Welcome to 2022 folks! It’s been a while since someone posted something here but seeing how only two people monitor this site and contribute it was inevitable that there can be periods of accidental silence. My excuse is yet another broken bone which kept me away from most games and therefore unable to compile hilarious match reports without touchline notes. My fellow Phoenix legend, friend and site administrator may not have such a good excuse…hello!
Now today’s report comes with a serious lack of pictures, thank you to Javi for at least taking some, four pictures is way better than none, I’ve got three and Baby T sent me one. A grand total of eight which has been reduced to four after quality control. Put the kettle on and prepare yourselves for a word heavy description of one the craziest games I’ve witnessed in recent years!
We’re waiting patiently for the pitch to become available, it’s currently locked and desperately screaming for someone to run across it’s pellet filled plastic grass, so sad. Meanwhile back in our changing room Rash talks us through the formation and tactics after making sure the biggest child in the room was front and centre and paying attention.
The facilities here are quite impressive, nothing but the best for the Olympic Park in Stratford, white board at the ready and I think Rash brought his own pen. Sporting a fantastically über cool East London fleece he explains clearly and expertly how we plan to properly win the game. No really he does, it may look complicated but the roles are simple and the plan has been done before. It’s a 3-4-2-1 inverted Christmas tree that’s been abandoned on the street after all the fun has been had…no seriously the festivities are over, it’s time for football!
Now I hope everyone was paying attention back in the changing room, here’s the line up and the plan is set. The plan I hear you say? Ok I’ll run it past you quickly because remember I mentioned how crazy the game was…
This formation only works if everyone sticks to their role, the two “number 10s” Mo and Mark need to stay in their respective inside channels and not wander about especially out on the wing as this encroaches on the space for Mr Anderson and Shazattack to rush into. Plus it will empty the centre of midfield if they vacate those channels putting all the pressure on Jenny Denny and Rash. Tom Simpson’s role is simple, play like Jamie Vardy. Got it Tom? These are the key points to making this work, of course it depends on how the opposition set out so let’s get to kick of and start the head banging!
The surface is greasier than a East London kebab shop once a staple of this very area, Leyton still exists behind us so all is not lost. The morning winter dew makes for a very difficult surface, skidtastic, slippery and unpredictable. But it’s not this challenge that leads to the first goal, well I blame Liam because his name is in the notes but I think it was his tackle that led to a free kick which was taken way before anyone was ready, including Baby T in goal. 1-0 Yorkshire.
Good pressure by Tom Vardy Simpson up front results in a snapshot on goal which is parried directly to Mark who takes a touch and fires home from distance into an open goal, 1-1. But…
A ball over the top catches our defense out but with three on rushing Terriers two of them are obviously offside but not interferring, the third, well we don’t know for sure. Mitch keeps his flag down and the referee doesn’t blow his whistle or at least I didn’t hear it. Baby T stops playing, they fire it into the unguarded goal. Now I missed some of this but I’m reliably informed that Baby T did indeed stop playing, he told me himself. Note that Super Stopper Manager Fantastic Steve is not with us today due to the global pandemic. Damn you omicron bitch! But Baby T is thanked by all offering his suspect services as goalkeeper, and I don’t think he’s drunk this time which helps. 2-1 Yorkshire.
Now it seems apparent that our referee today isn’t controlling the game very well. Challenges are going in hard all over, partly due to the surface but it’s getting rather competitive and I might say a bit out of hand. The Terriers add to this by seemingly being rather aggressive, now there’s nothing wrong with this but getting that competitive will always lead to frustration, eventually. A few challenges here and there result in squaring up and constant off the ball chat. The referee meanwhile wanders about and sometimes has a quiet word. I think he’s forgotten his colourful cards.
The ball is fed to a Terrier out on the left wing, Hybrid Chris charges his engine and pushes the chase button as they both sprint down towards the touchline. But before they arrive the Terrier comically loses his balance, Hybrid Chris’s external sensors ensured his distance was adequate, no foul play with this technology. So with the ball at his feet he concentrates hard to play it against the rushing Terrier trying to win the goal kick. But the Terrier was already on the floor and the ball is therefore booted directly into his back, goal kick. Job done. Engine charged. Back in position. (I’m laughing out loud on the sidelines!)
