A Black Country Thriller
From our football correspondent
After weeks of fevered speculation the squad had been chosen and travel arrangements finalised. Described by the media as: ‘an exciting blend of youth and experience, the likes of which we haven’t seen for weeks’ anticipation was now at fever pitch – and maybe even beyond that.
Preparations for the big day had been forensic and thorough. Sports Science expert Colin Richardson had left no blade of artificial grass unturned in his quest to provide a detailed analysis for each player on what to expect from the unfamiliar playing surface. Arduous warm weather training over the previous few weeks ensured the team were fully acclimatised and capable of coping with the potentially stifling summer heat. Memories of the encounter with the Germans four years before were put to one side as the team focused their attention on the challenge that lay ahead. The lads were waiting, if not quite ready. The moment of truth had finally arrived; the hopes and expectations of an entire suburb of South Birmingham weighed heavily on the 14 man squad’s sagging shoulders.
It was against this fevered backdrop that Moseley Park FC embarked on the gruelling 35 minute journey to Oldbury’s Portway Lifestyle Centre to play Gen’s cousin Ben’s side in an 11 a-side football match in aid of Iain Galloway’s Eye Survive campaign. Reputations would be made – perhaps a glittering new star born in the heat of battle – whilst for others it might well prove a tournament too far. The stakes, as Ray Winstone might say, were massive…Git right on eeett!
Resplendent in dazzling, Persil-white tops and showing little signs of jet lag from the trek, MPFC took to the pitch (once they’d found an open gate) and encountered the 3G playing surface for the very first time. For a few moments confusion reigned; some wanted to pull up an armchair and turn the telly on such was the comfy, carpet-like sensation underfoot. Others rashly attempted to ‘sprint’ across it, only to find they were knackered out after five yards. This was going to be a very long afternoon.
Self-appointed coach Andre Villas-Feather elected to set the team up in an unfamiliar 3-1-4-2 formation, with the master tactician himself playing the ‘mole in the hole’ role in order to link defence with midfield. AVF’s progressive and innovative formation was swiftly sussed out by canny opponents and Green Senior and Matthews (Brian, not Sir Stan obviously) found themselves being continually overrun by sprightly younger opposition rampaging down the flanks. Leighton Baines wasn’t the only full back hung out to dry that fateful day. The only positive to be had from the situation was the fact that Phil ‘the drone’ Neville wasn’t commentating.
In an audacious attempt to outfox Gen’s cousin Ben’s team, MPFC’s midfield decided to adopt a revolutionary frozen statues formation, stubbornly refusing to relinquish their starting positions once the game started. Occasionally the ball landed at their feet but most of the time it simply passed them by. Such was their astonishing ability to remain motionless for lengthy periods of time that several passing motorists stopped to take photographs of them in the misguided belief they were the latest sculptures by that Anthony Gormley bloke.
It came as something of a shock then when MPFC took an early unexpected lead against Gen’s cousin Ben’s team. A pinpoint corner from Green Junior arrived at the back post to be met by a superbly timed run from Cameron Farnell, who despite his hillbilly sounding moniker isn’t an in-bred bluegrass musician but actually works in a bank and lives in Redditch. Leaping like a salmon, but minus the gills, Farnell planted a header firmly in the back of the net and MPFC were ahead with barely five minutes on the clock. Had they peaked too early the watching crowd of five wondered? The answer came quickly and decisively and it was a resounding yes.
Elation and astonishment quickly turned to despair as Gen’s cousin Ben’s team discovered the weaknesses in MPFC’s line-up i.e. all of them. Slicing through the porous, makeshift defence like a knife through a leaky bucket (yeah yeah, I know I’m mixing me similes) MPFC had on loan keeper Martin to thank for several top notch saves that kept their noses narrowly in front. It was only a matter of time though and a fierce pile-driver from just outside the box levelled matters. A second error-strewn goal followed and any early optimism evaporated quicker than a Wispa Bar in the Amazonian jungle. 1-2 to Gen’s cousin Ben’s team.
The bold decision to rely on youth and pace up front paid off when the constantly dangerous Green Junior levelled the score at 2-2 (if the order of score is incorrect it’s because I was already cream crackered at this point and everything became a bit blurred, so apologies statto) Another cock up at the back let Gen’s cousin Ben’s team in for a third goal, but not before Green Senior had headed one off the line (his own, not there’s) and made a heroic last-ditch block to thwart a marauding Ash. Further ‘body on the line’ blocks from Matthews and Walker (not Kyle, he’s injured and on a beach somewhere inhaling nitrous oxide while Glenn Johnson does an accurate impression of a headless chicken in Brazil) prevented Gen’s cousin Ben’s team from running up a cricket score.
