The small village of Copmanthorpe – affectionately known 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, Paddy’s greatest asset – his hair – is used as an insult, he’s forced to go in goals and he travels to Berlin with a fellow Cynical writer.
Following on from our victory against Malton and Norton, Cop reserves had another home fixture, against Church Fenton. We started well and had carried on our good form from the week before, cheered on once again by the handful of loyal supporters. During the course of the half my right boot finally gave up the ghost, as I could feel the wet grass where the bottom half of the red Pumas should have been.
At halftime we went in all-square, a goal on the counter attack from the away side cancelled out by a Jake Green penalty. I missed Floody’s inspirational team talk as I went looking for another boot, which I found in the kit bag. The second half got underway and the boot was a perfect fit, we continued to press but couldn’t find a way through. A good point nonetheless against a side nearby us in the league.
In the weeks to come we cancelled a Cup tie deep in the heart of the North York Moors as no one could be bothered driving that far, and I missed a game at Hemingbrough through work. I got the full match report when the lads came into work after, the defeat all down to not having a left back, of course.
The following week we were away at Huntington, a side we barely get a win against, and a point would have been an excellent result. The game got underway and we were under pressure from the off, with our keeper taken from the 1st team pulling off some fine saves. The returning Fed at centre half was also on fine form, organising us at the back and keeping it goalless. I put in a last-ditch tackle on their number 9, his foot inadvertently following through onto mine as he shot from the edge of the box.
Five minutes later he had the ball again, and once again I went in, this time a little late according the ref. We both got up, and by this point the number 9 wasn’t too pleased. In his frustration he came over, stood up to me and said ‘if you do that again you scraggly-haired c**t I’m going to knock you out’!
Words of warning if I’ve ever heard them. In the last act of the half they took the lead through a scrambled effort, our eleven lads obviously gutted as we walked off as the whistle blew.
The first act of the second half saw my mate the striker hobble off, although we did shake hands as he went. They continued to apply the pressure and their quality was too much for us, with three more goals being scored. Our consolation was a nice goal, but not enough.
My new nickname has unfortunately caught on with folk in the village, and the lads and bar staff are looking forward to Huntington’s return visit where I’m sure it will get used again. Hopefully my mate in the number 9 shirt is on good form again!
The winter frosts of December caused havoc with the fixture list, with our two scheduled games both called off. Christmas came and went, then back to it, with an away fixture at Easingwold. In a tight game we took the lead through Stelios, our keeper Adam then made some fine saves before they were awarded a penalty. The first attempt hit the post, but we were penalised for encroaching in the box. The second attempt went over the bar, and we took the three points.
Back on home turf the following week we played host to Pocklington, who were 2nd in the league. The pitch was pretty rotten from the rain, but the game went ahead. After 44 minutes the back four were shattered, being pressurised constantly from quick wingers and big strikers. We were two down with a minute to a go in the half, but it could have been a lot more. A cross came in from the right, and our keeper and their number 7 (who had run rings around me all game) collided, both needing treatment. The ref (and wicket keeper for one of the teams in our cricket league) blew for halftime, and gave us more time for the lads to recover.
Their lad went off, but our keeper continued, although he didn’t last long. He gave away a penalty five minutes after the restart, explaining that he hadn’t seen the lad whom he fouled due to his concussion. The penalty was dispatched, and then I took the gloves.
My goalkeeping days go way back to the intramural side that Christian and I played in at the University of Stirling. He played in the ‘Claude Makelele role’ in the midfield, although I’m not sure Claude was quite so abusive toward the opposition players. The advice Wulff passed on stood me in good stead in those days, resulting in some defiant 0-0 draws and the very occasional victory.
I had to call on all those words of goalkeeping wisdom for the next 40 minutes, and remarkably I managed to keep a clean sheet. A couple of saves and clearances kept me busy, and I actually played a lot better in goal than the shambolic performance I’d put in at left back the previous half. We played a lot better in the second half, but couldn’t get back into the match. We are currently 7th out of 11, with plenty of games still to come and more ups and downs to experience before the end of the season.
Hertha Berlin v Borussia Monchengladbach
In mid-November, during a weekend break in the league, Christian and I met up with a couple of other Uni mates in Berlin; a weekend of culture, football, bratwurst and beers. Arriving on the Friday night (following my first ever podcast appearance with the 90 Minute Cynics the previous evening) we sampled the local nightlife, and Saturday afternoon was spent seeing the sights and trying some third wave coffee (Christian loves the hipster lifestyle). Berlin is a great city, with the history of the Wall and the Cold War still fresh in the memory, with other great sights in city ticked off the ‘to do’ list.
The highlight of the day was still to come. At 5pm we boarded the U-Bahn and headed for the Olympic Stadium, where Hertha Berlin were up against Borussia Monchengladbach. The nearer we got to the ground, the more shirts and scarves we saw, all heading to the game in the cold, wet November evening. We got off at our stop, and walked with the hundreds of others, past the stalls selling shirts and scarves, and further on those selling mulled wine and bratwurst.
The ground came into view, and what a spectacular sight it is. The Olympic rings from 1936 lit up by the stadium lights, the cacophony of noise erupting from the ground, and the inside of the huge old stadium that has seen so much history and some great games and was ready for another. We five stood with our beers and bratwurst, taking it all in and learning some songs as the game went on, trying to keep warm. Berlin started badly and were three down midway through the half, but this didn’t stop the crowd singing and creating some of the best atmosphere I’d been part of at a game.
At halftime we went for more refreshments, talking to a lad from Manchester who echoed our views, and even though he was a Manchester United fan seemed like a decent bloke. The second half didn’t get much better for Hertha, but we were still enjoying the experience (and the beer). With five minutes to go we left to beat the traffic (the first time I’ve ever done this at a game), but as we walked hurriedly back amongst the other fans we could hear the last action play out from the noise in the crowd, and the special atmosphere that had been created that night. It was cheap, entertaining and enjoyable, no wonder the EPL looks to the Bundesliga on how to improve our top league.