Live report from Paris
France Football v. PFFC
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7.42am BST Woken by a text from the Gaffer. Seems I wasn't specific enough that I'd be commentating from 8.45 BST! I don't think I've been up this early on a Saturday since I worked in the trouser department of a department store after leaving school. (I'm sure some wag will have a joke about working in the trouser department; send it in to email@example.com.) Anyway, the news is good: firstly, the fact that the team is compos mentis at 7.45 shows his pre-match sobriety regime worked. Secondly, he says they've just finished the team talk in the hotel. Now to put on those blazers...
The report will be uploaded live as the match progresses, from 8.45am BST.
See you then!
7.47 PFFC will be playing in specially designed tour shirts - I'm wearing one of them now - with Paris 05 on the rear. I'll try and scan in the front design in a while, means I'll have to take the shirt off first I suppose. (Here's a thumbnail - click on it for a full version.) Anyway, it's blue shirts, black shorts and socks. 4-4-2 formation, Cornish Al has not been able to make it. He's probably been called in to help UEFA clean up the Jose Mourinho case.
9.40 From now on I'll be using Paris local time. OK, the weather is sunny and quite warm out there, ideal conditions for a Euro classic by the sound of it. The Gaffer is fuming at the discovery that there is no dugout, only a bench. In the past this has led to scuffles on the touchline; fingers crossed that he's feeling more temperate today after an early night.
9.52 It's a big stadium though. There are trains going past in the background. With any luck, one of them will contain the Cornishman. Against expectations and prior reports, the pitch is in fact grass, although so new and well tended that it looks and feels like Astroturf.
9.56 This is an older team apparently. We have a good record using our relative youth against these teams, apart from during the first tour, to Zürich, but that was due to a tatical gaffe by the Gaffer on one of Cornish Al's corners (well, he had forgotten to put his glasses on and couldn't see the signal). Here's hoping the team have got their tactics and signals straight today - kickoff any minute now.
9.58 They should have done the exchange of pennants and handshakes by now. Hugh has designed a special commemorative plaque to present to the opposition. Should psych them out good and proper to start with.
10.11 Just waiting for that whistle to blow... the team are looking nervous but composed. (I made that bit up in lieu of actual news.) Ah, here we go, just received a text; still taking photos. No doubt one of the players keep blinking at the wrong time. Perhaps Owen failed to keep to the drink ban and is hiding his eyes from the sun.
10.15 The opposition are in white. Somehow we've managed to reverse the colours of the English and French national teams. No doubt Geoff is loving that fact. Our Paris-based legal eagle, Jon, is on the bench. Don't know whether he's not quite match fit or Geoff wants him to see our style of play again before taking part.
10.17 Kick-off, finally!
10.18 Just got this text from Gaffer: "R k o r 2 I early shot by ma over bar 1 min". Any ideas what that could mean? Marco Tre has obviously got in on goal early on, but the rest is a mystery.
10.20 Another good move by PFFC ends with a header just over the bar from Alessandro.
10.21 I put on a C90 cassette when the whistle went so I know when side 1 finishes that it's half time. I'm playing the Easybeats, who were known as the "Australian Beatles" in the 1960s. Strangely, although I never liked the Beatles at all, I've always had a soft spot fr this group. Simple songs from a simpler time...
10.24 Sorry, Dreamweaver's just crashed for the second time already, which means a delay. PFFC are slow to settle, displaying some of those nerves so well known to anyone who's played on tour. The nerves of a big stadium, big crowd, big occasion.
10.28 PFFC get their first corner after 11 minutes, but waste it. Where are you when we need you, Cornish Al?
10.33 The best PF move so far gets Alessandro one on one with the keeper, but he fails to take his chance.
10.35 PF gets another corner. 17 minutes played, sounding good so far.
10.36 Ronan moves in from the left wing to put a shot in, but goes over.
10.37 Another corner for the red (I mean blue) men.
10.39 The French journalists get their first chance, but put it wide. Owen not yet troubled in goal. Not even by a hangover. How things have changed.
10.40 The French team are more composed than we are. However, it's the Blues who are putting the chances in. Sounds as though we could be setting ourselves up for a sucker punch.
10.41 The Easybeats have just started singing their classic cheesy ditty "Women" ("Women all over the place, make you feel all right"...) which means they must be about half way through the first half in Paris.
10.43 PF still pressing, and get their fourth corner.
10.45 A good shot from our skipper, Kieran, produces a fine save from their keeper and a warm round of applause from the appreciative crowd.
10.47 The French get their first corner after 30 minutes.
10.54 We have our best chance yet after good work from Alessandro puts Kieran through.
10.59 The ref blows up for half time - slightly early, with the Easybeats still belting out their working class anthem, "Friday On My Mind". A tight half ends 0-0, the team's different styles proving an even match for each other. Right, I'm off to make some porridge.
