By FRASER HOPE
The careful team planning and pleading for Old Boys to turn out for a marathon weekend of soccer at the Bill Drew Memorial Tournament at Finlayson was somewhat disrupted by late calls off and flight cancellations.
Senior management had managed to corral sufficient bodies. I will rephrase that: sufficient players to provide a cushion of subs to cover for the expected drop-off in game-fit Old Boys.The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men left coach Graham Tweddle busily rejigging his preferred diamond formation to fit the remaining personnel.
The weather was so inclement that there was no usual circle of meditation in the Fulford terminal early Saturday as all seemed to prefer the warmth of their vehicles. Once in the Old Boys Lounge on the Skeena Queen the team list continued to be adjusted as the tweets came flying from all directions telling of sickness, injury and delayed flights. Old Boys seemed deep in thought regarding the immense task that now faced the team playing four games over two days. The buffeting that the Skeena Queen was experiencing gave some idea of the wild conditions that could be expected on the wide open Finlayson Park. More to the point the Be . . . the Soft Drinks Garden was still waiting the arrival of supplies and the hamburger stall was yet to fire up the grills.
9:45 a.m. kickoff saw 11 Old Boys ably assisted by Old Boy Eamon Murphy, once an Old Boy always an Old Boy, playing on the infamous Blanshard pitch, which resembles a WWI battled field against Westsiders from Vancouver. It really was a contest amongst the uneven bounce of the pitch, the swirling arctic wind, skillful opposition and Old Boys renowned for their slow starts. It is best to draw a veil over the proceedings as the only moments of any significance were a Westside corner kick that swung outwards towards the centre circle and then turned at right angles behind a howling gale and was bundled over the goal line for a 1-0 lead.
A ferocious shot was tipped onto the bar by Richard Steel, and came to a Westside who managed Old Boys style to hit the crossbar, whence a third Westside shot went wide of the goal.
Despite valiant counter-attacks, Old Boys were unable to solve the problem of the physical conditions that disrupted their normal silky-smooth passing game and the 1-0 scoreline remained at the final whistle.
Undeterred, the Old Boys retired to the sanctuary of the Soft Drinks Garden where they fortified their spirits with electrolyte replacement health drinks and delicious grilled cheeseburgers. Communications personnel provided good news that Matt Johnson would arrive in time to drum up support for the second game at 4 p.m., along with the return of “D.B.” Cooper after his cosmetic surgery, to provide some pace at the back, the sidelines, up from and wherever his gyroscope would dictate. The one concern for coaching staff was the long interval between the end of the first game at 11 a.m. and the start at 4 p.m., a known hazard from all previous tournaments.
Bolstered by the new arrivals, Tweddle was now able to employ “The Diamond” and the team nodded in assent to his explicit and lengthy tactics. Methinks we are maybe being a tad generous here. The wide open turf field of Finlayson once again provided the Old Boys the surface for their well-known passing game — the SS Tiki Taka — honed over the years on the playing fields of Hydro, High School and Fernwood stadia. The opponents, Calgary, had requested of the Tournament Organizers a game against the Old Boys because of the connections between Tweddle and his old Calgary mates. The Calgary team travel the world to participate in tournaments in Hawaii, U.S., Italy and Australia and expect to win!
Needless to say the Old Boys relished this challenge and provided a complete contrast to the a.m. performance and swept majestically downfield behind the skilled, controlled defence marshalled by Donny Brown and Tweddle, who was ably supported on the outside by Martin Thorn and Scott Howe. The midfield of Dave Eadie, Mark Aston and Mike Berndt carried on providing opportunities for goals to the strikers Mike McCormick. Dave Toynbee and Mike Davis. Such was the versatility of the team that substitutions slotted in successfully to any role they were assigned. Dennis Shaw provided cover for all positions on defence.
Not surprisingly, Old Boys took the lead when Eadie ran onto a pass to crash the ball into the net for 1-0 lead. Unaccustomed to being behind, Calgary mounted a series of attacks with aplomb, but one tremendously powerful shot from 25 metres saw GK Steel turn the ball over the bar to safety — a defining TSN Turning Point in the Game. A goal for Calgary at that point may have been a fatal blow for the Old Boys.
Spurred on by Steel’s timely save, the Old Boys started the second half full of confidence, such that a Calgary defender in attempting to prevent Eadie from scoring threw him to the turf, hogtied him at the ankles and jumped into the air triumphantly with only the white stetson missing from his performance. Eadie calmly slotted the resulting penalty for a two-goal lead.
A further attack down the right wing saw Eadie shoot/cross/slip towards goal to see a defender connect to leave the keeper stranded. A “H”at Trick for Eadie, hotly disputed by the Golden Boot Award statistician, could seal the victory. The Old Boys up 3-0 was not a scoreline one would expect but it was richly deserved.
