By FRASER HOPE
Feedback from the Old Boys Help Line (1-800-OLD-BOYS) gave the coaching staff some concerns as the number of confirmed players at Fulford amounted to a mere nine unknown persons to make the trip to Lochside. Thanks to our sponsors in Langley, Virginia and P.O. Box 9732, Station T, Ottawa, who kindly offered software that could provide a host of relevant information on the callers to our counsellors. Information that is anonymous and will not be shared with any social media or commercial operations — honestly! The facial and voice recognition features seemed to indicate that many of the more anxious callers were in fact closely associated with the Old Boys squad: coaching staff, players and management.
There have murmurs that with all the injuries to our players our roster of 23 needs some boosting! Where to find adequate star replacements in time for the crucial Bill Drew Tournament now that the winter transfer period has ended? Maybe we will have you use some of our sponsors funding to entice some big names to bypass the North American and Chinese leagues that have been magnets for European has-beens.
As a form of deflection from team concerns, the conversations turned to topics more Salt Spring in nature: the possibility of using four berthed B.C. Ferries as emergency accommodation in case of the “Big One,” dining options in an ever-changing restaurant scene and of course the concern that the fire district trustees might want to emulate Sidney’s new “drive-thru” fire station in the process of being completed.
As the team warmed up in the bright but still brisk sunshine at Lochside with 90 minutes before kick-off, the shooting and goalkeeping skills were put to the test. Well, not really, but readers will remember that Old Boys only have a certain amount of fuel in the tank and the warning light usually comes on well before the final whistle. The turkey vultures circling the field overhead were also an unwelcome intrusion.
At kick-off, nine Old Boys faced 10 Cordova Bay players. Both teams obviously have player commitment problems, the deal was that the Old Boys would get the next player that came onto the pitch, whoever it was — man or beast! In fact Rick Hoogendoorn, president of the SVICSA, was co-opted onto the Old Boys and he did not need to change his shirt because of his red Arsenal Van Persie shirt!
Maybe it was the springlike weather, the first game in ages for both teams, the extra space with reduced numbers, the Fortlek training in the snow drifts of the alpine meadows of Mounts Bruce and Erskine, the calmest of the Zen meditation or possibly the secrets of the “Nine Unknown Men,” the Old Boys arguably produced their finest 45 minutes in this reporter’s memory. Certainly the result of the previous night’s “Classico” with Barcelona now heading Real Madrid in head-to-head contests since 1932 were an inspiration.
Triangulation and accuracy of passing and Zen moves in space opened the Cordova defence, but the software has not yet been developed to overcome “Big Tony” in goal as he continued to thwart the combined thrusts of the Old Boys attack. A fine move from down the right wing initiated by Scott Howe and continued by Andrew Haigh saw Mike McCormick head a for-certain sure goal downward, but they don’t call the Cordova keeper “Big Tony” for nothing. His arm seemed to telescope to bat away the opportunity for the lead.
Donny Brown in goal, acting as a defensive sweeper a la Allison, Liverpool’s wanderlust Brazilian, commanded and directed the midfield with only occasional scary forays well beyond his penalty box.
Half-time came with no score, but the Old Boys were rather pleased with their performance.
It has to be noted that the quality of play especially by the Old Boys meant that the time just flew by. As an assistant referee, I did not need to signal an offside call as both teams kept the ball on the pitch between the lines so there was little delay for retrieving “ballooned” shots over goals or fences.
Coach Graham Tweddle’s half-time tactic talk — the WWII slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On!”was all that was needed to inspire the now famous nine. But there was always the niggle in the back of the mind that the fuel gauge warning light would start to blink!
Same old. Same old second half. With the Old Boys having to give up sub Rick to his home team, the “Nine Worthies” — because that is how they will go down in history — took on the herculean task of not losing but daring to win.
With Brown solid in goal and commanding as sweeper in defence, Dave Toynbee was moved up into attack, causing some disruption to the home team’s plans. Haigh seemed to have a roaming commission to be all over the field like Arjen Robben but also back-tracking in defence when needed.
The Beast was unleashed, i.e. his ankle bracelet was momentarily disabled, and Ben “Cooperman” took wing, causing as always untold chaos in both teams but not giving away any penalties.
The midfield trio of Dave Eadie and Mark Aston seemed to have found new energy feeding the attackers with potential goal opportunities. Luckily the FIFA Drug Enforcement Team were nowhere to be seen.
A free kick in midfield allowed Brown to pick out Toynbee on the right in open space and he worked the ball into the centre where McCormick escaped his shadowing defender, using Haigh as a decoy on the left and at last found Big Tony’s weak spot and rifled through his legs to take an all-deserved lead. With calls to tighten the defence as well as attack for a second insurance goal, the adrenalin-infused goal saw Old Boys capitalize on Cordoba’s efforts to equalize.
A movement started by Brown in goal involved all the team, with Dave Eadie dummying a pass by jumping over it that reached Haigh on the left and making what is now known as the “AD-CL” move cut to the byeline. In heeding my perennial plea to ”always cut the ball back from the line,” the ball found McCormick, who calmly beat the GK for a 2-0 insurance lead. It was noted that everyone should be awarded an assist on the goal and that Cooper should be awarded two points for his participation, or non participation to be precise, in the movement that led to the score, as he was busily running back towards goal to cover for Brown /Allison meanderings downfield.
The final whistle brought to an end an Old Boys performance that must rank as one of the finest not only in determination but skill and stamina with nine players who will no longer be unknown but will share their secrets as true “worthies”of those who have had the honour to wear the OB shirt (now on sale at the club’s memorabilia shop, $0.80).
The soft drinks cooler was almost out of tisanes, apple kefir and Yerba Matte before the team climbed onto the team bus for the ferry home. There was talk of a parade downtown but that was all “cooler talk.” The new Old Boys shirt design is to have a 9 Lions insignia sewn on the left breast.
It would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the support of he who shall remain nameless who supplied an array of Beacon Avenue Bakery’s finest sausage rolls and Cornish pasties before kick-off. Thanks, Scott!
Notes: Nine Unknown Men – Secret Society in Ancient India, Emperor Ashoka, 226 BC; “The Worthies” or “Princes” are nine historical, scriptural, and legendary personages who personify the ideals of chivalry established in the Middle Ages, whose lives were deemed a valuable study for aspirants to chivalric status. The Nine Worthies include Hector, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus, King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillion.
9 Lions – IPA 6.2% ABV Extra Strong Bitter from Nine Pints Brewing Company, Papillion, Nebraska — our latest sponsor.
Can the Old Boys continue the unbeaten run? Can we find more uninjured players? All will be revealed at Carnarvon Park in Victoria versus the Castaways FC 48s at noon on Sunday, March 10.