Sunday 4th April 2021
By Patrice Mongelard
It's Good to be Back!
The sun was out today and it felt warmer than the weather forecasts had led us to expect. It was great to be coming out of football lockdown since 13 December and there was a palpable feeling of relief and joy to be able to play football, and to see old friends again. The John Roan Playing Fields facility in Kidbrooke Park Road SE3 9NF was buzzing, with several Veterans teams on show.
Lockdown hairstyles were on show too, except for Mick O’Flynn in his Yul “Never Wore Cologne” Brynner look. Simon Thomas had taken a Preservation Order on his quiff and Jay Hardy was very Ginger Spice in his Alice Band. Joe Skinner had gone all Robinson Crusoe. There were one or two players with a bit more heft than in December but it would not be politic to name them.
There was a failure of state craft on our part before the game as we struggled to sort out which kit to play in. Some players had turned up in yellow kit but it soon became obvious that there was not enough kit for the full squad. We had an all-blue strip as backup and we eventually changed into that. I will not name the numerically challenged player who suggested, helpfully, that we should play in blue shorts and yellow shirts. To add to the confusion, our opposition were not in the colours I had been told to expect, white and black, but in blue and black. In the end we worked it out, but this was not the smooth operation that the players now take for granted, and things are going to have to change in that department.
FOBG Squad: Phil Anthony, Ian Coles, Peter Finch, Giles Foister, Jay Hardy, Waine Hetherington, George Kleanthous, Colin Mant, Chisa Mkala, Kypros Michael, Patrice Mongelard, James Rutter, Joe Skinner, Simon Thomas
Kit sponsor: The Dog and Duck, Outwood
Supporters: Hannah and Michelle Kleanthous, Frank Mills, Claire Mills-Skinner, Danny and Ethan Mullins, Gordon Thompson, and Lorna Stewart.
Director of Football: Mick O’Flynn
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard
Chief Impact Officer: Phil Anthony
Before I tell you about the football, I should announce the appointment of Phil Anthony as the Chief Impact Officer for the Senior Vets. The role involves “lifting up critical dialogues around mental health and fostering an environment for honest and vulnerable conversations”. We agreed to Phil’s condition that he would tell jokes as part of the role, but we could not afford to relocate him to California.
The first half an hour was a disaster for us. We started without the designated goalkeeper who was still trying to find his way to the ground. We were 2-0 down after ten minutes. Patrice Mongelard was at fault for the first Avery Hill goal after hesitancy on his part and the makeshift keeper. The second was a rasping shot from the best forward on the pitch – youthful despite the ginger beard to age him. He created the third Avery Hill goal with a cross from the right and then helped himself to his hat-trick after our now proper keeper could not adjust his feet to cope with a back pass.
There was a comedy moment when Avery Hill sought to claim a corner after arguing that Simon Thomas had headed the ball out. Manty pointed out, however, that this could not be right as (in his words) Simon had never headed anything in his whole life.
At that point Avery Hill deserved to be ahead but there were not four goals’ difference between the teams. There was promise in the energy and verve evidenced by Jay Hardy and George Kleanthous. Kypros Michael was giving the Avery Hill defence much to think about, with the usual intimation that he had been vaccinated against hitting the target. Ian Coles and Colin Mant were now holding their own against a very tricky customer.
The last quarter of an hour of the first half was ours. Kypros Michael crossed from the left for Jay Hardy to finish gleefully from close range. We put together a spell of sustained pressure and presence in the Avery Hill box. The idiosyncratic referee would not award us a penalty when an Avery Hill defender palmed a close range shot away on the line, and neither would he when Jay Hardy was brought down in the follow-up. This sin of omission must have preyed on the referee’s mind because five minutes later he awarded us a penalty we were not expecting after a challenge on George Kleanthous just inside the box. Kypros Michael lashed the ball home.
At half-time, Mick O’Flynn replayed the tape of his pre-match talk. Our mood though had been lifted by our two goals and I was not the only one who thought we could get something out of the game.
We needed to score quickly in the second half but could not find a way through. Jay Hardy came closest as he nearly got to a low cross that Kypros Michael flashed across the box. Avery Hill, still looking to put their fast, skilful forward through with the ball over the top, threatened on the break. Peter Finch in our goal pulled off a couple of good saves in one-on-ones. With a quarter of an hour left, a corner from James Rutter travelled to the far post to an unmarked Kypros Michael. Instant control, swivel and the net bulged. Surely, we would go on to draw the game, we thought. Things got a bit niggly in the centre of the pitch; an Avery Hill “Heavy” started putting himself about and there were too many conversations with him and with the referee (an ex-Avery Hill player if my long memory serves me right) who made it clear he was not going to “give us three goals”.
As often happens in football, the team chasing an equaliser was then punished with a quick break down our right after we missed a tackle or two. The cross from the right, from the Bearded Wonder, was close to our keeper but he could not gather it and the fifth Avery Hill goal was a tap-in at the far post. There was a short discussion between our linesman and the referee and we agreed the goal should stand.
In the end, the team with the best player won but we could take heart from our performance. In truth, the fact that we were able to play football, on a sunny day, on a good pitch, against a team that played the game in the right spirit (despite the muscular ministrations of their defence), mattered more than the result. The return of Jay Hardy after a long period of injury was a bonus. We had drawn the second half.
Sadly, there was no bar available after the game. In some ways, it was a blessing in disguise. Otherwise, I would not have made it back home in time for Easter Sunday lunch with invited guests. I had, in any case, been on very thin ice by going out to play with the boys on my 39th wedding anniversary. As I said to Mrs M, it is precisely that kind of understanding and forbearance on her part which means I am looking forward to my 40th wedding anniversary. She said something about a ruby (and I don’t think she speaks cockney rhyming slang).
Man-of-the-Match: George Kleanthous, looking sharp and fit after following his daughter Hannah’s fitness regime.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous