By the powers vested in me I declare the Premier World Series Of Champions, series one to be started

Ok, its been a while…but I have reasons, we all have reasons, injuries, house moves, more injuries, changes in players, change in our home ground, but throughout it all we kept playing, but we lost count – ish. So, by the powers vested in me by the being the second longest player in the group, and without the explicit permission of the keeper of all that is truthful and accurate (because I think I’m pulling a massive fast-on), I am resetting the clock. It is now April 2018 and we are in a new World Series, now retitled the Premier World Series, and the scores stand at Darks 8 Whites 6.

The old World Series’ ended all with the Whites up by 2 but we will gloss over that because we all know that anything that happened before the Premiership doesn’t count for a hill of beans, therefore World Series XI is now the Premier World Series Of Champions I and its all just got a whole lot bigger and jazzier and full of international players with funny sounding names. It’s now, its big, its colossal, its ginormous, football – the blades5aside version – is back.

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Jose & I

I do not know what is expected of me with this match report. The facts are straight forward.

Whites are dominant. For the first time they are ahead in the World Series, leading 5-4 in titles, in games they have won 82, to the Darks 80, across the 9 series.

They are strutting like peacocks in Spring, tail feathers full of pomp and perfume, Paddy’s socks are an assault to nature herself, that colour does not exist in the palate of God’s own making. Seemingly the Darks have no answer, even when ahead in the very final seconds we still play until the Whites win.

I can tie my scarf like Mouriniho, I can share his passion, rage as if I am his brother at the injustice, decimated with injuries and subterfuge, unsettled by the ever changing line-up whilst the consistency and the industry of the Whites steamrolls their strutting Bauhaus, part Jagger-esque part monolithic presence ever forward, and yet in all our victories we never once claimed having a series lead made us the Ultimate World Series Champions, words like daggers dagger daggers. I shall return this week, with a new shirt, a Holy shirt, a blessed shirt. As I have done so already, I do so again, humble in defeat, I raise my glass to the Whites for their World Series but in this hour choose wisely, whether to strut or tread gently…

“for the God’s will lay before them those who try to blind them with unnatural colours”

(Cicero, 62BC, Pro Archia Poeta, in defence of the poet Aulus Licinius Archias)

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1st September 2015: Biggleswade

And so with the summer holidays slowly drawing to a close and September now being upon us, the transfer window having shut it is often at this time that you can start to think about have long it will be before the autumn knit wear will be brought out and worn in anger, as opposed to being flung casually over your shoulders whilst sipping cocktails on the terrace….good job then we all have the comfort blanket that is the ever constant game of Thursday night football, come rain or come shine, come slacks or come waders to keep us….well in truth I have no idea of how to finish the sentence, so answers on a postcard please to….

My favourite final word of a sentence is…
PO Box 1864
Biggleswade

So this week, it is still….yes still, good lord still, 8-8 in games, who will be there?

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12th August 2015: Eva Carneiro

And so the new football season is off and running (not us though, we still grind through our world championship which still sits tied at 8-8) and the hype has already begun. But before you think this is just me heading down the path of a cheap jibe at United, think again, there is always someone who gets surprisingly tonked on opening day, think Norwich a few seasons back, think Arsenal this season, who knows at the end of this season it might even be Bristol City that people are looking back at and saying wow they turned it around spectacularly, but instead my opening weekend comment is one where yet again I stand up for the sisterhood in football, after all most of you say I play like a girl…or is it that I go down like a girl…or are you referring to something totally different by that…I digress….and that is Mourinho’s benching of Eva Carneiro. Forget about the player she went on to treat not actually being hurt and therefore being a stereotypical tantrum throwing foreign play acting softy and not crunching a handful of Tarmac for his one man down team-mates…hang on, I was born abroad….I’m not coming out of this narrative too well….Jose you are out of line on this one, if she doesn’t know the game, who’s fault is that, you’re the manager, man up, we want more women in the game and especially ones as gorgeous as Eva, just punish her in a more FIFA manner….tighter shorts perhaps….oh I ruined it at the end there didn’t I.

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4th August: Well Played Jess, Well Played

I don’t know how old we all are? Every week as we take to our little field of dreams and hold on to our youth in some way we put these advancing years to one side: the aches, the pains, the ailments, the visits to the physio, the multiple strappings, the gaffer tape, the advice not to play, the impending pringle sweaters and the inevitable arthritis and rounds and rounds and rounds of “do you remember”. In there will be the fisticuffs between the two Steves, the mysteriously disappearing and reappearing Phantom Darren, I’m hoping a few mounds of my teddy bears will make it in annals, Paddy’s tackling and other faces that have come and no longer play: Brian, the wing wizard and even ones I do not know; and now Jess.

