Philosophy Football tackles climate change
PFFC 6 Quinine 10
Last weekend saw the start of Philosophy Football’s fifteenth league campaign (to match the sixteen tours the club has managed over the same period). It was a familiar start to a Sunday morning. At least the Regent’s Park surroundings seemed familiar. But what was that strange circular building where the old showers used to be? Who was Jill at reception, and where was Lady Phyllis who used to let the Italians plug in their hairdryers and other special favours? In fact the Regent’s Park showers and changing rooms, now knocked down to make way for a state of the art leisure centre, have a long connection to our club. Former Philosophy Football centre half Pete May, (who himself never left his marker until the dressing room door was safely closed), recounted in his book, Sunday Muddy Sunday, the occasion when some stubborn, even dogmatic, members of our team refused to leave the changing rooms until hot water was produced, an unusual sit-in which led to the local constabulary being called. It was rumoured that one dissenting voice declared to the officer that ‘I may come quietly but I won’t come cleanly’.
As a mark of the radical nature of the change in our matchday climate, each dressing room has its plush new hair dryer displayed in the corner. However, all things considered, this was a very welcome return to green pastures from the soulless city academy at Willesden on grey Thursday evenings. It also seemed to signify a new green shift in the thinkers’ philosophy. Raj has apparently dispensed with his sports car and now travels by bike, complete with baby basket. Vito, who was a transformed character from the manic, rushed city lawyer on Thursday nights, to the urbane, relaxed citizen at leisure, even had time to ride his bike home for a shower and then back to the Edinburgh Castle for a post-match drink before the other philosophers had arrived. Appropriately, our newest signing, Matt, works for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and it was his performance which did most to suggest a new start on the pitch. Skipper Owen did his bit for the environment throughout the match, ensuring that every hole in his boot was patched up before considering a new pair, though his regular first-half visits to the touchline were reminiscent of Goober’s 20 minute shoe-in at a similar spot ten years ago.
Over the long walk to the pitch, comparisons were being made between Hany, our outgoing entrepreneur, indicative of the new corporate power in football (well almost), and Barry McNamara, who belongs to a quite different era. There is of course more to do on a Sunday. A ref had to be booked, nets collected, opposition contacted and anxious waits for the full squad to arrive. The burden here was shared by the Gaffer, Owen and Andy. The opposition, which also plays home matches at Regent’s Park, turned up on time and looked well organised in Celtic strip and with a few Irish accents. It took the thinkers a while to settle into any pre-match warm up, given half the squad were doing a very elaborate job with the nets. Spare supplies of shin pads and shirts were also needed.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, Quinine were much better organised and dominated the first fifteen minutes, at which point they took a well deserved lead. Their physical and direct approach was causing problems and there was no Big Brian or Ian Coyne to deal with the peppering of our penalty area. However, we started to settle and put some nice moves together with Matt, Andrea and the two Ricci nephews (one on either wing) starting to adapt to the British style. Isiah at 19 was our youngest player since Mikey. Clarkey was beginning to cause all kinds of problems with his dribbling and wide runs. After some nice moves and short passes Matt turned and placed a smart shot low to the keeper’s right and we were level. There then followed one of our best periods of the match and we looked as if we might be able to take the initiative. Unfortunately the first of a couple of sloppy free kicks was conceded which allowed our penalty area to be targeted again and put Quinine back in front.
Our play continued to improve and we clearly had two stylish central defenders, Kofi on his debut, and Damian on his return to the back four, who were able to bring the ball out of defence. The best move of the match brought our second equaliser; a sweeping move down the left allowed Francesco to get to the line and pull back for Vito to neatly slip the ball past the keeper. The quality of the goal brought us a lot of confidence. Unfortunately another lapse of concentration put Quinine on the attack and they won a penalty when Francesco was alleged to have tripped their winger. (‘He dived’ was Francesco’s verdict, quickly adapting to British ways. His British team-mates were too polite to draw parallels with a penalty incident involving his uncle some nine years previously).
So we went in at half time 3-2 down and a bit frustrated, as we had given away a couple of sloppy goals. Nevertheless we did feel that we were capable of coming back again. Unfortunately the opposition started the stronger again and were soon 4-2 up, taking a two-goal advantage for the first time. At this point I brought on Ally, who had been carrying an injury. Shortly after, Matt turned his defender cleverly, broke away and finished his second excellent goal of the morning. Then Ally made a clever run to the right, got in behind their defence and finished well. It was now 4-4 and we had come back three times to draw level. Unbelievably, we still had trouble settling and the pace and aggression of their front man resulted in another goal. Equally unbelievably we drew level once more, Andrea accurately converting a long-range free header from Ally’s corner. Incredible: 5-5.
Well, they always say when it’s 5-5 that the next goal is vital and it didn’t come our way unfortunately. Nor the next one. Having come back so much and still struggling a bit for fitness, things were now getting too tough. We also fell victim to a piece of Grafton League innovation which we were unaware of. Barry McNamara is not always the traditionalist and apparently unbeknown to us and the ref, rolling subs are now allowed and they had three to our one. They weren’t slow to tell us about it or indeed anything else as they reflected the typical Sunday league fayre of being loud and grumpy on the pitch and charming off it. Actually the grumbling was a bit much for one of our players who was heard to tell them to ‘shut up’ more than once. Now, in 2004, Clarkey travelled a long way around Sicily having been dispossessed of his wallet and clothes, and having no words of Italian and no money for transport, without being in the slightest bit perturbed at his predicament, going on to play the decisive role in the team’s victory later the same afternoon. However, where Palermo pickpockets, irate taxi drivers waiting for their money and officious ticket collectors failed, burly and boisterous Quinine centre halves managed all morning: to put Clarkey in a strop. This didn’t affect his performance as our most dangerous player but may have contributed to his parking fine as he debated with ref and opponent, with the meter ticking on.
Though the opposition dominated the last twenty minutes as they had the first twenty, Damian’s late penalty brought some consolation on the pitch and an extraordinary final score of : Philosophy Football 6 Quinine 10.
Spirits were high though as we became reunited with the Edinburgh Castle and recently arrived Italians had their first taste of Sunday roast washed down with a good little ale called ‘Fall Over’, which Francesco dedicated to their winger.
PFFC (4-4-2): Marco 4; Andy, Kofi, Damian, Owen: Isiah, (Francesco 75) Matt, Andrea, Francesco (Ally 60): Clarkey, Vito
Edinburgh Castle: 3-2-4: Francesco, Ally, Vito; Marco’s mate, Isiah; Marco4, Gaffer, Andy, Owen