Stuart’s and Jade’s families, the Ramblers, and our friends from Convocation gathered for the annual Stuart Hooper memorial in honour of the Club Captain who was so sadly taken from us far too soon. Whilst I generally played at the opposite end of the club hierarchy to Stuart, when he first came to the club I was skippering the 4s and he helped us out on a number of occasions when we needed players and the 1sts weren’t playing. When Stuart played on the 4s he had far greater ability than the rest of the team, but he was invariably enthusiastic and encouraging, never frustrated or critical of the 4s’ errors (and there were many). The words in the yellow book under the heading A True Rambler mentions helping others to become more proficient and I can think of no better example than Stuart. Others will have their memories, particularly his teammates in the 1s and his friends, and all those memories are of a wonderful guy. That was his character.
Saturday was the first time we had entered a dressing room since pre-pandemic days but as Jordan walked in the room flashing a vulgar pair of new white/pink boots to general disdain it felt like we were straight back into the swing of things. Competence in putting up the goalposts had gone a bit rusty in the close season, or at least mine had, as they tipped over on the first lift, fortunately without any injury. However once they were in place your correspondent looked on with some concern as, owing to soil sediment gathered in the bottom of the post holes, the height of the crossbar appeared significantly in excess of the regulation 8’ from the ground. I shared my concern with goalkeeper Nigel Power who jumped up to gauge whether the cross bar needed recalibration. Seeing the gap between the tip of Nigel’s fingers and the crossbar did not assuage my concerns. However Nigel drew the diametrically opposite conclusion stating it’d be alright and the same for both sides. Respectful of Nigel’s seniority and experience in the game I said no more.
Jim the referee spoke to the players very movingly of his memories of Stuart and following a minute’s applause the game kicked off. The instructions “Don’t let Jordan score” were bellowed from the sideline, I think from the opposition but you can’t always assume that. However within a couple of minutes the ball broke loose to the left and Dave Sutton whipped in a perfect cross straight onto Jordan’s head a couple of feet out from goal. I wouldn’t say it was unmissable, particularly as I’ve seen him miss a fair few from similar distance over the years, but on this occasion there was no mistake. The sound of sighing was heard all over Moor Lane.
A second was added soon afterwards when a Convo defender turned another dangerous cross from Dave Sutton into his own goal. This was followed by a fantastic solo effort from Ben Phillips, dribbling from the half way line past several Convocation players and even a couple of Ramblers before a cool finish put the Ramblers 3-0 up. On turning for the restart Nigel was gesturing to the players to go easy.
Whether the players took this a little too strongly or whether it was just the usual failings, Convocation were soon back in the game without having to go to the trouble of putting the ball in the net themselves. Under pressure Tom Newton’s defensive header went up in the air and on its downwards trajectory passed through the ample space between Power’s outstretched arm and the underside of the crossbar. Not long afterwards Alex McGuckin found the space just underneath the crossbar once more. A good save from Power (see I am fair) resulted in a Convocation corner which was only partly cleared and the cross whipped back in. Whilst it might be said that the Ramblers defender had left his man in a bit too much space, it was nevertheless a fantastic glancing header from the corner of the 6 yard box which looped in the air and, well you know the rest by now.
In the meantime the Ramblers had scored a couple more to preserve their lead and the teams turned round at 5-3.
The second half belonged to the Ramblers. My recollection is a bit hazy but I did note that Jordan notched a hattrick (albeit sadly for him pre-season friendly goals don’t count in the goalscoring charts). Ben Phillips scored his second, he also showed a great touch to control a long pass quite beautifully and played in Bradshaw who finished sweetly for one of the best goals I’ve seen at Ramblers. Deano and Tom Reade also got on the scoresheet at some stage. It finished 9-4 to Ramblers, leading to some equally moving words fro Stuart’s Dad Mike before he presented the trophy to Jordan.
It’s good to be back, Ramble on. The Ramblers were represented by;
Mornington (c), Power, Clay, Egan, Newton, Harthan (Match Report Correspondent), McGuckin, A, Tiplady, Sutton, Reade, T, Phillips, B, Whittingham, Killen, A, Hogan, Prescott, Martin, Bradshaw