Cologne Visit 2018

Saturday, November 3rd 2018

Convocation 8, Bühnen Köln (Select XI) 2

Bobby Mimms reports

There were some very rowdy hockey types at Wyncote on Saturday making a student-esque racket while Convocation entertained their chums from Cologne on the next pitch, but ultimately it was the future of the footballers that spoke volumes. ‘Baby Convo’ – a team of glints in their fathers’ eyes – represented their parent club and were excellent, especially in the first half of the game, whilst the numerically-light tourists had to be bolstered by the veterans of their hosts (and were nearly named ‘Convo Legends’), and when they were then all given a lesson in how to play by the youngsters a regular influx of mercenaries was also needed to prevent the match becoming an annihilation.

For a change the Germans’ visit wasn’t on the last weekend of October, but in November, which Ted Hughes once described as ‘the month of the drowned dog’; it may have been mild on Saturday but it was also gloomy and damp. As previously implied the game was played on Wyncote’s 4G pitch, where David Cameron and the late Burt Reynolds appeared to watch from the sideline having also been spotted out down Lark Lane the previous evening, revelling with the tourists and those Convo Legends – how much that affected the performances of those who played football the following day, well, dear reader, you shall have to make your own mind up about that.

Having presumably been in bed nice and early, Convocation were bright eyed and bushy tailed for Saturday’s dinner time kick off and lined up with Sol Borde in goal, behind a back three of (left to right) Harry Quinn, Harry Seed and Tom Lees. The five-man midfield saw (Katie Price’s ex?) Alex Reed and Alfie Turner start on the flanks, left and right respectively, with James Morgan, Matt Chivers and (former Labour Party prop?) Ed Stone in between, while Alex O’Sullivan and Jack Cullen were the first to lead their line.

At the other end of the pitch, and looking a lot more crapulous, Bühnen Köln (and friends) began with a goalkeeper called Tanzbär, and a much more conventional back four of (left to right) Jed Hawe, Ben Prince, Darren Ragnauth and Uli, a corpulent full back who never kicked the ball when he could toe it – hmmmm…? In midfield the pairing of Ansger and (German) Ben were sandwiched by Michaels Schultz and Kersch, while up front one-time Convocation nemesis Max Dreissigacker partnered a chap called Dirk, and on the bench were the thoroughly non-Teutonic Mike “You are a servant of the club and you’ll do as you’re told” Edwards and Tim Jago.

The first half was a disaster for the German side, pretty much from the opening whistle. Barely five minutes had elapsed after the 12:09 kick-off (Edwards made a big fuss about your correspondent noting the exact time – he was also the brains behind ‘Convo Legends’) before they fell behind through a concession that must have had the uninvolved Jago turning green with envy. Ragnauth had let the ball roll out for a corner despite it having quite clearly come off a white-shirted colleague and everybody yelling at him to keep it in, and when the quadrant kick was put into the mixer O’Sullivan back-heeled a ‘shot’ goalward only for the orb to be deflected into the net by the erstwhile club chairman from inside the six-yard box. The Convo Dubious Goals Committee sat in the APH after the match and determined that, such was the severity of the deflection, and because the initial effort was straight at the hapless centre back and harder not to block, it must be recorded as an oggy.

Before long things almost got worse for the culpable defender when he and Prince were teased by Cullen as he ran at them and, let’s be honest, took the piss out of them, and suddenly the youngster found himself one-on-one with Tanzbär, although the ‘keeper thwarted the ensuing low strike with an outstretched leg. However, reprieve was short lived because within a couple of minutes Ragnauth gave away a free kick on the edge of his own area and, though the dead ball was fired into the defensive wall, it span up and out wide, allowing Chivers to run in and leather a shot into the roof of the net from about fifteen yards out.

The Cologne back line was in disarray and within sixty seconds of the latest restart they may as well have been back in Cologne, because O’Sullivan picked up possession near the centre circle and just barged through them all before chipping Tanzbär to make it 3-0.