Even now there are ones amongst us that never knew Jess and that seems unthinkable. Jess: our founding father, our chairman, six foot and many inches, our gentle but giant of a man, dressed normally all in black, like our footballing Johnny Cash, swopping a killer guitar for an incinerating shot, blistering, bottom corner, reliable Jess, broke my hand in two places with that shot, my pay off for the audacity of trying to stop it once. Jess: for years I never knew his actual name, only Jess, then one day he introduced himself as Rob to a newbie, confused the proverbial out of me “Rob? Rob? But I’ve been calling you Jess for years?” Yes, that’s my name, so is Rob. “You can’t have two names, I can’t handle two names.” He just laughed, made a joke about a simpleton Wednesdayite and said, yes you can Steve. Jess: who never collected subs, or paid them on time: who was the perfect fit for the Chairman’s sheepskin coat, fedora and chunky jewellery. Jess, who hated being in goal but not as much as Richard Wills or Mark. Jess, the Unitedite, the founding father, a footballer, a father, a husband, our friend: for those who didn’t have that privilege of lining up with him is all you ever need to know. Oh, and Jess, a good man.

So I don’t really care how old we all are. I do know that Jess was about ‘our’ age and having to write this now mean that’s it is simply too soon, so that’s all that matters: it’s too soon.

So here’s to you Jess, a peaceful and safe onward journey and god bless. Go get those nets prepared up there for us and whilst you do, we will have a game down here in your name, and as always, well played mate, well played.

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21st April: St Sheridan’s Day

On this most holy St Sheridan’s Day, I wish you all a very merry Dink or two (in fact it only needed the one), and may you all be blessed in the glorified light of the great man himself, who hardly left the centre circle, not that he needed to, apart from on this glorious day (not that long ago I hasten to add before the barbs and jibes of the jealous and the unholy begin to rain upon my head) when he managed to make it to the edge of the penalty box and the rest as they say….is history… beautiful, sensual, exotic and timeless history.

So, at 4-4, who will be there this week, and please, please please Darks, I beg of you, let’s be having some numbers this week! The Whites have battered back our lead from earlier in the series because in every one of the last 4 games they have had the extra man: no excuses, no injuries, no other reasons, let’s get our team out, it’s a big pitch, we need our numbers!

Let me know guys and as early as possible please and whilst you are thinking it over I am off to kneel before the alter of St Sheridan and give thanks.

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31st March 2015: Goodbye Hillsborough, Hello Hillsborough

So to this week and the very final Hillsborough Sports Centre match, yes folks that is correct the very final time we will run out of that tunnel, the very final time we will call ‘time lads’ and be met with the ‘5 minutes late’ repose, the very final time they will try and turf us off on time, the very final time we will plug the gap where there should be a board with a pile of mats, the very final time we will contest whether the blue line is under or overhead high, before we (in Angry Mick’s words and I am indebted to him for this) ceremoniously carry the ball round the corner, marching behind a kazoo band in 80s kit with the Red Arrows flying overhead.

Mark says he’s coming this week dressed as an angry Scotsman ready to start taking up the pitch and bouncing on the crossbar at the final whistle, Big John says he is committed to the Dolly Parton costume, and I will be coming in fancy dress also…as a footballer (Mark’s gag…thanks team-mate!). So the question is simply, on this the very last occasion…..will you be there and who will you be dressed as?

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24th March 2015: the old lady is preparing her vocal chords

