Thursday, 22 December 2011

A season with St Andrews (part four)

In football, everything ends. It might be a contract or a match or a time spent playing at a stadium. Nothing exists in perpetuity. The end of the season is a godsend for some, an annoyance for others. The end of my season playing for St Andrews was something of both.

It was late in the season when we found a bit of form. Even our performance against Christ The King was much improved. Our final few results included a 1-1 draw with St Saviours, the only game we took the lead in all season. And on the final day of the season we went to Trinity and only conceded half a dozen.

That game against Trinity was a rarity, taking place in midweek rather than on a Saturday morning. It was about a 6pm kick-off, as I remember. We assembled early, some of the lads coming straight from school. The whole evening had a strange feeling to it, as though it were something more than just the season coming to a close (although I'll admit that this may be hindsight). It was a beautiful evening for playing football.

Although we were beaten, there were plenty of positives to take from the game. Our young lads had come on over the course of the season. I could measure my own progress as a footballer in terms of school playground performances, where I went from an als0-ran to one of the go-to picks over the course of the year. In year five I'd notched about a dozen goals; in year six it was forty-odd. My confidence on the ball was improving by the week, and I'd even started making clumsy tackles on the bigger lads we faced. I wasn't alone in this development. Had the team stuck together for another season I have no doubt that we'd have started to pick up some much better results. St Aidans and Ravensthorpe Mosques in particular were nothing to be frightened of, and we'd already shown we could compete with St Saviours. The end of season five-a-side tournaments ended with us putting in two good showings, including a third-placed finish in the under 12s tournament (a team in which I made a big contribution, playing every game).

It wasn't to be. After a 1999/2000 season where we earned a grand total of two points from 18 games (and been knocked out of the cup in the first round), a lot of players didn't want to play for St Andrews any more. In hindsight, it's hard to blame them, but at the time I felt betrayed by my teammates. When the time came for player registration for 2000/01, I was one of only four players who signed for St Andrews. The team - which had played in the Mirfield District Church League since the 1920s - was forced to disband.

In later years I played against some of those I played with in my St Andrews days. It was always a bittersweet experience. It was good to see them doing well playing for other teams, but I couldn't forget that these were players who had turned their back on St Andrews. When I was younger I'd wanted to play for St Andrews with a passion. I'd followed my dad and Uncle John up to Knowl Park to watch a side with my Uncle John's son, Joe, and all manner of other talented players. I wanted to be one of them. I was for a season, but I always wish that I'd played for them for longer.

But I carried on playing in the Church League. When it came to signing for another side, I knew who I wanted to move to. I went to Trinity.

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