As the main school football season draws to a close, it is high time we had a look at the ‘Premiership’! To play for the School 1st XI is to realise a dream that for many Salopian footballers begins in the Third Form and is perhaps crystalised even before arriving here. Now that ‘Senior’ (the first XI pitch) looks more like a premier league club’s surface rather than a school pitch (great job Andy Richards and the grounds team), and there are ‘dugouts’ for the coaches, it may be even more attractive to put on the dark blue shirt and run out in front of one’s adoring fans.
This season has been another good one; 9 wins 3 draws and 8 defeats only tells half the story. The standard of football has been excellent and with top striker Max Parsonage missing for most of the season with injury, perhaps we have missed a cutting edge which might have led to a few more wins. As the season has progressed, so the team seem to have found their feet and their last game of the season was an impressive 1-1 draw at Repton, who ‘statistically’ were strong favourites. The squad leave for Qatar next Wednesday to play in a tournament that includes Manchester Grammar and Hulme Grammar School Oldham. They are in buoyant mood and are looking forward to visiting a very different footballing culture and avoiding the rumoured snow and ice that might be coming our way.
Having watched a number of training sessions and matches, it is not difficult to see why the beautiful game is played so attractively by this talented bunch of players. In Manager and Coach Steve Biggins they have experience and a total understanding of the game. Steve’s son Dan played for the 1st XI a few years ago and so he has always been a fan of the team and becoming Chief Coach and Manager was something of a dream job. “I was considering the Liverpool job a few years ago but it just didn’t feel right, and when I heard the rumours that the Shrewsbury job might be coming up, a frisson of excitement coursed through my veins!” he told me.
Steve started well by winning the Independent Schools Trophy in his first season with the team. Of course the problem with winning the trophy in your first season is that it raises the expectations of us all, but Steve seems to be quite phlegmatic about such pressures. Indeed Steve has the look of a Gandalf without the beard, and perhaps that is why his teams play such magical football with such wizardry. He began his playing days a long time ago (1066?! - he has recently become a grandfather), and graced clubs such as Shrewsbury Town, Derby County, Oxford United and Wolverhampton. His only regret was that he never played for a really top club like Brighton and Hove Albion! If you are looking for a really top of the range Christmas present, you could do worse than look at eBay where you can buy stickers of Steve for £1:50. Sadly I have been unable to find a sticker of Steve on his own; he seems to be permanently stuck to his fellow professional Trevor Birch.
In 1st XI goal there is Charles Kidson. He is apparently renowned for always being late and for participating in late night duels when a matter of honour is concerned. Will Cook is a man who puts his body on the line for the team, his tackle has bite and he has even lost a tooth for his team. Ollie Brown is the inspirational captain and player of the season. He nearly made it into the full Independent Schools side. Will Waterworth is the team fashion guru and, like David Beckham, no one is sure what hair style he will be sporting next. He enjoys sprinkling nutmeg on all his food to aid his ‘nutmegging ability’, which I am reliably informed is prolific. Jo Carassco is lovingly referred to as the Big Mexican. It appears sometimes as if time itself has slowed when he is on the ball, but he is still the team’s top scorer.
Adrian Tong is the old man of the team and has not been available for some games owing to his contract with the School House Second Leagues team. Angus Hayward is the team poet. He is the latest of the romantic poets and we are hoping his collection of poems will be available to all of us soon and not just his ‘chosen’ audience. Jamie Humes is a tricky customer and another player with fancy footwork. He has apparently grown about six inches this season. Sam Green is attempting to grow a little facial hair in an attempt to look more threatening in the middle of the pitch, or is it that he cannot concentrate long enough to shave! Henry Blofield is a languid and coltish defender who is averaging two foul throws a game. Max McClure is the most consistent player of the season and a good summer signing. Dan Durman is keen on training; indeed he knows the timetable off by heart! (He is on loan from Dudley and travels in every day.) George Lewis is fondly known as Tinky Winky and is looked after by Henry Gittins, who is rumoured to be at least 22 years old. Anton ‘I like to be near the touch line so that I can be close to the crowd’ Nelson is the team’s philosopher, having been inspired by his RS Philosophy teacher (me!).Tim Atkins is the maestro of the team who pulls the strings at least of his guitar. Ed Dolphin, Jack Franklin and Jake Morris are also consistent members of the squad but my sources could find a disappointingly insignificant amount of dirt on them!
The team have been a wonderfully committed and enthusiastic bunch and we wish them well in Qatar! Hopefully we will be smiling after the tournament whilst the local teams shed tears; in the words of the Beatles “Shrewsbury win while Qatar gently weeps!”
Below: A visionary moment for the 1st XI - or are they about to do battle with a dragon?