This was our third match in the FA League and at last we had a later kick-off time of 11.30am which is important if we want to maximize our squad available for selection. It’s easier to get players to meet at 10.30am than it is at 9am for a 10am kick-off. An added bonus was that the venue had been changed to Torrox pueblo as opposed to Nerja so a meet time of 10.45am gave a valuable extra 15 minutes to sleep off whatever excesses had been enjoyed the night before.
A few of us had watched the match between Cómpeta and Ríncon the evening before at the campo de fútbol in Cómpeta perhaps to get some inspiration but, as they lost 3-1, inspiration was in short supply. We’d had a few beers at the match and as I made my way home I was left with some trepidation for the following day as I saw Stevie T, Simon and Football Phil disappear into Venta de Palma to carry on the liquid intake. As Mrs T had her father over from UK who was left looking after the kids, I feared that advantage of a night out would be maximized to the full.
The next morning my fears were realized as all three felt a little groggy but had made the meet time and were ready to play. I had more players to select from as the Spanish lads who play for us had managed to make it. For the first time team selection was going to require more thought.
In true FA League style, as we arrived, the first match was just starting the second half so kick-off would be late as always. That gave me time to think about my starting line-up. I consulted with Football Phil to get another angle on how we might play and he reckoned on either 4-4-2 or a rather more interesting 3-5-2 with the two wide midfielders, Andreas and Aziz, acting as wing-backs and Vinny playing a deeper midfield role to assist me, Simon and Stevie Twiselton in defence. Andreas and Aziz would act as attacking defenders staying out wide with plenty of running on the flanks but if they tired we had Luis-Felipe and Baldo who could come on to take their place. Sam and Tom would be upfront supported by the wing backs. Vinny was to ensure he was always deeper than Football Phil and Euan in midfield. Phew! Run that past me again, Phil. What happened to 2-3-5, leather Casey footballs with laces, ankle support boots, long shorts, shin pads made from whale bone and jumpers for goal posts? It all sounded a bit involved but we’d give it a go.
We finally kicked off and were passing the ball well and keeping possession but somehow we seemed to be getting nowhere and making hard work of things when we didn’t need to. We were working the passing triangles and the 3-5-2 seemed to be working as we wanted but we didn’t seem to be moving forward. We had a few attacking moves, which seemed to split their defence but their keeper was stopping us both with saves and defending outside his box. What was going on?
After about 20 minutes we finally got the breakthrough we needed as Sam opened up our account after an over elaborate passing move, a few attempts to actually beat the keeper before Sam finally did. Somehow I was finding the whole thing painful to watch despite our superior possession and the fact we weren’t being troubled too much in defence apart from a few minor scares.
The 3-5-2 formation then started to fall apart a little as we pushed forward more leaving me, Stevie T and Simon more exposed at the back. With an average age of c38 years (I wish I still was) and average weight of c16 stone (I was born nearly 15 stone), we were normally happier with one more in defence. It proved our undoing as they equalized. Against this team this shouldn’t have been happening. We were still making hard work of keeping the ball and we were also resorting to trying a few fancy pull backs, step overs and trying David Beckham 40 metre, searching passes. We managed to break away on numerous occasions but their keeper was performing heroics with saves as well as playing a sweeper role when their defence went AWOL.
Despite this we did manage to score three more goals before half-time and went in 4-1 to the good. This was a first. We’d never been in such a commanding position especially as I thought we hadn’t played well. Maybe in my manager’s role I was becoming more critical of our performance but I had enjoyed games more where we’d been losing 4-1at half-time and thought at least we’d made a good account of ourselves. Alternatively, perhaps we just weren’t used to leading like this and in true British style didn’t know how to handle the dominance. Aren’t we meant to lose with dignity, wallow in defeat and be ultra critical with the motto, “It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part” ringing in our heads?
So the 2nd half got underway and it wasn’t long before we extended our lead to 5-1. We were cruising but we still could have scored more if we hadn’t overcomplicated our passing. Their keeper was still performing heroics and Vinny had forgotten his instructions to stay deeper than Football Phil and Euan and was making forays up front determined to get on the score sheet. He wasn’t having much success and showed his frustration at one missed attempt by kicking out at the back of their goal net only to find himself caught up and unable to untangle himself. It was like watching a whale thrashing about in a fisherman’s net. He was rewarded eventually as he managed to bag two of our goals.
They did manage to bring on some familiar fresh legs (more of that later) and their keeper decided to change with one of their out players to try and salvage something from the match. Unfortunately it was too little too late and the match finally ended with Grapevine FC as comfortable victors. The result? Wait for it, this is a first. Are you sitting comfortably? We managed a 12-1 victory against a team who, on paper, are no pushover. Two of our team managed hat-tricks as Euan and Tom scored 4 each with Sam and Vinny getting two apiece.
Now about those familiar fresh legs I mentioned earlier. In fact Maui FY had a few familiar faces playing for them. I’m sorry, but it did slip my mind in all the excitement of our victory to mention they did only turn up with seven players and so borrowed some of our lads, including Adam and Mick, who came on later, as well as a couple of lads who had already played in the match before. Well, three points is three points and we’ll take them when and however we can. I can’t control who turns up for the other team and we can only play the team put in front of us.
Our next match is the 7th December so my job as Player/Manager is safe until then. Am I going from ‘The Wally with the Brolly’ to ‘Howard Houdini’? Football can be such a fickle game at this level when one result can turn your fortunes around in an instant.
So the league table now looks like this:-
P W D L GD Pts
Victoria FC 3 2 0 1 9 6
Americana FC 2 2 0 0 8 6
Blue Sky FC 2 2 0 0 7 6
Grapevine FC 3 1 0 2 -4 3
Nerja Feliz 3 1 0 2 -4 3
Team Maui FY 3 0 0 3 -18 0
As a footnote to the report we had a spectator from UK in the form of Helen T’s dad, Des. Bizarrely he said he’d enjoyed the match so much so that he felt inclined to make a donation to the club funds of €40. On behalf of the club I would like to say a huge thank you to him but then a thought occurred to me. Has Des inadvertently bought a majority share holding in Grapevine FC and is he now technically the new owner? It’s happening at the highest level as foreign owners buy into clubs. Will we now see tension in the boardroom between Steve and Helen ‘Abramovich’ T and Helen T’s own Dad, Des ‘Glazier’? Maybe I’ll get a pile of cash to buy new players. Watch this space.