It is fair to say that scoring a goal at the ABAX Stadium has always been a dream of mine and after the Staff Match 2017, that dream is still very much alive.
It has become somewhat of an annual tradition now for the employees behind the scenes to clean up their boots purchased in the 1990s and dash out to Sports Direct to obtain a pair of shin pads and this year was no different.
Representatives of the Executive Box Holders were our opponents and that proved difficult for our extensive team of scouts as we had absolutely no idea who we were up against, but as Darren Ferguson used to say ‘it is about us, not the opposition, if we are at it, we will get the right result’. And we knew one-time Posh winger Ryan Semple would be up against us as we sold him prior to kick-off.
With the staff team featuring the Ticket Office, the media department, members of the maintenance team, the community and women and girls department and former Welsh international Jack Collison, it was hard to know what to expect. I mean, yes we had someone with over 150 career appearances to his name, but would he pass to the likes of me?
After granting the executive box holders the home dressing room (we thought it was only fair), we got ourselves prepared with the odd stretch, numerous team photographs and by hitting the ball as hard as we could into the net from about six yards.
One of the key positions in a staff starting line-up is the goalkeeper and we had it on good authority (well Jack told us) that Academy Sports Scientist Rob Rowland is like the ‘cat’ between the sticks. Unfortunately Rob is apparently a part-time juggler and spent the 90 minutes auditioning for a role in the circus.
However, he did prove to be a hero later on in the contest, which proves that every ‘cat’ has it’s day. (The dog analogy didn’t really work here).
As joint-manager, I sensibly picked myself as one of the substitutes because I could a) make sure the formation of 4-5-1 was adhered to and b) wait until the opposition were tired before introducing myself as a the ‘game-changer’.
As it turned out, it proved to be quite an entertaining afternoon with plenty of goal-mouth action, a plethora of miss-placed passes and quite a lot of heavy breathing. Photographer Joe Dent, who I incredibly selected as the lone striker thanks to a lot of persuasion and potentially a little bit of sunstroke, repaid that faith with a fine strike into the bottom corner and subsequently celebrated with a ‘photographer’ based gesture following a knee slide. Groundsman Dan Selcraig looked quite shocked by this turn of events. Not at the knee slide, but the fact Joe didn’t ping his hamstring in the process.
The game ended 5-5 with Head of Media and Ticketing Chris Brewer, Amy Gore from the Posh Ladies, Louis Bland from the Community department and Will Gore from the match day staff scoring the other goals. Selcraig came close with a speculative volley while Collison did everything but score and when I say that, I mean he ran the show.
I completed around an hour as a centre back and introduced the Arsenal offside policy from the Tony Adams and Steve Bould era – realise you cannot run and stick your hand in the air and hope the work experience kids stuck their flag in the air.
The ticketing crew of Harry MacNicol and Tom Stent were deployed as full-backs, but while on the pitch, my sturdy looking 4-5-1 formation descended into carnage with overlapping full-backs turning into wide strikers but credit where credit is due, they did get ‘up and down’, which personally I felt was the perfect summation of their performances.
Of course, after a draw, a penalty shoot-out was required and even though the chance to score at the London Road end was a temptation, I decided to leave the spot-kick agony and heartache to the more confident. It might not have secured £150 million in potential revenue that Huddersfield Town have secured following promotion to the Premier League, but there was no way that Semple was having any of the bragging rights for his team.
The aforementioned and often maligned Rob Rowland made a brilliant save in the shoot-out and Stent calmly (so he says) rolled the ball into the corner to secure victory for the staff team.
Following the game, talk inevitably turned to ‘taking on all comers’ next year so get yourselves a team, and make a challenge, it could happen next summer!