So here we go again with the start of the new season in the FA League with the league having grown in size. Instead of only four, we now have six teams participating so we don’t have to play each other three times as we did last season.
Our first match was against one of the new teams and nobody had any inside knowledge of what they were like. We knew they were from the Viñuela area but noone knew of a bar called Americana so we were at a loss. Why do we assume they have to be associated with a bar, I wonder? We couldn’t think of any American community in Viñuela either.
As the newly appointed Player/Manager I’d trawled all the football footage I could find to maybe come across video footage of Americana FC so I could give all the team their own dossier of how they played and what their strong and weak points were but to no avail. Maybe they were Yankee Doodles, someone suggested, and thought it was a gridiron football league. Would they all be kitted out in helmets and padding or were they a baseball team who were finally truly making the World Series exactly that and not just confining it to the good old US of A?
As we arrived at Nerja our question was quickly answered. They were all young South Americans, some of whom had clearly broken away from a team called Blue Sky who played last year and also had a team in this year’s competition. This could be a tricky one. Due to the vast crowds flocking to see the game we kicked off a little late. Well, actually, the organiser turned up late with the key to open up. We had 12 players so subs were going to be thin on the ground and looking at Americana we could do with more than one pair of fresh legs. Not only that but Stevie Twiselton had managed to leave his boots in Cómpeta in his car and flip-flops weren’t going to be ideal. Helen, Mrs T, was hot-footing it over to Nerja with the said boots while Stevie had to make do with Mick’s boots until then.
We kicked off and it was soon apparent this was going to be a tough match. Whilst they were all swarthy, fast, skilful and young we were pale, lumbering, hoofers and older. Well most of us but even our younger legs struggled to compete.
There was early controversy as they took the ball to the bi-line, which we all shouted was out of play. The ref played on and as their attacker made his way into the box, Stevie T took his legs from under him as he got ready to shoot. Maybe Mick’s boots were too big for our Steve. Penalty! 1-0 down.
It’s fair to say we had few chances. In fact we had none. We did manage a sequence of about three or four good passes, which ended in the ball being lost and again we were defending another South American attacking charge. We did have a penalty appeal waved away as Stu made his way into their penalty area only to be brought down. Unfortunately Vinny was flagged offside even though it was arguable whether he was ‘active’ under the new offside rules. To be honest, you have to look hard to see whether Vinny’s active under any rules. Deceptively agile perhaps.
Sam made some excellent saves during the first half, which kept the score down but we still went into the half-time break 4-0 down.
The half-time talk was heated to say the least as everyone had their own ideas as to what was going wrong. It was easy really, we were being outplayed by a fitter, younger, more skilful side and hadn’t had a shot to test their keeper. Sometimes football analysis is easy.
In the second half, as we kicked off, Stu managed a long range shot and as they were now playing into the sun it went over their goalkeeper’s head and we were only 4-1 behind. For the next 10-15 minutes we held out as Vinny dropped back into midfield just in front of the tiring and creaking defence to help out. It didn’t last long and without prolonging your agony, dear reader, the game ended 8-1. No excuses other than they were a far better team, although Stu had to hobble round in attack after Santi had to leave for a family do. There’s dedication for you. If only we’d kicked off on time Santi could have stayed to the end and things may have been different. Somehow I think that sounds like a Player/Manager making excuses, like Arsene ‘Whinger’ of Arsenal, and trying to defend his job after just one game. The pressure was on already as we went into our next game.
The Grapevine v The Victoria
Our second match was against the team we’d lost 6-2 to in the pre-season friendly but somehow I felt hopeful we might give them a run for their money. Perhaps we’d have more players available and fit and we had had a new Spanish lad, Andreas, who’d come to training with us who said he might be available. I then bumped into Simon who said he’d be playing but half the team would be in Nerja for a friend’s 40th. Suddenly, my hopes started to fade. What happened to early nights with a mug of cocoa?
On the morning of the match I received a call which meant I had an urgent business issue to deal with and suddenly I was unable to play. To save you the pain of reading a familiar tale the rest of the match will be shown in pictures. To sum up, we had only 10 men and the result ended 5-1 to The Victoria. As Player/Manager am I becoming Grapevine FC’s version of ‘The Wally with the Brolly’?