11.02 Half-time: Jon is being brought on for Jez, whose years of plenty in Brussels working for the EC have perhaps taken too much toll on his fitness.
11.06 Owen has decided to emulate the goalkeepers of old by donning a cloth cap. You can take the boy out of Lancashire...
11.07 Second half kicks off early! The opposition get a shot in quickly, which Owen saves for a corner.
11.11 Wahey! We are truly interactive now.
The Chairman writes:
Hanging on the news with baited breath in Harwich... Following football used to be like this in the nineteenth century - for one cup final, a Villa director, a local Aston baker, had telegrams pasted up in his shop window throughout the game, telling a large and expectant crowd how the match was progressing.
Still no goals, though, and it seems the Gaffer, unlike his players, has been at the absinthe!
When will the breakthrough come? And what about the programmes?
11.12 A great run by Filippo forces a corner, but that is "shot into flats". I can only assume that this means the shot was so bad it landed on the roof of the neighbourhood HLM....
11.14 A message of support from legendary ex-skipper Paul Kayley: "Good luck against the Frenchies lads". Not massively PC, perhaps, but indicative of the passion and desire that helped us win two championships.
11.15 Jon heads over, helped by the keeper. Marco takes the resulting corner well, but still no goal. The Chairman writes: "sounds like we need more of the same but with a little more accuracy with the final shot. Harwich has come to a standstill - quick! time to implement 'slow city status'."
11.19 The issue of the programmes raised by the Chairman earlier refers to fact that we were in his office less than an hour before the Eurostar was due to depart, madly trying to get his new printer to work, or at least print more than a grey smudge. Unfortunately this never quite happened, so we ended up saving the files from his laptop to a CD while bombing along in a black cab to Waterloo, hoping that someone at France Football would be kind enough to open up the office and print out copies for us.
11.22 A corner for the opposition is headed wide, following a good save from Owen. It's end to end stuff out there, and PF force another corner.
11.23 I've just received an eye-witness report that Rod Stewart has just landed by helicopter on the touchline and is offering himself as sub. I would love to believe that this were true. The report comes from 'Geoff', but I suspect it's not really our Gaffer....
11.27 Just called the Gaffer, who is very low on batteries, not surprisingly after all those texts. It's a lovely sunny day out there, 10 minutes to go, sweat running down the back of the new shirts (not sure I needed that detail). Rolling subs used: Jez for Alessandro, then Alessandro comes back on for Bruce.
11.29 Sun hits Shoreditch. No sweat running down my shirt, though, although this live reporting is tough work!
11.30 Owen makes another save and Alessandro puts in a great tackle to keep us level. Sounds like his performance is another of those match-winners we've so often had from players who have joined the team for the first time on tour.
11.32 A great chance for us! Marco shoots in, a rocket if past performances are anything to go by, which is cleared off the goal-line.
11.34 The Easybeats have moved in to their Sergeant Pepper derivative phase with "Amanda Storey", heralding the last 5 minutes. Another message from Hugh: "Mayor of Harwich, less calm than usual, is screaming 'Come on you Blues!' over the garden wall. Will his prayers be answered?" Come on lads, you have local government on your side now. Let's have a goal to seal this tour.
11.36 Their goalkeeper shouts "shit!" in French - let's hope this means he's rattled and we manage to put one past him...
11.39 The breakthrough! A great strike from Marco Tre puts us 1-0 up. But straight after the restart France Football get a free kick near the half way line.
11.41 We obviously dealt with that free kick well because it's now 2-0! Marco again, proving his worth and ability to take on the big occasion. But this has been a real team performance, with important contributions from all parts of the pitch.
11.43 Surely the match is ours now, as there can't be more than a couple of minutes to go. Fingers are crossed in England that they manage to hang on to that clean sheet.
11.43 On the 90th minute, an own-goal puts PFFC 3-0 up.
11.44 Full time. Another convincing victory on foreign soil confirms the team's progress over the past few seasons. Joyous scenes on the pitch and touchline. Who knows, maybe street parties in Maida Vale too?
11.50 Final text from the Gaffer to say it was more of a 1-0 match, that the 3 goals in the last 4 minutes flattered us a bit. Tough opposition, no walkover, made for a good contest that can be wildly celebrated in the restaurants, bars and jazz clubs of the rive gauche and quartier latin.
11.54 The Chairman writes in again: "Cheers of 'Sacres Bleus, Sacres Bleus, Sacres Bleus' ringing round the town, with the Gaffer, in effigy, carried shoulder-high to the French consulate! This is one in the eye for the knockers! Well done all round!"
11.59 Finally managed to whip my shirt off and scan it. No sweat marks, I'm glad to say.
12.20 Damn! Just found my porridge, still on the hob, melded to the bottom of the saucepan. No wonder I'm feeling so hungry. Hope you readers appreciate this sacrifice....