Garnett Old Boys 5 (1) vs. (3) 3 Garnett Select XI
Team: Browell, Lavender, Skipper, Miller, Pendlebury; Pollard, Aaandrews, Holmes, Rowson; Hadfield, Sherwood.
The game kicked off in sprightly fashion (albeit 30 minutes late due to the kit debacle), and Hopkins and Burgin looked on in horror as the younger New Old Boys exerted immediate pressure. Pendlebury had been inked in at left back on the grounds that ‘he was more psychopathic than Rowson’; however the demands placed on his body by his own incessant lechery the night before had taken their toll. Early exchanges were equal, until a chance emerged for Hadfield to open the scoring. Eight yards out, the goal at his mercy like a spreadeagled whore, the Lancashire Toreador contrived to caress the ball around the left-hand post, bringing howls of derision from opponents, team-mates, the management, spectators, a guy walking his dog next to pitch, the dog itself, and a suburban housewife who had taken some time out from her routine of soulless drudgery to look out of the window, alike.
The New Old Boys were quick to respond, and a flowing move downfield resulted in a goalmouth scramble, Penn reacting quickest to bundle home. Realising the need for change, Hopkins made a double switch – Hughes for Rowson (the anorexic Chabal accepting the change philosophically), and Watson for Hadfield. Hearts were in mouths as The Velociraptor took to the field, mostly from those who had witnessed his transition from a young Mick Harford into a withered husk of his former self. These fears were soon confirmed – Watson’s movement was negligible, and Powlett’s son was heard to exclaim ‘Daddy, I never want to work with asbestos if that’s what it does to you’.
Minutes later things took a turn for the worse as Penn grabbed a second, leaving the Old Old Boys reeling. The Burgin-Hopkins axis quickly assessed the situation, and a dramatic decision was made – leave things as they are until half-time as they couldn’t be arsed to change anything. This tactical nous soon paid off – with Aaandrews starting to exert his influence in midfield, Holmes clearly feeling the effects of the second game of the weekend, and Pollard looking like a man with the weight of a crisis at a large financial institution on his shoulders, the Old Old Boys swept upfield. Lightning was not to strike twice, as a jinking run from Sherwood left Hadfield to fire home from 12 yards. This was immediately undone by a third goal from the opposition – there was time only for cult hero Powlett to enter the fray in place of Sherwood and fire hopelessly and weakly wide from a free-kick on the left-hand corner of the box, before referee Catchpole blew for half-time.
As Hopkins looked nervously up at the directors’ box (and quite rightly too, as Burgin had been working tirelessly to usurp him behind the scenes) for a knife in the back, a rousing team-talk involving some swearing and a lot of abuse directed at the opposition from Pollard, blew life back into the Old Old Boys side.
The second half began as the first, at a frenetic pace. Hughes, who, were I to compare him and his effectiveness to and to that of a hospital-contracted infection, would be described as ‘Clostridium Facile’, showed renewed vigour; on playback of the official match recording this can be attributed to Watson’s offer of a ‘sausage roll per goal bonus’. The game became increasingly stretched, with gaps of 50 yards plus frequently appearing between the Old Old Boys’ defence and midfield. Hopkins and Burgin were not slow to address this – if there is one thing these two know about, it is how to add a soupcon of je ne sais quoi to proceedings. On went Powlett again, adding width to the right, and a distraught-looking Sherwood exited the fray.
The football-mad hitman looked like he had entered the long dark night of the soul, muttering about ‘not the player I used to be’. As he has done with so many young men, Gaffer Hopkins took him under his wing, and a few choice words later, Garnett’s record goalscorer (10 to the power of 24 goals in 286 games) stormed back on a changed man. And just as well he did – Watson having just exhibited the most disgraceful piece of play of the game, a speculative 50 yard toepoke that was justified with the words ‘had I passed it I would have had to run to keep up with play’.
Catchpole by this point was bossing the centre circle, and the more experienced men knew the end was nigh. There was time only for Watson to turn a golden opportunity into his more preferred scenario, a fifty-fifty leg-breaker with the keeper, Pollard to attempt a sliding tackle that would have been more at home in a long-jump pit, and the Velociraptor to felch (I had no suitable verb in English for Watto’s finish, in spite of my immense lexicon) home from 12 yards, before the final whistle went. At this point I really ought to mention a world-class first half save from the Old Old Boys keeper in the first half, arguably a game-turner but which I had forgotten until now. It is a suitable event to mention in the denouement of this piece.
A great game, played in a Corinthian spirit. Roll on next year, and another rendition of ‘The Lady in Pink’.