Salt Spring Old Boys: The Boys Are Back In Town

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By FRASER HOPE

DRIFTWOOD CONTRIBUTOR

“Guess who just got back today 

Them wild-eyed boys that had been away 

Haven’t changed that much to say 

But man, I still think them guys are crazy . . . .”

Thin Lizzy, 1976

Apologies to Thin Lizzy for comparisons with the Salt Spring Old Boys FC, but the lyrics don’t lie! The Driftwood is pleased to offer a “twofer” Old Boys report of games on Oct. 4 and 18 to make up for the missing opening game report of the Old Boys 2020-21 season. 

This reporter wishes he had a good excuse for being MIA on the reporting scene but can only blame lack of game report fitness after the long COVID lockdown.

There has been considerable activity on and off the field as Old Boys FC Management prepared for the possibility of a new season. New signings prior to the transfer deadlines; search for a more successful solution to a lacklustre season which promised much but fizzled out with suggestion that manager Graham Tweddle may have run out of strategies to motivate the dressing room.

He could be facing the “shoogly peg syndrome” that all great managers ultimately face with Arsene Wenger, Maurice Phochettino and even Pep Guardiola being recent examples. Old Boys FC asked their Spanish contact with his inside knowledge of the inner workings of Man City to secure a sensational move for Pep along with Aguerro from City to Salt Spring after a series of poor results at the start of the Premier League. Alas it all fell through! Maybe something was lost in the translation?

Management realized the mooted stadium replacement would have to be put on hold as finances were depleted as Longtime season ticket holders were asking for reimbursement for games cancelled last season and the return of funds pledged for the new season. The hoped-for TV revenue for showing old videos of Old Boys’ past seasons did not materialize. The new car parking arrangements on Rainbow Road were scaled back as social distancing rules restricted tailgate parties, which cut into soft drinks and tissane sales for the Team Cooler Inc. The attempt to replicate The Wembley Way was much reduced but in a nod to the host team GISS Scorpions, a Yellow and Black sidewalk was completed.

New signings became a priority as South Vancouver Island Classics Soccer Association rules to conform with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice meant that all prospective squad players would have to sign a waiver absolving everyone and anyone from legal proceedings resulting from any acquired viruses or injuries. Much soul searching — and let’s be honest, arm twisting — allowed Old Boys FC to field a team to meet Vantreights in the first home game of the season at GISS field on Oct. 4 before a large crowd, who were mainly present if lack of fitness meant player resuscitations could be necessary.

As to the game itself, the “Usual Suspects” were bolstered by the return of the injured David Toynbee, anxious to return to the fray, and Bruce Winstone in goal. With COVID rule adjustments that seemed Byzantine in their application, the game kicked off under dreich conditions, an East Coast Haar, on the pristine GISS field — thanks, Mike and the Mechanics (grounds staff!). I have been listening to too much Deezer, Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz streaming services over lockdown.

Soon Scott Howe had his first of the season shout of “anguish” as his misdirected clearance made players and fans scatter on the bleachers, but quickly made amends with a fine through-pass initiating an attack on goal. Within five minutes of the season start, the Old Boys were remembering the skills drummed into them by many sessions at Portlock under Tweddle’s supervision — the peg not so shoogly after all. A skillful attack with fine approach work by Rainer Funk and Stefan Cermak saw Toynbee unleash a shot to give the Old Boys a lead and Toynbee his first points in the search for The Golden Boot Award.

“No contact” is the main adjustment that both sides seemed to have missed in the pre-match briefing by the officials as players were felled like trees on a Beddis Road clearcut. More chances fell to Old Boys strikers but were missed with one set-up by Cermak seeing Mike McCormick searching in his bag for a sand wedge with the ball sailing in a high arc over the goal. Against the run of play, Bruce Winstone made a fine save, paying back his high transfer fee. Press box members were unanimous in observing his resemblance to the Liverpool keeper Allison, with both showing a relaxed calm while controlling the ball in the box that was not entirely transmitted to the rest of the defences both at the Kop and Rainbow Road. The heart is always going to be in the mouth as far as his Old Boys goalkeeping career goes. Same old same old!

Substitutions came fast and furious as the long lay-off took its toll on pulmonary-cardiac efficiency, but David Eadie spying the Vantreights’ keeper a little off his line launched a well-judged arcing shot from 35 metres out that increased the lead to 2-0 at half time.  

There was little or no team-tactics talk as Tweddle, confident of his now strong hold over the dressing room, decided silence was the best option. Overconfidence allowed Vantreights at last to unlock Winstone’s goal, cutting back the lead with the pressure only being relieved by two goal-saving efforts by Bruce “Allison.” Ye of little faith!  Awakened by the close calls, the Old Boys regained their composure with Funk and McCormick setting up Toynbee for his second goal and a restored two-goal lead.

A long Donny Brown launch out of defence gave McCormick the chance to show his two-footed skills by drilling a fourth goal into the bottom left corner with his left foot. A late consolation goal for Vantreights brought up the final whistle to give the Old Boys a well-deserved first win of the season. With respect for social distance, a call for three cheers for both teams and the referees substituted for the traditional handshakes.

