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No 4: Dealing With Egos Worth 12 Million Pounds Plus.

The week kicked off with the news that our eighty year old midfielder Mars Bar Derrick had collapsed with a heart attack while playing at Keynsham. After a round of investigating it was discovered, with much relief, it was another Derek with the same surname and middle initial but the different spelling of the Christian name and obviously no chocolate bar associated epithet that had been stricken. We wish our fellow walking footballer well in his recovery.

There were 24 of us this Friday and as our dependable defender John South once observed each player must have at least half a million pounds in assets that their families will acrue once they peg it. Therefore £12M plus worth of egos were on that pitch so it was inevitable that I would receive flack in both my capacities as organiser and officiating while playing.

The first foray was launched when I announced the two teams via WhatsApp on Thursday evening. After a post from Mystic Steve Prince forecasting a big win for my side, the white shirts, I was accused by Phil Dallas, on the dark shirts, of loading my side with superior players as I was desperate to be on the winning side. I was quick to remind him that if I was that desperate for a win I wouldn’t have disallowed what would’ve been my second and winning goal the previous week. Furthermore I delighted in informing him that the white shirts side included Mars Bar Derrick an octogenarian that many erroneously thought was close to death a few days earlier! In fact it was Phil Dallas who had raised the alarm due to his contacts at Keynsham.

I further extolled the virtues and strengths of some of the players selected for the dark shirts and ventured the opinion that the game would be a much closer affair than Mystic Steve had visioned in his crystal ball. Steve Prince has been remarkably accurate with his predictions but it has been noticeable that since the famous Mystic Meg passed away a few weeks ago his forecasts have gone haywire. This match was to be no exception.

In the pre-match kickabout Phil approached me to further explain his reasoning. In his opinion I had picked a side with players including myself and big John Lord, who were good headers of the ball and rather thought his team were susceptible to an aerial bombardment. As it transpired very few passes or crosses came into myself and Pete Porter up front and we hardly won any corners to enable John Lord to venture up from the back.

If the pre-match critical dissection of my selections was a ploy to bend my decision making during the match in favour of the dark shirts, it worked. In the first seven minutes the whites pinned the darks in their own half and I could hear mutterings from several of them to the effect of that’s what was to be expected with the teams I had chosen. But then they broke away down our right as Phil ran onto a ball and delivered a dangerous cross into the box that found its way to Wayne Steppings who walloped it into the far corner for the opening goal.

I immediately received criticism from my own team for not pulling Phil up for running. I allow very fast walking and a sort of slow running, but out and out running isn’t permitted. I have to admit Phil was probably slightly over the borderline and I should’ve disallowed it. But I seemed to have bought into their arguments about my ‘biased’ team selection so much that my immediate thought was that it wouldn’t make the scoreline seem quite so one sided now when we beat them.

What is and isn’t classed as running in walking football is the biggest bone of contention in the game. We play on a fairly big pitch so basic walking would be detrimental to the quality of the match. Thus I allow a certain amount of leeway, but out and out running or sprinting I pull up. When I first played walking football seven years ago some players developed very fast walks to gain an advantage that were akin to something out of the Ministery of Funny Walks made famous on Monty Python’s Flying Circus with one striker cultivating a sort of Road Runner walk with massive strides while even just a year or so ago our very own Pete Porter laid the ground by informing us, backed by videos on what constituted walking supplied by the FA, that if a player has one heel on the ground at all times no matter how fast he travels he is still walking. Then for the following weeks he literally ran on his heels in a manner reminiscent of a penguin trying to quickly reach the sea on a beach full of hot coals!

In July 2019 near the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing I told several of my walking footballers that to commemorate this event we would play Moon Walking Football for one week. I then proceeded to enact some Moon Walking with slow giant bounding steps. This alarmed a few of them, particularly Norman Mathis who said that he couldn’t do that and his concern was echoed by mumbles of agreement from the rest. I told them not to worry as it was just a joke and I have enough difficulty getting them to play Earth Walking Football let alone the Moon Walking variety.

Within a couple of minutes Rich Wolf had added a second for the darks and that was how it remained. The whites hit the woodwork twice, one via a great fingertip save from Ron the Cat, but we couldn’t breach the darks’ goal. I received little service up front but near the end of proceedings a cross came in from Mars Bar Derrick that I headed just over the bar. I should’ve done better and in recent weeks I have been executing such opportunities with aplomb.

A disappointing match albeit it showed my team selections were both fair and justified. It was the first time I had worn my Fluminense away shirt. In that I would own up to my position being advantageous for my designs, as it enables me to choose which of my many shirts I wish to sport for the forthcoming game and select myself on the appropriate side for that shirt whether it be whites or darks.

Our post match analysis was conducted at another temporary setting, The Boar, rather than our usual locale The Swan which reopens after a refurb next week. The only thing of note to emerge was how many times certain individuals need to get up in the wee hours to urinate and the merits of pomegranates in alleviating this. I couldn’t help but wonder that if some of my teammates were as good at passing the ball into their strikers as they were at passing water in the night we wouldn’t have failed to register on the goals front.

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