Sunday 27th March 2016
By Patrice Mongelard with a post script from Roger French
Easter egg bonanza for Farnborough
There is no international break for the Farnborough Senior Vets, or come to think of it, an Easter break. Numbers were down on last week but this Easter parade had a special ring to it as it was Roger French’s 300th appearance for Farnborough Vets – a tad overdue for reasons we do not need to go into. Moreover, Roger had an Easter message of hope for the team – no not “This is Sparta” but “I am the resurrection” as he was now aiming for Patrice Mongelard’s 500-game mark for the Farnborough Vets. He should get there round about Easter 2023, no matter what his fitbit says, barring periods of enforced inactivity.
Our opponents Catford Wanderers are well known to us, and better still to Roger, but they surprised us with some new faces, new to most of us except Waine Hetherington who warned us that we would find it hard to score against a reinforced side. We had a new face of our own too – Dave Salako who came with a polished reputation as a keeper, which shone even brighter after the game. Another surprise we sprung was to play Simon Thomas up front, free as a bird from defensive duties, and allowed to express himself at last, and let his quick feet do the talking.
The early morning rain had given way to sunshine by the time we kicked off but returned with a vengeance, and extra wind in the second half - but could not put a dampener on a cracking ten-goal spectacle.
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Roger French;
Colin Mant, Ian Shoebridge, Obi Ugwumba, Rob Lipscomb;
Waine Hetherington, Simon Thomas.
Substitutes: Mick O’Flynn, Phil Anthony.
Supporter: Dave O’Flynn.
The first quarter of an hour or so was very even. Both sides competed well all over the pitch with compact formations and defences were generally on top. We enjoyed slightly greater possession and more connective passing but without troubling the Catford keeper. We were playing against the slight slope and the wind and were probably more wary as a result. We were not wary enough though after about twenty minutes when a moment’s inattention and loose marking was punished with what, if intentional, looked like a cracking shot into the top corner after a smart turn inside our box following a throw-in. The feeling that this was somewhat against the run of play spurred us on and thankfully it did not take long for us to draw level. Barely five minutes later, Rob Lipscomb guided a shot from just inside the box beyond the Catford keeper, after Simon Thomas and Waine Hetherington had occupied the Catford defence. Five minutes later we had the lead – as Waine Hetherington was taken roughly from behind in the box – Rob Lipscomb put the penalty away high into the centre of the goal after the Catford keeper went low to his right.
At the other end when Catford did have shots they usually found Dave Salako’s safe pair of hands and we were able to build from the back with his distribution. Patrice Mongelard and Ian Coles made way for Mick O’Flynn and Phil Anthony on the half hour. We went on to edge ahead further after Mick O’Flynn collected a cross field ball from Roger French and laid it on a plate at the far post where Simon Thomas ghosted in to tap the ball home. 3-1 at half time was a pleasant surprise and not undeserved, but we felt that Catford had the players to get back in the game if we slipped up despite our territorial advantage.
The next goal was, as they say, going to be critical. Colin Mant, commanding the centre circle cleared a ball upfield, which fell nicely for Waine Hetherington who had slipped his marker. It drifted a touch wide to the left but Waine’s eye and cultured left foot were in, as the ball was lashed into the top corner from a tightish angle. That was just what we needed and with Patrice Mongelard and Ian Coles coming back on for Waine (who felt he would be taken off as soon as he scored) and Rob Lipscomb, we were looking to make the result safe. It did not feel like that initially as Catford fashioned a number of corners with good left foot delivery and found one of their big units who narrowed the gap from close range.
We could have buckled then but today there was great collective spirit and we weathered the storm (and I do not just mean the rain and wind) and found our cutting edge again. A long goal kick from Patrice Mongelard found Obi Ugwumba just inside the Catford half and his cushioned glancing header released jet-heeled Simon Thomas who rounded the Catford keeper and coolly slid the ball home. The goal-fest was not over though – Ian Shoebridge shot low against the base of the post and was impeded as he moved to claim the rebound – unfairly said the referee. Roger French’s fitbit recorded that he covered forty yards in 2.2 seconds to claim the ball. He claimed that he had had one of those teenage dreams where he was going to score twice today, and one of those was a penalty. From a technical point of view his penalty was better than Rob Lipscomb’s but as Rob would say - they all count.
