Just what makes the Liverpool Ramblers Veterans Team Tick- or not?
Last week the Premier League, the Football Association and the government announced an injection of £120M into grassroots football over the next three years, with the aim of improving facilities and increasing participation. Discussion about grassroots football often mentions “the community” and “the next generation”, and where positive developments can be made to these valuable ends. But there is a more fundamental question, and this needs resolving, if the next 40 years are not going to be “same old same old”; and that is, how on earth can the Liverpool Ramblers Vets stop conceding over 100 goals in a season?
Every Saturday morning, Veterans, as defined in the Ramblers Yellow Book as ‘P’ members (this definition may need to be revisited), battle against any combination of hangovers, dubious fitness levels and then scandalous playing surfaces in a vain attempt to demonstrate that they’ve “still got it”. While the skill levels will inevitably be lacking, at least one aspect of the Ramblers Vets Saturday afternoon game is as strong as the top flight and that is, you have got to be in it to win it – really?
So having read about, and had the dubious ‘pleasure’ of being a part of (note I do not dare say play in) many of the high scoring debacles, I thought it would be worth trying to determine just what exactly is going wrong. It can’t be the dedication, the combined aged of last week’s squad was over 700 (that is nothing) the week before it was over 900- so getting Vets out of their wheelchairs, and commodes, is clearly not the issue.
So what is it then? I have come to the conclusion (and it is only a personal one, not that of any collective, nor, does it represent an attempt at ripping away the skipper’s armband) that of course there are a number of interacting issues; undoubtedly, there is a shortening of hamstrings; leading to an inability to kick the ball as far as maybe was once possible; that the air in the respirators only really lasts 55 minutes these days; that passing is not as easy at its looks on HD television screens; that Veterans goalkeepers need to lose four stone to be fit enough to concede over 100 goals- just look at Holty, Waterworth, and Kingsford, they would never have been fit enough to pick the ball out of their net on that many occasions a season. All of which is totally understandable but there is something else that jumps out at me; that is, and perhaps linked to the failing respirators, the gradual but increasing and worrying disappearance of communication on the field of play.
After all English football, whether Corinthian or Professional, has always been characterised by its intangible, unquantifiable qualities of spirit, passion, grit, determination but, less notably, “talking”.
It thus follows that ‘downing tools’ and then not talking to each other leads to significant defeat- obvious! Talking is easy. Not talking enough is generally agreed in Veterans football to be highly counter-productive. Ramblers Vets are urged before kick-off for “lots of talking”, especially “back there”. Not talking is an accusation that can only be levelled at a whole team, rather than an individual (unless it is the captain, who must shout indiscriminately for 90 minutes, for that is his job.)
So, let’s go back to basics, press Alt F5 and reset, surely we must, if football is once again to become fun- this isn’t fun!
To avoid this indictment, a set of largely useless phrases has emerged, which can be called upon whenever necessary to punctuate a period of relative silence. Everyone knows them, everyone understands what they are vaguely supposed to mean, and almost nobody questions them. Maybe, therefore, a review of the players’ manual (last dusted down in 1975 by some in the current team) might refresh memories to help increase the levels of volume during those long periods of silence throughout the game itself.
Clichéd as they are, many strained bellows you hear on a football pitch – “Man on!”, “Out we go!”, “Tally ho!” etc. – are all useful instructions. The following set of on-pitch rallying cries, however, deserve closer inspection and will hopefully get us back on track:
1) “We’ve Gone Quiet”
Going quiet, as highlighted above, is the sign of a malfunctioning team. No one is talking, which means they all might as well go home, or have gone shopping. A period of notable quietness is ended only when Nigel draws everyone’s attention to it: “Come on lads, we’ve gone quiet!” It can, at the shouter’s discretion, be bookended with “…haven’t we?” to offer the illusion of a debate where one is really not available.
2) “Straight In”
A staple instruction that can be used only at a very specific moment – namely, the opponents kicking off the game. “Run after the ball!”, this phrase demands, “Chase it when they kick it backwards!”, Roge, only the strikers need to do this, of course, and the moment quickly passes. Getting “straight in” is not a continuous requirement, but merely an opening gesture of intent, which is likely to be unfulfilled. It is often accompanied by a mindless, yet somehow entirely appropriate-feeling, clap of the hands.
3) “Two On The Edge”
When a corner is awarded, it is everyone’s job to pick up their man. One eagle-eyed player (usually Kev) has the extra task of spotting a discrepancy in this complex marking system, in that there are two unattended opponents lumbering into the penalty area. Usually, on the blind side of the resident fullbacks.
In extreme circumstances, there may be “three on the edge” – an unthinkable catastrophe that is met with a suitably incredulous cry of “I’ve got three here!”. The lack of concentration may be down to the defence’s preoccupation with the big man, the lanky opposing centre-back/estate agent who has finally arrived with a look of great purpose from the back.
4) “All Day”
An utterly irritating phrase (specifically designed to be so) used by smug opponents to declare your attacking efforts as weak and unlikely to succeed, even if repeated. Often said twice in quick succession – as a speculative effort flies into neighbouring allotments – to compound the humiliation. Rushie, it simply means you have no one within a cow field of you, so please take it under control.
