The small village of Copmanthorpe outside of York 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 now holder of maybe 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.
A midweek day off; a lazy morning as autumn leaves fall on the garden, a kettle boils and the washing machine goes on. Not an ordinary wash though. The wash of Saturday’s game, Saturday’s mud, Saturday’s rain. The centre halves’ socks caked in blood from opposition strikers, the wingers’ speckled in mud and white lining from darts down the sides, the centre forwards’ bearing marks from long balls chested down to on rushing midfielders. Then disaster; the washing machine has stopped and refuses to go on.
A desperate message to Cop FC’s What’s App group is sent out. The striker whose chest was muddied from the weekend action respons and within an hour -with some new brushes purchased – the machine is spinning the red socks shorts and tops once again, removing the fragrances that had been trapped in the dirty kit bag; sweat, deep heat and vicks.
Saturday afternoon in the dressing room; we’ve gathered to take to the field against lads like us, with daily life put far away to the back of our minds as we await the starting eleven.
The reserves have started well this season and a win against Wigginton today would cement our place in 2nd, behind long time York league stalwarts Dunnington. Our gaffer Floody had a few too many the night before and can’t make it, so Tez steps down to the bench to take over. Our 2-0 victory the previous week means a winning team is not changed, with our fresh and clean kit being put on as numbers are read out: ‘Tank number 2, Paddy number 3, Tom 4.’ The names and numbers continue, like they do on Saturdays all across the green fields of Britain. We take to the pitch, final words of wisdom shared as the subs make sure the nets are securely tied. The whistle blows into the afternoon air as battle commences.
The following 90 minutes see some of the most exciting action of the season, the ups and downs of Saturday village football perfectly encapsulated within it. We start brightly, some good work down the left causing problems for their defence. Then Wigginton scores on the break, heads drop and by half time we’re 3-0 down. As the half time cigs are passed around Tez tells us to pull ourselves together, dig in and prove that we are worthy of retaining 2nd.
The wise words seems to work. Our Portuguese playmaker Pedras gets one back, we press on and begin to play better football. Soon after Wigginton get a lucky goal from a deflected free kick and usually that would be it. Not today though. A few changes are made with young fresh legs replacing tired old ones. An own goal makes it 4-2 before Pedras scores another. By this point we were piling players forward with Steve Purdy – our 45 year old centre half – now up front, with Tanky and I left to man the defence. In the last act of the game Purdy launches a throw into their box, Settle puts himself about enough to unsettle his marker who inadvertenly flicks on the ball past the outreached glove of his own goalkeeper. We all go mad with the pint-drinking crowd by the patio near the bar cheering us on.
A classic encounter; Wiggy trudges off disgruntled whilst we’re celebrating in a team huddle as if we’d won. As we take the nets down, fetch corner flags and lock up the storage we talk excitedly about the game, already exaggerating and claiming imaginary feats.
Chip butties and refreshments go down well afterwards, as the lads from both sides checks their coupons against final scores coming in on Sky Sports News. No need to mention Copmanthorpe 4-4 Wiggington; it’s already part of village folklore.
We all go our separate ways, congratulating each other one more time. Weary legs walk home slowly as Gav chucks the kit into his boot. As with the washing duty rota, the season rolls on; next week Haxby awaits in the cup…