Talking to a reporter before the first Davis Cup match in which he captained a young John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe said: “Roscoe [Tanner] and Jimmy [Connors] simply bludgeon you off the court. But with this lad, it’s a cut here, a little dink, a nick there and pretty soon you’ve got blood all over you.” As Mehdi curled a fiercely spun left-foot shot past me, prompting Chairman Phil to blow the whistle at a sodden Cage and close proceedings, I thought of Mehdi’s ability to unravel an opposition midfield before tormenting the full backs and the keeper. No cannon balls just a lot of rapier thrusts.
There were low numbers (thirteen) today on account of Bexhill having two league matches down the road. Many of them train with us just as they have welcomed us to their 4G pitch at the sixth form college. I’ll post their results shortly. I don’t have The Cat’s amazing memory and unlike him I can’t take notes with gloves on or do other things with gloves on for that matter. I give my impressionistic view of a lovely session in the Cage of Dreams this morning where we encouraged each other, played not just as teams but as a whole squad, and managed to avoid even a moment of dissent.
The Lemons lined up initially as Jeremy, John Martin, Hughie Canoe, Solid Trev and Touchline Mike. The Blueberries were Massive Mark, El Jay, Ken the Bass, Mehdi, Granite Bob and Mattie Longshanks. The Pinkos were Chairman Phil, El Jay and Wondi bolstered by two players from each retiring team.
After an hour or so of being supervised by Ref Cat who had to rush off to rehearse a forthcoming blockbuster Shaftesbury Avenue show, we went down to two teams. Touchline Mike said that it had been like being refereed by Clive Thomas but I would say it was more like Pierluigi Collina. (Remember him? Mad Italian with staring eyes and theatrical gestures.)
Here is something for the collectors. I passed the ball out with my foot twice. This is such a rarity that (along with the sequence of passes between Mattie and Ali from last week) the footage has been rushed to the British Museum on account of its uniqueness.
Massive Mark was – well – immense. He is such a generous and encouraging soul. Today, he took a box-to-box roving commission for the Blueberries, and was unselfish, often switching the play laterally with Mattie and ensuring all his teammates who were playing high had scoring opportunities.
A bronzed Wondi appeared to be perspiring retsina. He was still sharp though I was surprised (as well as gratified) to get the better of him in a one-on-one at the edge of the box. He did however score twice against me from open play, and also slotted a penalty home before I had moved. El Jay was typically quicksilver and incisive. He tackles fairly, but with the clean-cut certainty of a pair of new pruning shears.
The penalty was after Ref Cat had, harshly in my opinion, adjudged John Martin to have stepped into the area. John (he is 76 by the way) had a blinder. He played deeper than usual, always helped the keeper out but treated himself to the odd predatory foray up the right flank where he can feint and wrong-foot an opponent with the merest twitch. He’s modest but I have a theory that he has played to a very high level. John also put the gloves on when we went down to two teams and made three good saves in as many minutes.
Hughie Canoe was sprightly and scored from distance (I think past Wondi) on the right flank at the Sandy End. Solid Trev has an ability to find space and move into challenging positions. We should supply him more often.
Touchline Mike took one in the crown jewels early on. He’ll have to leave the male voice Welsh choir for a while and sing at the Brighton Dome with boy trebles. The Carmarthen Colossus put in his usual extraordinary shift, a highlight being a left-foot curled shot to the keeper’s right at the top end that was more akin to a pass and had a touch of Glen Hoddle about it. I also noticed that – and it’s a rarity even among us and we’re a skilled bunch – he can claim to be genuinely two-footed having made some powerful toe punts with his right.
Demolishing a lamb biryani at the Gurkha Chef during the summer, Chairman Phil once looked up at me over his quintuple G&T and said conspiratorially: “I just luv playing football in the rain!” Well he got his wish today but sensibly brought things to a close a little early. As it is, I think many of us may yet come down with pneumonia. They can make a whole ward of us at the Conquest and Phil can walk up and down the aisle distributing letters of apology, grapes and copies of “When Saturday Comes”.
Staying with all matters Scouse, observers said that when Jurgen Klopp came to Liverpool, he delivered such a general message on the quest for excellence that even the hotdog sellers felt they needed to be on their toes. Chairman Phil is a similar motivator of men and the club has a real buzz about it as we go into a spate of league matches, a friendly, and an exhibition not to mention an informal social gathering. They’re detailed here – http://hastingswalkingfootball.co.uk/fixtures
Chairman Phil was observant, creative and industrious. He leads by example as well as exhortation. There was one breakaway goal where his close control was good throughout a long move and he finished with aplomb.
Unsurprisingly, there were no spectators. Holy Paul came along to collect his joining-up form (we’re delighted he’s signed.) He didn’t play on account of having had an eye operation from which we wish him a speedy recovery.
As for me, like any keeper, I’ll dwell on the one bad error I made which was being beaten at my near post by Massive Mark at the Posh End though the ball certainly had some revs on it. I last kept goal for the cub scouts when I was eleven so there has been a 47-year gap. Sure, I have an eye for a ball but I still haven’t got a clue what I’m doing though I’m learning fast. I’m enjoying it and you guys make me feel ten years younger. But as Nick Hornby said, we are all the same age on planet football
MoM: Shared between Touchline Mike and John Martin.