Calgary, seeking some reward to uphold Alberta’s dignity, stormed back and a fierce shot reduced the scoreline, but Old Boys were still in complete command, especially when “D.B.s” software was set to defence and provided speed in defensive coverage.
The Old Boys quickly retired to the Garden for a quick celebratory drink before some headed for the ferry. The remaining four members and their entourage would remain in Victoria to ensure a full team list for Sunday’s games. A curfew had been arranged so that all would be safely tucked up for the night, fresh for the morrow!
Day Two of the Tournament
Sunday saw a welcome change in the weather with Old Boys determined to capitalize on the win over Calgary in the two remaining games of the tournament. Same team, bolstered by the fly-in appearance of Charley Mayer from the Interior; same field but different opponents — Gordon Head — but unfortunately the same result of the previous morning session. An added difficulty was in the referee having a more than neutral connection with Gordon Head, which saw two assistant referees’ decisions overruled and not to the advantage of the Old Boys.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology employed for the first time at the tournament confirmed the assistant referee’s decision that Mayer was onside, but a combination of loud complaints from the Gordon Head bench managed to persuade the referee that he was indeed offside and cancelled out Mike McCormick’s goal. The game was decided on a breakaway goal that squeaked inside the post that gave Gordon Head an undeserved victory.
Last Game of the Season
Having less time than normal to replace electrolytes in the Garden, the Old Boys headed for the main stadium to play the last game of the season. As the players ran out of the tunnel to resounding cheers for each Old Boy announced on the public announcement system there came a sudden hush as the dreaded words “Darcy, GK Vantreights” was announced! The Old Boys’ nemesis was in the opposition line-up! Could this last-minute blow destroy the hopes of a winning end to the season?
Naw! Old Boys quickly moved into the precision style of the previous day’s victory over Calgary and soon had Vantreights on the ropes. The high-line pressure soon caused mistakes on defence and allowed Aston to pounce on a pensive slip to provide Murphy with the opportunity to beat Darcy to the far corner.
The Old Boys’ large travelling support lead by the cheer leaders provided all the encouragement needed to keep a tight grip on the game. Backing music
“Take it Easy, Take it Easy
Don’t let the sound of your team drive you crazy
We may lose and We may win, though we may never be here again
So open up the opposition, So Take it Easy!” (Eagles 1972)
provided a cautionary warning as GK Steel had to perform one of his TSN Turning Point saves to keep up the momentum.
Ben Cooper, our own Exocet human missile, went the length of the field and did a 360-degree pirouette that confused everyone, Ben included, which seemed to demoralize the opposition. At half time, IT reprogrammed Cooper’s software so as to stop him from crossing the halfway line in an attempt to hold on to the 1-0 lead. Pas de probleme! Acting as a decoy, Tweddle allowed Johnson to cut back from the byline and McCormick roofed it with Darcy stranded. Not even by his big toe-poke: 2-0.
It was all but over bar the shouting when Tweddle, obviously on a mission, stole down the right wing and in unselfish fashion squared the ball into the centre for Murphy to increase the lead to 3-0.
By this time, Davis and Aston had retired aggravating injuries acquired while surviving the overnight stay. Aston, looking at the clock, realized the Garden would close shortly and managed to negotiate with the Vantreights coach a shortened half so all could make “Last Orders, Please” before the closing bell at 5:30 p.m. Everyone was in agreement and after a quick handshake streaked to the refreshment tent.
Fastest we’ve seen the team run all weekend! Thanks to the Fourth Mike, Salt Spring summer resident, for making a valuable contribution in the final victory.
Old Boys left the stadium to the music –
“Whether you’re a defender, or whether you’re an attacker
You’re Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ alive
Feel the stadium breakin”, and everybody shakin’
And we’re Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive
Ah,ha,ha,ha, Stayin’ alive, Stayin’ Alive
Ah,ha,ha ha, Staaayin’ Alive!!!!”
(Bee Gees 1977)
On the ferry home everyone agreed that it was a Tournament of Two Halves. Afternoons are better than mornings, a turf field is better than a minefield. The discussion continued using The Alexandria Quartet (Lawrence Durrell, 1957-1960) as a model for future Old Boys planning: to be named The Finlayson Quartet 2019, contrasting on an exploration of relativity and the notions of continuum and subject–object relation, in modern senior classic football.
Such was the success that Old Boys, with considerable credit given to the many, are busy planning on future tournaments in Vancouver, Oregon and Washington.
A Joint Independent Press Tournament Committee and SVICSA awarded Old Boys FC the Most Sportsmanlike Team of the League and Richard Steel MVP of the Old Boys FC for TSN Turning Point Saves.
That’s All Folks! It has certainly been a Looney Tunes sort of a season!
Old Boys Stay’n Alive! Stayin’! Just!
“It was the Crocs that did it!”