Wednesday, 25 February 2015


A friend of mine's son plays for a local U-11s team. He came home early from a game a few months back. 'What happened?' his mother asked.
'Game was abandoned, The mam of one of the other team invaded the pitch because she didn't like the referee.'
'Did she attack him?'
'She tried to, but she couldn't run very fast because she was expecting a baby.'

Here's something I wrote for the Boro programme on a similar subject.

At the start of the season a friend of mine was put in charge of his local under-tens football team. My friend has no coaching qualifications but he does drive a Chrysler people carrier, which is much more important when you’ve got to get eleven kids halfway across Northumberland on a Sunday morning.

For decades my friend has been planning to revolutionise grassroots football in the UK with his innovative tactical schemes, now at last his chance had come. His radical formation for the U-10s was based on two wingers and a pair of deep lying attackers breaking late into the penalty area. Five minutes into the first match he recognised a flaw in his master plan: the wingers couldn’t kick the ball hard enough to get it into the box.

My friend had to make immediate changes from the sidelines. Unable to effect anything too complex he was forced to fall back on the tried and trusted methods of primary school football coaches the length and breadth of Britain: telling the players to hoof it as far as they could in the direction of the opposition goal and then all run after it yelping like wild dogs. The thought that he was behind such an affront to the beautiful game was very upsetting to a football purist such as my friend.

Even more disturbing for him was the opposition coach. At the lower levels of football you often find people in charge of teams whose sole qualification for the job – apart from owning a vehicle that can carry eight bairns - is their ability to bellow a few likely sounding phrases at a volume that drowns out the sound of passing juggernauts. “Channels, channels!” they roar. Or “Tuck in, tuck in!” Or “Work the line, work the line!”

In my friend’s case the opposition coach had clearly combined the study of the Big Boys Book Of Shouty Football Phrases with a regular visits to a relationship counsellor because he kept urging his players to talk to one another. “It’s too quiet,” he beseeched, “We’re not talking. Let’s talk to one another, lads”.

My friend found this increasingly irritating. After an initial attempt to get his point across by counter-attacking with shouts of “Let’s suppress it! Let’s bottle it up!” he finally cracked.

“We’ve gone silent. Communicate with one another. Communicate,” the opposition coach shouted. My friend stomped over to him. “They’re English. They’re male,” he barked, “They’re not supposed to bloody communicate”.
He has now been relieved of his duties, replaced by a lady who runs a mini-bus hire company. All-in-all I think it’s probably for the best.





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