Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The beautiful game

North Ferriby- Far from the feverish madding crowds, the hundred grand salaries, comically sad yellow Lamborghinis and the obligatory pneumatic model blondes, the real beautiful game continues quietly on, unadorned and shod of its glitzy trappings deep within its Northern pie stained heartland.

News direct wanted to find out just what is it, that will make a working man crawl hungover from his warm bed early of a Sunday morning to battle eleven other Saturday night casualties for the possession and, usually mistimed, distribution of a leather bag full of air.
To find out the answer to this question and to maybe discover if the game has, as some say, really lost its heart to foreign owners, satellite television and players with boot deals, we traveled up to the steeply terraced village of North Ferriby, just outside the vast cosmopolitan metropolis of Kingston upon Hull.

The road that winds through the village has been unkindly called the road that the road to nowhere leads to. The one hundred or so tiny stone houses of North Ferriby are neatly bookended by the village's two pubs, the Red lion that sits besides the village green and at the far end, the smaller White lion.

After arriving in the quiet, windy solitude of North Ferriby's Sunday morning, I parked my car and walked bravely against the scything wind towards the nearby Red lion pub, where I had arranged to meet Derek Vadar the sixty two year old greengrocer and longtime manager of the Red lion's all conquering Sunday league side, Real Red lion FC.
Pushing open the heavy door of the Red lion was at once a relief and a surprise, for where I expected an empty bar and a roaring fire, there was instead fifteen or so quiet men sat around a large white tactics board listening intently to the man before the board.

I quietly let go of the door and stood listening intently to the man before the squiggle covered board.
"You hear me Terry?"
A bleary eyed player looked up from his medicinal pint and said "Yeah Boss, try not to be sick during the game, got it Boss."
The Boss nodded "The groundsman says if you do it again, he will not bother to pick up the dog shit in the penalty area."
A murmur of disgust rippled through the crowd.
The Boss looked round his players "Right today's the big one boys, we are two points clear at the top but those bastards over at the White lion are all sat in there now, with their feet up, calling you lot a bunch of hairy arsed puffters!"
Another Mexican wave of disgust rippled through the now riled players. The Boss pointed a finger "Dave!"
"Yes Boss?"
"They said you are a cross dresser, possibly a pedophile and your final ball is laughable."
Dave flooded his pale face with blood "THERES FUCK ALL WRONG WITH MY FINAL BALL!!"
The boss shook his head and walked slowly round the assembled players "That's what they are saying boys, you Gazza, you know what they said about you?"
An anxious Gazza looked away from Dave's smoldering anger "They said your wife looks like the Elephant man's ugly sister."
Gazza visibly relaxed "Well they do have a point Boss."
The Boss nodded "Yeah I agree with that, obviously, but they also said the only way you can get any sexual satisfaction is by accosting strangers in public toilets and that all that kneeling has ruined your knees and thats why you tackle like a Victorian orphan with rickets."

Gazza looked around the faces of his disbelieving team mates "I'm not standing for this boys I'll show them what tackling is!! The cheeky bastards!!"
The boss walked back to the board and looked each of his men in the eyes before clearing his throat "Well that's what they have been saying about you boys and I said to myself this can't be true, it just can't! I know Dave has the best final ball in the league, I know Gazza tackles like a proud viking warrior, I know everyone of you will do your utmost because you are the best Sunday league side this country has ever seen! I would go into battle beside anyone of you! Except you Simmo, everything they said about you is true, that's why you not even on the subs bench finish your drink and get out!"
Simmo, head down, picked up his glass.
"In fact don't even finish your drink, get out! Now!"
Simmo stood and carefully made his way through the maze of tables and out of the door into the cold wind of exile.
The Boss scrubbed his white board clean "Right, kick off in an hour boys, I don't want anyone drinking more than five pints between now and then, If you must drink, drink spirits. I don't want you all running around bloated and lethargic."

The Boss finished wiping the board and made his way over to the table I had discovered during his pre match talk.
"You that fella from Gazzetta del la sport?"
"Yeah thats me."
The Boss wiped back a strand from his failing comb over and through narrowed eyes said "You don't sound very Italian."
"I'm their English correspondent."
"Well you sound..."
"Don't say it!"
The Boss shrugged "So what can I do for you Signor Chianti?"
"It's De Chianti actually, I'm doing a piece on the great managers of the modern era and you are the most successful Sunday league manager in history, so I'd just like to ask you a few questions and maybe learn something of the philosophy that has led you to greatness."
The boss relaxed back into his seat "My philosophy is very simple my spaghetti eating friend, it's all based on the three M's."
"The three M's?"
"Yep, thats all there is to it."
"What are the three M's?"
"Motivation, motivation, and..."
"Nope, Moderation."
The Boss leaned forward conspiratorially "See these boys here?"
He threw a glance back towards his Heavy drinking squad "These boys aren't great players, most of them have trouble passing water, never mind a football. My job is to make sure they are motivated and moderate in their drinking habits."
"So basically, your job is to wind them up and keep them off the beer?"
"Yep, thats the long and short of it. Now here's a case in point, take Wilko, our keeper, he was awful last season couldn't catch a cold! So what I did was have a couple of the boys sleep with his wife and then I said to him 'I know who it was son, and if you keep me dozen clean sheets this season I'll tell you' after that he was world class, after we won the league I told him it was Simmo and he put him in hospital for three months. It was actually Dave and Gazza, but Simmo is a waste of space and I cant have two of my first team out of action for three months."

The Boss continued to struggle with his failing attempt at a hairstyle "I'm a great student of history, I have studied all the great leaders, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and of course Jimmy Carter, But you know who I have modeled myself on the most?"
Perplexed, I shook my head "No, who?"
"Dick Cheney!"
"Dick Cheney, the evil Neo-con genius?"
"Yep, ohh what a guy he is, a real man manager."
"But he is a psychotic butcher."
"No, he understands man management, look at how he operates, you do as he says and everything is hunky dory but cross him and he will destroy you. I like his style."
"But isn't that fascism?"
"Noooo it's much better than fascism, it's Neo-fascism."
"And that's the only way to lead?"
"Of course it is, men are weak and feeble creatures and if left to their own devices they will stagnate and happily live out their miserable existences, being sons,husbands and fathers. But what men like me and Dick do is take those useless shells and mould them in to devastating extensions of our own unimaginable ambitions."
"Riiight........I think I have probably.....Got enough now."
"You sure?"
"Yeah I think I have had a good enough insight into what it takes to be a successful leader of men."
"You not staying for the game? We are having a BBQ and a good piss up after."
"No I can't, My wife is expecting me home."
"Your married???"
"Yeah, why?"
"Nowt, just thought you would be the kind of man who liked to dress up as a cowboy of a weekend and dance to disco music."
"I'm not from Texas."
"No I meant..nevermind."
I stood and stuck out my hand towards the boss, he stood and grasping the hand firmly he looked into my eyes and said "Always remember son, Fussball uber alles."


Agnes Mildew said...

Well, I had no idea that football was so interesting. What a manager. I shall most definitely try to look up a Red Lion game when I am in Hull in the New Year. Then again, perhaps I shall just stop in the warmth of the pub, nursing a pint or three and partake of a couple of pies. Yes, that sounds more inviting...

Aningeniousname said...

He was definitely different, but I've kind of gone off football after last night's humiliation at the hands of the mighty Croatians.
I can definitely recommend Ye olde white hart, in Hull's old town, for a pie and a pint.
Beautiful 17th century pub, wood paneled walls, stained glass windows and a roaring fire.