5) “It’s Still 0-0”
Football is an overwhelmingly childish pursuit. Much of football supporting is based on schadenfreude and suffering the taunts, in return, when your own team is humbled.
To combat this threat, Ramblers employ an overly defensive stance, hoping that an audible absence of pride (young juan) will pre-empt any possible fall. And so, if the Vets race into an early lead, our stern-faced, armband-toting Skipper will attempt to construct a parallel universe in which the game is, in fact, goalless. The job is not done, he insists – a point Nige may or may not return to when the final score is 3-10 or something similarly amateur.
6) “Box ‘Em In!”
A cult classic, perhaps, which satisfies two fundamental criteria: 1) a laughable attempt at tactical insight, and 2) exclaimed almost instinctively, every single time. The ball goes out for an opposition throw-in, deep in their final third, and it is universally accepted that they do not have the adequate technical skills (or simply the upper-body strength) to play/hurl their way to safety.
7) “Yellow Head on This!”
Possibly the most pointless one of all. For the uninitiated, this cryptic command is for your teammates to meet an imminent opposition hoof with their head before the other lot can. No accuracy is necessary but congratulations are available for heading it really, really hard, straight back where it came from. “WELL UP ROGE!” you are told, with your name declared in full if the game is particularly tense. More forward-thinking Veterans concern themselves with the second ball, which is often simply another header. Third balls remain an untapped, bewildering resource, possibly due to Chaos Theory.
Loosely translated as “Now look here, Rambler, I neither want nor trust you to play your way out of trouble. Please dispose of the ball as quickly and as far away as possible.” Failure to do as directed leaves one open to castigation for “fucking about with it there,” but this may be permitted if the player is in possession of a sufficient amount of…
The ball drops from the air and a player finds himself in acres of space. Pointing this out to him might seem a good idea. It’ll calm him down, allow him to get his head up and play a pass, rather than treat the ball like an unpinned grenade. Similar to (4) above, Rushie.
However, when 10 other players scream “Time! Time!” in unison, it tends to have quite the opposite effect. The futility of the situation is laid bare when, after giving away possession easily, the player is offered a final, withering, retrospective observation: “You had time.”
10) “Who’s got tape?”
Usually asked also by Young Juan – the gold-dust of Ramblers Vets football, but no longer needed for keeping up one’s socks rather now for stopping the legs chaffing or keeping the loose bits in place! Despite being available in any hardware shop, as the sole provider of ankle-securing and sock tape, Murf, once you declare and dispense it, you will never see it again.
11) “Ref! Ref! How long?”
Usually asked by McGuck, with surprising desperation. Whatever the answer, McGuck will always add about 10% on before relaying the revised figure to fellow Vets in the hope that somehow the seven goal deficit might somehow be plugged!
12) “Watch the short!”
It is considered a cardinal sin to let an opposing team pass a goal-kick out to a full-back. Precisely what sort of devastating attack an average Vets side are expected to be capable of, deep in their own half, with the ball at the feet of traditionally the least capable player in their ranks, is anyone’s guess.
Veterans-level goal-kicks, thumped aimlessly as far down the pitch as possible, often aren’t a job for our goalkeeper. Designated goal-kick taker for their sides, many centre-halves can confirm that fetching a distant match ball in preparation for this moment is one of the more soul-destroying aspects of life at around 2PM on every Saturday between September and May. Not at the Ramblers!
13) “One of you!”
When a Vets midfield is so often instructed to “get a yellow (and blue) head on this”, you often witness an unsightly clash of yellow and blue clad bodies as they simultaneously attempt to perform their primary duty. It is left to a team-mate to helpfully point out that only one of them was required on the scene.
14) “Don’t let it bounce!”
A rare example of a phenomenon that afflicts a Premier League side just as much as it does your Saturday afternoon rabble. Letting the ball bounce, especially “back there”, is traditionally asking for trouble unless your name is Roge and the Skipper has heralded you as player of the season, in January!
15) “Tally Ho”
No doubt the knights of the round table will have heard it many times as King Arthur (not our one) frolicked around the fields of Camelot! Our one – sadly retired, and greatly missed- regularly deployed the same battle cry as the Peter Kay esk ‘top bombing’ up and under pass (?) was sent nearer to the ISS than to the opponents goal! That said, bloody effective, as almost without exception the outburst was met with an opposition that froze in disbelief just long enough for Ramblers to mount an attack!
16) And finally “Where Was The Shout?”
The ultimate act of Ramblers Vets buck-passing. A player (could be anyone) is unceremoniously dispossessed from behind, to howls of derision from his teammates. Accompanied by a despairing flap of the arms, the player begs of his colleagues: “Where was the shout?!” There wasn’t one. Because they’ve gone quiet, haven’t they?
And there you have it- NO Match report – there is nothing to report except that we lost! Depending on what tomorrow brings Army Crusaders are next to the Sword- God help us!
Happy Easter to one and all and on behalf of the cast of thousands, thank you Skipper for everything this season, we have, in all seriousness, loved it- it certainly beats shopping or emptying one’s commode!
|March 24, 2018||2:15 pm||Vets XI Fixtures||2017-18|
|St Mary's Old Boys|