With the Premier League having a rest this week due to Internationals and England getting off to a surprisingly good start against a Swiss team whose defence had as many holes in it as their cheese; the football enthusiast has had to look elsewhere for their excitement after Monday. This particular enthusiast found it in the Shrewsbury School’s 5th XI.
The Mighty 5ths, as they are generally referred to, got off to a losing start against the Veterans of the Liverpool Ramblers. As these elder statesmen of the game prepared for their tour of Mallorca, it was clear they were looking to improve their fitness and stake their claims for a starting place in their one and only tour match.
Despite a two-minute chat from their manager (Bele, as I am often referred to in football circles), we soon found ourselves 2-0 down and I was thinking that the Ramblers might be about to give a vintage performance. 3-0 down at half time and many teams might have given up. Not the Mighty 5ths!
With two goals from inspirational captain Tom Robinson and a 20-yard screamer from Will Street, suddenly it was all square and both teams went in search of the winner. Sadly we did not find it, but they did! Still, it was a good match and there were a lot of positives to take from the game, as the manger admitted afterwards. “There were a lot of positives to take from this game” I said.
Having had a training session with coach Hugo Besterman and Manager Bele, there was a more organised and confident mood as the team faced their next challenge in the form of Hulme Grammar School from Oldham. We expected a stern test from a school that boasts on its website that it has been nurturing potential since 1611. Surely that potential must be close to fulfilling its potential.
The Hulme Grammar 5th XI manager Angus Hurst, Head of PE at the school, takes his football very seriously. When he was asked how he thought the game would go he told me : “I am looking forward to experiencing a different brand of football. We always know that teams coached by Bele and Beastlyman will show sophistication unrivalled at this level and I want my team to go out there, express themselves and feel part of the process of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.”
I imagine he was referring to the fact that many players coached by Bele and Beaterman will have ambitions to play in the 2022 World Cup. He went on to say that football was all about enjoyment; a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.
The Shrewsbury line up showed a few changes, as 4th Team Coach Colm Kealy had dipped into the transfer market and ‘uploaded’ central defensive maestro James Pollard, defensive mid-fielder Will Street, winger Rory Champion and utility player Arthur Bowen. Bele was typically phlegmatic, intelligent, verbose and succinct about losing half his team. “When you coach players to a high standard, it is a fact of life that teams in higher leagues will come knocking on your door to tap into all your hard work. Then again, it is great for the lads who have worked hard to be able to take my ‘Gospel’ of football and preach it at a higher level. I know that people sometimes call me a football evangelist and I am happy with that.”
Bele and Beasterman have also made use of deadline day, signing Dan Smith (O) from a little known club in Dubai. ‘I had heard a lot about the lad and I felt he could give us something in the middle of the park,’ I said.
On a beautiful summer’s day it was summer signing Dan Smith who opened the scoring, finishing off a typically flowing 5th XI move. Dan showed great athleticism and stamina all afternoon and was voted man of the match by the Sky commentary team. Dan was very modest about his achievements saying that playing in the heat of Dubai had helped him to acclimatise to conditions in England. “I think playing in the heat of Dubai has helped me to acclimatise to the English conditions” he said.
A second goal was added by captain and music maestro Tom Robinson and it looked like it could have been 2, 4, 6,8 or anything at this stage (have you got that pop music reference??). It was not to be, as Hulme battled bravely after a lengthy and clearly inspirational half-time talk by their manager Angus Hurst (who incidentally may have picked up a few tips from family relative Geoff; if he is indeed a relative).
Their goalkeeper had a ‘blinder’ and continued to blunt the Shrewsbury attack as Joe (aging professional) Lafferty and Luke Lloyd Jones had headers well saved from Ed Moorinho’s excellent corners. Then potential disaster struck when Hulme grabbed a goal as debutant keeper Fred Pook was beaten by a shot that went to his left – he prefers to dive to his right.
Suddenly Hulme were back in the game and referee Giles Bell was under pressure from coach Bestofmen to award a penalty as ‘Ladi’ Okusanya, the 5ths pacey front man, seemed to be brought down in the area by the Hulme keeper.
The Mighty 5ths kept the pressure on as Dan Delikatny tried to talk the ball into the net and a series of corners resulted in pressure but no end product. At the other end Ed Moorinho made an important goal line clearance and the Mighty 5ths’ defence consisting of Yutaro Sato, Tom Edwards, Joe Lafferty, Alex Bennett, Tom Edwards, Will Harvey and Steffane Cotty shut the door on the Hulme strike force and threw away the key.
As the final whistle went it was clear that football had been the winner and everyone was very happy.
Well, nearly everyone!