Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side - Ebren

A few months ago I wrote something. A bleary-eyed reminiscence of an experience I thought was magical. At the time, I didn't mention the result of the game - I didn't think it mattered. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Because, like a second-rate sequel featuring George Clooney or Orlando Bloom, the same motley crew reassembled a few days ago. The same group – older this time around - were sucked from the Tube platform back into Narnia to try and re-live past glories. But without the aid of a novelist or Hollywood scriptwriter to plot a triumphant return.

You see, the first time out – like plucky underdogs – our aged legs defied the energy of a much younger and more technically proficient opposition. The wise heads prevailed and we won.

But youth always wins in sport, in the end. Experience is great and all, but even apparently immovable objects such as Bergkamp and Sheringham surrendered at the last as younger knees and sharper eyes finally overwhelmed them. Neither Matthews nor Maldini were sporting immortals.

And, like any money-grabbing media type, I hinted at a sequel at very end of my last stadium experience. And sequels are bigger, louder, flashier and generally more disappointing than their progenitors.

So it was last Saturday. Because, you see, it was last Saturday they let me play at Wembley.

But it didn't start that way. The hype kicked in. I was going to play at Wembley. In fact, when England self-destructed against Wales, I made myself happy again by repeating "I'm-gonna-play-at-Wembley" (mostly) inside my head. When they served a rancid insipid excuse of a performance against Scotland I repeated the trick. Like two pieces of uranium I was getting increasingly overheated and unstable as the clash approached. But it never went off.

Because, as excited as I was, as part of me believes I should be, it didn't work. Because, no matter how unique the experience was, I lost.

And when you lose all pitches are the same, all crowds the same, all stadia the same. Because when you've lost the stage doesn't matter. Set dressing and scenery is irrelevant. "Why can't you just enjoy it? Don't you understand we are ALL very jealous," my friends asked. Simple – because I didn't win.

It's a long way from the pitch to the Royal Box at the new Wembley. And far longer to collect a loser's medal (yes, they did have them, mine is in a drawer). The great arch doesn't support the roof for the losing team, it weighs on you. Alone. The showers are just showers, the dressing room stinks, and all of a sudden it matters that the water they supply to the players is Asda own-brand.

Because it wasn't just that we lost. It was that at no point did we look like winning. And more than that, even though we didn't look like winning, with ten minutes to play it was 0-0. Then two men ran in unmarked at the back post from a corner. Two men I had told the team were there, unmarked, and making runs. Then the only good corner of the day found one of them, who produced the best header of the year to score.

Then the midfield that didn't track all day, the full-back that was too far from his central defenders (me) all day, the whole lot of them didn't follow the shot in the 88th minute. The first one the keeper didn't hold. The one that rebounded straight to one of their un-tracked, unmarked midfielders. A yard from me. On his right toe. The first first-time shot of the game. Their second goal.

And I didn't care about the pitch. Or the stadium. Or the dressing rooms. Or the effing unending steps to the Royal Box. I. Just. Didn't. Care.

Because we lost. And now I'm never going to win at Wembley.

38 comments:

Ebren said...

There will - in the fullness of time and the whimsy of Picaser/SkyDrive permitting - be links to the first goal and the trudge to the Royal Box as a film and photos.

andrewm said...

Will there indeed?

Always a pleasure to read anything by The Master. If this piece is indeed a sequel, it's definitely Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (and you thought I was going to say Godfather part II).

Don't give up on winning at Wembley though. I know some people. It can be arranged.

Margin said...

I guess I fell into the "surely its just great to be there?" crowd.

But actually I can imagine that not even managing to go down fighting must leave a sour taste.

It may be many years before that runner-up medal transforms from bitter pill into a dose of nostalgia.

mimi said...

I guess then, Ebren that your alternative headline was:
"The curse has come upon me ... cried The Lord Ebren

I once won The Sports Improvement Cup at school. It was no consolation that summer, to not win my colours. I share your pain.

Ebren said...

Hi Mimi, the title was meant in reference to the last piece. AM, some photos now linked in - and good film analogy. That sequel stunk like Borat's undies.

Whe I get more/better piccies and the video running I'll post that too.

pipita said...

Lord Ebren

Congrats all the same, you got there mate. If it serves as consolation, I once read that Rodney Marsh had chucked his league cup runners up medal on the wembley turf and days after, once he had cooled down, he asked the FA to send him a replica which was denied to him. He said he had repented completely for being such a sour loser, so make the most of it...Cheers for sharing this thrilling experience, you are to be even more respected here at Pseuds

munni said...

