Parklife: Amateur football column

The days of muddy pitches are over until next season
The days of muddy pitches are over until next season

It has been a busy few days – as the weather has partially relented, for now anyway, it was possible to take in four games in four days.

I started last Saturday in North Lancashire, with further matches on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

It is easy to sympathise with players at this time of year – it must be perfectly possible to find yourself playing five or six times a week as the various leagues try to catch up from the shockingly wet winter.

It was a lovely venue on Saturday, a ground owned by the home club. The pitch was immaculate, the bar in the nice new clubhouse was doing a roaring trade, great facilities, a credit to the club.

The pitch was fenced off, with two huge dugouts either side of the halfway line.

One dugout was empty, because the visitors had no substitutes, manager or physio.

The home dugout was also empty, but that was because the three subs were standing 15 yards down the touchline, leaning back against the barrier. And they were joined there by eight spectators, inside the barrier.

Only two of us were outside the barrier, behind the goal. Isn’t the point of a barrier, that people stand behind it?

It has to be said, however, that the eight spectators weren’t causing any problems, until the 70th minute, when the visiting captain launched himself through the air, his body describing a perfect arc before clattering the home team skipper, with both feet, just below his knees.

This produced a pitch ‘invasion’ by the eight guys, seemingly intent on exacting some form of physical retribution.

Without batting an eyelid, the referee yelled: “Oi! If you wanted a game you should have got here earlier and brought your boots!”

Eight grown men stopped dead in their tracks, looked at each other, turned, and retreated.

The inevitable red card followed. Most satisfying of all was that the away dugout now finally had an occupant.

Sunday saw a bit of an issue with the ‘Summer game’, as both teams in the match had a bare eleven.

A chat with both managers revealed that several of their players indulged in our favourite summer pastime, and as such had divided loyalties. The overlap between football and cricket must cause problems – some clubs can only have their football pitch between September and March for example.

But it must be nice to have the choice of playing both sports as your fancy takes you. Some of us couldn’t play one particularly well, let alone two.