it the added excitement of the end of season awards ceremony and so we retired to the bar to chew over the gristle of defeat and find out who had scooped a gong.
There was the small matter of the buffet, and Pam and Jane had saved the best of the season until last it seemed. It would have taken the combined might of the buffet triumvirate, Waller, French and Mongelard to have finished it all. There was pizza, assorted rolls, onion bahjis, veg samosas, slow-cooked sausages, various savoury nibbles, crisps, potato croquettes, sausage rolls and salad paraphernalia on display as part of the spread. Jane had also kindly taken the time and effort to make some lovely tray baked cakes and flapjacks, which were appreciated and were scrummy. We were also joined in the clubhouse by Roger’s better half, Jacqui Vernon, and the village idiot Toby Manchip also put in an appearance, defacing Roger’s clipboard in the process.
We discovered that Colin B needs a new camera too. He’s taken some shocking pictures of me recently, some real extortion material! It must be the lens. We played “spot the ball” with one such picture from today, and even though the ball was in the picture, I clearly hadn’t seen it, my expression one of a blind llama – not pretty. Rog hosted the awards and warm applause met each of the winners. As covered on the front page of the website the award winners were:
The Golden Boot - Andy Faulks with 29 goals from 33 games.
Goal of the Season - Nick Waller for his diving header vs West Farleigh Vets in February. “Look at his face, just look at his face”!!
Managers' Player of the Season - Waine Hetherington deemed to have contributed most to the team both on and off the pitch. This was collected by Mick O’Flynn in Waine’s absence.
Referee's Award - Mickey Gearing for presiding over all but one of our home games, wherever they were played.
Catering Award - Pam Shoebridge and Jane Martin for providing excellent post match food for all our home games.
Dot Cotton Award - Colin Mant for washing the kit four times over the course of the season. Get in…
Supporters of the Season - Isabelle French, Thomas French, Louie Dwight and Obi Ugwumba Jnr for attending the majority of our games both home and away.
Buffet Monster Award - Nick Waller for his prodigious appetite. Nick was presented with a giant Alan Partridge plate, which he christened with some cake.
Cotton Wool Award - George Kleanthous to protect his fragile ribs. Some bubble-wrap, which was around an hour and a half too late as it happens!
Archbishop of Banterbury award - Mick O'Flynn for his “intelligent” chat.
There was, of course, one more award today and Ian Coles was voted as our man of the match for a typical Colesy performance in which he never quit and marshalled a lively forward line, matching them blow for blow.
Man of the match: Ian Coles