open goal

We’d just about wrestled the game back in our favour at 3-2 having contrived to give away a two goal lead.  Rain raked across the park in waves, the pitch cut up, the game was stretched at both ends with the ball needing little encouragement to slip and slide on a greasy surface.  Five minutes to go, one of our youngsters broke down the right and I sprinted down my left flank to support.  He did well, beat a player and made it to the byline.  I screamed at the back post for him to square back it across the six yard box.  He passed strongly: it skidded and bobbed off the uneven surface, cutting out the goalkeeper at his near post and missing a striker and defender between us.  It was coming to me, the goal was open, I was five yards out.  I excitedly hurled myself towards the ball  Any contact and surely the game was over, that would be it.  Glory!  A goal.  A comfortable final few minutes to close the game out.  I hurled, slid, firm right boot contact, but wrong, too much.  I watched it balloon over the bar and I turned face down in the mud, hands on head, groaning at the aberration.


could i steal a chip?

Over the past several weeks I’ve become friendly with a dynamic, fast-talking young Scottish guy.  We originally met at a work event but, although our professional (sorry for the word) synergies weren’t quite aligned, or at least not yet, our personalities gelled quickly.  Over a couple of subsequent meetings a bantery rapport was developed and we riffed off each other at various networking events.  Being a general misanthrope, this doesn’t happen all too often.

His girlfriend joined us in town towards the end of yesterday evening.  I had met her briefly once before and she’d seemed fine and open after initially being guarded and wary.  In our subsequent meetings he was always wary of his duties to her: curfews, her checking up, calling, texts.  Even the one evening when she was away and we went out, she kept calling, checking back until fairly late into the evening.

Now I’ve never known an evening out to improve with the introduction of girlfriends half way through.  Whether it’s two or twelve guys, a dynamic is agreed, established and settled.  Throw in a handful of girlfriends and it becomes disturbed and upset with new obligation.  Particularly if there’s a number mismatch, as there always is in my presence – being terminally single.

She joined us grudgingly yesterday evening, that much was clear, yet she apparently couldn’t go home alone or let her boyfriend stay out.  She looked grouchy on arriving but slowly thawed.  On leaving the bar, the three of us were buoyed by the idea of food, so went to a nearby Burger restaurant in Soho.

Seated here, a couple of young girls sat down at the small table next to us.  One left for the toilet, leaving another on her own: American, confident, animated, full of beans.  Glances had been exchanged when they were originally seated, and enviously checked out our food. 

Her friend momentarily gone, she turned to us again and a bowl of half empty chips.  “God, that looks good,” she said.  “I am SO hungry, could I steal a chip?”  This was when my friend’s girlfriend sneered and emitted such ice I thought all our burgers would immediately go cold.  “Sure!” my friend said, I nodded and smiled, it was fine with me too.  But she was already recoiling at the unspoken venom fired in her direction.  “Er, no it’s totally fine.  I’m getting bad vibes now, I’ll.. sorry.”  Awkwardness swept the two tables.  Apart from the space around my friend’s girlfriend, who sat there nonplussed with her curling upper lip.

“Well put yourself in my position,” she urged.  “If the roles were reversed, and it was a guy who had come over like that.”  At the time, I couldn’t quite do that empathy.  Too much was going on in the conversation.  I just shrugged.  Ok, it was fine, you scary bitter young lady.  Her boyfriend chuckled, though possibly equally taken aback by his girlfriend. 

Walking back through town towards Waterloo half an hour later I considered it again: if the roles had been reversed.  Two girls, one guy.  Same situation.  Let’s presume that makes me part of the couple (a ludicrous concept).  The only reason I would have been so cold to an approaching male would have been if the relationship were new and / or I was still insecure in it.  Surely you just have to enjoy an established level of trust and comfort not to feel threatened like that?  Back the fuck off, dickhead-vibes would only have radiated from me if it was an early date and I was feeling insecure about how I was matching up.  Perhaps they seem more established and settled than they are.  Who can say?

Or maybe she’s just another surly ice madam.

Cenotaph Sunday

Cenotaph Sunday siphons
with shuffling scuse me bumps down pedestrianised Whitehall;
Silence shaking cannon ball booms;
distant murmured prayers, hymns, anthems, pipes;
Warm applause while big screens magnify
proud smiles, lost limbs, wheelchairs, sticks and age:
under relentless dank grey threat,
betwixt pointlessly changing traffic lights


consolation goal

“Do you want to risk aggravating the injury and knock yourself back for another two weeks, or chance it?  No, leave it for tomorrow then, we should be ok.”  This is what my football team boss told me over several ales on Friday evening.  The following morning I received a text message saying someone had dropped out.  Could I play?

The first half hour I felt tight and paranoid about seriously extending.  Up against a well put together striker: swift, slight and skilful, if mercifully not large or physical.  Those opening minutes of needing to press and chase saw me reluctantly obey still tight feeling, cold legs.  I’d stretched and warmed as much as possible beforehand, but they still warned against going flat out. 

We were three goals down inside half an hour.  Towards the end of the first half and into the second they slowly heated, became malleable.  Coaxing increased pace, I became confident the troublesome member wouldn’t buckle.  Occasional forages forward from centre back encouraged.  A dangerously lofted ball into the box caused panic, a speculative long distance effort had the power without the direction.

Although it was long over as a contest, towards the end of the game I ventured forward more frequently, feeling the attacking appetite and confidence return.  We were pushing, they were sitting deep, confident of suppressing any threat.

We sensed the opportunity to reduce the deficit, but little seemed to be reaching our strikers from the midfield.  Collecting a rapid return pass from our right back midway into the opponents half, I darted towards the penalty area and into space, still not closed down.  Another touch to settle, approaching the far right side of the penalty area, thirty yards out, I swung hard.  Distance meant power’s priority over accuracy.  The connection felt good but proved too strong as it faded and dipped a short distance over the crossbar and far post.

Then we attacked down the left, the gap of space in the middle ever apparent.  I jogged into it as our striker received the ball on the left hand side of the penalty area.  He niftily jigged between two defenders as I screamed at him to release the pass.  Cleverly committing a third to the challenge, he then squared it across into the space with a toe poke.  One touch to settle, twenty five yards out, right side of the penalty area: a few yards closer and more central than the opportunity before.  Part of my brain must have instinctively decided I could prioritise accuracy over power and chance a side foot.  It’s not a decision I remember making.  Contact was true and the power perfect.  I dodged a late onrushing defender to see the ball appear to first arc outside the rod of the post before curling back inside, little to no margin between post and ball.  The goalkeeper dived half heartedly, slipping to his knees on realising that he couldn’t get close. 


Having never scored a goal as good as this in a competitive match and averaging one goal a season at best, I wanted to celebrate.  But I wasn’t able.  Firstly down to shock.  It had actually gone in.  It was legal.  The goal, a very nice goal, was given.  I scored it.  I fucking scored it.  I myself me, was responsible for that sumptuous strike.  Discreetly jubilant fist to self in private celebration and a wry smile.  That was all. 

Then the realisation of its complete futility.  We’d been battered for most of the game, several early goals probably my fault.  Mine meant nothing.  It reduced that deficit by a single goal, making the score 7-1.  We trotted back to our half for the kick-off, chuckling between ourselves like I’d just revealed I was fluent in Chinese.

Even so, that rarest of sensations, seeing it curl inside the post and glide against the netting: a sweet and precious thing.