Sunday 7th May 2017
By Colin Mant
No respect for their elders as Vets see off Seniors and Mick Gearing bows out
In a sense our annual game against our Veterans side is an odd occasion. We have had the privilege of some of their numbers playing for us at some point over the season and have drunk beer together. Others in our rank have been comrades-in-arms with those in opposition today in teams past, some have close ties away from football and others have a less than cordial relationship. It’s a game with club pride at stake and perhaps, for some, with scores to settle. No quarter is ever given, nor is any asked for. Often we have not met this robust challenge, which could not be said today. The absence of bonhomie was evident as Paul Tanton popped into our changing room to inform us that they could only raise ten players, his admission being met with howls of derision from those who should be older and wiser.
Today’s game had added significance as it marked the end of Mick Gearing’s time as our man in the middle after nine years refereeing our games, with a quiet resolution and steeliness. But he has been much more to the club than my words could ever do justice. Mick’s a legend at Farnborough; in a club career spanning some forty years, has seen Mick play for every team at the club, with distinction. Suffice to say that, without dedicated people like Mick giving up their time to the club for us to enjoy our football, the club would be nothing nor indeed may not exist.
Jim St John;
Colin Mant, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Phil Anthony;
Stephane Anelli, Sinisa Gracanin, Obi Ugwumba, Ian Shoebridge;
Simon Thomas and Peter Harvey.
Substitutes: George Kleanthous, with debutants Danny Mullins and Rob Petrozzi.
Supporters: Obi Ugwumba Junior (until half-time), Tony Harvey, Chris Webb, Rob Petrozzi’s family, Jordan (not the one with the big hooters, formerly married to Peter Andre) and someone else that Mick has written down on my piece of paper that looks like the name Jesus. No, me neither. Paul Parsons kindly ran the line in honour of Mick Gearing.
I must apologise in advance if any details recalled in this report are not 100% accurate, but there are some mitigating factors for this. Firstly, the game was not one that afforded the time to note who did what and when as it was played at a frantic pace compared to our usual plod. Secondly, a blow to my chin meant that the last 20-odd minutes were rather fuzzy. Not least, thirdly, being my birthday, the post-match beers and subsequent birthday meal and drinks (on top of the already fuzzy head – although not to the heights of Eynsford-style fuzzy) meant that any resemblance to the report being anywhere near factually accurate is purely coincidental. Normal service then…
Early on it was clear to see how the match would be played. We were looking to let the ball do the work and couple this with hard work to make sure we were not overrun in midfield, to press and keep things compact when we lost the ball. Peter Harvey was being taken roughly from behind from the off and Mick was already whistling in his favour - sometimes. Our younger counterparts were looking to hit on the break with willing runners and were not shy in bypassing the midfield with some raking passes to feed the ball quickly into the sharp feet of Barry Grainger and goal-machine Paul Tanton. Both sides were showing commitment to the cause, but the hard pitch meant that often the ball would not quite sit, or would run too far. However, our sharpness in the tackle and desire to press had knocked them out of their stride somewhat. It was therefore disappointing to go behind when a probing cross to the far post was not gathered cleanly by Jumbo and Paul Tanton, unsurprisingly, bundled the ball into the net to take his overall tally to 399 for the club, with much of the game to make it to a very special milestone. We brought on George and our new recruits Rob and Danny, with Steph, Michael and Shoey making room for them. Sadly an impact injury on the foot denied Steph a return later on.
More despair was to follow shortly after as Barry Grainger was picked out on the left wing and he smartly turned away from me, put on the after-burners to advance into the box and lifted the ball coolly over Jumbo. Two down when we had played well felt a bit unjust and we could have fallen apart, but we have shown some steel this season at times and a well-deserved goal came shortly before half-time. Peter Harvey drove with purpose down the left and squared a cross to the far post where Simon Thomas lurked with intent. His finish was somewhat Lindsay-ish as he managed to play a one-two with himself, firstly knocking the ball with his right leg (away from goal) onto his left leg to propel it into the net. Not pretty, but there are no pictures of how they are scored on the stats sheet and Si’s ninth of the season gave us fresh impetus but no further reward at the break.
After resuming hostilities we had to be vigilant to keep within touching distance. Michael Junior had boosted the Young Vets number and showed a neat touch. He nearly foxed me with a smart Ronaldinho flik-flak and showed he was no pushover by barging me off the ball, even with my weight advantage!! Jumbo made some smart saves to keep us in it and commanded his area well, sweeping up any danger. The defence was holding firm with some resolute tackling, the midfield worked tirelessly and the front two harried their defence. Our debutants should also be noted with merit, Danny offering penetration from midfield, adding drive and an aerial threat with Rob showing neat feet and a sound football brain. Mick O’Flynn had played with Rob 20-plus years ago and, while Rob had not played for some time, it wasn’t hard to work out which one had continued their football career! (winky-pokey tongue type thingy Mick!!).
It was then that all of Peter’s Xmas’ came at once – briefly. With his back to goal in the box Pete was dragged down and Mick pointed to the spot, much to the Young Vets’ despair and Peter’s complete amazement. Peter picked himself up but his spot-kick and follow-up shot were both brilliantly saved. Some Anglo-Saxon oaths were issued to Peter, which was a shame but the moment passed. Not long after, the ball hit a Young Vet on the arm in the box and Paul Parsons flagged vigorously, but Mick’s whistle was not for blowing. We again made changes, with Rob and Phil coming off for Shoey and Michael. Mick O’Flynn then thought going three at the back was the way forward (yes dear reader, against the Young Vets who play three up front!!). This invited pressure and we could have been undone when the ball nearly found Barry Grainger’s attempted overhead kick, but I luckily (or not) replaced the ball with my head, specifically the chin. The game was played out and we had given an excellent account of ourselves against one of the best sides we play. We gave them a game for once and we can take much forward from this showing. Everybody had contributed and we played as well as we have done in any game this season. Mick blew for time and retired his whistle, as we retired to the bar.
After being clagged with 15 different shower gels in my hair when changing, Shoebridge Catering Solutions’ cracking spread revived us as always. Samosas, slow-cooked sausages, onion bhajis, sausage rolls, cheese chunks, pizza, crackers and slices of buttered bread were wolfed down. With Buffet Brobdingnagian’s Mongelard and Waller both absent Colesy attempted to eat his body weight in sausages. Votes were cast for MOM, with Shaggy squeaking it.
Mick O’Flynn presented Mick Gearing with a bottle of whisky as a token of our heartfelt thanks, with Mick's wife proudly watching on. Mick had been bestowed many gifts over the years, not least a Swinging Cock. Who hasn’t got one of those? Roger French had posted a video on Facebook of some FOBG highlights in honour of Mick and that was beamed onto the TV screen in the bar. You could see that it meant a lot to him. It feels fitting to end this report as Mick left shortly afterwards in a manner befitting the man, quietly, with no bells or whistles….
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard was the cream that rose to the top with a commanding display of tackling and defensive organisation.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard