"Forgive me readers for I have been indisposed. It has been a month since my last blog entry."
Yesterday's match, against Barking at Mayesbrook Park, was described by one of the supporters on social media as having been played on a muddy pitch which was reminiscent of the 1970s, and he was right. Traditionally. in the Isthmian League days of the 1970s the two teams would be paired on Boxing Day and I recall some battles (yes, battles) at the Dog and Vicarage Field that were played on pitches not dissimilar to that of yesterday.
Yesterday's game was a bit of a mudlark at times but the match did not suffer greatly and, invariably, it added to spectacle. There were slide tackles (remember them?), the ball getting stuck in the mud, an uneven bounce (or none at all), and players struggling to keep their feet. The purists might complain, and the person who washes the kit will certainly be cheesed off, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The pristine pitches of the professional game have allowed naturally gifted players to use the skills that they have honed on the training ground to good effect and that can be good entertainment. But at times it is sterile, and unfortunately the game is interspersed with play acting, diving (which is now called 'simulation)', cheating (see diving) which is accepted and fawned upon by a sycophantic media. My favourite media quote when justifying a player hitting the deck in the penalty area, following a slight brush with a defender, is "He had every right to go down". No he didn't! How it amazes me when I see that a player's legs can just give way underneath him if the defender as much as stands in the way. One word, "cheat". We are moving towards a non-contact sport I fear.
So, all credit to the Barking and Clapton players yesterday who did their best in keeping their feet in difficult circumstances. Unlike the professional clowns, they might have been justified in claiming 'the right to go down' at any time. Also a big thank you to the referee for letting the game go ahead and not disappointing a good crowd.
Back in the 1970s, there was contact, oh yes, and plenty of it. In those days the Isthmian League had it's fair share of gentlemen who would have relished yesterday's conditions. Billy Smith of Tooting, John Still of Leytonstone and Brian Wilson of Walthamstow Avenue spring to mind. The Avenue's ground at "Green Pond Road" was, during the winter months, just that. A pitch which started off green in August and, as the season progressed, became a pond.
Therefore I take my hat off to the Barking club, their groundsman and their members / supporters for getting the match played. It was only one of two Essex Senior League games that went ahead yesterday. As a result, the club got their reward both on and off the pitch. The team won the three points, although I will eat my aforesaid hat if they catch Haringey Borough in the race for the championship, and a bumper crowd of 160 came through the turnstiles, in which a good number were the visiting supporters. Winners all round.
Finally, just to finish off with the 70s theme, we had a bit of handbags between the players at the end of the game. Messrs Still, Smith and Wilson would have been delighted.
Football shouldn't always be pretty. 'Pretty' can be vacuous and soulless on occasions and yesterday's match, warts and all, certainly wasn't.