16th Univ Annual Football Day
All past and present Members of Univ, their families and friends were warmly invited to the 16th Univ Annual Football Day at University College Sports Ground on Saturday, 11 March 2023.
We would like to thank all those who attended and all those within College and without who worked so hard to make this special day happen. We hope you enjoy the report on the day below, courtesy of Peter Chambers (1989, Maths), and our gallery of photographs.
Report by Peter Chambers (1989, Maths)
The build-up to the 16th annual Old Members football tournament began early, and all was going to plan until the big news came through in January that long-time participants (and many-time winners), the 80s John Davis Blacks, were not going to be able to field a team. A big loss to the tournament for sure, and one that we hope will prove to be just a one-off. Then, to compound the situation, just a few days before the big day, the MCR captain reported that he had been compelled to field a team for a league fixture on the same day or risk an automatic loss which might even threaten their relegation. A hasty deal was arranged, whereby they would play their league game in the morning, and come along straight afterwards to the tournament.
In short, as ever, the drama started well before the first ball was kicked.
And so to the day itself. The weather forecast for the big day, in the week before, had promised some pretty wild weather, weather familiar to veterans of the early years of the tournament: rain (driving, horizontal), sleet, freezing temperatures, gale force winds and so on. Robbie feared for the state of the pitches; we feared for the potential state of our extremities. But somehow or other, as the day drew nearer, a benign weather window emerged, and 10am on Saturday morning saw blue skies, the sun shining, and the playing surface absolutely immaculate.
The teams began to arrive, with the notable exception of the JCR. With only a few minutes before their first game, they numbered no more than 4 players. Frantic phone calls ensued, anyone moving in the vicinity was collared, and they made it to 8. Not quite enough though to avoid a forfeit of their opening game against the Greens, who perhaps (spoiler alert) benefitted from the impromptu training session. Meanwhile, the New Reds and the New Grads locked horns in the first game on the far pitch, the New Reds running out 1-0 winners.
The rest of the JCR dribbled in. And at some time around midday, the MCR too, though not in time to avoid forfeiting their first game as well. Having won their league game across town, 3-1, at Keble, they had hared across the city by whatever means they could find – cycle, bus, tax and other, looking fit and ready for action. Their early exertion certainly hadn’t had a detrimental effect – quite the opposite – as they went on to win all 3 of their league games, and qualified directly for the main cup final.
Leaving aside all of this off-field drama, some good quality football took place. In a very tight group, the Greens came runners up to the MCR to qualify for the Gerry Fitzsimons Cup, with the other 3 teams, the JCR, New Reds and New Grads, qualifying for the Bill Sykes Challenge Cup (aka the Plate).
In the vets’ “tournament”, only one game was scheduled. But what a cracker it was, the 90s Reds and the Oranges perfectly matched on the Far Pitch, ably officiated by Rob Rickman, and playing to a variety of enthralled spectators – substitutes, retired players, children, college staff, and so on. The game was 0-0 at halftime and for some time after – it took a couple of late goals from the 90s Reds to send them into the main cup semi-final, and the Oranges to the plate.
In the semi-finals of the GF Cup, the vets’ teams both went down (valiantly) to younger rivals, the 90s Reds beaten (5-0!) by the Greens, and the Oranges by the New Reds. In the other BS semi, the JCR edged out the New Grads.
The finals were played simultaneously, with both going to penalties, all teams lining up on the half-way line, the penalty takers making the dreaded walk to the spot, whereafter relief and glory, or head hanging in shame, awaited. In the GF Cup, there was extraordinary drama at 4-4, with the referee (Reuben) unable to decide whether the MCR penalty had crossed the line or not. In the absence of VAR or goal-line technology, he decided a retake was necessary, and the retake was saved! The penalties continued, well past the original allotted 5 to 6,7,8,9. At 7-6 (goals) the MCR taker had to score to stay in it – he went left, hit the post, and the Greens had won.
Meanwhile, drama of a different kind was unfolding over on the Far Pitch, with penalty after penalty from the New Reds and JCR sailing wide left, wide right, or far over the goal, and often on into the bushes. The New Reds managed to find the target just a little bit better though, the score ending up at 2-1 in their favour from the 10 penalties.
The rain still hadn’t arrived as the teams congregated outside of the pavilion for the presentation from Andrew Carroll, the 70s legend, and original architect of the event. A number of thank yous were given and should be repeated here: Thanks to Julie Boyle and her team at the college for all of their support, and the large amount of work that goes into the organising of this event every year. To the referees, to the first aider, to all of the captains for organising (herding…) their teams, to the players for making the effort to come along, and lastly, and clearly the opposite of least, for the continued support and brilliant work of Robbie and his team – without all of these contributions this event definitely couldn’t happen. It is so good to see players of all ages getting together every year, to revisit past glories and to create new ones. It’s a kind of mini gaudy, but annual, and with added football. Who could ask for more? Long may it continue!
To wind it up, there was the excellent hog roast, the rugby debacle that was France vs England, and at last, and too late to have any say in the proceedings, the rain.