Stories From A Reserve Team Left-Back | Any Given Saturday

This article is from Edition Nine of The Cynical, our free online magazine.

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For the past four years my Saturdays between September and May have been given over to football. Since being brought out of semi-retirement by my mate and manager, Simon, I have been a left-back in the lower echelons of the Yorkshire Amateur Reserve Leagues.

The start of the 2018/19 season has been slightly different.  A new manager has taken over and I missed most of pre-season due to cricket, and as a result my chances to kick opposing right wingers have been limited.

My Saturdays are different now that football isn’t guaranteed, and so new activities have had to take its place.

Our first game in our new league after relegation, Reserve League B, took place in the middle of September against the oddly named Malt Shovel. I had put my name down as available, but my lack of pre-season action had made the Gary the gaffer’s mind up.

So I stood on the sidelines with a handful of other spectators, including my friend and fellow left back, Peach. We watched the action, decent in parts, scrappy in others, with very much a first game of the season feel to it. It ended 2-2; a good point in the end.

Driving away from the ground felt strange; no feeling of tiredness in the legs, no knocks picked up, no bag to pick up out of the boot. Watching the game is hard when I had been part of the team for so long.

The following few fixtures followed the same pattern, with a few losses to knock the confidence. In late October I got a call up; a place on the bench against Haxby. It was a warm autumn day, the sun shining down on the Rec, as we hoped for a change in fortunes.

Just before half time our right back hobbled off, meaning I got my chance to get on; boots done up, a quick warm up, wearing number 16 rather than my old number 3 shirt.  The following 60 minutes was a combination of some solid defending and some rash clearances, but it was game time. It was a good feeling playing and being part of the team again.

The other activities brought pleasure too; taking the nets down and collecting corner flags after the full time whistle, and chatting to the supporters and players about the match. It was good to be involved again. It’s now December and I’m still waiting for my second appearance of the season.

In my secondary job as barman at the sports club, I caught up with some of the lads in action for the over-35s. They had asked about my whereabouts on the reserve team and told me that if I’m not getting selected I should put my name down for the over-35s, for Sunday morning matches.

I said I would. The day I start playing Sundays instead it would mean I have played for Copmanthorphe FC  at every age group: from U-11s, the junior teams, the senior set-up and now the veterans team. Maybe I’ve found my level for my last remaining years playing!

In early October on a sunny Saturday, Peach and I went on a day out to the Moss Rose ground, home of Macclesfield Town. This is her team, having in her teenage years played for the girls’ team, and, in the same period, followed the side both home and away.

We drove across the Pennines, under the Viaduct at Stockport, and past my usual turn off for Edgeley Park, being a long-suffering Stockport Country supporter.

We parked outside a pub that was once a pre-match watering hole and were greeted by a group of shaven-headed lads in Burberry scarves who complimented my hair. This was my kind of place I thought! Anyway, we left after ten minutes without being served, to a much friendlier establishment where we could actually get a drink.

Game time approached, with lovely views of the hills looking down onto the ground, the stands hidden within the landscape. Peach recalled many stories of the old games she’s been too, names of players, names of friends she went to games with, and the great stories that fans have of their experiences, and why we will always be loyal to our clubs, despite their ups and downs.

The game itself was pretty scrappy, both Macclesfield and visiting Notts County struggling for form. It looked as if a 0-0 was on the cards, until a mistake from the Macc centre half led to a penalty which was slotted away in front of the jubilant away end. We made our way from the Star Lane End, amongst the other loyal fans having endured another disappointing Saturday.

Work has also got in the way; the Co-op has undergone a refit, and I was given the graveyard shift (10pm – 6am) on a Friday to cover the store as the builders began work.

Between a little bit of work, making the tea and joining in with the builder banter, I brought a few football books to while away the hours. The first was Dan Gray’s ‘Black Boots and Football Pinks’, a joyous look at ‘50 Lost Wonders of the Beautiful Game’. Dan is a great writer and having grown up in the same village and played in the same junior side as him as a kid, I’m always keen to read his latest work.

In chapters ranging from ‘Main Stand Clocks’ to ‘Kids Playing in the Street’, he conjures up vivid memories of the beautiful game, told with humour and sentimentality. He finishes the chapter on ‘Black Boots’ with these great lines:

‘Black boots are down to earth. They say ‘collectivism’ and ‘solidarity’ where coloured boots are individualist, often worn by those who think themselves to be superior players. Black is sure, it is honest eye contact and a wink back to early footballers trampling around in their factory boots. It is substance and solidity. To see a black boot now gives the glow of spotting a vintage bus’.

A second book I attempted was Simon Critchley’s ‘What We Think About When We Think About Football’. This was a philosophical look at the game and already wary I got to a chapter entitled ‘What it’s like to be a ball’. I continued on and got 2 pages in. An early paragraph read:

‘To borrow the jargon of the influential French philosopher Michel Serres, football takes place and is played in the Middle Kingdom by ‘quasi objects’ and ‘quasi subjects’, namely by players who are not defined by their subjective intentions and in a game that is not explained by objective causal powers’.

I had absolutely no idea what that meant, and still don’t, so I decided to leave Simon’s book at that.

I went to make the workmen another coffee, listen in to some more builder banter and see how the new office was coming along. I waited for the morning deliveries to arrive before heading home and preparing for another Saturday. They have still been heavily influenced by football, playing or otherwise, just how it should be.

 

This article is from Edition Nine of The Cynical, our free online magazine.

Download the magazine here:

ePub version (great for smart phone readers)

PDF version


Copmanthorpe resident, Copmanthorpe reserves left back, goalkeeper in University of Stirling intra-mural league 2001-2005, in addition to music and sports editor at the university paper, Brig. A Stockport County fan who is still waiting for his team's return to the football league as they currently languish in the Conference North division. Patrick can be found on twitter under @pjsolich


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