Roy Of The Rovers is a comic strip that has been on the go since the 1950s and chronicles the trials and tribulations of the fictional Melchester Rovers football club and their star striker Roy Race. They’ve done it all. Won the FA Cup, the European Cup, had match fixing allegations levelled at them, experienced death, earthquakes, oh the stories go on. His brash manner, golden locks and dazzling football skills made him famous until the magazine it was published in, the Match of the Day Magazine was cancelled in 2001. Thus ending his near 50 year career – well, imaginary career.
I never really read it much when I was a kid but when I think about it all I remember is him coming on and scoring the winning goal in the dying seconds to win the FA Cup – which is pretty much every boy’s dream when kicking a ball around a park. Not me though, I was rubbish at football. I used to play in goal (as I’ve mentioned before) and had no confidence, frequently being at the receiving end of a heavy defeat in matches. But as I got older I grew in confidence and while I never had dreams of being a pro, I do enjoy playing and scoring. Plus, I can do keepie-ups like a pro even if I can’t play like one!
I play 5-a-side football about 3 times a week for fun and when I was asked if I could play for a league 6-a-side team who were short of players I jumped at the chance. I’d not played “competitively” since I was that skinny keeper all those years ago so I was quite looking forward to exorcising those demons. The team I was to be playing for were second-bottom of the league and we were playing the top team. It was going to be tough work.
I was instructed to play as the centre-forward and just “shoot whenever you get the chance, they won’t let you have much time on the ball” and not to stay back and defend – they needed an attacking outlet and that was me. Oh, and they’d kill me if I tried any showboating! Before the game I was pretty relaxed, not tense, just ready to go at it. I’m fit, strong and pretty fast so I had nothing to fear. I just didn’t want to let the team down.
So the ref blows the whistle and almost immediately I’ve got the ball and I’m running down the left wing and take a shot that’s a bit off target. A minute later I get completely thrown into the wall in a rather harsh challenge that the referee doesn’t spot, despite the fact that the other team thought it was a foul and the guy who did it even apologised. But I don’t get angry, I just pick myself up and play on. Another couple of minutes later and I pick up the ball on the half-way line, run a couple of paces forward and lash the ball at the far top-corner of the goal and score! 25 yards out and there was nothing the keeper could do. I was shocked.
Their defenders were having a hard time staying on me as I love drawing people to me and doing darting diagonal runs to make space for myself. We were all over them but they managed to get a goal back and at half-time we were at 1-1. The second half comes along and they manage to score quickly and go ahead. Then the ball is fired up the left wing at me, so I run it into the corner. By this time I’ve realised that the opposition are really hard tacklers so I expect the defender to run right at me. He does, so I spin anti-clockwise with the ball at my feet and lash it, right-footed into the near top corner. Fantastic!
They score again thanks to a lucky deflection and then I find myself running into the corner again. A call from Chris and I back-heel it diagonally into his path so he can hit it with his right foot (I know he’s right-footed you see). He blasts it and scores! We could just about win this match yet. Once again, the ball comes to me and after a quick one-two I nip between two defenders and fire the ball through the legs of the keeper for my hat-trick. I’ll celebrate later.
Unfortunately they managed to come back to win 7-4. We seemed to lose our shape at the back and they were able to attack several times (even getting another lucky deflection). I wanted to run back and defend but was mindful that I’d been told to stay up front (I did defend a couple of times though). I’ll give them their due, they played really well as a team and were highly motivated to win. Impressive.
But I just couldn’t believe that I came on and had such a good game. I’m not a bad player, but I wouldn’t say I was particularly hot – I just like performing tricks to entertain the crowd. Although I didn’t do anything like that in this match. However, if I were Roy Race I’d have made sure our team won in the dying seconds so in that respect I was disappointed. The bottom line with team sports is that no matter how well you play, if the team loses you’re pissed off. I’d rather have scored zero if we’d won, to be honest. But I’ll take the hat-trick, and if I ever play that well again (which I seriously doubt) I’ll go for more.
There is a caveat though. I phoned my brother (who scored his share of hat-tricks in his youth) and told him all about it. He asked what the age group was, thinking it was 30-somethings. I pointed out that they were teenagers and early 20’s. He then pointed out that I was probably the oldest person there and after thinking about it for a few seconds I replied “you know, you’re probably right”. Sort of brings you back down to earth a bit. I’m 29 next week…