Stories from a Reserve Team Left-Back | Relegation

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. With his magnificent curly hair, scraggly frame, patched up shoes and wry outlook, Patrick Solich is the Bill Bryson of Yorkshire amateur football scene, chronicling in his regular column what it’s like being a footballer on the smallest stage possible. In this edition, Paddy explains that with even when relegation comes around, the weekend battle at the Copmanthorpe Recreational Club (The Rec) is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

After last season’s relegation dogfight ended in survival in Reserve League A of the York Minster Engineering League, we haven’t been able to pull off a similar miracle this year; with two games left to play we ended our stay in the top league with a 0-0 draw against fellow relegation fodder Church Fenton. With only eight points and two wins to our name, it’s time to bid farewell to the top flight and focus our attention on rebuilding during pre-season and look to more success in Reserve B.

The heavy grey clouds of the long dark winter and early spring have mirrored our form; no ray of sunlight shining through those cloudy skies for the lads, week in week out waiting to see if the game will be on due to the rain, enduring some shocking conditions, heavy pitches and muddy kits to wash, and invariably some pretty disappointing performances to match the conditions. Winless since January 5 th , it’s been a pretty bleak late winter.

Since our last win, we have travelled to all the big names in our league; Old Malton, Wigginton, and Dunnington, and all ended in disappointment. Sure, there were some spirited performances, some good individual displays and the odd consolation goal to celebrate, but unfortunately that has been as far as the celebrating goes. Due to work and other commitments I’ve only managed four games in this time, with one last run out at The Rec pencilled in for this coming Saturday. The first of these was against Dunnington, in early March. Played in awful conditions, it quickly became a mud bath, with a lot of the game played down the wings; this helped me out, as much of the play started with the fullbacks knocking balls down the line to the winger, or over the top to Lee, our quick centre forward. As usual we gave away a stupid goal early on, a header from a corner dribbling through the keeper’s legs.

It was a good, tough, well-fought game, and I enjoyed the battle with the right winger, and the banter from the home side’s following. A 3-1 defeat, our consolation an own goal; a sure sign of a team on the way down. After the game Will told us all he was going to Rwanda for two months, and Jack back to Uni. Two big losses, which never helps the cause.

Next up, a double header against top-of-the-division Old Malton, first away in the league and then at our place for a cup fixture. Another grey day greeted us after the long drive up the A64, and upon arrival the usual stories; players getting stuck in traffic, their lot using some first-team players and that referee that no one likes in charge.

Playing uphill and against the wind in the first half we were asking for trouble, which duly arrived about 25 minutes into the game. Three more followed in the first half, but we came out strongly after the break and gave a good account of ourselves. Well, alll apart from Tom, who after some warnings from the ref finally got his marching orders; a seven-nil defeat and I got the kit to wash for the third time this season!

In the cup game we endured the worst conditions of the season; rain, snow, and a pitch barely passed as playable. Inevitably we didn’t progress in the cup, losing 5-1. Shortly after the game more snow came down, and we barely made it out of The Rec afterwards having drowning our sorrows. More losses followed, the worst of which being an embarrassing 13 (thirteen)-1 defeat to mid-table Thorpe.

So we got to the final Saturday of the season already relegated, and with two games left. First up Dunnington, in much better conditions than our reverse fixture in March. As always we were there well before the game; Andy Turver and one of the lads’ dad marked out the pitch, we all put the goals up and did everything else that always needs doing. From the dressing rooms we heard that they were waiting for two lads to turn up, a typical Saturday football scenario. We went behind early, then Duncan equalised after some good pressure. Into the second half we had chances, their two missing lads came on as subs and made a difference. It ended 3-1 to them, but more importantly we played well, and gave it a go.

The usual fans were there, and it was a great 90 minutes. Playing alongside your mates, seeing them give everything they had for that game, I doing did the same. That’s what football at this level is all about; going off the pitch knowing everyone has left everything out there, the 50-50 challenges won, the headers, tackles, and taking the game somewhere beyond that small pitch in a small village in a local league. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.

It’s an important part of a village; the talk after the game, praising players and friends for their performance, and becoming closer for that. It might just be a game, but it really is a beautiful game.Watching your own team is a great experience, be it Celtic, Stockport or Hertha Berlin, and all that goes with that; but playing the game is just as important.

At work the next couple of days, lads come in to comment on the game, see me hobbling about, maybe some slightly constructive criticism of mine and my team’s performance uttered. Without that we wouldn’t still be out there. We won our last game 2-1 during the mid-week, with fellow players coming in to my work to tell me how the game went as they picked up something for their tea.

We will carry those threads of what keeps us playing into next season, into the new league. We will still be out there on Saturdays, doing our bit for the football community, for personal enjoyment and to keep a bit of life into our club and my village team and all of the good that it brings.


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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