Hello sports fans! It’s been a long old summer, and boy have we got some updates. It’s been a summer of change. Old players have gone, new players have arrived. Some fresh off the boat, no idea what’s HK life is about. So fresh. So innocent. We waved goodbye over the  summer to Spartans stalwarts Crossy, Ted, Tom Glen, Casper and Romain. The question on everyone’s lips; in Romain’s absence, who is to take up such a crucial position in the team. A position that takes real courage, character and eccentricity… Only one man fitted the bill, someone who has surpassed Romain in terms of ability and outrageous behaviour; please welcome Victor as our new Chairman of Fashion corner. Someone equally adept at wearing some of the worst gear you’ve ever seen. A role, I hope he cherishes.

On the pitch, Phil Peel was all set for his second debut with Spartans, bizarrely signing for Squadron last season like a piece of shit. Rob Dickson also took time off from campaigning in his role for Governor of Guatemala to return over the summer, to increase his  appearance count of 107. Curiously that’s also the same number of times he has stolen a woman from a Spartan teammate.

We also welcome all of the new season signings; Ashley B, Deon, Sandy and Gijs (pronounced Haze) who spends his time as a full-time model, much to the dismay of part time model, Laurence Reynolds.

In bigger news, outed closet-spastic, Spartans legend and all-round-nice-guy Nick Day departed the club for HKFC, leaving fellow top lad Eashan to step into the fray, assisted by Chris Grayland, plus support from Matt Keefe and OM. Eash’s first decision of the season? Rename the Dick of the Day award to the Nick of the Day award, in homage to our now departed ex-leader.

The sun (and Ynyr Jones) were beaming. The birds were singing. There was something in the air; and for once it wasn’t Lozza’s first touch. The clean, crisp smell of freshly cut burnt rubber & fake grass pitch tickled the noses of the excited Spartans squad as they arrived, which meant one thing. The opening day of the football season!

Having shared their training pitch over the summer, the GAS boys were clearly shitting themselves, having to play a team that finished twelve points ahead of them last season. Phil ‘The Eel’ Peel made his second debut, behind a back line of fellow debutant Deon, Onion, Robbie and Grayland. OM and perma-hunk-with-his-big-muscles Danny lined up as a two-man centre mid against the three man German midfield, with Laurence and Victor the wide men. Gijs and Ed ‘The Wizard’ Tizard started up top. Rui and Rob lined up as reinforcements, whilst Ashley B also provided some (spoken, not sung) words of encouragement from the sidelines.

GAS have been a bit of a bogey team in the last few years for Spartans, and despite the points difference last season, still represent a challenge, physically and technically. Laurence in particular, knew he was in for a tough afternoon as he had yet another man marking job… by Gladys. His opposite full back however was to endure a torrid afternoon, physically and emotionally after team gobshites, Oli and Grayland got under his skin, whilst Lozza and Ynyr persistently caused him all kinds of trouble, along with kicking him into the air on more than one occasion.

Despite their lack of quality down the flanks, the Germans started well, and worked a number of corners in an even first half. The pressure was largely dealt with well; some more through luck than judgement, in particular a Grayland flick that zipped past the Spartans post, leaving Chris scratching his head how it didn’t go in, and scratching his penis as he hit is seven year anniversary since last bagging up.

High presses from Victor Tiz and Haze, as GAS tried to play out from the back, presented Tizard with a couple of chances midway through the half, narrowly striking wide with the keeper scrambling. A carbon copy chance with the left peg also screwed wide after some good graft
down the left.

A largely uneventful first half drew to a close with the only major pressure coming from corners from both teams, and again, all fairly routinely defended. HT: Spartans 0 – 0 GAS

The half time team talk was a positive one. The game had swung both ways, but we knew we had the quality to punish GAS. Pre-season was tough, but it’s games like today when we knew it could really count. A quick half time turnaround sent Spartans back out with belief and desire.

Spartans came out of the blocks quickly, retaining the ball well and carving a number of half chances for Tizard and Gijs – only to be foiled by a very alert and alive GK. But you could tell something was coming, Spartans were turning up the heat, laying it on thick, like Matt Keefe in a club full of 6/10s.