The title isn’t the immediate call to arms, so grab those reins and pull back tightly, not too tightly mind you and that includes you Scouse Steve, I know your predilections, the Mr Grey amongst us but we have but two weeks remaining in the old stadium. By now you will know me well enough to know of my love for all things ancient and having passed, the wondrous and the beautiful, the creative and flamboyant: so right now, this passing between stadia, this change in our very environment, in the smells and sights, the senses we will experience, this is history my friends, history we will live through, history we now make. It is our burial of our own King Richard. Yes I am that annoying historian regaling you of the significance of this moment. The moment when we are both sad and excited. You can ignore the magnitude of it right here in the present but soon you will look back and regret not being there when that bugle called, when the flag was draped, when the last ball was kicked. Who will score that last Hillsborough goal I wonder? If I was a chef I’d be more Ainsley than that Worrall Thompson fella, if I was an artist I would be more Picasso than Van Gogh, but if I was a time in history I would be the Romans more than the industrial revolution, if I was a comic I would be Roy Of The Rovers instead of Marvel, if I was a car I would choose a Datsun 120 Y coupe more than anything else and if I was choosing a football kit for Sheffield United I would choose one with proper stripes and not one that looked like it was a knock-off from the left overs from that fiasco at West Brom: United play in red and white stripes, that new kit upsets me, and I support Wednesday, it took the shine off beating Rotherham: get it sorted, but that’s not the call to arms either. It was a win to the Whites last week by the way, 4-2 in games now, although I’m duty bound to point out that it was a full Whites and a makeshift Darks but we gave them a run for their money, Geordie got a little angry too…I feel like I’m writing this in a big old leather chair, with a brandy, looking out over fields by a roaring fire…who lit the fire in the field was very irresponsible…and why did you put my chair next to it, I blame Paddy personally, always thought he had the look of arsonist…if I was a criminal I would be more of a prison inmate than anything else I think, never been any good at crime. I’m in a reminiscing mood and this is my point, I do have one, I’m getting there, here it comes, there’s two weeks left at Hillsborough, before we move to…Hillsborough…that’s bloody confusing…don’t worry, Jono, dependable, always dependable, he’s like bear grills (that was deliberate and not at all dyslexic…Ok it was dyslecix) anyway he will send out maps and instructions and homing devices and pigeons and promises to stand on the street in a high viz outfit made of fish and direct us to the new Hillsborough come the day when we move, which is after Easter, which means we have 2 weeks, if my maths is correct. It might not be, which is why I won’t be wearing the outfit made of fish, because I’ll just look silly. But if we have 2 weeks left, just 2 weeks of the old Hillsborough then these are your last chances to say goodbye to the old hall and that’s my point, forget your injuries and your excuses, come on 2 weeks, let’s get the good numbers up, and by good numbers I mean even numbers, high numbers, like 8 and 10 or even 12 ooooooh and go out with a bang. The countdown has begun….the Whites will want to end the old Hillsborough days on an even 4-4, yes they can do it, the Darks will want to end the old Hillsborough with a solid 6-1 lead, think on it…everything is possible. Including Big John turning up to play the last game in old Hillsborough dressed as Dolly Parton…he has promised.

So who is playing this week?

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16th March: The end of an era approaches

We all will have an opinion on old v new stadiums and as I write I’m thinking across our respective teams and wondering if any of them have moved out of their now traditional homes to any new purpose built stadium. A new St James’ Park perhaps, new Anfield, a new Bramall Lane (see I made no joke), a new Elland Road, a new Hillsborough…how would we all feel if that was to happen?

But that is what we face…our final ‘season’ in effect in our grand old lady of a stadium. Our final few games to say goodbye to the crumbling façade, the leaky roof, the table or pile of mats across where the panel should be onto the court, the nets that don’t fit the frames of the goal, the teams on before us who are also ‘5 minutes late on’, the missing slats behind the Whites’ net, the patch of court stained with Angry Mick’s head injury, the play pen in the far corner for all my toys.

It’s true guys, the ink is now drying, the deed has been done, we are moving: after 20 odd years of playing at Hillsborough Sports Centre our time is coming to an end. We have a few short weeks before we have a new home…at Hillsborough College….and a bigger pitch (will it suit the younger, spritier, fitter ones or the ball players, the space finders more), more pitch time (an hour instead of three quarters…time to use our brains and pace the games), and a choice of goals (do we go for the traditional long and thin 5 a side goals or the new style tall and square futsball ones….and with it perhaps a change in rule, do we bring in overhead high?)…and cheaper, and with less notice having to be given. Yes sometimes progress can be good.

It’s a whole new world awaiting us! Exciting, foreign…but before we get there we must see out the old lady of Hillsborough Sports Centre with pride. After three washed out weeks of only friendlies surely it is time for us to get back in the groove of competitive games?!?!?!?!?!?!!

Surely it is time for the Whites to challenge the Darks again: it is still 4-1 in games to the Darks, 4-4 in World Series. A reminder of the series thus far….after the 8th Series was won with such aplomb by the Whites with a mix of power and poise, speed and brilliance, the Darks have fought back with performances heavy at times in pure stubborn grit, counter attacking with precision from a solid defensive base, performances that display the hurt inflicted by the last series defeat. I’m finding this series fascinating, tense, almost tetchy. It’s on a knife edge. There’s key injuries and absences filtering through into both teams already that could change the horizon dramatically each week, new players making their mark, old hands finding form, losing form: surely its time for another dramatic battle…come on, who’s up for it this week?

I know I am.

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3rd February: Stewart The Cat

Good day one and all and after another grinding win for the darks last week it is only early days in this new series, as for the match report, it is fair to say it is a tale of a goalkeeper and this is he….Stewart, caught in action on the night (see the picture in the gallery).

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