First thoughts Apparently this fixture was arranged by Wayne 'John Terry' Stone, the Barbarian team being run by one of his (alleged) friends, i.e. Wayne is friends (allegedly) with the chief Barbarian. First thought was that Wayne had the wrong end of the stick, he'd seen so many of the Vets' goal attempts sail over the crossbar at great height that he'd come to the conclusion that we're actually a rugby team and, therefore, he'd accepted a rugby fixture. Add that to the fact that he was in Australia over Christmas/New Year and the misunderstanding became patently easy to identify.
Not so, it was indeed a genuine football fixture against a football team called 'The Barbarians'. Knowing nothing of this ominously-named team I did a bit of research: 'Barbarian' was originally a Greek term applied to any foreigner, or one not sharing a recognized culture or degree of polish with the speaker or writer employing the term. A 'barbarous person' is defined as someone uncivilized, rude, ignorant, strange, foreign. When I was informed that this team had no home ground or clubhouse it all became clear. They were indeed named in consequence of their attitude to life and had probably been made the subject of a group ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) barring them from so many localities that they could not secure the use of a regular home pitch and thus, had to roam about the country looking for unsuspecting teams to crush.
My fears started to rise when they arrived and plonked themselves down in our changing room. However, Joss 'The Brief' was worrying needlessly again and my fears quickly evaporated when conversation started and hands were proffered (their own hands that is, not ones that they had severed from earlier opposition) in a show of civility and friendliness. This civility of approach pervaded the game which, despite being vigorously and competitively contested, was played in a very sporting and friendly style, with a lot of banter and good humour off the ball throughout the entire 90 minutes.
Team Selection "Don't worry Norm" , Jim's text had said on Friday evening, "you'll have 13 available, and Tony's not around so you can pretend to be a midfielder". "Sorry Norm", read Jim's text on Saturday morning, "Kevin Sullivan is unavailable, you're playing right back again". "Sorry, again", read Jim's text on Saturday lunchtime, "John Shaw's unable to play, he can't leave the loo for more than 3 mins at a time, you're down to the bare 11, but don't tell Ian Newman because I told him he could be subbed at half time".
The Game Despite Dave Aldridge's grumblings that the ball was flat (which we dismissed as the ravings of a man overtired from all that breast feeding), we started. The game commenced at a brisk pace. It was immediately obvious that we were up against a good and well-organised side. They held the ball up well, passed intelligently and attacked quickly. However, it was also immediately clear that the Carshalton Vets were all in the mood for a game of football and ready to work hard for a win. Within minutes the Barbarians goalie was forced to make a desperate save. After a few comments, it soon became clear that Dave had been right about the ball and this led to Alan 'Good Morning Mr' Lawrance making a correct decision (demonstrated conclusively by the fact that not even Wayne argued) and he sent himself off for a few mins in search of a pump.
Within minutes of the re-start, Rob Newman scored the first goal of the match with a superb Henri/Beckham-esque curling ball which left the Barbarians goalie stranded. Barbarians equalised shortly after that with a clinical finish which was made possible by a rare defensive error on the left side - Is that alright Del, I said I wouldn't mention your name, and can I have my watch back now?
The game continued at a fast pace, errors were few, the ball being won on both sides by hard tackling, and some good interceptions by both feet and head. Gavin 'Weavin' Dykes, Sam 'Power Ranger' Karlsson, and Pete 'Pace' Culham ran at the Barbarians defence causing them a lot of problems and Chris 'Cool under Pressure' Moggridge, playing his usual tireless and unselfish midfield game, created numerous opportunities. The effort was rewarded when Carshalton took the lead again with a great header from Chris Moggridge.
Unfortunately, it wasn't long before Barbarians equalised with a goal born of quality passing and quick pace. Disaster struck when Barbarians scored shortly before half-time from what was generally thought to be a clear offside. The protests were loud, clear, and immediate, it being suggested to Alan, in the most polite terms (as one would expect), that the fact that the back four had stepped up in line and the receiving and scoring striker had been on our goalside of the back four when the ball was passed, indicated clearly that the offside rule was engaged and that the goal should be disallowed.
On this occasion Mr Lawrance was unswayed by the polite and gentlemanly expressions of dissent and the goal stood. We finished the first half at 2-3 and, despite pressure from both sides throughout the second half and a number of solo attempts at goal and near misses (including an exciting run from the writer who, while his teamates stood open-mouthed in amazement, managed to shove three defenders out of the way before rolling the ball gently towards the Barbarians goal), 2-3 was the final score.
All in all, my assessment, (suspect as that might be) is that it was a good game. Everyone worked hard and we were unfortunate not to secure a draw at the very least. Particular thanks must also go to Wayne Stone who, despite (or perhaps because of) being jet-lagged from very recent return from Australia on Thursday, captained Carshalton tactically brilliantly, with real style and also gave another of his truly inspirational half-time team talks - Is that enough to secure a midfield place next time you're captain Wayne?
My initial worries about the opposition did return for a fleeting moment when, after the final whistle, I noticed that the Barbarians appeared to be in the process of performing a 'Scottish' on one of the goals. Needless worrying again! In fact, whereas in accordance with the aforementioned said spirit of civility and sportsmanship hereinbefore referred to herein above they (the party of the second part hereinbefore referred to) (sorry, inadvertent lapse into lawyer speak), were helpfully assisting by taking down a goal before carrying it back to the Clubhouse.
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