I have just watched the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert; an emotional moment. I experienced something similar when I heard the score from Highgate late last night. The Shrewsbury 1st XI found themselves 3-0 down after 20 minutes in their ISFA cup tie, fought back to 3-2 and then what has become known as ‘Penaltygate’ occurred. (Like a certain Chelsea manager, I would not want to comment further and anyway my words would be edited!) They fought back to 4-3 but could not quite force ‘Extratimegate’. As a result, we are all experiencing ‘Lowgate’.
Despite Lowgate, the Ist XI have had a very good season, but as always this team will soon be affected by the annual migration. It is perhaps time to have a look at the bottom rung of the Shrewsbury School football ladder and see how our future stars are progressing.
There is a huge enthusiasm for football in the under-14 year group. Mr Morris’s under-14D squad is around the 40 mark in terms of personnel and there is an E team fixture pencilled in for later in the term. The C team under the guidance of Mr Corbett have been magnanimously allowing certain favoured prep schools a taste of victory. Their marketing expertise has been duly noted and I am sure they will all be rewarded by Mrs Campbell!
The under-14Bs have been coached by our new Director of Sport, Mr Andrew Murfin. This is my first chance to introduce you to our new sporting supremo, who is affectionately known as José Murfinho by his players. Andrew grew up in the North East and is a Doncaster Rovers fan. Doncaster, as I am sure you will all know, were the last team to play at the Goldstone ground against Brighton and Hove Albion in 1997. (A game I went to and enjoyed, as Brighton won 1-0; for a detailed account of the game, email me separately.) Andrew was a Leeds junior and then went to Scunthorpe, Burton Albion where he worked with Nigel Clough and Kettering. When he was at Loughborough University, being a slow learner he played for the Great Britain student team for six years. He has also played for England at 5-a-side futsal. Futsal is very popular in Brazil and is great way of enhancing one’s skill. After Futsalgate he was exiled to Jersey, where he was Director of Sport at Victoria College and won at least one 12km race, which would explain why he finished in the top 10 in the Tucks this year. (Did I mention I defeated my son in the Tucks?)
Andrew is pleased with the manner in which his team have progressed this term and he has maintained good links with the A team and coach Spencer ‘Face’ Gunnell. “I am pleased with the manner in which the team has progressed this term and I have maintained good links with the A team and coach Spencer ‘Face’ Gunnell.” ‘José Murfinho’ was quick to compliment his team and is rightly proud of their record of seven wins, one draw and just one defeat. An 8-0 defeat of Repton and a 4-0 win over Bradfield have to be the highlights, and strength in depth is always a good omen for the future.
‘Keeper’ Ludo Lichfield loquaciously lavished praise on his team. He was also quick to point out that 1st XI stopper Rufus Lichfield started life in the under-14Ds; he has high hopes of emulating his big brother! He told me that he enjoyed the high standard of football here. “I enjoy the high standard of football here,” he said. He went on to single out Lucas Arkwright as the fittest man in the team, who earlier in the season singlehandedly pressurised the opposition defence, finally tackling the goalkeeper and scoring a goal which was down to sheer persistence. He also paid tribute to the organisational skills of Captain Fingal Dickens. “Fingal has a plan for every eventuality,” he said.
Frank Morris has missed a large part of the season with a broken wrist and felt that the team’s performance would have benefitted from his presence. Milo Herbert was also keen to point out that he was the midfield dynamo of the team and Reuben Denison would like it known that he has been playing with passion, pace and power. These latterly mentioned gentlemen all happen to be in my RS lessons and I sense that their play reflects the odd tactical gem that comes their way when I happen to be discussing some of Brighton’s magical moments (obviously in conjunction with Kant’s categorical imperative, Hume’s fluidity of formation and Leibniz’s Principle of sufficient passing).
I joined A team coach Spencer ‘Face’ Gunnell for a training session and found it quite hard to differentiate the A team players from the B team. As is always the case, the under-14s is a team in transition; a bit like Liverpool. Over the next five years they will start winning games against teams that have beaten them this year; a good illustration of this is the under-16 As defeating Bradfield this year 1-0 having lost 8-0 to them the year before.
The ‘Face’ describes his team as eager to learn, full of characters and a little naïve at times. He was very enthusiastic when asked to comment on his players. Dan Humes is a ‘theatrical’ but talented player who tends to find the glass is half full. Ed Hague-Saunders in goal he likens to a very frightening big cat; he has pulled off some great saves and has a look of the Schmeichel about him. George Faulkner is a ‘nice little player’ who holds the ball up well. Harvey Hancock has a sweet left foot and supports Stoke City (as does Mr Gunnell), so he has to play. Will Barton is the work horse of the team and never stops running.
Charlie Harpin can pick the lock of any defence and whilst I was watching I saw at least two beautifully executed nutmegs to illustrate his coach’s view of him. Ben Henderson is the right back and improving with every game. Felix Kenyon-Smith is the rugged and manly centre back who wins all tackles. Toby Pegge is captain and the epitome of total football. Mwela (big Moe) has the most ferocious of shots on him and the Bursar may have to re-examine the School’s buildings insurance. Simon Lange is the deadly assassin; he never gives the ball away and is an awesome passer of the ball. Angus Munroe has great feet and will ultimately achieve great feats.
I look forward to many more highs in the future from this team of budding stars!