This week we are focusing on a team who epitomise what flowing football is all about. Indeed, if ever the phrase “football was the winner” could be applied to a current team, it has to be the Shrewsbury School 5th XI. The coaching duo of Hugo Besterman and Giles Bell were both schooled, as coaches, in the Barcelona style and see this season as work in progress. Mr Besterman stated: “Developing the passing game to the level we aspire to takes time.” When probed about what level he was aspiring to, he suggested: “A good run in the FA Cup and a big money day out at a Premier League club should be within our grasp next season, as long as we can hold on to some of our big name players.” That may prove to be a problem, with some senior members of the squad considering moves to university clubs next season. “Holding on to our Upper Sixth players may be a problem,” admitted Giles Bell. “But I’m hoping to convince their parents that another year of academic consolidation before university and a chance to play football at a high level would be time well invested. So I’m hopeful that most players will still be with us next year and possibly for a few seasons after that.” Mr Besterman agreed with Mr Bell that this seemed like a good plan. “This seems eminently sensible,” he said.
Certainly holding on to players has been an issue for a team that has been seen as something of a greenhouse for budding young players. This is clearly demonstrated by this season’s results. An excellent 1-1 draw with the Liverpool Ramblers Veteran’s side was followed by a wonderful 7-0 victory over Hulme Grammar School. This result had other coaches casting a green eye over this slick footballing machine, and the fact that eight members of the team that beat Hulme are now in the 4th XI and one is in the 3rd XI might perhaps illustrate how hard it is for even the best of coaches to maintain their vision of total football. “It can be hard when each week we have to start with a new set of players and immerse them in the mantra of total football as played by Barcelona and Brighton and Hove Albion,” said Hugo Besterman. Giles Bell agreed and went on to state: “It is lovely to watch our brand of football being developed throughout the School.”
The 5th XI - psyched up and ready for some serious football
On Wednesday the 5th XI played the Wrekin College Development squad and lost 1-0, despite playing ‘all the football’. There was a suspicion of offside about the goal but Referee Giles Bell gave it anyway, thinking the home side would almost certainly go on to score four or five, given the way they were playing. After the game was over, Coach Giles Bell was disappointed with the refereeing. “The goal was clearly offside and the Referee has cost us the game. He is an absolute disgrace and I hope he is not refereeing any more of our games this season. I have written to FIFA and asked for him to be taken off games of this standard.” Referee Giles Bell refused to comment on the incident but did say it was a shame he had forgotten his football boots, as the combination of torrential rain and trainers was not conducive to keeping up with play, despite being in superb physical shape. Football expert, sports editor and mother of the present team captain James Warburg, Annabel Warburg could not believe that the team lost the game. “I cannot believe the team lost, the way they were dominating the game – it was just like watching Barcelona. Shame about the ref.”
Left to right: Giles Bell, Coach; Giles Bell, Referee
Club captain Jonty Newbould is one of the players who has been loaned to the 4ths. He was keen to express his delight and support for the coaches and their inspirational playing style. “I love playing football in the Brighton/Barcelona style. I have tried to bring that freshness of approach to the 4th team but I have found we tend to end up looking playing like a pack of Wolves all too often. I really hope I am dropped again soon.”
Above left: Mr Bell explains to three disappointed players - Jack Hodges, Tom McHugh and Sam Morris - that they're on the bench.
Above right: Determined to impress, they continue with their enthusiastic warm-ups.
Despite having lost a few players to the 4ths, there were plenty of footballing gems on display. Sam Morrisinho is a striker with a keen eye for goal and the fancy footwork required to trick the most accomplished of defenders. Ben Tang has the pace and ability to be playing at a very high level indeed. Fred Adair is like a cat with a mouse. He cannot resist playing with defenders again and again rather than leaving them for dead. Tom Robinson and Will Schofield are both able midfielders with the ability to play visionary balls to our strikers; and the word is that Alex Walker is simply a visionary.
L to r: Kit Hartley waiting for another gem of inspirational advice from his coach; Alex Walker "visionary"; Reiss Rashid - most improved player; defenders Archie Lywood and George Bradshaw anticipating leaving a mark on the opposition; Fred 'the cat' Adair
Kit Hartley is whole-hearted and robust when flying down the left and James Warburg is Mr Reliable at left back. George Bradshaw is keen to leave his mark on attacking opposition players, as is Archie Lywood. Both Charlie Robinson and Max Hulse, having honed their skills at right back for the 5ths, were in more elevated company yesterday and so Tom McHugh and Yutaro Sato were settling into the total footballing system with great alacrity. Misha 'Lepricorn' Lepekhov added some magic upfront and Jack Hodges talked a good game in midfield. Victory seemed assured, especially with Reiss Rashid – the team’s most improved player – proving difficult to beat in goal.
But sometimes life is about dealing with the unexpected and with handling disappointment. As Mr Besterman and Mr Bell both said at the same time: “Everything you do in life involves learning. We have learnt we need a better referee.”
Arsene Fergusson (writing in place of Mr Bell this week)
Photos: Andrew Spicer (M UVI)