A ricochet off the bard

Phoenix B&G 0 PFFC 4

Neil, 9 March 2003


“Friends, Romans, Philosophy Footballmen, lend me your ears.”

Shall I compare football to a summer’s day? No, because the sun was hiding and it was very windy – so remains the English winter of our discontent.

But alas fair friends, all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Those players being Joe, Brian, Gibbo, Kieran, Ally, Owen, Ian, Marco, Richard, Lawrence, & Neil. Rob, Alfie, & Geoff staged a commanding performance on the sidelines as our die-hard supporters!

To be, or not to be, that is the question – and the answer is, it was to be! We came, we saw, we conquered! – 4-0.

Two teams both alike in dignity, in fair Ewell, where we lay our scene. Kick-off commenced to blustering winds, with both teams 10 men each (before noble Ian arrived to replace Owen in goal in the second half). The midfield henchmen of Kieran, Ally, Richard, Gibbo, commanded proceedings from the first whistle. Early crosses into goal from the wide men of Richard and Gibbo, and the accurate passing of Kieran and Ally had the defence worried. Ten minutes into play and PF had the ball in the back of the net, but was judged off-side. More offensive play was needed and the dynamic play of Joe and Lawrence provided the depth and width that allowed us to continue our expansive game. Joe (maybe his last game before he becomes a daddy) showed remarkable pace (or should that be never seen before pace) and grit to run past defenders. With Ally in possession, he split the defence and crossed a ball to Neil. With his back to the goal Neil swivelled his body and half-volleyed a thunderous shot into the back of the net giving the keeper no chance (that’s how I remember the goal anyway).

With a 1-0 lead Philosophy continued to dominate the game. Phoenix were worried – every corner dangerous, especially with our BFGs (Big Friendly Giants): Brian and Richard. With the commanding figures of Kieran and Lawrence also making powerful runs into the box, it was constant attack, with Kieran coming close by hitting the post. On another attack, and after some swift offensive play between Gibbo, Ally, and Richard, the team was rewarded again when a defender couldn’t clear the ball properly and Neil was there to make it 2-0.

Phoenix were starting to get frustrated at this stage but not least because when on the rare occasions they managed to get through our midfield, our defenders of substance, Marco, Brian, Lawrence and Joe constantly thwarted their attack. In the first half I can only think of 3 occasions when Phoenix got into our half and I don’t think they had one shot at goal because our defenders were just too superior. With the day’s captain Brian leading from example, and the skill of Marco in the central defence. With Marco’s pace, determination, and accuracy, Philosophy have an outstanding player where we can utilise his skills in any position.

With a 2-0 lead the sell-out crowd (Rob, Alfie, and Geoff) anticipated more and we obliged. If football be the food of love, play on, play on; as the team love football and enjoy scoring. Now the hungry lion roars, and the wolf behowls the moon, and the dominating midfield duo of Kieran and Ally forced the ball the opposition goal. With Gibbo splitting the defence and creating chances the ball was glided to Neil and another goal was scored (I can’t remember how).

The whistle was blown and the first half was over – a very professional half for Philosophy. The team talk was calm and Brian’s words positive. Rumour has it that the Phoenix captain’s final words before the second half were “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more . . .”

The wind was heavy and against us in the second half, but the team’s dominant performance didn’t subside. Gibbo and Richard were a constant threat and with Owen coming into the left midfield position and Ian into goal we extended our depth and width, and there was some brilliant play from all positions. Owen and Lawrence combined well down the left and could be an important feature for our last two games.

The features of our performance were of the way we structured our attacks – group of 3 or 4 would pursue the goal with hunger and determination: Ally, Kieran, Gibbo – Richard, Joe, Marco – Ally, Neil, Gibbo – Owen, Ally, Kieran – Lawrence, Owen, Richard – Gibbo, Marco, Joe, etc, etc – it was a pleasure to watch and the team were certainly enjoying the football. The game was fair and good natured, except on one occasions when the ball went out of play near our goal, but the Phoenix player continued play and the ref didn’t know the wiser. Our defence was rattled but still managed to expertly clear the danger.

Captain Brian proceeded to have a few choice words with the referee (as is typical of the passion he employs in his games) but the referee was perplexed. When asked later what was said to the referee, Brian’s reply was in typical Shakespearian form: “I am a footballer. Hath not a footballer eyes? Hath not a footballer hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons. If you score against me do I not growl? If you foul me do I not revenge?”

The game continued in characteristic fashion, and on another attack down the left, Ally glided past another defender, looked up and crossed an accurate piercing ball to the far post for Neil to head home, 4-0. The Phoenix goalkeeper was heard crying “O Ball, O Ball, wherefore art thou, Ball?”, to which his teams mates replied “It’s in the back of the net again”. A man can die but once, but I think the Phoenix team died every time we scored.

Although little to do in goal, Ian gets applause for taking a day off work to attend, and the game ended 4-0 and a great team performance. especially in the conditions. Ally, this was the noblest player of them all, with a virtuoso performance.

Can one desire too much of a good thing? I say this to thee: be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them . . . but to retain our revered Grafton league trophy, we still have to win our last two games.

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow . . . actually it wasn’t, is was great to leave with a positive and enjoyable win and even if Phoenix didn’t provide sandwiches after the game . . . we still dined on a festival of football.