But at least you've suffered the agony of defeat at Wembley, which is more than most of us can say. And it's nice, in a way, to know that the dressing rooms stink and the water is Asda own-label; I don't like pedestals.

Mimi, most-improved awards are a rather backhanded compliment, no?

(I am suffering from serious footy malaise at the moment, hope it goes away soon).

Ebren said...

It's a grand stage to fail on (the dressing rooms mainly smelt because of me, I burst a can of redbull, and was responsible for much of the mud in that photo) - but that doesn't make the failure easier to deal with.

And while recent League and FA cup no hopers (Wigan, Southampton, Millwall) had the knowledge that getting to a final was an accomplishment. All I did was rock up and play.

Weirdest detail I noticed, was that the dressing room toilets all had sanitary towel disposal bins in them. I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a women's game there.

Still annoyed.

andrewm said...

Quality photos. What eyes were made for.

I would like to see a photo of GG in a packed pub, with a self-satisfied look on his face as his latest wry remark finds its target and the room erupts. Is that too much to ask?

bluedaddy said...

Don't know what it's like to play in a stadium.But I am with Ebren on this. I really don't like losing when I play football.

Games are often followed by me apologising to my (team) mates for shouting at them. And that's five-a-side friendlies we're often talking about here.

In the rest of my life I'm a mild mannered janitor. S'weird.

AngryEbren said...

Thing is BD, I'm okay losing at five-a-side. As long as we try/put effort in. And we put effort in at Wembley.

But with that, the second after defeat we are looking at the next game, where we can still come in the league, can we still get promoted, we'll play them again later on in the season, or - failing that - we can improve for next season.

This was different, it was clueless. And I can't make it better next time.

Worse, I knew what was going wrong at the time. But I was cast adrift with no paddle at centre back, and I could hear the waterfall coming. I was banned from stepping into the space in front of my by the captain (442 vs 451, if someone doesn't step forward you're midfield is screwed) and I couldn't change it.

At five-a-side I can at least DO something about it. And if it's not enough at least I tried.

But this time I can't make it better next time. I wasn't allowed to try and make it better this time. And it's gone. I lost at Wembley, and I might have been able to change things. It still winds me up. I'm off to punch inanimate objects.

guitougoal said...

Ebren,
Very impressive stuff,
"how unic the experience was, I lost"
but what about the pre-match warm up,
and the feeling to be there before the loss was final? didn't you enjoy the moment, yes I am sure you did.

Ebren said...

guitougoal - the silly grins from the early pictures show the mood we were in. But - in the immortal words of Cerys Matthews: High expectancy always spoils the party.

But the thing is, it's like really, really looking forward to a meal at a restaurant. Looking forward to it for weeks, then finding out that the Fat Duck's chocolate wine is in fact a shit idea. And when that's the last taste you take out of the restaurant, it's bitter. You don't remember the anticipation.

Also, I don't think my writing performance was up to scratch on the report either ;o)

mimi said...

Not totally paying attention to this as the dying moments of Napier are distracting me, but I thought somewhere there I read Svarlbad...

Zeph said...

Very well written cry from the heart, Ebren...

But surely, surely 'tis better to have played at Wembley and lost, than never to have played at Wembley at all?

WIT said...

Ebren
I agree with zeph, the outcome of the game is irrelevant compared to an adventure of this magnitude, com-on confess you didn't sleep the night before the game.

guitougoal said...

Haoutch..! sorry for the WIT thing.

Ebren said...

Actually Mr Goal - I made sure to sleep well. I laid out my kit including the "athlete's secret weapon" Nike Pro top I had bought especially to hold my gut in. I bathed, relaxed, got to bed early, even gave myself an amateur pedicure to be in top condition. But it doesn't matter. See Fat Duck analogy.

MotM said...

I hate it when Everton lose, but I'm never too bothered when I lose at anything. It's not that I don't play to win, it's just that the result is out of my mind by the time I've crossed the boundary.

When I was 15 or so, I played cricket to a decentish standard. I really hated it when the same blokes that I had bantered with padded up next to the scoreboard turned into miserable old gits if we lost. I longed for the lower level teams of happy-go-lucky souls. Perversely, I didn't like Sunday cricket as that often finished in a draw. As long as the destination was a result, I was happy. And I really, really hated it when people disliked losing so much that they cheated.

I can't remember any of those results now (and probably couldn't a week later) but I have a tremendous feeling of satisfaction to have played on some of the grounds featured in this wonderful book - http://www.playedinbritain.co.uk/books/played-in-liverpool.php and at places like these - http://www.playedinbritain.co.uk/gallery-sporting-places.php.

