Thursday, 3 November 2011

Trust me, the wins do come (eventually!)…

I almost gave up. After just 4 league games as an amateur football player-manager I almost chucked it in.
Prior to the 4 league defeats, there was also a 10-0 friendly thrashing. And chucked in the middle of all this was a local Memorial Cup, where the only win we had was a default charity hand-out because one of the teams in our group didn’t show up!
Pretty rubbish so far.
For our 5th league game only 9 of our players showed up (plus me), made even worse by the fact that we were playing the league’s top (and undefeated) team. We lost 13-0.
Here’s where I REALLY thought about packing it in! What’s the point in dragging yourself out of bed at 9.30am on a Sunday morning when you can’t even assemble a full team, when you’re rooted to the bottom of the league table and have a goal difference that looks like a North Pole temperature reading?
No one would criticise really. No one had expected it to work out anyway. Plus the nine people who bother to turn up could now have a lie-in on Sundays. (We actually had a squad of around 15 at the time, but through holidays and hangovers we’d come up short.)
However, something happened in the days that followed that rather humiliating 13-0 reverse. After I put a desperate plea on our Facebook team page (Mancunian Wave FC) for players to show up, some of those would have previously missed the game promised that next time they’d be down. I also signed up another couple of players who had called me after seeing my number on the league website, and we hinted that the next weekly training session would decide the next match’s starting XI. So basically if you can’t be arsed coming on a Thursday night, don’t start grabbing a kit from the kit bag the second it’s dropped on the floor on the Sunday!
As for the upcoming match, we were definitely playing a beatable team, so now was the time to turn our season round. The Thursday training session was a great success: most of the squad came down, including two new players who were real class. Ten years younger, twice as fast.
In just a few days we’d created a bit of a buzz about the squad.
So the 6th game arrived, and we had a squad of 14. New youngsters were primed, the regulars reinvigorated, and I tried to give my most motivational pre-match talk yet – staying just shy of opening with “I have a dream…” And so off we went…
Balls, we lost again.
The difference though, was that we lost by only 2 goals, and actually I SWEAR if we hadn’t had such an incompetent ref (he was to refereeing what Sven is to management – and actually asked our captain to choose what hand he was holding a leaf in order to decide who kicked off) we might have grabbed a point.
The important thing though was that we genuinely enjoyed this game, and spirits were high when the final whistle went. The after-match pint was actually enjoyable, and we had loads to build on moving forward.
We kept the momentum going through emails, Facebook updates etc, and made sure that we got everyone down to training again.
As I’m writing this now, we have played 3 more games since that close defeat. And I’m well chuffed to say we have won all 3, scoring 16 goals on the way. We’re off the bottom of the league (in fact there are now 3 teams below us), and for the last game I had a squad of 17 players to pick from on the day. Even the minus goal difference is starting to thaw – it’s now more representative of early-morning Latvia as opposed to the Arctic tundra.
Plus on our Facebook page the comments left by those who follow us have progressed from somewhat patronising (“I just think it’s amazing how you boys get out of bed of a morning, I need my lie-in. lolz rofl!!xx”) to genuine respect, I think (“liquid football!”). By the way I definitely recommend setting up a webpage such as Facebook: you can build a pretty decent sense of community and if you add matches as an event you know roughly which bugger is turning up!
So, for anyone setting up or joining a team, expect it to go belly up at first and don’t throw in the towel when it does.
Football loves a trier! (and seems willing to reward some of them with points)…