So the final game of the season and mine as manager of the Saturday Spartans. A boiling hot day at Kowloon Tsai saw us take on competition leaders Hamsap who only needed a draw to win the title. Our team in recent weeks has gone a transformation with many new players coming into the squad however these players have bough much enthusiasm and skill to the team. Lack of taxis and general delays saw most of us arrive about 5 minutes before kick-off while the full Hamsap team where warming up ages ago, seems like little has changed in the Spartans makeup. We knew this was always going to be a tough game however we had a decent team and I thought we had a good chance to win this.
Anyway come kick-off and we have 14 players with a few late comers. Starting line-up saw me in goals with Leandro running late, central defence was Scottie and Bertie, left Steph and right was Nav. Centre mid of Rob and Tom Roch on the left side Adam and Matteo on the right, up front Macca and Jeff C forming our attack and on the sidelines coming on in the heat was newbie Marcelo, Dashti and Dan H both returning after long absences from the field while Miles and Leandro on their way.
The first half saw Hamsap control much of the half but not really threatening our defence. We had passages of play were we looked dangerous but on the whole it wasn’t looking like anyone was going to score with both defences holding the forte. Just as we were going into the half a over hit through ball by Hamsap midfielder saw Steph about to clear it. However a miss kick clearance somehow saw the ball loop over Leandro’s head for an unlucky goal.
Half Time and the heat taking it’s toll on both sides we came on the second half with a spring in our step while Hamsap looked as though they were dying in the heat. We bombarded them for the first 20 minutes of the second half and how we didn’t score will remain one of the biggest mysterious of all time. One vivid recollection was when jeff 6 yards out slams the ball towards the goal while keeper is on the floor, the ball hits a Hamsap player on the line flush in the face and somehow goes over the bar. Another chance when Tom Roch has a free header from corner with keeper beaten and it goes aguishly past the post. Macca also has a chance to score along with Rob but luck just hasn’t been on our side this year and not much changed this game.
As the game drew to a close and the heat started to take it’s toll on all players the game slowed down. Macca got injured rolling his ankle which didn’t help us and our final glimmer of hope went when Rob got a second yellow card for a reckless challenge and his marching orders. We continued bravely but Hamsap by then where wasting time, they had a late shot which Leandro saved brilliantly but our defence was very good all game.
It wasn’t our best performance of the year and although everyone gave it their all in the oppressive heat if we had a little luck we would have got something out of the game, in any case no doubt we deserved better, much like a lot of games we have played and lost this year.
As for individual performances both Scott and Bertie had terrific games in defence, Nav played well once again. Midfield saw Tom Roch played outstanding, while Rob uncharacteristic like lost his cool a bit but played well. Adam has improved a lot in the last few games and had another good game while newbie Marcelo played well. Matteo and Miles tried their best tirelessly in the heat. Up front both Macca and Jeff were unlucky not to have been on the scorers sheet and losing Macca and Rob in the second half was disastrous for us. Man of match for mine was Tom Roch I thought he had a cracking game and was unlucky not to have scored. A good night was had by all with us ending up at my place to have a few beers on the roof and some nice thai cooking recoursing what could have been this year.
On a final note after 7 years of managing the Saturday Spartans I have called it a day. I have had some health issues recently which thankfully and hopefully is a false alarm. However my drive and toughness to make hard decisions this year hasn’t been there and coupled by my increased work load at the office has made the role very difficult. I certainly need a break from managing any league team on a regular basis at the moment. In recent weeks I have seen a good sprinkling of new players come into the club and some current players really shining through. I’m optimistic that if we keep these new players and existing players the team will continue to succeed for many years with whichever manager takes over. The Spartans and particularly the Saturday team has been wonderful experience and I have had so many highs and have met so many terrific people over that time. I can truly say that the 8 years has been memorable and have provide me some of the most joyful experiences in my life. However it’s certainly time to move on and give someone else the opportunity of what can only be described as a very rewarding and amazing experience.
P.S. For those who follow history below was my first league game report in charge on 09/04/2005 all that time ago comprising of bunch of guys who played reguarily at blake gardens and then had a few/many beers at the old Globe afterwards on Tuesday Night.
The score line and venue the same against BOCs, however much between has transpired since then and many great memories.
BOC 1-0 loss:
Meaning of a Spartan.
1:Resolute in the face of pain or danger or adversity; 2:"a hefty six-footer with a rather severe mien"; "a strict disciplinarian"; "a Spartan upbringing" [syn: severe, strict]
3: practicing great self-denial; "Be systematically ascetic…do…something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it"- William James;
The arid lands of Kowloon Tsai park witness return of many retired long lost footballers plus a few talented young souls strutting their stuff.
Jim carried a Spartans shirt that was made way back in the 19th century didn’t loose too much in way of skill but not in body mass. Jason and Halsey making their first appearance on 11 a-side pitch since the dark ages both towering over the locals was an intimidating site…..the stationed breathing apparatus was on standby in case of lung collapse.
Danny provided a bit of that braziling magic that has never existed in the Spartans folklore. Alan and Jim coming from never never land needed an emergency stop to the local Tescos to purchase suitable attire….no shops exist in never never land I have been told. We also had the Spartans faithful Flabbo, Lionel and Henry ready for tireless afternoon plus a few from the previous weeks victorious showing in Nick (I setup the wining goal) and Wing our cool under pressure goal keeper. With the nomadic debutant Nicholas a fellow ozzie and the new gaffa it was shaping up to be an interesting afternoon.
11 players all claiming to be either strikers or midfielders….so the only solution play accordingly: 3 forwards – 5 midfielders – 2 defenders. Surely we will score plenty and the gaffa was so confident he even started the game with only 10 men on the field…..
The first 20 minutes we applied the pressure in the dust bowl. A few open chances especially a 10 feet miss from the golden child, with a bit of luck it could have been 3-nil to the Spartans. Needless to say it stayed at 0-0 all scoring boots were left at home. Then came the wave of bombardment from the BOC boys, with our team not having much structure to our formation Jason (Judas- aka GAS) was carving up our non-existent defence and Toni Choi making his darting runs from the back line. But we weathered the storm with Alan making some timing tackles, not bad for a striker. Our constant appealing for offside irritated the BOC with their high pitch screams of not fair echoing through my ears. Just as we were about to head off to half time for a much needed break they scored a real crappy goal.
1-0 at halftime a change of formation, suddenly I had number of willing defenders and back to normal 2-4-4 formation we started the second half with much more structure. We played good football in the second half and it was a joy to be apart of it. Flabbo and Jim were every where, Danny’s take-on the entire team runs, nick was using his back heel to perfection, Halsey was perfecting his slice and Wing was as cool as cucumber. Alan looked like a gladiator with blood streaming everywhere, "where is the first aid kit?". Nicholas (fellow ozzie) looked quality and John had some good touches. All in all we had some good chances with us being unlucky not to have converted one in the last 15 minutes which we dominated.
BOC a team who has been playing together for a long time grateful to come away with a narrow win. Will skin them next time.
Our next game is not until 21st May will try to organise a friendly during that time as everyone seemed keen….