Ebren said...

Mouth - I'm not a bad loser. Honest. It was the powerlessness that got me.

Couple of links to show I'm not normally this bitter about losing

a match report from me in the comments

and

pretty much a match report

Now I'm off to kick a water bottle over, smash a teacup, and throw my shirt at the manager's feet.

munni said...

Ebren, completely understand about it being the powerlessness, not the losing.

I don't generally mind too much if my team lose, but I can be in a bad mood for days if I personally have a bad game. In my case though, I think this is just a sign of me being massively self-involved.

Be careful kicking things, you don't want to make it through the football unscathed only to break a toe doing something stoopid.

pipita said...

Completely relate to what Munni just said. I get into a really bad mood when the team I played for looses, but feel much worse if I was absolute crap even if we won. Off course, these feelings are expressed at five-a-side level which is the only level I've been playing in the last fifteen years...Suppose I worried much more about my team winning, and not that much about my personal performance, when I used to play in a league for an eleven-a-side team far away and long ago......

guitougoal said...

I think David Beckham had no bitterness losing last night for his 100th cap-He got a standing ovation from the crowd I was at the game last night, nothing exciting except the old guys Maké & Beck.

Ebren said...

Self involved? Me? How very dare you! I mean you have no evidence at all, it's not like I've set up a series of blogs to vanity publish my articles or

Drew 6-all at five-a-side last night (I've only been playing for three years), we were 5-2 up, with ten to play. Then our fitness went (no subs to call on), and I passed straight to one of their players for them to go 6-5 ahead with less than a minute on the clock. The 6-6 goal felt very much like a win.

I am vaguely happy again - although it meant I missed the England game and Beckham's ongoing attempt to join the 100 international yellow cards club.

Ebren said...

Ooops - I forgot to finish my attempt at humour in the first para of my last comment. Everyone assume it was exceptionally droll. I'm sure it would have been ;o)

offsideintahiti said...

Loser.

andrewm said...

I'm with Ebren on this one, incidentally, but mainly because I cynically don't see why it's such a big deal to have played at Wembley. I accept that if you're a professional it's the peak, but that's surely because playing there means you're either in a Cup final or playing for your country. If yoiu're a mere mortal, it's obviously going to be a bit exciting but I doubt you'll be having it carved on your tombstone.

I've been to Hampden and it's shit.

pipita said...

Yeah Andy, but you didn't PLAY at Hampden...For that matter I've been on the actual pitch for concerts at both Wembley and River Plate, and I kept thinking how thrilling it would be to be actually playing. I think there are two different issues here, one is losing a game in the last minute on whichever pitch your playing, as was the case with Ebren at wembley, the other is the thrill, joy, magical emotion or whatever you want to call it of having managed to play at a stadium most of us would never have even dreamt of. Think it's posible to separate those two feelings

Ebren said...

Well put Pipita. Of course, the question is which of these emotions is bigger.

Of course the other article (linked to in the first sentence of this one) is about the magic. The Wembley piece is more about the fact that I'm half-Kiwi and really, really hate to lose. This feeling generally ends as soon as the game does, but it has sort of coloured my recollection here.

guitougoal said...

i thought the Pseuds football team was going to play the crapalolo cup at Wembley. A 4-2-3-1 formation with 6 stars left wingers.Ebren completely isolated as a lone striker with a chance to score the winning goal.
It's not over yet

Ebren said...

That's the ticket! The revolutionary 0-10-0 formation, with all the 10 on the left wing. And Camus in goal. Breathtaking to behold. Although maybe the Maracanã - Wembley is so last week.

guitougoal said...

Maracaña, bombonera,the sky has no limits.

andrewm said...

pipita, I do get that, I just don't feel the same. That may be because I'm a Scot who hates Scotland, of course.

Playing at Anfield would be a different matter, but how can you compare Wembley to Anfield?

pipita said...

Andy,
Ahhhaaaa, see what I mean. Look how you react at the prospect of playing at Anfield...By the way, we had a Scot, glaswegian to be more precise, playing yesterday in our five-a-side game. wasn't thatsuperb, but played for my team which fortunately won by the typical five-a-side result of 11-9

bluedaddy said...

Hey! Stop talking about playing football. I've got the flu and missed last night's five a side. And I was bloody brilliant last week too.

greengrass said...

0-10-0 is for beginners.
At the last count we played 0-197-0, all on the left wing, and 11 of us were pregnant.

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