The great Danny Blanchflower once said:
“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom”.
This quote has been echoed by footballing purists throughout pubs and bars across the world since the opinion was first aired in the early 1960’s. Whilst this in an opinion I have always harbored, a new light came to mind as the doors of Central Bar closed behind me on Sunday afternoon. Sometimes the game is about going out there and doing the dirty work. Getting stuck in with your mates, and pulling together as a team. Getting ugly when you need to, and standing up and being counted for when the going gets tough. But more than anything else, it’s about killing a few pints after the match with three points in your back pocket and being able to laugh at those failed attempts for idealism.
The 9am Kick-off and New York marathon meant early rises for the Old Boys squad. 6am starts and redirected journeys for all those who didn’t meander across the footbridge to field #83. Hakans Jazz-wagon took a wide venture through the Hamptons, Montauk, and back up through Queens, but still the squad was fifteen strong by the time KO came around. The same could not be said for the opposition who managed a meek starting lineup of nine, to embrace the wind swept conditions.
With nine vs eleven, the game started as you may imagine with the Old Boys dominating possession and Neiw Amsterdam on the back foot. The ball found its way to both wings frequently as Amsterdam packed their penalty box with numbers to stem the advancing Old Boys. Andy Jones quickly felt the taste of the rugged defending as he was callously scythed to the ground, just managing to defy gravity long enough to hold a quick planking pose for the cameras, before audibly hitting the ground. It wasn’t Andy’s only moment on the turf either, as witnessed by the manager Rolling Mick Morse, and the amused subs bench. For only moments later, Mr Jones was also floored by a freak gust of wind that had him sat bewildered on the ground once more. We all saw mate. We all saw.
The match continued in heavy CPR pressure, finally paid off as Stower made a lightening run down the left flank, and before the ball had even found its way into the box, Engler was bought to the ground via an off-the-ball body check.
Cue the Goalhammer.
Calls of “Von Goalhammer” were heard from goalmouth and touchline as the man with ice in his veins picked up the ball, placed it on the spot, and positioned his run up from just outside the penalty area. The referee blew the whistle and all held their breath. All it is bar one nameless spectator with a notably cynical Birmingham accent, who was heard quietly mumbling “I kind of hope he misses”. Skeptic, pessimist, and stepover extraordinaire. I shall say no more.
Nevertheless the goalkeeper was sent the wrong way, and the Goalhammer struck no.5 for the season coolly into the lower right corner.
CPR kept the momentum and were soon two for the good as Creighton tucked the ball away calmly for the second week in a row.
Neiw Amsterdam who had started with nine men were quickly restored to eleven and made the added numbers count. The tricky no.13 winger picked the ball up wide before commencing on a mazy run and releasing a dipping curling shot from the edge of the box, also known as the classic Sensible Soccer finish.
The buoyant opposition now had the momentum and the game became a midfield aerial battle. High balls launched for the flick on from which both sets on center backs were tested in their ability to soak up the attack. It was at this time when Chris Williams, a man always alert to sniffing out disaster before it emerges decided to embrace the Armageddonand did what all men of honor do under such circumstances. No fucking around. The trousers came off.
The loss of Chris’s trousers seemed to rally the Old Boys and Von Goalhammer had the ball in the back of the net again before the break, only for the referee to call wrongly offside and not for the first time that day. Shortly after Hollins struck the crossbar, and Becker had to be alert to keep a shot out at the near post.
The halftime team talk was matter-of-fact and gritty. Stick to your guns and win the hard way. Solemn, stern, and to the point. The stark mood wasn’t helped by the departure of Bill ‘the Don’ Marsillo, but when a restaurant on Mott St. forgets to pay its protection money, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is or where you are. Business is business. We understand Bill, we’ve seen the Sopranos.
The second half can be summarized as follows:
- Edmunds invented a new way of heading the ball: The Buddha (the Buddha consists of crouching to your lowest possible standing height, and then launching yourself like a spring the moment the ball has passed your head).
- Kass mowed down the opposition winger with frightening frequency.
- The referee demonstrated that the offside rule is yet to gain popularity in Russia.
- Becker in a spike of temporary dementia thought he was Gianluigi Buffon in Serie A, and spent 25 minutes dribbling the ball into the corner of his area ‘time wasting’.
- A record number of yellow cards were recorded that did not directly relate to fouls.
- Creighton swore. YES, Creighton swears.
- We won. My god we won ugly. But we won.
And so to Central Bar (minus the kits).
Something was wrong the moment we stepped into the bar. A misdemeanor of incredible fluke had occurred somewhere within the astral plane that could not be easily quantified. As the Old Boys and Legends embraced to relay the morning’s events, the inconceivable became apparent. With all the probability of watching the panoramic scenery of the Northern Lights from the depth of a Moroccan wine cellar, Manny had scored the winning goal.
If you had not been in Lower Manhattan on Sunday, if you were not one of the 500,000 runners cornered as they passed back via Central Park, if you had more sense than to remain seated as Manny happened past your table on Sunday with the humble appearance of a peacock in mating season, let me save you 45 minutes of your future drinking time and talk you through the moment.
Something about 17 yards out.
Something about a one-time shot.
Something about a clustered penalty box.
Cue the misty eyes, and facial expression of a prepubescent teenager that has just shot an entire youths worth of bollock yogurt into a leather clad Heidi Klum. I am under no false impression that someone, somewhere, is currently being objected to the step-by-step replay.
Other noted banter from the post match analysis:
Will Sawyer ever reclaim any drinking credit following his demolishment at the hands of Von ‘Jaegermeister’ Goalhammer?
Did he have any credit to begin with?
Beckers epic Breaking Bad costume.
Edmunds amazing Gandalf costume.
Had Edmunds gone naked, would he have made a better Gollum?
Where the feck were the kits?
Can any food be classified more accurately as ‘mediocre’ than that found at Central Bar?
As the author left early, still too frightened to nourish a beer, the epiphany came to light. Sometimes its not about doing it the pretty way. It’s about being a team, getting in the trenches when times are hard, and grinding out those three points. Its ugly but the beer, banter, and great company make it all worthwhile. Nice work fellas.
By David Sawyer