For this summer, upwards of 20 men, not always on the same Thursday, but over a summer met up. It could have been school friends, work friends, friends of friends, “we’re short of numbers, those guys over there look like they’re up for a game”, you name it, these reasons, besides others, were the reason for upwards of 20 men to convene at Richmond Park. Not to say we didn’t have our naysayers, the weather, the others on the field, residents, the councils department of field maintenance (sure that’s not the name, but you know, those people you see cutting the grass when on the way to work or home, or at obscure’o’clock).

I wish I was making this up but as much as I love sports, I wouldn’t call myself sporty, I’m more a John Motson, Murray Walker, or Graham Goode, you know, a proper “stato” but not exactly a history of “participation”. So when friends told me about it, my first question was “how serious a level will everyone be playing at?”, when I heard “It’s just a bunch of us down the field”, I was in, I’ve tried 5-a-side, I’ve tried the 3G pitches you hear England fly out to Russia and Eastern Europe to play on, and moan about, with each of these were a reason to loathe football. I like my football to be a bit unorganised, I’m not amazing, so if I lose possession or miss a sitter, or trip over myself in trying to shoot (yes, it’s happened before), I don’t need the blame and the talk like it’s the end of the world, I mean it is only a game.

It was Raj, Tom, and Gord originally, that suggested I join TNF (Thursday Night Football), I wish I knew where that came from, but personally I know it from the NFL when come the last 4 or 5 weeks of the 17 week regular season, the NFL commission an extra show besides SNF and MNF and so it was appropriately called TNF (yes SNF is Sunday Night Football and MNF is Monday Night Football, yes Football/Soccer fans, the same MNF Sky Sports have moved to call their Monday match… the irony). The name was enough for me to attend at least one session, there I met new people, and much like I said before, it was all very “a friend of a friend” and “they seem up for a game, lets include them”. And kind of like a doodle like you did in junior school, you start in the middle and then go round and round and it’s like a hypnosis wheel was the way TNF grew, just kept inviting people that may help. Like I said before I’ve played with other groups of people, and it was really “we all work together”, “we all go out on the weekends together”, “we’re all the boyfriends of the girls in the group” etc. But this set up was the definition of a gang, a band of people with football in common.

We set up a Facebook group, and every Thursday without fail, there would be mention of a quirky name for the individual event, we made going to the pub after a game a ritual, played until the sun went down, at the beginning we were easily out for 2 or 3 hours, then only as soon as 9th September, the day I personally call “The Day the Football Died” we could only muster an hour… tops.. crazy sun. It was organised without being organised and that is what I loved about TNF, you were told where and when, but it was still a laugh, a smile, a sense of unease you don’t normally get in 11-a-side or Sunday League. Like I said, I’m not an amateur, I’m lucky if I get more than 5 minutes on a ball, I was one of those kids that if he ever played football, he did the organising, didn’t own a ball, but did the organising.

So unofficially official was TNF, there were Admin and Officers for the group, Tom.P., Raj, and Jack were the “Directors of Football”, Tom.S. was the “Early-Bird” (they all doubled up as group administration), and I was the “Spokesman”… Don’t ask. We made posters, not the for the streets, merely to laugh at each others efforts and generally talk about, it was a laugh and a half it all truly was. And now the team, that I can remember or care to remember…

John Wells:Mainly a goalkeeper, great big forceful presence in goal. We were meant to be playing rush-goalie, but John stayed where he was comfortable, playing pretty much sweeper.
Myself:I like to see myself as a defender, normally a central defender/fullback, mainly due to boredom, a move to a striker/forward position i.e. Christopher Samba.
Matt Bright: Defender, occasional move to right midfielder, generally defender, but the odd decent cross field pass was measured and looked amazing.
Gord Carver: Defensive and genuine American Footballer playing Soccer… it showed. My personal adversary, great much up… 2009 NFC Divisional Round type action.
Tom Perkins: Literally the man that can do it all, and the engine to do it. He could run on the ball, motivate his team, or me… mainly me, great eye for goal if Paul Scholes goals are your thing. Generally “Captain” material… Noticed I said MATERIAL (to be continued).
Tom Southwood: Sometimes a winger, sometimes a defender, always an eye for goal, and when I say always, always, Cristano Ronaldo. But unlike Ronaldo, he tracks back and get stuck in.
Raj Joneja: The late arrival come the last couple of weeks, lack of desire, “other plans”, who knows? All I know is he WAS Paul Scholes, really drill it, like in Mighty Ducks: D2, that “Knuckle Puck”, that was Raj’s shot for goal, I actually had to scream out “PILEDRIVER”.
Stefan Pierretrix: Even later than Raj, and towards the end, peeled off for bigger and better things… Real Madrid were rumoured. The look and passion of Antoine Siberski, Frank Lebouef, Phillip Senderos, and of course… Danny Mills! As a winger, second to none, just work on the crossing… Early days Joe Cole? Helluva player all the same.
Anthony Watmon: As pacey and speedy as they come, a real Theo Walcott or Aaron Lennon. I’m by no means a prolific striker, but I scored 2 or 3 in a single TNF because of Anthony playing as my “Wingman”… Yes, horrible pun. My point is, he had the skill and the pace to burn, so I just had to make myself available (Not like that! Be’ave!).
Jack Amiry: THE star player, if any of us were going to “make it” to Hampton & Richmond FC, it would be Jack. He had the ball control, the passing, the pass & move, of course the shot, oh and what a shot… Made it look simple. If we were a team, here would be Captain Marvel, yes Tom Perkins is captain material (i.e. Vice-Captain due to when Jack is caught sleeping with a team-mates wife or girlfriend).
For a summer it was fun, hilarious times that I couldn’t replicate any time soon, it was all just so… Unexpected the fun had that summer, just a real laugh, and a story… always end on a story… “The fine people of Richmond thought our football antics were of such poor taste, a part of me would like to believe it was the cricketers on the green were part of this ploy too, but one session of TNF and its future were thrown into question when an enforcer came about. As a representative of the council and its field clean-up crew was forced to cease our game due to “complaints phoned in from nearby residents and field users”, now I’m not one to “dob in” people, so I refrained from saying it at the time, but now I can… how much marijuana, swearing, general “couple activity” happened on that field, a bunch of men playing football on a Thursday Night were the least of their worries, or on the list of “complaints phoned in”, well technically I doubt any one phoned THOSE in. As we talked to this official, and he who can’t be named for personal reasons (lol! So not true, I just didn’t learn it) suggested another green to play on, in all honesty and due respect we declined the offer citing “we’re nearly finished anyway” as reason enough, we continued our game for another hour at least, I can’t remember who won, who cares?”

True story, damn David Cameron!
Moral of the story: “Stand your ground” – Clearly not in a ‘Green Street’ way, that could get you killed, but in just keeping a level head, not swearing, finding a Band of Brothers (memo to self: Watch ‘Milliband of Brothers’ on More 4 on Friday Night) and stick together kind of way. I know some 20 men on a green in Richmond isn’t exactly a march down to Whitehall, but it’s a start… Isn’t it?