Worthy champions prevail against last-minute coalition
Deptford 3-Sided FC 1 – Philosophy Football FC 2 – New Cross Irregulars 5
On the eve of the 2010 General Election, Philosophy Football FC embarked on their 3-sided adventure. The club’s first ever 3-sided match was arranged with Whitechapel Gallery and took place on 2 May at Haggerston Park, Hackney, with the teams representing the three major UK political parties. That day Philosophy Football FC, representing the Labour Party, won, just as British politics was to embark on a series of changes that would usher in a changing party system and a new era of hung parliaments, coalition-building and alliances. Since then Philosophy have taken the 3-sided format to a bull ring in Bilbao; to Taksim Square in Istanbul; and finished a creditable third in the inaugural 3-sided World Cup in Silkeborg, Denmark. This fantastical journey has brought Philosophy to a realistic tilt at the inaugural Luther Blissett 3-Sided League title, with the backdrop of an even more unpredictable UK election, untangling whose results and consequences will require all the skill and aptitude of a seasoned 3-sided participant.
It was essential for Philosophy to win in this match outright in order to keep their hopes alive and to put considerable pressure on league leaders New Cross Irregulars. It just so happens that Deptford skipper and 3-sided stalwart, Mark Dyson, had hatched a plan to join forces with the Reds and launch an all-out 60-minute onslaught on the New Cross goal in order to keep matters alive into the final round of league matches on the first Sunday in June. No prolonged negotiations in dusty old Westminster committee rooms were necessary: Philosophy quickly accepted his offer.
From the off, events did not go quite according to plan: New Cross caused confusion among the Philosophy rear guard with their pace and power upfront, and quickly got off the mark. New Cross scored one goal against the Thinkers in the opening exchanges and even some Deptford players were off-message – much to Mark’s exasperation – attempting pot-shots at Rob’s goal. But calm soon set in as Rob and Owen dutifully tightened up the defence and assisted in building up a consistent pattern of attacks in order to pepper the New Cross goal with the aide of a spirited Deptford. Matt snatched a goal with a fierce drive before Philosophy conceded again from a bullet header in a counterattack from New Cross to strengthen their chances of taking the league.
The second third brought more waves of sustained attacking from the Phi–Dep coalition. This met with some valiant New Cross defending and an inspired goalkeeper, but they couldn’t hold out and the Red Men struck twice in quick succession thanks to some neat footwork from Ally and the ever-ready Billy. It was all to play for in the last third of the game, with the score Deptford 0 – Philosophy 2 – New Cross 3.
The pattern of the game continued apace in the final third. Philosophy and Deptford managed to make their pressure tell and New Cross conceded more goals, giving Philosophy a fighting chance of glory in June. Mark helpfully reminded us that we also needed to breach their goal, and Ömer duly obliged. The relentless charge towards the New Cross goal continued and a somewhat dubious sixth goal, which became the subject of fevered debate over pints in the Marquis of Granby pub afterwards, was put past them.
Philosophy now switched their attention to the Deptford goal area in order to get a clear lead in the match. What ensued was perhaps as bizarre as any occurrence – apart from the Lithuanian streaker in Silkborg – ever witnessed on a 3-sided pitch. Deptford were now doing everything they could to score an own goal, with Philosophy assisting to their full ability, and New Cross abandoned their own goal and were manfully defending the Deptford net. A mix-up over the amount of time left in the match meant that Philosophy ultimately ran out of time and couldn’t force the breakthrough of an outright win, even with the much-appreciated assistance of Deptford. New Cross, although they lost heavily, defended brilliantly and became the first champions of the Luther Blissett 3-sided League, as Philosophy can no longer catch them on points in the final match.
New Cross showed themselves worthy champions in this match. They withstood some serious pressure for long periods as virtually the entire game revolved around their goal, an unusual sight for regular 3-sided observers. Even when the pressure moved to the Deptford goal, it was New Cross who withstood the pressure. The fortitude and guile they displayed over the course of this season must be congratulated.
Philosophy Football will console themselves with a possible runners-up spot and look to bounce back next season with ever more wily and fiendish tactics in order to outwit their opponents. On the wider stage, whoever enters 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister after 7th May, with what Paul Mason has recently described as an ‘existential crisis of the constitution’ looming, could well take heed of the 3-sided approach to coalition-building, deal-making and alliances. They are probably going to need it.
PFFC: Rob, Owen, Ömer, Ally, Matt.