Jumpers For Goal Posts – Part 2

When we moved up into Primary 7 our footballing world changed considerably. Gone were our best players and we didn’t have enough new talent coming through from the year below us to pose a serious threat to anyone. We called in a few of the fringe players from Primary 7 and they actually surprised us even if they weren’t used to playing in an 11-a-side team. The other change was that one of the other local schools was being refitted and their P6 and P7 classes moved into our school for a year. Where we used to struggle to to fill two 7-a-side teams for games at lunchtime we were getting 14 v 14 at times and it became an intense rivalry over the weeks and months that it went on. Games would be started at the morning break if we hadn’t already managed to get a game underway before school actually started in the morning. We’d then have a long ‘half’ at lunchtime where our players would join in as and when they finished their lunch and we would finish it off at the afternoon break. The rivalry went much further than just football though. When it came time for the local school swimming championships one of their players managed to get a silver in the 50m freestyle competition. Their joy was short lived when they realised that Craig had stole the gold and I’d brought home the bronze. I don’t think we ever let them forget that.

East Milton football team

This year seen our best result so far and possibly the one result we remember. We didn’t even win and it was our best result. How sad is that? As with almost all schools in the West of Scotland there is a huge rivalry between the catholic schools and the non-catholic schools. Some say it’s a bad thing but at that age almost no one is interested in bigotry side of things as it’s all about the fact we were better than they were at whatever we were playing or vice versa. Our Lady of Lourdes Primary was our enemy. Where we had a healthy rivalry with Kirktonholme as they were sharing our school Our Lady of Lourdes was actually the nearest school to where most of us lived. If I went to the corner shops at the end of my street you could see it. We never mixed with them and so the only time we could get one up on them was during sports. Unfortunately they had one of the best teams in the league. The previous year they were putting six or seven goals past us with ease but this time we were determined to get something back from them.

I’d been moved over to play in central defence by this point and I managed to get a good understanding with the other defenders. Nothing could get past us on the ground as every time the ball came near us we would throw a crunching tackle in and clear the ball back up the park. Where we fell down however was we were still as slow as hell. All it took was someone to realise that we couldn’t keep up with their forwards and boot the ball over our heads and have it come down to a foot race. Our Lady of Lourdes hadn’t worked this out though. We got stuck into them hard during a cup game and pretty soon we were drawing 2-2 with them and the scoreline stayed that way until the final whistle. You would have though we had won the cup given the way we were celebrating. Before the game we were told that in the event of a tie as there was no time for replays and because we were under a certain age and couldn’t play extra time whoever put the most pressure on the other team and won the most corner kicks would be declared the winner. For every corner they had won we must have won at least two we were that worked up about this game. Then their headmistress got involved. It was unheard of for her team to lose like that and was putting in a complaint that the referee was biased towards us. There we were having played our hearts out and finally won something even if it wasn’t technically a win and she was pulling it away from us. I’d skinned the entire length of my leg on the ash park after throwing everything I had into every tackle and ended up having to get a lift back to the first aid room at the school. Whatever happened after that game though we have no idea but we found out at the next practice that we were having to replay the game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bunch of eleven year olds make so much noise in disgust before. Needless to say they put about 13 goals past us in the replay.

We took part in a seven-a-side competition in Strathclyde Park about midway through the season and were about the only team from East Kilbride taking part. Sometimes I wonder how we managed to get into these things when we were so far down the league but we never questioned it at the time. In our group stage were three other teams and basically if you didn’t win two out of your three games you weren’t going through to the next round. So the first game we played we were completely overwhelmed. There was no beating about the bush they were just far superior to us. At this point we realised that the team we were due to play next was being managed by Derek Ferguson and as we were almost all Rangers supporters we spent more time trying to talk to him than concentrating on the games. As I can completely understand now he got a little pissed off with us and ended up have our manager pull us away so that he could work with his team. It was at this point that someone realised that the reason Derek was managing the next team was that his younger brother played for them. We were royally beaten but the game didn’t end before I managed to kick the younger brother, Barry, up in the air and almost end his future career before it started*. It wasn’t malicious but I was terrified Derek was going to beat seven different shades out of me. We got stuck in and as with any competition we ever entered we started to play well as soon as it was impossible for us to win anything. We beat that team but we were on the bus home within 5 minutes of the game ending feeling as though we hadn’t won a thing.

Again we finished second last in the league although this time I managed to captain the team a couple of times.

