The small village of Copmanthorpe – affectionately know as Cop – is located just outside York and consists of two pubs, a Co-op and some of the finest manicured lawns in all of England. At the centre of it all you’ll find Patrick Solich, a resident since birth and holder of the most important position in the whole village; left-back for Copmanthorpe F.C. Reserve team. In a regular column, he’ll chronicle what it is like being a footballer on the smallest stage possible. In this edition, he looks at that life-affirming ritual; the away game.
The away game for the Cop lads, or any village team, can be great day out. Ideally, our opponents shouldn’t play too far away, have good facilities and a nice little country pub nearby to go for a decent bit of grub after the game. But more often than not we’re playing on a sloping pitch, the centre circle invariably a mud bath, it’s pissing down with rain and the showers are old, cold and dirty. Either way, away days are an integral part in the story of our season and follow a familiar routine.
Saturday morning about 10:30 we meet in the Little Acorns, the village cafe, for breakfast. While families treat their young ones to bacon sandwiches and cyclists stop off for a coffee, we take up most of the tables and get down to the business of the day. Talk turns to the away game; it could be Taddy, with their crumbling old changing rooms and lads we went to school with. Or Dunnington who we always lose against, or Hemingbrough, the newly promoted side we don’t know anything about. Do you remember the time we played them last when turned up with no subs as Purdy’s car wouldn’t start?
The finer details, like the big breakfast, are chewed over; Is it a big pitch? Do the new lads know how to get to the ground? Have they got the post code to put in the sat nav, or they just follow one of us? What’s the food like after the game, and if we’re going out in town after we might not have time to stay long. Sometimes these details are more important than the game itself. Talk of Friday night gets a few laughs, figuring out who stayed out the latest and working out why Feathers hasn’t turned up for brekkie.
Teams are finalised, deciding who’s going with us in the reserves or who the 1st team have taken that morning because one of their lads has dropped out. It’s normally Chippy, who thinks up a great excuse most weeks as he can’t afford the £5 subs. We pay up and head to the Rec; the 1st team get to work on setting their pitch up, whilst we organise whose driving and if we have the balls, kit and medic bag. Some of our players have been to work that morning so turn up in work gear with muddy boots and shin pads nestling alongside tool kits in the back of the van. One more cigarette from the management team, catch the first few minutes of the early Premier League kick off and then were off; running late as usual.
Two away games this season, either side of the Christmas break, have stood out as favourites so far. The last game before the break we travelled up the A64 to play newly promoted Malton and Norton. Dwindling numbers around Christmas time meant that we only went with 12 players, convincing one of the new lads’ dad to bring his boots and sub for us. Half the side had been out for Christmas parties the night before and looked like they were going to struggle to complete the 40 minute drive, never mind the 90 minutes on the pitch.
Most of the side arrived at the ground in plenty of time but Fed, Tanky and Big Dan were still missing. A quick phone call and it turns out they’d gone to Old Malton’s ground, a nearby side who play in the same league. 10 minutes later they turned up, red faced and Tanky still not quite sober.
The 12 of us sat in the changing room, ready to hear what formation we’ve scrambled together out of those available. As the names were read out we realised something wasn’t quite right. Somewhere along the line the arranging of the kit hadn’t gone to plan, and it dawned on us that it was still back in the village! An abandoned game, a 3-point deduction, an £85 fine and a long drive home for Christmas!
The first game away game of the New Year was another eventful encounter; we nearly managed 90 minutes this time, but another fine was heading our way. Me and the new lad Matt, who had responded to my appeal for new players in the Copmanthorpe Newsletter, made our way to Church Fenton following the sat nav and still got lost. We turned up late, got kitted up and joined the other guys for the warm up. This mostly involves taking shots at the latest stand in keeper, with a quick team talk between cigs. Matt and I made a good start down the left, and set up the first goal that was later deemed to be ‘a mile offside’. We went two up shortly after, but conceded with the last kick of the half. Inevitably Church Fenton equalised soon into the 2nd period, as centre back Fed stumbled over his own feet trying not to be blinded by the low winter sun, and their big man up front slotted it home.
Two changes, including myself coming off, brightened things up a bit. The Urquart brothers Brad and Dunc came on and proved pivotal to the last quarter of the game. With 5 minutes to go we were 4-2 up, Brad getting a goal and an assist. Soon he was on his way again, skipping past tired midfielders, his quick feet evading flying tackles and all the mud. He was hauled down about 30 yards out, but was quickly back up on his feet to confront the offending number 8. They squared up to each other, arms everywhere and lots of jostling going on. Soon more got involved, pushing and shoving each other, with the ref somewhere in the middle blowing his whistle to no avail.
It all looked very entertaining from the sideline. That was until another Urquart, Harry, who wasn’t even playing, decided to get involved. On he ran, pristine white trainers, tight jeans and sheepskin coat flailing in the wind, arms raised. He caught the number 8 on the cheek, with a blow so feeble that the recipient turned round and looked on in astonishment, as Harry scampered back to the sideline. He wasn’t there long, as the ref sent both him and their number 8 off. Unfortunately, the two met again outside the changing rooms, and continued their epic battle. Upon seeing this Brad, who was about to take the resulting free kick, left the pitch and ran 50 yards to show some brotherly love by getting involved! That was it for the ref, who decided that enough was enough and called the game early. We got the 3 points this time, in addition to an even bigger fine.
In between these two away days we staged our annual Charity event on the 27th December, in memory of an old manager who passed away 10 years ago. The great and good of Copmanthorpe seniors, young and old, kitted up and played a few games down at the Rec, with some limping, some drinking and most of the others nursing Christmas hangovers. Good money was raised, the community showed up to support and put money into the collection and the spirit of the village team was there for all to see.