Midway through the half, the endeavour and quality came together like a caramelised Onion sandwich – which would come together later on. Onion himself, drove into the left channel, super-slippy-sliding in OM penetrating the gaping hole in GAS rear area. OM wangled a corner from a tight spot, and raised a single arm as the ball was whipped front stick. Straight from the training ground it was; right onto the bonce of a diving near-post Robbie to zip the ball into the roof of the net, much to the delight of the entire Spartans team.

When asked about his goal after the game, Robbie eulogised “ It was grand so it was. Da corner was savage, great craic in grabbing a goal here today. A little bit of da luck of da Irish. Bloody grand”. Beautiful words, beautiful goal, Robbie.

Spartans knew they would face increasing pressure as the game wore, and tried turning the screw up even more. A ball fell to the edge of the box to an onrushing OM who, using all of his expertise, hit the highest and worst shot of the day, before turning away in disgust,  trotting back to the halfway line, tying his laces and doing a few of those horrible throaty coughs. You know the ones I mean, the ones where you’re nearly sick and that. Quite bad really. Moments later, the keeper finally caught the floating ball as it eventually descended.

As the intensity of the Spartans attack reduced, GAS sensed blood and started to grow into the game. Victor and Deon were industrious down the right, keeping the winger quiet all game and Onion and Laurence on the left were doing the same. As GAS grew increasingly into the game, a dangerous looking ball was fizzed into the box, only to be denied by Onion, who it’s fair to say, put his life on the line by making himself the filling in a sandwich between the twenty-stone Ingham and super-muscle-guy Danny Brown. Onion was left gasping, not so much for air, but for a beer; his 10pm bedtime the night before sending him delirious with alcohol withdrawal, and was soon taken off to chin a beer as Rui came on to replace him.

Given the danger GAS possess from set pieces, it was crucial we didn’t give them an opportunity from a set piece. Spartans then conceded a set piece, which the Germans piled in for. Chaos ensued as the ball dropped straight into the corridor of uncertainty, and with everyone, well uncertain, the ball squirmed through to equalise, with only minutes remaining.

Spartans rallied in the final moments of the game, and the game swung precariously both ways. Inbound Rob Dickson was the man to swing the final pendulum in favour of the Wizard Tizard, his through ball allowing Tiz to burst through and unleash MAGIC on the goal to seal the three points with a swing of the left wand. CUE SCENES. Eashan Rooban risked lifetime injury to run towards the corner flag to celebrate with… absolutely no-one; whilst the team swarmed Ed to celebrate the goal.

Meanwhile,there was time for one final heart-in-mouth moment, as GAS threatened to again snatch a point, only to be denied by the solid Phil Peel who gratefully smothered the final attack, to the tune of the referee’s full time whistle.

FT: Spartans 2 – 1 GAS (Lunn 55’, Tizard 80+3)

Pre-match chat spoke about returning the 4-0 favour that GAS spanked us with on the opening day two seasons ago, and whilst the game was far tighter than that, there are fewer better ways to win a game and create early momentum than grinding out a last minute winner. Equally, GAS will be despaired to lose the game in such a way. All three HKFC teams dropped points over the opening weekend, leaving Spartans at least two points clear of last season’s top three and fifth place. Yes, it’s only one game in but already Spartans have proven they have both the quality and grit to come through such games on the right side of the result.

Lest we also forget we were unusually short on squad numbers on the opening day, and in tough midday heat kick offs, it proves that the early pre season graft has paid off – so far. Special mention all the debutants too, who excelled in their roles and have already made it hard to displace them upon the return of a number of players. The hard work doesn’t stop here though if we are to be serious challengers in the league this season.

Man of the Match: Chris Grayland / Robbie Lunn
Dick of the Day: Rui Fernandes – maybe the free-kick, but really for not knowing Danny’s name
Tom Glen Award: Phil Peel
Victor’s Fashion Corner: Rob Dickson’s sash, and Gijs’ hat that he promised to never wear again