At the end of my first year, I was offered the captaincy of our college second football team. The team had gone all season without losing a game, won the cup and finished with a +47 goal difference.
I certainly didn’t win the captaincy because of my footballing ability; I suspect I got given it because I was punctual, relatively enthusiastic and I had bought the previous captain a few pints in the bar over the year. I didn’t even make the starting eleven in the cup final, instead putting in a stellar performance as linesman. Still, everything was looking good and I could already hear myself describing myself as “captain of a cup-winning football side.” Perfect.
Except, I had forgotten that all of the team’s best players were about to graduate. No bother, we had a few more decent players – we’d be fine, I thought. Except I had forgotten that all of our mediocre players would then get poached by our 1st team, whose ranks had also been thinned by the sands of time. Still, we’d have new freshers, some of whom would probably be good footballers – we’d be fine, I thought.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m stood by the side of the pitch after my first game as captain, wondering how we had managed to lose 8-0. I wasn’t even sure we’d let in that many goals in the entirety of last season. As I had hoped, a big group of freshers had come along but unfortunately after our pathetic first performance most of them didn’t come back. I imagine they decided they had better things to do on a Friday afternoon than watch some smarmy tosser with an infuriatingly good left foot score his fifth goal past our beleaguered keeper to the sound of me shouting, “Come on lads, we’re still in this”.
Fast forward a few more months, and our team is nearing the end of the season having not won a game and disastrously crashed out of the cup 6-0 in the first round. We had managed to score five goals, but had unfortunately conceded 35. We’d have conceded more but we were lucky enough to have a few games cancelled because if there’s even a slight chance of a bit of light drizzle, our groundsman won’t let us play. Arguably the worst part of being captain was trying to make sure everyone got a game – even the shit ones. I’d end up subbing myself off to let someone else attempt the futile task of keeping the goal tally below three. That, or I’d end up playing in goal because no-one else wanted to. “Keep it up boys, we’re playing good football”. We were bollocks. It’s just what people say, isn’t it?
By some miracle, we managed to scrape a 2-1 victory in the last game of the season. By then, though, it was too late. A whole year of guilt-tripping my friends into playing, of negotiating with stubborn groundsmen, of washing the kit because I felt too bad asking freshers to do it, and for what?
We were relegated, we went out in the first round of the cup, and our goal difference was -31. I somehow only spent an average of 45 minutes on the field per game, despite the fact that I was the one picking the team. I was depleted and couldn’t wait to palm it off to an unsuspecting fresher.
Still, would I do it again?