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No.1 Keepy Uppies and The Masked Player

It was inevitable that I should put us, the dark shirts, into the lead with a header seeing it was my bonce that was the subject of concern in the build up to the match. On Monday I inexplicably clouted it on the bottom corner of the First-Aid cabinet in the dressing room causing spells of dizziness to prevail for the remainder of the week like a dark cloud inhabiting the horizon casting doubt on my appearance in the big Friday game.

I have converted my bedroom into a soccer changing room replete with benches, pegs from which hang a good forty plus shirts and punctuated with inspirational messages and notices forbidding smoking and muddy boots. I often prepare for the weekly match in this motivational setting and derive the necessary spirit to terrorise opposition defences. At 60 every opportunity to gain an advantage has to be utilized and I’m not shy in letting opponents know that I have prepared thus. It does well to get into their heads, although with some it probably needs to form an orderly queue behind betablockers, statins and insulin.

One cannot be too careful when it comes to head injuries and soccer and once or twice it crossed my mind that if I played I might provide a big payout for someone on the book our rascally defender John South is running on who will be the first of our walking football group to peg it. Like Southey I have been playing seven years and thankfully there have been no payouts yet. On the Friday morning I woke to find myself free of any dizziness so donned a black FC Koln away kit and prepared for action. This was done a couple of hours earlier than usual owing to the fact I needed to pick my 91 year old mother up from her flat, take her for a blood test then whisk her across town so she could be linked up to a machine, a course of action she requires daily to preserve her existence. She’s too long in the tooth now to effect any remedial action and, besides, the amusement arcade would probably go out of business without her patronage.

The big match today was graced by the presence of The Masked Player. Due to what can be termed Domestic Policy he isn’t allowed to play our code of football, a rougher, hybrid version of walking football that replicates soccer to a high degree but this cannot be said for the walking aspect of it. But by subterfuge akin to a John Le Carre novel, he manages to don his boots occasionally by getting a mate among us to pay his £4 subs so that the card payment doesn’t show up on his statement. In a previous turnout he sustained a big toe injury that flared up to resemble a plum. This he concealed on his return home, despite the pain, until he could later stage a DIY accident in which a hammer dropped upon it to explain its enlarged state and purple hue.

Apart from my goal another passage of play particularly pleased me. The ball steepled high into the air from a clearance and I heard one player deploy an expletive in his vociferous assertion that he had no intention of getting in the way of it upon its descent from the clouds. However, I positioned myself in its landing path and cushioned it with my right foot and effected a pass to a teammate all in one sublime action that drew forth an utterance of praise from Pete Hyde the opposition midfield engine-house. When asked what enabled me to execute such an impressive play I would say it is the hours spent on the training ground. Well, more like minutes now, due to lack of time and commitments, practicing ball control. Keepy-uppies being my favourite and my record is 265. Whenever I mention I am good at keepy-uppies to non-football aficionados it always seems to provoke the response that at my age such a thing can only be achieved with chemical assistance.

Unfortunately, when I have the time for football training in my garden I am inevitably stopped in my tracks by neighbours wishing to conduct a conversation. Nothing wrong with that and much preferable to living alongside nasty people. But, in my frustration I have been known to exclaim that Maradona and Pele must’ve had some bloody awful neighbours.

It was about ten minutes into the second-half with the game deadlocked at nil-nil that the glory moment arrived. I peeled away from big John Lord in the box as the ball reached Ron Atticus out on the right. Positive as I usually am on this occasion I thought it would take some cross to reach me without the big guy intercepting it as despite the distancing manoeuvre he was still too close. But I hadn’t accounted for the genius of Ron Atticus. He delivered a V2 of a ball that soared high over Big John but then like its motor had been switched off it fell to earth and precisely onto my head where I gleefully despatched it into the top left corner of the net, giving Ron the Cat no chance in the White’s goal.

It called to mind Geoff Hurst’s winning header versus Argentina in the 1966 World Cup Quarter Final although I was too young to watch it live, and I hoped my goal would be similarly feted. The cross at Wembley was supplied by Martin Peters and like the West Ham midfielder, the supplier of my goal, Ron Atticus was of good Essex stock. However, Hurst was wearing all white that day and I was attired in all black this. Plus the England striker scored for a team of eleven men against ten, the Argentinian captain Rattin having been sent off, while I scored for a team of eleven against twelve, albeit their extra man was Bill Hyde who isn’t as mobile due to awaiting a hip replacement. I believe these considerations should be taken into account when evaluating the two goals.

Unfortunately, unlike Hurst’s winning goal in 1966, my goal was equalised a few minutes later when Pete Porter shot through a melee of players to find the far corner of the net. The Dark Shirts through two Wayne Steppings headers were denied from regaining the lead by great saves from Ron the Cat. It thus ended one apiece, a close game of few chances although I am grateful to the football Gods that I had some chances to shine.

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