Monday, April 09, 2007

West End United

Well now there is a new dimension to this blogging business. This is to be the first instalment into the adventures of a thirty-nine year old novice playing the game of football. Humiliation, let me begin by saying, is good for the soul, though generally in spiritual circles they like to refer to the more graceful idea of 'humility'. I guess humiliation is the state of enforced humility.

Anyway, look, I'm pretty bad. I mean, I'm not really the false modesty type, in that if I was ok I'd be raving about how wonderful I was. But really, I'm about what you'd expect from a 39 year old who has entirely avoided sport for 20 years and even 20 years ago preferred individual pursuits and almost never kicked a ball.

So let me say at the outset that West End United are a truly wonderful bunch of gentlemen who have had the grace to take on a complete beginner. They rarely yell at me, and are generally encouraging and helpful. Without meaning to follow the digression they are probably fulfilling a need that I've felt growing for a few years to kind of hang out with some blokes. I've always been a bit afraid of blokes in some strange way, afraid of their competitiveness, or quite likely afraid of the competitiveness that they bring out in myself. Whatever. The point is that these guys are physical, life-loving and sexy but not overly macho or needful to assert their sexual prowess. They're good guys. At risk of leaving this paragraph a nonsense, I'll move on now.

We had our first game the Friday night before last and lost 4 nil. The thing is that this team I've joined was an over 35s team, but has now moved to a new competition where we are simply second division (of two divisions). Now this team we played (the Warriors) are boys, and are second division for the opposite reason that we are. That is, they are blokes working towards being in their 1st division team, whereas we are blokes past the possibility. They were twice as fast as us. After the game I heard one of our gun-defenders, Mark, lamenting, "there is no such thing as time, there is no such thing as an easy ball." Long balls were hopeless as if they weren't absolutely perfect the other team just got there first. Frankly, we felt we fought well, but it certainly effected the way we are thinking about our game.

Myself? I subbed on for 10 or 15 minutes in each half (the subs are more-or-less unlimited as far as I can see, which is good for us ancients). The first half I got thrown on as a right-back, which happened to be the spot that was being constantly hammered by this young team. No goals actually were conceded in that time, but my inexperience was showing desperately so I was moved to right-mid. In the second half I went on as right-mid and I did ok. No major embarassments.

Loved every bloody minute of it.

We have training on Tuesday nights and the kick-abouts on Sunday afternoons act as a less formal second training session. As an aside and a note to self, I played more atrociously than usual yesterday afternoon. I must never get on the piss the night before playing soccer. Saturday night was very fun, and another story entirely, but not beneficial to my game. Humiliation is good for the soul because it motivates one to get fit, eat well and not drink too much. So as I pour myself another whiskey, moving along again...

Life is full of irony, as I've pointed out before (in fact, when scientists finally figure out the formulaic theory of everything it will with no doubt have an I for Irony in it; something like, Everything=MC squared multiplied by the Irony of it all). The benefits of going for a bevvy with some of the less responsible boys after training is - well, was last night anyway - that you get to sit in on the strategy discussions. Mark, the hitherto-mentioned defender was there, and Sean, who is our manager, and Peter, who plays a leadership role on the field and is I guess the closest thing to a coach that we have.

The coins were on the table. I've never seen this before, and it was completely fascinating. We were debating the merits of formations, given the players we have, and who would be first and second options for the various positions. Basically, the plan is to try a 4-5-1 formation. I'm not going to attempt to detail all the possibilities we went through - where we would be for corner kicks etcetera - but it was just fascinating. Here is the basic model:

The beauty of it - well, I think - is that it is outrageously defensive, yet if circumstances permit can quite quickly become 4-3-3, or, because we are playing one of our few fast players as sweeper, who in fact will often be playing in front of the true back line, even 3-4-3. Anyway, I put it here in the sincere hope that it will attract some comment from people who have played with coins, and with real people, a lot more than I have.

I liked Cecilia's metaphor of a 'spine' of the best players down the centre and this is also what we are doing. The fastest and most skilled players will be the striker, the attacking midfielder and the sweeper, followed closely (the gap isn't that great) by the other midfielders and the centre-back. The centre-back is also to be the sort of 'captain' of the defence. (In Jacob's U12 team I placed someone in this latter role in a friendly I was acting-coach for - it was just before the first United game actually - and thought it was very helpful.)

At this stage I'll be playing one of the wingers. The rationale is not very flattering. Basically, it's not a spot that will lose the game if I stuff up.

Cheers everyone. Hope we are all suitably gorged on chocolate, if not whiskey (the holy spirit), and have had a jolly enjoyable Easter weekend.

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Blogger john said...


April 14, 2007 5:06 pm  
Anonymous wayne said...

Great post hamish, havent looked here for a while. I can only concur with everything you have said here, its all good innit! Hey, how about that feeling when you think your lungs are about to launch themselves out of your mouth? priceless....

April 15, 2007 4:56 pm  

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