A reversion to the much-maligned 4-4-2 formation provided slightly more protection but MPFC still looked like a team who had never played together on a full-size pitch – which to be fair they hadn’t. Amazingly, against the run of play, MPFC went in at half-time drawing 3-3, with ‘fiddle stick’ Farnell grabbing a timely second.
To the surprise and dismay of his team mates, Iain (Judas) Galloway had opted to join Gen’s cousin Ben’s team on a ‘Bosman’ just days before the game – despite pledging his allegiance to MPFC at numerous Christmas curry nights and drunken summer BBQ’s . The former MPFC striker was spotted beforehand in the car park with a thick dossier, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of his former team mates. As he went through the dossier in painstaking detail, several of his new team mates were seen rolling around the floor in hysterics. Sadly Iain forgot to shred the pages outlining his own strengths and weakness, which meant none of his new buddies passed to him during the game.
The second half followed much the same pattern with Gen’s cousin Ben’s team on the front foot. MPFC’s rolling subs policy allowed for little coherency in their play and with a complete stranger pulling the strings in midfield for Gen’s cousin Ben’s team they retook the lead with a zinger from their ringer. A defensive re-shuffle brought the peerless Philip Calcutt into the heart of the MPFC defence where a calmness on the ball more than compensated for his (not even) snail-like pace. By contrast, speed and doggedness were qualities young George Passmore (not the bloke from Gilbert and George – although the conceptual artist is a Plymouth boy, and our George supports Plymouth) possessed in abundance – although his passing wasn’t up to much. Not much got past him to be fair at the end of the day.
A fifth goal punctured the MPFC balloon further before Green Junior picked up a loose ball on the left, cut in and fired past a flailing keeper to make it 5-4. The fight back was firmly on – except it wasn’t really and Gen’s cousin Ben’s team, spurred on by the bloke none of them had met prior to the game, scored yet again to make it 6-4. Surely now it was game over? Not literally, because there was still ten minutes to go, but realistically it was hard to see MPFC coming back, to be fair.
A cynical foul of Latin American proportions on our balletic French mime artist Fabrice Millet then led to a free kick on the edge of Gen’s cousin Ben’s team’s box. Despite the provocation, our fiery Frenchman resisted the temptation to emulate the actions of his countryman Zidane and nut the geezer – it being in aid of a good cause and all. With the opportunity to complete his hat trick, Green Junior calmly placed the ball down, and using a technique honed in his back garden curled a superb Beckham-like free kick over the wall and into the top corner of the net. At that moment all those broken bathroom windows suddenly seemed worthwhile.
Green Junior then came agonisingly close to equalising when his wily old dad sent a teasing ball over the defence, but frustratingly it ran through harmlessly to the keeper. Green Junior then rolled about a bit with cramp, having seen professionals do this on the telly. It was pointed out to him that they only do this when they’re winning so as to waste a bit of time, not when they’re a goal behind with minutes to go. A lesson learned then in the etiquette of the beautiful game and hopefully he’ll only do it when winning in future.
Despite Gen’s Cousin Ben’s team tiring badly in the closing stages, MPFC just couldn’t make that elusive breakthrough and GCBT (why didn’t I think of abbreviating it earlier?) held on for a deserved 6-5 victory to claim the Jules Rimet replica trophy purchased on Amazon.
Just minutes after the final whistle an elated Iain Galloway gave this comment: “At the end of the day I’m gutted for the lads, ‘cos at the end of the day to be fair they done well. It just wasn’t to be and I’m as sick as a parrot for the lads but over the moon my team won and I’m glad I swapped sides.”
So, after falling agonisingly short in the Black Country, MPFC now have four years to lick their wounds and rebuild before the next must-win campaign. Will it be enough? How the hell should I know?
Some Breaking News…
After the match several ‘bad boy’ members of MPFC were reportedly spotted out and about in Moseley, most notably in the garden of the Prince of Wales pub, where, despite the painful nature of their defeat, they could plainly be seen drinking copious quantities of beer and even LAUGHING and JOKING about the match. One patriot and angry eye-witness even claims Andre Villas-Feather demolished a packet of pork scratching in the middle of this frenzied drinking spree. No dentist chairs were reported to have been used during the four-hour-long booze-up however.
In a subsequent statement issued to your correspondent, MPFC’s Sports Scientist Colin Richardson defended his team mate’s seemingly reckless actions, claiming AVF was simply trying to replace the salt lost as a result of his extreme physical exertions – to which the patriot and angry eye-witness responded: “That’s b******* that is!” AVF was unavailable for comment on Sunday owing to a severe hangover. A life-time ban from savoury snacks, enforced by mandatory monthly testing, is now likely to be handed down to Feather by the club’s disciplinary committee.
The club’s disciplinary committee were unavailable for comment on the incident the following day as they were all nursing severe hangovers and suffering from hypertension suspected to have been caused by an overdose of pork scratchings.