The weatherman promised rain and the clouds delivered. Grounds around the eastern suburbs were quickly shut by unforgiving councils who cared not that hundreds of young men (and older men e.g. Daz, Rab, Foxy, Paul Hartley and most of the AA8 team) around the east were burning to get the season started. Luckily, BUFC ply their trade at the theatre of dreams, Paine Reserve, and it was blessed with a halo of sunlight over the weekend, meaning it was game-on. BUFC AA8s would kick-off against the mighty UNSW.
The pitch was dressed like Ricky’s woman on a night out in Teneriffe, everything was in the right place and it was gagging for action. Grant Mitchell had agreed to ref the game and brought two linesmen, there were even new shorts and socks to add to the ceremony. Nerves danced like maddened Arabs in the stomachs of all- particularly Darren who had to make two trips to the toilet.
Vicious rumours rumbled on the sidelines that Billy had in fact passed away five years ago but was too stubborn to lie down. It was either that or senile dementia that was the stimulus for his selection of the starting 11. Enough said.
Anyway, we warmed up, lined out, whistle blew and we’re off.
The first 25 minutes were frustrating as BUFC struggled to get the ball under control or impose any real pressure on the opposition. Although UNSW are not renowned for their technical ability at this level, they are fit and resilient and caused us problems. The lack of composure caused a grey cloud to form at the pitch’s side much like that from which a genie might appear. It even shouted instructions to the players in a foreign tongue that none could understand. A gentle breeze then revealed that it was just Billy shouting ‘encouragement’ from the sideline through the smoke of his twentieth fag of the day.
The game changed dramatically as Gav suffered a groin strain and was forced off. The reshuffle saw Niall pull into centre midfield with Darren and Ronan join Dan up front. ‘Inspirational’ is probably a word used to loosely these days in the footballing context, but as history on the day showed, Ronan’s addition to the attacking force was indeed just that, inspirational.
Within minutes the strong defensive performance started to funnel tidy passes through the midfield who in turn created opportunities for the front men and John Murray who was sweeping in from the left. Ricky and Alister were also having a positive impact with their penetrating runs up the wings.
Just before half time John Murray, whose sixth touch was clinical on the day, played a ball to Darren who picked out Dan with his back to goal. A tidy turn created the space needed to get off a shot and he rifled the ball with venom passed the keeper. Great goal, 1-0. The whistle blew to end the half, a half where BUFC dominated possession but, like Niall on a first date, were limp for the most part. There was still much to do in the second half. A second goal for BUFC would change the game, a third would kill it off. Who in the team could possibly have the class to carry out this difficult task? (Ed’s note – i can see where this is going)
The second half gets underway and the tempo following Dan’s goal is carried forward. Ricky picks up a ball on the left of the box and slides a neat pass into Ronan who appears to be in an impossible position, surrounded by four, maybe 7, defenders. The dance classes he’s been attending paid dividends as he fox trots his way past one, two, three four, defenders with the quick feet and guile of a young George Best before smashing the ball off the underside of the crossbar and into the net. A rare occasion, when goal of the season is scored in the first game.
Seconds later Dan plays a slide-rule pass splitting the defence that Ronan picks up, a neat shimmy gets him past a bamboozled defender and from 25 yards out on the left lobs the ball over the unsuspecting keeper. True to the BUFC motto, the legend continues. What a goal, what a man. The crowd go nuts and chants of “RO, RO, RO, RO” can be heard as far away as Rainbow Street. An even rarer occasion, when the first and second best goals of the season are scored in the first game.
There were other less important goals and the game finished 8-1.
Okay, I’ll quickly run through those too, but the game was already over at that stage.
A cross is swung into the UNSW box and an attempted clearance finds Paul Hartley who cleverly loops his header over the keeper who is slightly off his line. 4-0.
Darren, who had a strong performance was deservedly granted his big moment as the ball broke into his path. A bolting run finds him in the box one-on-one with the keeper with plenty of time to dispatch the ball into the net. He opts for a toe-poke that normally would have sufficed. However, when you toe-poke with both feet the outcome is never consistent and the ball skewed off left and wide. Ambitious effort though.
Then Niall picks up a ball in the midfield and threads a pass through to the run of John Murray who thankfully doesn’t have to control the ball. He eyeballs the keeper and coolly slots the ball in the corner of the net. 5-0.
The opposition have pretty much given up at this stage and are praying for the final whistle to sound. The pain however continues as Alister plays another ball to split the UNSW defence that is controlled by Dan who paces towards goal and casually swings the ball past the keeper. 6-0.
Ronan again, influential on the day, picks up a ball at the left of the box before turning the defender inside out and slotting a cool pass to the feet of Niall who was preying on the line and he knocks the ball in. 7-0.
A ball is quickly floated in from midfield and Niall picks out the header that beats the deflated defence and keeper. Easy pickings for the vulture. 8-0.
With a minute to go, there were hopes of 8-1 to guarantee the free beers that is BUFC tradition. Rab takes the ball with seconds to go and smashes into the corner of his own net. A sorry end for a UNSW team that had hoped for better. Free beers for all though. Back at the Coach, talk quickly turned to Ronan’s performance and the amazing goals. Everyone agreed they were the best they’d ever seen and they would pass the stories on for generations.
Training on Wednesday night. A big occasion with the return of the Thai Stallion aka the Lady Boy Destroyer. See you all there.
*Some details may be exaggerated or fictional, except the details relating to Ronan’s goals and performance.