Things get weird. A rather ahem “large” Terrier substitute seems to think he’s actually playing and is casually watching, supporting and commenting badly from 2 yards inside the sideline, on the pitch! Now this is fine if the ball is over on the opposite corner but it’s not and Rash screams rightly at me to get him off. I go and ask nicely if he wouldn’t mind just stepping back. His response is not type-able as my Mac isn’t allowed to swear and also wasn’t made in the North so it’s attempt at an accent will be poor. Put it this way he didn’t like me and made that clear, the referee had to ask him to remove himself which he did whilst still shouting at me. Weird. Nice chap wasn’t he Javi?
Hybrid Chris puts in a crunching tackle on an equally crunchy Terrier, both committed to winning the ball which didn’t really want to be involved and happily squirmed up and away to safety. Hybrid Chris may need a full service after this one. Meanwhile moments later Mark enjoys the silky surface evading a couple of Terriers and letting rip from just outside the box only for the keeper to tip it round the post.
Rash although a bit overrun in midfield is always calm when in possession and with the ball at his feet he is dangerous to the opposition. Yet again he slides another measured pass through to Mo galloping down the inside left channel, his shot is saved but only beaten out to Tom Vardy Simpson who clinically batters it into the net. 2-2, but, see if you can guess what happens next…
Yep that’s right back up the other end we go and Hybrid Chris who is definitely getting a lot of match report time makes a mistake. Some sort of reverse sun problem perhaps? Maybe an electric hesitation but whatever happened his clearance didn’t do the job, Terrier through on goal, unselfish pass to another Terrier. 3-2 Yorkshire. But…here we go again.
With one of the best moves so far from either side, Rash receives the ball and plays it simple and easy ahead to Jenny Denny who Cruyff direction changes to fool a Terrier. His pass to Mo invites him to lob which he does expertly. 3-3. And breath….
It’s not over yet one more highlight from the half, a long high kick from the Terrier goalkeeper is heading right for that space between Jenny Denny and the back line. But Jenny Denny uses his superior technique and plucks it out of the air with ease. A wow moment for sure. His pass out wide to Neill, on for Shazattack gives him a rare shooting chance that he’s not going to pass up. A curler towards the far post from 30 yards angonisingly hits the angle of post and bar. Impressive all round but no goals to end the first half…
Second half kicks off with a couple of changes, Mitch up front replacing Tom Vardy Simpson. His only advice, be like Mitch, don’t ever change, I like you the way you are, and Jamie Vardy is past it anyway so…
Teddy is on for Mr Anderson who being captain for the day passes the armband to annoyingly quiet Liam. It’s ok though because Teddy’s passion and enthusiasm will make up for any lack of verbal outbursts across the defensive line. I love this guy’s aura, he’s a good one let’s keep him.
Of course our tactics haven’t really worked but it’s not obvious what the problem is yet, I’ve been struggling to keep up on the sidelines and Rash is so very busy with playing a hard game right in the middle, so post pep talk we go again.
It’s not long before Neill gets into an advanced position down the right and crosses over to Mo at the far post, his scissor volley isn’t perfect but it is accurate. 4-3 Phoenix, but…you guessed it, a pattern cannot be broken.
The same Neill who so far has played extremely well has been targeted for one thing he will struggle with, keeping up with the young generation. I know mate, I’m there with you, I don’t understand Hybrid Chris’s recharging cycle either. So it’s Terrier pace down the left wing which leaves Neill behind and results in another goal, 4-4.
Mitch tackles an awkward bouncing ball and gets enough on it to knock it into the path of a Phoenix teammate, not an easy thing to do, it wasn’t pretty but it did work. Well done, a highlight worth noting!
A cross to Mo whose diving volley again isn’t hit cleanly, a chance missed. Meanwhile Neill’s woes continue as he is nutmegged and rightly fuming. “Close your legs Neill!” Shouts a little Spaniard on the side. Times up Neill, no you can grunt your way into another throw in, off you come!
Baby T who up til now hasn’t done much wrong and cannot be blamed for the four goals conceded so far, well except the first one, takes an awful goal kick. His luck is in though because the blame for Yorkshire goal number five lies with Jenny Denny who’s outrageous Zola flick lands at a Terrier who goes on to capitalise. 5-4 Yorkshire.
The next ten or so minutes are filled with more committed challenges, more arguments, no cards and lots of frustration. Teddy one of the smallest on the pitch is also one of the loudest and most involved. His energy and application should be commended and learnt from, take note Phoenixers!
Hybrid Chris breaks down and comes off before he ruins his warranty. Shazattack is back in the game at right wing back, nobody wants to face off against the Shazattack! Mr Anderson replaces the broken Hybrid in the back line along with Liam the Silent and Gluteus Mike both of whom have played well up til now, yes five goals have got past them but still!
Angry 12 as he is now known is on the pitch, I’m happy for him to at least be running about on the bit of fake grass he wants to be on, maybe it will tire out his anger, who knows? But unfortunately he does manage to get on the scoresheet making it 6-4 Yorkshire. A little later he also cheats his way into getting a free kick much to Mr Anderson’s annoyance. What a dick. Yeah I said it, so what, he was!
Rash’s strength in the centre gets the ball through to Mo who in turn crosses it over to Gluteus Mike but today’s conditions make catching a clean volley very hard. His effort doesn’t trouble the Yorkshire goal.
Mo’s trademark nutmegs are again on form today, using this cheeky skill he pulls one back to make it 6-5 Yorkshire but already in injury time it’s not enough to salvage anything from the game other than to keep the final score as ridiculous as the game itself. Full time. Pub. Now. I’m exhausted.
Now a lot can be said to what went wrong today but quite frankly none of it can be aimed at one person, the manager, the assistant or the players. Baby T did stop playing though so goal one is definitely on you, shouldn’t have told me that! I’ll be honest and give you my assessment on how we ended up on the receiving end of a 6-5 loss.
The tactics were clear and simple enough, and Rash did explain them well before we started. The formation we started with was not new it has been used before, both Rash and myself discussed our options before game day knowing that Steve would likely not be attending. But something happened between the changing room and that short walk across the road and onto the pitch. Maybe it didn’t match up well with the opposition and we should’ve had a simple plan b to resort to, that I’ll own up to. Not taking charge whilst Rash was surrounded by multiple large hungry Terriers, was something I could’ve done. But I’m not tactical, I like to keep it simple and I also know Rash’s intense hatred for 4-4-2 and even 4-3-3 to a point! A back up plan was required and we didn’t have one today.
Simplicity is key to this level of football, nobody is getting paid to play so to balance the competitiveness, inclusivity and fun across the whole squad is very very hard. Steve has managed to do this better than pretty much every manager since the early days of our beloved and much missed Graeme. But it’s a task that never gets any credit. We all want to go out there and enjoy the Sunday football and it’s easy to forget that trying to win involves maybe altering the way they play or possibly playing more for the team than individually.
Regardless it was nobody’s fault that we lost against Yorkshire and their London friends, Rash did as best he could to try and use his knowledge to win and compete against a good side that was both local and from Leeds all at once, impressive skills. I helped Rash where I could during a crazy to follow game, substitutes and such. Everyone played well, there were no bad performances but it did seem that some didn’t quite follow the tactical plan. This was the downfall in the end and if we had more time, proper training this can be rectified. But at this level it won’t happen, our training sessions are fun and will always encourage new players to join. This is more important. All I can say is keeping it simple is the way that could keep things balanced. Stick to a formation even if it’s new to some players, don’t try to change things too much or expect individual players to listen enough to execute the plan. Like I said it’s hard pleasing everyone!
To summarise this final image explains the game and why we lost way better than any of my words above.
This white board tactics monster is also my man of the match, well it’s not really a man but whatever.
Stick it on the LGBTQ+ scale, it’s in there somewhere, white board monsters need recognition too.
Notable mentions for Rash’s white board pen and Baby T’s goalkeeping versatility.
It’s Stokey next week so let’s keep a little less crazy please yeah?