Duty of Care – The Rightful Winner Today

Ron Whitton

With an unbeaten record, rumours were strong that Juventus Old Boys had stacked their team and with the absence of Sinclair, Davidson, Hughes and Cooper, this was definitely going to be another interesting test for City.

With what appeared to be limited Legend availability just three days earlier, how ironic we arrived on this warm Sunday afternoon with plenty. We were even able to lend our opponents three players, namely the silky skills of Singh, Gulec and Hassan?

More importantly the evolving camaraderie within the Club is becoming legendary. For example, the pre-match ritual of sharing of the very scarce resource (toilet paper), has become character building and to an outsider must appear a very peculiar way of team bonding.

A bigger shock was when The Gaffer called us in for a tight huddle/team talk and then out of no-where, a fully masked Hannibal Lecter (JOB Captain Mile) appeared in our midst. Such was the level of confusion, Jenkins Senior forgot to communicate both the starting eleven and our positions.

Regardless, the game started slow for both teams, with the Old Boys having more of the ball and City sitting in deep, defending well. Chances in the first half were limited with most attempts sailing over the bar or going wide. Was this going to be a day where accuracy was an issue for both teams?

A closely fought first half that was probably best remembered for Scafrace’s weekly crunch (thoroughly deserving of yet another yellow card – what do you do with them Smee?), two JOB long shots that hit the post, oh and Emery’s 20 metre curler that went just wide of the far post.

So it ended up 0 – 0 at half time and another team huddle was called for. Our composed captain gave us two points to ponder “let’s have some more shots, lads and forwards, play together and stay up the field”. Within two minutes of the restart, who was taking the first free kick in our own half, none other than the centre forward/match reporter himself!  

In general though, the second half started with City being much more direct, with the ball being played forward much quicker to Whitton and Caridi. No surprises, with such a speedy attack, it wasn’t long before the first goal came.

A long cross from Sims found Whitton in space on the left. Now this may have looked like Whitton had seen the keeper off his line so it could only be described as a magnificent chip over the keeper. Others, well everyone else that was there, observed a cross that was thrown into the net by the keeper, who we then found out had a frozen shoulder from his tennis days.

Another interpretation of the same goal (were we all watching the same match?), was that a JOB ‘forward’ in our half of the field, claimed it was clearly offside!! This led to a Mile rant, receiving both a yellow card and a 10 minute sin binning for continuing his protest and detailed analysis of “how to properly referee”.

In hindsight, this probably changed the course of the match allowing City to dominate play for a continued period of time.

Under yet another fast breaking attack, Caridi was hacked down just outside the box. Whilst most were concerned for his ankles, he immediately jumped up and said “oi they’re my new Messi boots”! Deja vu – the Gaffer was then heard to shout “Oh Gary” well before it flew well over the cross bar.

More importantly the opening goal settled City and it wasn’t long before their more direct approach paid dividends once again.

This time a copy book version of a goal that no one could dispute. A throw in on the left, and then from an inch perfect pass by Parks to the right wing, Sims went on a galloping run leaving a defender in his wake. With Caridi dragging three defenders away (something about do you want Messi’s old trainers as well?), the centre opened up and Sims struck a tremendous long through ball back again to the left flank. With a one on one imminent, Whitton controlled the ball nicely and from an acute angle made no mistake scoring in off the near post. An excellent move with a clean finish making it 2-0 and at last some breathing space. But still another 30 minutes to go.

The remaining part of the game in fairness, with the returning Mile was somewhat controlled by the Old Boys. However, despite JOB’s continuous attempts to attack, City’s defence, controlled by Jenkins, and midfield by Emery, were solid all day.

And then the incident that put everything back into perspective. For the majority, it appeared as described by our “no one’s gonna score on my watch” Attwood, “a flurry of arms when the ball had gone and then Ray hitting the deck”. Was Ray trying to chew on an opponent’s elbow or was it a little more sinister than that? It didn’t matter, action was immediately required. The Gaffer was as always first on the scene and was covered in Ray’s blood (gloves? pah!). As the benevolent leader of his troops, he took immediate control. Perhaps the only useful thing Rolf Harris has given to this world are his most adaptable lyrics;

Cannon roared loud and in the mad crowd, a wounded and dieing Ray lie. The Gaffer gave a shout and the first aid box/Esky were bought out, out from the ranks so blue. Harrison galloped away to where Ray lay, then came a voice he knew.

Do you think I would leave you dieing? When there’s room in my car for two. Climb up here, Ray we’ll soon be flying, back to the ranks so blue. Did you say Gary I’m all a tremble, perhaps it’s the battle’s noise, but I think it’s that I remember, when we were two little boys.

Michael Kotsifakis, our opponent, training partner and good friend, similarly stepped up. With his dentist hat on and again covered in blood, he asked the referee should we finish the game now (7 minutes early) as there is a time where duty of care overrides a game of football? While the referee didn’t take him up on the idea, post-match Michael, accompanied by Gary, opened up his surgery, called in a nurse, and put 14 stitches in Ray’s mouth. Although these stitches didn’t manage to successfully tie his top and bottom lip together, we must all be grateful that we have such professionals amongst our ranks.

In such circumstances, the score and the game didn’t matter – personal safety and duty of care did.

Next time you see Gary or Michael, please go up to them, shake their hands (might have to check there’s no blood on them first) and sincerely thank them. They both went so far above and beyond the call of duty – we should be grateful and inspired by their example.   

MMM Memorable moments – Mile’s 101 lesson of how to be a good ref; UFC newbie Ray’s fall to the canvas; John H’s lively feet, side stepping the Jenkins probe, and then with a huge smile on his face, shooting wide from 6 yards.
MMM Muppet moments – Maurice “Rocky“ Sims who mistakenly took his brave pills instead of his anti inflams; Brown taking out his own goalkeeper on a corner or was it just another attempt to protect his new Nike boots?
BMW BoP The Gaffer and Michael K – for their willingness to help a wounded but “never say die” Maltese soldier on and off the battlefield.

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