Even 7 years later when I was still playing for hours every night I could never get that feel for competitive football again. Throughout secondary school I never played a game outwith P.E. and certainly was never picked to train with the team. I became more comfortable on the ball and my passing improved and with that my position gradually changed from a centre half to somewhere in the midfield. I don’t play football very often now. Those of my friends that do play all have regular games which I can never get into and to be honest until I get a clean bill of health from the doctors anything that involves me running about is off the cards.

I would spend days and weeks playing Football Manager/Championship Manager on my computer during the winter months whilst waiting for the weather to become good enough to play for real. I ate up anything I could find to read about Rangers and followed every game on TV. To this day I’ve still never set foot in Ibrox and in all honesty I’m not really a fan of watching the game but I still love to play it. I guess it makes me feel like I’m eleven again.

* Barry went on to play for and captain Glasgow Rangers and Scotland over his years of playing professional football.

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Jumpers For Goal Posts – Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my childhood. I don’t know if it’s because I now have kids of my own or whether it’s because I’ve got back in touch with a few folk from primary school through Facebook but it’s certainly on my mind.

And do you know what strikes me more than anything about that time? The sheer amount of football I played. I’m not talking a game of seven and by on a sunny night when our parents had kicked us out of the house. I’m talking from the age of about five years old playing at least 2 hours of football a night and even more on weekends if the weather was good enough. Even at the age of 18 I was playing 3-4 hours of football on weeknights. My sudden stop when I fell out with/lost contact with they guys during the year I turned 19 basically explains where my gut came from.

Being five years old and the tallest in my class meant that any time I played football you could almost guarantee I would be in goals at some point. We used to play on a huge strip of grass beside my parents house. On one edge there was a swing park and we used the rest of the grass as a huge pitch. To this day I’ve never worked out why we always placed the goals where we did. On one side the hill fell away and was covered in bushes and nettles and about 20 yards in we placed the goals. The other side of the pitch ran all the way up to the road which was about another 100 yards away. The only rules we used with regards to pitch markings was the goal line and the outer boundaries of the park for the sides. If it went passed that it was either a goal or out of bounds but you could keep playing even of the ball went all the way up to the main road.

As with most groups of kids playing in the street the age range usually ran from about fives years old right up until twelve. Any older than that and they found something better to do or better players to play with. We were always in awe of the older players. Brian and Stevie were brilliant and I remember rumours that they had scouts out looking at them later in their football life. At least one of the guys we played with ended up having a trial for Chelsea although I can’t for the life of me remember his name. One guy was just huge. Even at that age you could tell he was going to be tall and when a kid gets the nick name ‘Sherman’ it doesn’t come as a surprise that he ended up playing and coaching for the EK Pirates american football team.

I won’t lie. I was never what you would call a fantastic player. I had great reflexes and my time in between the sticks was spent shot-blocking with the occasional amazing dive across the goal mouth to the tip the ball by for a corner kick. I couldn’t hold on to a ball and to this day I don’t have the confidence to run with it either.

One summers day both myself and my mate Billy were playing at a bit of grass at the end of my street and were convinced that a scout was watching us. We spent hours afterwards wondering who he was from and what fantastic shot or save would have caught his eye. Years later I found out that the guy was actually my neighbours son who was visiting but had been locked out whilst my neighbour was out. He laughed when I told him our story after all those years.

Then came the day we were dreading for a while. The local council sold off our ‘football pitch’ and they built sheltered housing for the elderly on it. We would have to walk twice the distance to our school in order to get to a red ash hockey pitch we could use instead. Needless to say we didn’t go there. We started playing on the hill at the end of my street. Even when we were chased by the police we still went back. The council ended up planting additional flower beds so that we couldn’t actually get a large enough area to play on… We still found a way though.

As the years moved on I finally made it into P6 and they decided to start the school football team back up. At that point we were playing most of our football at school in the loading bay below the school kitchen. It was about a quarter of the size of a 5-a-side pitch and we managed to play 10v10 on there at times. Shots on goal could come in from just about anywhere and at any time so my reflexes were getting a good work out but any time we moved up onto the full size pitch I was useless. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t used to the size of the goals or if it was that I was that small I could only touch the cross bar if I took a run at it but I went from being a really good keeper to being someone that folk insisted not be allowed anywhere near the goals. I was always a good reader of the game even of I wasn’t the best actual player so I did eventually get the hang of playing 11-a-side on the full size pitch.

