Constitutions raised on Sheff's infamous baked bean lasagne are made of sterner stuff than most bacteria have ever encountered. And so, a pre-match scare over a suspected Legionella outbreak in the Highfields changing rooms was soon forgotten as the twenty strong Northern Allstars took to the field on Saturday 6th July. With Allstar crowns getting balder, the sun drenched Highfields was correspondingly less forgiving, especially on the more Celtic and ginger contingent.
Whilst this year's reunion football match saw three new debuts from the temporally challenged, familiar annual themes recurred. Firstly, Team Sid were well and truly beaten by Team Excalibur, with another brace from Jack Hawkins being instrumental in the victory. Secondly, Wolfie's tireless pursuit of refereeing notoriety shows no sign of abatement, including another dubious offside goal decision, denying the elusive Hawkins hat-trick. Shamelessly and consistently bowing to crowd pressure (Team Sid received strong vocal support on the Highfields "terraces", until the pitch-side picnic began), Mr Cummins continued his controversial refereeing policy of playing without a whistle (or a vague general awareness of the rules). The final theme concerns Sid's managerial tactics. A succinct pre-match team talk had failed to take account of the missing eleventh player, and resulted in the incomprehensible enquiry as to who was playing right-back
Although Dr. Jack and Andy Dodd aka "Cookie's Mate" (with a well executed Sheffy-style own goal) had given Team Excalibur a 2-0 half-time lead, Mince directed a tactical switch for the second half in attempt to combat Team Sid's obvious dominance in the midfield. However, the plan to push a redundant defender into the midfield somehow resulted in a 5-1-3 formation, with Marc Mullen shouldering the midfield burden alone. The days the Allstars employ the roving wing-back may well be over, before they really began. Unsurprisingly therefore, Team Sid enjoyed much possession in the second half, but were thwarted by excellent defensive organisation with Jeremy May as its talisman, terrific saves from Billy (mirrored, it has to be said, by Sid and Lee in the other net), and some woeful shooting from Sid's lacklustre attack.
There was only one way this game could go, as Team Excalibur exploited the increasingly cavalier attitude of their attack-minded opponents, through rapier like counter attacks, utilising the speed of Jack and the willingness of Shaggy to be almost sexually violated by his markers when shielding the ball. Indeed, one such clash with Marc's younger sibling left the Ginger Warrior devoid of puff (there's always a first time). Both Jack (firm header from a devilishly wicked Mince cross) and Marc (momentarily leaving no-one in midfield) scored on the break, with only Cookie managing to pierce the Jez marshalled defence in front of Billy. The final score of 4-1 flattered Team Excalibur in terms of ball possession, but did reflect their Viking-like ruthlessness in defending home territory and plundering without mercy when raiding up field.
A quick post-match discussion between the respective team captains resulted in a unanimous vote for Jez as Man of the Match, who tearfully received his Golden Boot. The traditional penalty competition was notable for Team Sid's continued reluctance to score, with only 2 of their 10 penalties crossing the goal line.
Post Match Post Script
The Allstars met up at The Priory on Derby Road for a well-earned drink, before departing in various directions to make themselves look pretty for the evening's adventures.
The hugely impressive Pitcher & Piano pub was designated Allstars HQ for the evening, with Graham and Mince forming an imposing line of defence against any unsuspecting strangers who dared attempt to infiltrate the self-segregated Allstars-only area at the back of the bar. These two sturdy specimens, it would appear, continue to effortlessly transpose their awe-inspiring menace from football pitch to public house.
The biggest shock of the night though, was the appearance of an unquestionably female escort for the Allstars confirmed bachelor, Shaggy. Not only was Jenny present, but apparently by the Lord Shagster's side without financial inducement, and had been for the best part of 12 months. The little ginger tinker had been doing some covert courting, and was seemingly so smitten that he refused to join Billy's trawl around the pub generously informing its female clientele that it was National Kissing Week.
A hardcore of party goers then attempted to show The Social some dance-floor moves par excellence, but were thwarted by over zealous doormen, who were intimidated by Cookie's apparel. After some deliberation, the party found refuge in the nearby Shaws Restaurant, whose coffers were soon well and truly replenished via speedy and efficient alcoholic commerce. Not only that but Gary Boydell, Allstars veteran from 1999, was encountered inside and promised to return for the 2003 bash.
Sunday lunch was provided by the good folk of the Three Wheatsheaves, after an earlier leisurely stroll by some Allstars around Wollaton Park grounds, encountering a deer that could only have been suffering senile dementia as it paddled aimlessly in the lake, unafraid of even the advancing, and ever trimmer, Sid.
Many thanks, once again, to Nigel Mayglothling and the Highfields staff at the University for helping organise the football; to Sheff and Sid for the photographs; to Marc for the kits; to Wolfie, without whom no Allstars would be complete; and to the three debutants for more than making up the numbers. They are now part of an elite squad of 58 who have donned the Allstar reunion shirt, since 1991. Long may it continue. Thanks to all who came (or tried to come), especially the spouses, for making another memorable weekend. Prepare yourselves (physically and mentally) for the first weekend in July 2003.
Note: this match report above will not appear in any edition of The University Magazine.
To return to Allstars 2002, click here.