With ten minutes left Ian Shoebridge got a tickle in the ribs and Waine Hetherington was back – chasing Andy Faulks for the golden boot – and he was rewarded when a shot from Roger French rebounded off a Catford defender into Waine’s path and he steered the ball home with consummate ease. The anorak what does the stats had to deny himself an assist for that one – by popular demand – no point being greedy - 300 games, a penalty and a bit of his dream perhaps still to come – that was quite enough. We were not done – there was time for Simon Thomas to quiff the ball into an empty goal but the connection was too ephemeral and the Catford keeper scrambled back to get his hands to the ball, only to palm it against his defender and into the goal. I know that some of my team will question the use of the word palm here, in this report, as Palm Sunday was a week ago – but surely you will allow me a related religious reference on this day of all days, and besides I have, with my own eyes, seen tackles from a player who has played 300 games for the Vets that were a week late.
I was not present for the après-match vittles as a Sunday dinner of roast lamb and a bottle of 2014 Shiraz Barossa claimed my affections. Nor was Buffet Bunny Nick Waller – so there was plenty for others. So all I can offer you is a quote from man of the actualité, Roger French: “Buffet was very good again with sausage rolls, sausages, sliced ham, chips, vine ripened tomatoes, cheese, buttered baguette, slices of pizza and chicken nuggets. I had a large plateful needless to say. Catford players were very sociable and good banter was had in the bar after.”
Man of the match: Simon Thomas – who seems to have found the role he always wanted to play since he was a boy.
15 years and 300 appearances later….
So after almost 15 years to the day and a slight delay of 12 weeks contemplating the meaning of life it was somewhat ironic that my 300th appearance in Guild colours should be against Catford Wanderers Vets whose colours had helped me through a tricky period earlier this season shall we say. You could almost say I had an epiphany during that time!
After a few weeks of false starts I eventually made my debut for FOBG Vets on 1st April 2001 (some would say rather appropriate being All Fools Day) featuring in a 2-2 draw at home to Orpington Vets. Looking at the squad from that game the only players still involved with the FOBG Vets set-up are Patrice Mongelard, Chris Bourlet, Pete Harvey and referee Mick Gearing. Fast forward 429 games to today having played in 300 of those games giving me an appearance ratio of 70% with a return of 31 goals scored – not too shabby for a defender. Full Vets stats for the period read as follows:
In the days when I joined there was only one Vets team playing in FOBG colours and this was managed by Super Senior Veteran Mick “tantric” Gearing who also played up to the age of 67 years old but now turns out to referee our games all for free. The elusive Lord Lucan AKA Toby Harlow then took over the reins from the 2005-2006 season and ran the team for the following four seasons with mixed fortunes. In his last season in control a number of former First XI players moved across to join the Vets team increasing not only the win ratio but the number of players in the squad. As a result of the enlarged numbers it was decided that a second Vets team could be supported and so the squads were divided into a Young Vets XI and a Senior Vets XI for the 2009-2010 season.
Lord Lucan took this opportunity to bail out and handed over the management of the Senior Vets to me but I only accepted on the proviso that my partner in crime, Patrice “Waldorf” Mongelard, accepted joint responsibility for the running of the team. Like a true Muppet he agreed and so was born the Statler & Waldorf era which at present is still going strong. More recently team selection policy has been “enhanced” following the conscription of Mick O’ ”Filth” Flynn to the management team but the tone of weekly discussions has plummeted.
With persistent rumours that Waldorf will hang up his boots soon now that he has achieved the 500 appearances benchmark I feel I should deliver my own Easter message of hope – I hope that I can beat his number of appearances and in the process score more goals. Naturally this means I can’t afford to miss any more games and will need a minimum of 7 years to match his impressive tally and as such hope springs eternal at least in my eyes it does. So, in summary, it looks like you are stuck with me for the foreseeable future – how’s that for a message of hope?
Man of the match: Simon Thomas