East Milton Football Team

The school football team was run by three parents. Mr Paxton, Mr Clapperton and Mr McLaughlin. I have very vague memories of Mr McLaughlin playing for Dumfermline or some other lower division team that I’d heard of but never paid any attention to but Mr Paxton didn’t really know what to do. I was 10 years old at the time so what do I know about managing a team though. When Mr McLaughlin was involved we did circuit training and practiced dead ball situations but when it was just Mr Paxton we played 5′s in the Main hall or took penalties for the fun of it with our outfield players taking turns in goal. Craig McPhee, our captain in P7, took his turn in goals one evening only for the ball to be hit that hard that he broke his wrist against the bench we used as a goal. I’ll keep the rose tinted spectacles off. We were rubbish. I think there were something like 10 teams in the league we played in and the only one we could beat was The Murray Primary School and we loved going there for a game. It was the only school in East Kilbride that had a grass pitch at that point so it felt like we were playing at the end of our street.

We had some outstanding players in that team that year and to this day I don’t understand how we didn’t manage to do better. Craig Purden was possibly the best goal keeper in the league and in James Madden we had one of the best central midfielders as well but the rest of the team couldn’t hold back the opposition. We tried hard and we did have good players but without direction and any tactical know how the end results were usually inevitable. We were also threatened several times with complaints and recommendations that we be kicked out the league. Why you may ask were we receiving this sort of welcome? We had the ‘cheek’ to have a girl play for our team apparently. Usually there was no bother before a game and the schools were very good with providing some sort of separate changing facility for Catrina but by the end of the game and they’d seen how good she was the complaints usually started.

When i joined the team I moved from being a goal keeper to playing at right back. I still don’t know why I was put there as I could never keep up the pace and run up and down the wing like the other full backs we played against and I was never happy with our central defenders. They were good players but they struggled to play as a team and at times forgot that without linesmen you can’t pull the offside trap unless the player is that far offside the ref can spot it from half way across the pitch. So we went from them not communicating very well to both stepping out at the perfect time had we had linesmen giving the attacker that few yards head start that we could barely afford giving the speed of our defence. We leaked goals constantly and in one game a guy called Speedy ripped us to shreds whenever he decided to try and get past us. It was only Craig’s skills that stopped the number of goals we lost heading into double figures I think.

We ended up second bottom of the league that year.

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Stepping Back In Time – Revisiting Talisman

Eighteen years ago… almost to the day now I think about it I played my last game of Talisman. It was the September Weekend, a local holiday in Scotland, in 1991 and we had just spent the Friday and Saturday playing what was to be my last ever game of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I can’t remember exactly what happened but I had stayed over at my GM’s house on the Saturday night and we spent all day on the Sunday playing Talisman and never went back to his house after that.

Talisman

Fast forward to today and I’d been invited along to my World of Warcraft guild ‘s Guild Master’s house to play in his regular Talisman game. Also playing was another friend and another WoW player. If I get this right my experience until today had been almost all 1st edition with three or four games of 2nd edition before I stopped playing. We would spend all our RPG downtime playing this game so when I walked into his house and seen the 2nd edition box sitting on the table it started to come flooding back. They use the 4th edition board with the 2nd edition cards and we also had to the 4th edition Dungeon expansion set to play with.

Flicking through the character cards before we started brought back so many memories and so I picked my favourite from all those years ago… the Dwarf. Back in the day we played the game slightly differently from how most might play it. We actually played the characters as if it was an RPG we were playing. The Dwarf would like to go to the Tavern for a drink or two and the Druid would be more likely to go to an outdoor square than one of the corner ‘civilised’ squares. so when I chose the Tavern over another square because it’s what a Dwarf would do I was told, “Hey… this isn’t an RP server”.

Talisman

My game started slowly but everyone else managed to die off pretty quickly and once they were reincarnated one of the players started to surge ahead. After we realised we could survive in the Dungeon it started to heat up pretty quickly. I found myself a horse and with a strength and craft pool almost next to one another I managed to get my character a good foundation before heading for the boss. I hadn’t read much about the implications of beating the boss so once I had received my loot and we worked out where I would teleport to we soon realised that I was going straight to the Crown of Command. The end game had started and noone had even started trying to get there. My dice rolling was that bad however that by the time I won almost everyone had found a way to knock on my front door. I cut it fine but I won in the end. It was a nice way to get back into playing.

Now should I continue playing with the RPG element to my characters or play it completely as a board game?

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