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Diary of a Social Footballer: Provoking Brian Clough’s ghost


There are some matches where you are reminded of the advantages of playing social football. Sometimes things go outstandingly, implausibly (yet undeniably humorously) wrong, and you’re able to laugh it off rather than brood on it for too long.

This weekend, for the first match of Div 2’s competition round, we were up against Whitby who we’d already played this season. They are a fairly young team, with many players appearing to be teenagers. But they were fit, fast, and for most of the first half beating us in the 50-50 challenges. Our coach somewhat incredulously pointed out at half time that we were letting ourselves be “bullied by kids”, and needed to be more competitive in those scenarios. This caused a teacher teammate some consternation, saying that it’s against her job to push kids around!

For want of a better turn of phrase, at this level a sort of ‘filter’ kicks in when lining up against players who are clearly younger and smaller than oneself. It’s a delicate balance: on the one hand you never want to injure another player, whether through clumsiness or a sheer physical mismatch, but on the other you want to enjoy playing your normal competitive game without feeling like you’re having to consciously regulate yourself. But when it comes down to it, we’re not playing in the Premier League; injure someone and you’re potentially impacting on their ability to work, or on their development as players.

It’s a situation which, for my part, I’m only beginning to properly appreciate, as it’s one I’ve usually been on the other side of  (having played senior football from the age of 15 and, admittedly, injuring myself on one of the rare occasions I foolishly overestimated my own physical strength!).

On a lighter note, the match was notable for reasons other than getting the competition rounds underway. It turned out to be a match where, to be frank, I think I defied physics. A day I, without wanting to get ahead of myself, found myself in the company of players of the calibre of Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, and van Persie, amongst others. Cast your eyes on these fine examples of their handiwork:


*draws breath, grits teeth*

Yeah, I managed to miss a goal scoring opportunity where it was physically easier to score than not. And in all honesty I can’t understand how it happened. The keeper had been chipped, but the shot was into the wind, which had been a menace all game. Having been lurking in the penalty area, and hoping to add to my tally for the game I swiped with my boot, intending the ball to crash into the net’s roof. Wildly overenthusiastically as it turned out, as the ball landed on the roof of the net.

I’m pretty sure I could hear the ghost of Brian Clough whistling through the wind to give me an ear bashing.


Not the best example to set for the kids by any means.

Fortunately we were 2-1 up at this point, a scoreline which remained unchanged despite a flurry of late Whitby attempts on goal.* England, please take note – holding onto a single goal lead can actually be done!


* Yes, believe it or not, I’m reporting the score, without sending anyone on a wild goose chase, unlike last week.




Categories: Diary of a Social Footballer

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Ella Reilly

Waiheke Islander currently in exile in Wellington. Supporter of Nottingham Forest and England, through thick and thin (there's been plenty of that). As a player is somewhat averse to the offside rule.

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