It has to be noted that Dan the Man referee and his two assistant referees were commended for their excellent officiating. I cannot recall any team in the past praising the two young assistant referees who were excellent in the clarity and neutrality of their decisions. Congratulations to Salt Spring United’s Malcolm Legg, who is in charge of referee training, and his fellow officials.

Yes! Thin Lizzy have it nailed! “But man, I still think them guys are crazy . . . . “

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Second Chapter, Verses 1 to . . .

Ronaldo Scores! Winstone Shuts Down the Opposition! Old Boys Win!

Chapter II in the Old Boys’ search for redemption saw them challenge visitors Zgoda at GISS Rainbow Way on Sunday, Oct. 18, hoping to continue their winning ways. 

The tactics of applying “social distancing” on the field follows the Old Boys’ devotion to the tiki-taka style of short frequent passing amongst players that was so successful against Vantreights. The two-metre social distancing rule has been admirably followed by the majority of Salt Springers with the only down side being that many drivers carry the two-metre regulation distance into their driving style, no matter the distance or road conditions. This reporter has resorted to “Two-metre Driving Distance Shaming” as he gives the following driver the 1,000-metre stare into the rearview mirror.

I digress! Back to Maverick! The Old Boys were bolstered by two new signings who were able to join the club after requisite quarantine — Jude Shugar and Ronald Barrett — so 15 fully fit Old Boys were available to play the most unpredictable team in the league. Depending on the day, Zgoda are either unbeatable or end up beating themselves. Always a skillful and entertaining spectacle!

Manager Graham Tweddle, now comfortably in charge, sent out his fittest, fastest squad  . . . maybe that should read “the first 11 players to turn up for pre-match warm-up.”  

The Thanksgiving mini break allowed for recharging of batteries and healing of injuries and the first half saw end-to-end encounters but no goals as Zgoda was unable to break down the solid defence of Scott Howe, Donny Brown, Ben Cooper and Dennis Shaw, ably marshalled by goalkeeper Bruce Winstone, aka “Allison.” 

At the attacking end, combination strikers Mike Davis and Rainer Funk, rotating with David Toynbee and Mike McCormick, enabled by speedy wing halves of Shugar and Stefan Cermak and a midfield of Mark Aston and Matt Johnston, were thwarted by a Zgoda keeper who made up for his lack of inches, sorry, centimetres, by being a very last line of defence. It must be pointed out that Old Boys made his task much easier by repeatedly finding the large target painted on his midriff or vainly trying to get the security guard at Windsor Plywood to “please return our ball, Mister.”

The only highlight of any significance saw the first yellow card of season given. No, it was not Red Mist Aston, or bungling Ben Cooper but Scott Howe who carried out a textbook professional foul in preventing an attacker from getting clear on the wings. “It was a fair cop, Your Honour,” as Howe admitted, returning to his defensive position suitably chastised. Differences of opinion on referee rulings meant the official had to translate into Polish and Glaswegian for the visitors’ clarification and justification for his calls. Half-time came with Old Boys frustrated by Zgoda’s goalkeeper and also wary of Zgoda’s ability to surprise with counter-attacks.

Half time saw little commentary, but Shugar lost a partial replacement tooth, which of course led to the obvious retorts from teammates and spectators like “Sweet Toothless Shugar.” His retort was: “Mother told me there would be days like this!” Reporter Hope was unable to interview Tweddle on tactical and player adjustments for the second 45 minutes to break the im(pass)e. Early on, Cooper was subbed by Shaw. Like speed for speed!

Aston lay down to seek a substitution as his Ibuprofen failed to provide any end to joint and muscle pain. Towards the last 15 minutes of the game, the Old Boys’ intense fitness regime began to pay dividends. Laying siege to the Zgoda net and eventually after a series of scrambled corner kicks in front of the net, the new boy “Ronaldo” Barrett, our Brazilian signing, stabbed the ball home for the lead.  

A 1-0 lead for Old Boys! Hmmm! Could they hold on for the win or would they succumb to a draw, or worse, lose 2-1 in the dying seconds? It was a scenario not unknown in past history. “Squeaky bum” time!

In the last minutes, the Old Boys raced up field with Shugar in full flight. Dziadek Defender, a former Gdansk shipbuilder and works football player, now well into his 70s, neatly clicked Shugar’s heels to impede a sure shot at goal. There seemed to be some dispute about whether the foul occurred inside or just outside the penalty box. Shugar stepped up to take the penalty and shot to the keeper’s right, who pushed the ball to temporary safety, but ever-alert McCormick fed the rebound to Shugar, who managed to squeeze the ball into the far corner for the 2-0 lead. Just moments after the goal the referee blew the final whistle. 

It was a tight, nervous game that pitted the Zgoda goalkeeper against the Old Boys, but with an always possible surprise win for Zgoda on the counter-attack.

Post-game analysis around the socially distanced soft-drinks cooler reached a consensus that the three new boys — Bruce, Ronaldo and Toothless Shugar — would be great assets to the team. 

Old Boys face the Beast next week when they host Centaurs FC at the same place, same time and with hopefully the same result!

There is still a final report that needs to be published: The Annual Golden Boot Awards and Summary Minor Trophies. It’s more House of Horrors than a Hall of Fame Ceremony. Halloween is coming up, so that might be an appropriate time.

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