Posted by: twobigyellowcranes | 23 January 08

“He’s got a foot like a traction engine!”

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Tuesday nights are one of my favourite nights of the week, because I meet up with a lot of friends and we play five-a-side football at the Valley leisure centre in north Belfast from 9.00pm to 9.45pm. A lot of people have asked me (a) why we play in north Belfast when we nearly all live in east Belfast and (b) why we play at that time. The answer to both of these questions is that our block booking has been going for over 10 years and on the couple of occasions that we have enquired about going somewhere more local, none of the nights/times available ever suited us. It only takes 15/20 minutes in the car door-to-door and the time now really suits me as I can put K to sleep (not permanently) before I leave.

As I said, the block booking has been going for ages – in fact, it started in the first year I was at university. I would say of the regulars we get along now, maybe 4 or 5 (including myself) were there at the start. I have known most of the guys playing since school days (longer in the case of my brother, who have known for all of his 28 years) and don’t get to see that much of them anymore otherwise during the week. I’m sure life was busy 10 years ago, but from memory it was from doing a lot more social things than work…

Up until Christmas, we had been playing indoors in a hall that I am sure on some nights had a temperature only surpassed by Death Valley. However, we have now all been moved outside to new 3rd generation astroturf pitches called ‘Zest Soccer’. Awful name, but great pitches and even the sceptics amongst the group are enjoying the move outdoors after the 3rd week. Not great when it is freezing and/or lashing down, but I’d rather that than dying of the heat inside.

Anyway, last night my team lost 12-11. You might think I would be annoyed or disappointed, but as I scored 8 goals (including 1 incredibly jammy volley and 1 decisive own-goal) I wasn’t. It isn’t often I score more goals than my brother and/or the rest of my team combined, so I am still relishing it. Normal service will no doubt be resumed next week…

I came home from the Valley to watch the highlights of the Spurs-Arsenal Carling Cup semi-final (albeit that H banished me to the kitchen to watch them as I unloaded and loaded the dish washer, loaded the washing machine – I’m too good to her). I knew Spurs were 2-0 up at half-time, but was sure they’d draw and lose on penalties. To see them chin the Gooners 5-1 was great and I am really pleased for my (few) friends who follow them. They are hardly a ‘little’ club, but it has been ages since they have reached a cup final and I have always had a sneaking admiration for them (partly because the great Northern Ireland player Danny Blanchflower used to captain them). Chelsea have just beaten Everton in the other semi-final so I will be rooting for Spurs in the final.

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