Comeback kids

The Secret College Footballer describes the magic of the perfect comeback

Sat in your tute, your mind is on other things and your eyes are on the clock. The agonising ticking towards the hour mark is almost as painful as the awkward atmosphere as your tutor fruitlessly probes for some degree of engagement with the topic. Mentally, you’re already across town at your college playing fields, alongside your teammates in the crucial cuppers fixture that was cruelly rescheduled to clash with your tute. No sooner are you put out of your misery than you are out the door, taking the steps three at a time, dashing across the quad and outside onto your bike. You can feel your phone vibrating against your leg as you pedal furiously. Your teammates are clearly anxious, and so are you, thankful that at least you’ve only missed the first half.

But in that first half, your team certainly missed you. You’re greeted with horror stories of defensive disasters and freak set pieces as your teammates try to give you the lowdown on the situation, and it’s certainly dire. Three goals down, it looks as though your college’s cuppers dreams are over. You barely have time to change into your kit before the ref signals the start of the second half.

What is there to do in such a situation? The answer: everything. You’ve got the fresh legs, so use them. Put their defence through their paces right from the whistle and see if the cracks begin to show. If they think they’re sitting pretty, the opposition might try to mix their admirable football with their questionable chat, but it’s important not to get drawn in. Some colleges just seem to breed this sort of lacklustre ‘banter’, but if they’re concentrating on that more than on the game itself, then you can easily turn the tables. Perhaps try to ruffle a few feathers yourself. There’s nothing more disconcerting than having that false sense of security whipped out from beneath you, and pulling one back early on will certainly cause tension in the opposition backline. Once the momentum is in your favour, the important thing is that you capitalise on it. If they can score three, then so can you. If you can score three, then why not one more?

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“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…” Rudyard Kipling never went to Oxford, save for one visit to watch a college football match that inspired his famous poem, and it is no less relevant today than when he wrote it. The same sort of scenes inspired Steven Gerrard as he hauled his side to a comeback victory in Istanbul. The Liverpool legend has never hidden his admiration for the Oxford College football league, and would be proud to watch you seal victory in the dying seconds. Your winger squeezes a cross into the corridor of uncertainty, missed by two of your teammates and three opponents, reaching the back post, where you stretch to poke the ball home. The euphoria, that’s what college footballers live for. Few ever get the chance to experience it, fewer still take it, but for those who do, there is no better feeling.