The scorer was on fire and within a couple of minutes he blasted another effort just over the target when Prince gifted him the ball twenty-five yards out, while not long after that he also forced Tanzbär into making a fine save at his expense. Bühnen Köln’s wretched play was symptomatic of the current state of German football (well, the national team) but with a Convo twang for good measure, and just before the mid-point of the half the home side made it four-nil when one of their young whippersnappers put a half-decent cross into the tourists box, and with whoever was supposed to be marking O’Sullivan having felt the need to wander off and think about life for a while the forward was able to put a glancing header into the back of the net with nary a care in the world.

Convo had made a trio of changes before that goal, with Aled Evans, Tom Napper and Olly Griffiths introduced to proceedings, and Captain and fellow substitute John Farrell hooking players with the delightfully vague instruction, “One of the Harrys, gerroff.” Lovely stuff. At the other end of the pitch Bühnen Köln clearly needed to rearrange the Titanic’s deckchairs so Edwards and Jago were both sent on, the latter replacing Uli and getting straight into the thick of the action by immediately setting up O’Sullivan, although on that occasion he could only shoot straight at Tanzbär.

There was no doubt that Bühnen Köln were playing like drowned dogs, and no one was guarding the shop in midfield, but despite their growing deficit they were still fortunate that their young opponents began to get more and more wasteful in front of goal. More and more Convocation shots were getting picked up by air traffic control and as efforts continued to fly over the 4G pitch’s perimeter fence the ball boys’ searches became increasingly expeditionary. A better team than the Germans (and co.) could have made them pay for such unashamed profligacy.

But with the Bühnen Köln back line continuing to look like survivors of a shipwreck waving for help Convocation continued to get chances and after one frenzied five-minute spell when they seemed to have a shot every thirty seconds or so, including one when Napper smashed an effort against the top of the crossbar, O’Sullivan showed everyone how it should be done by finding the net again for his hat trick, and to make it 5-0. Almost straight from the restart Cullen fired just over the German horizontal.

After that the hosts’ already careless approach to finishing became somewhat criminal and there was talk amongst the sages on the sideline that perhaps someone in charge should start deducting goals in response to their squander. And then, possibly sensing that Convocation were there for the taking (in as much as any side already five goals to the good is ever there for the taking), the tourists (and co.) got their act together momentarily: a clever long ball from one of the real Germans sent Dreissigacker clear of the blue-shirted back line, and even despite a terrible touch just outside the penalty area he still managed to go around Borde and the target seemed at his mercy. But somehow he shot into the side netting.

Not long after that he was sent through one-on-one with the Convo #1 again, lobbing him from about twenty yards out, but again his attempt was wasteful as he ‘lobbed’ the frame of the goal as well. And to make the German forward feel even worse, shortly before the forty-five minutes were up O’Sullivan grabbed his fourth of the game at the other end of the pitch to increase the hosts’ lead.

Six-nil it was at the interval.

During the second period the Bühnen Köln line-up got less and less German as things progressed, with more and more Convocation First Teamers turning up – for their forthcoming cup fixture against Waterloo on the same pitch – and offering their services: the half began with Vice-captain Jon Welsh at the heart of the white-shirted defence. Initially though, the influx of sober substitutes was to little avail, and not long after Convo centre back Evans had a shot saved by Tanzbär (a rather over-dramatic catch to his left that was definitely one for the cameras) the nominal hosts scored again when a corner kick was put into the box, Edwards was made to look like a greenhorn by a player a third of his age, and from twelve yards out Napper found the net with an arrogance that… well, just with arrogance.

Despite being seven-nil down there was little doubt that the tourists (and co.) were playing better than they had for the majority of the first period, and it was no coincidence that the two flankers were much more involved now that their duties weren’t completely concerned with tracking back (or not). Kersch was willing to give passing a go rather than just lump crosses into the box and hope for the best, while on the opposite side of the pitch Schultz even decided to have a shot from inside his own half, although his failure to score was less to do with his luck being out than his effort being crap. Not long after that Dreissigacker was again played clear of a Convocation back line that was becoming a little blasé, but again when he chipped Borde his effort was off target – oh, how the mighty have fallen – and again to really rub salt in his wound the hosts went straight up the other end of the pitch and netted through Chivers, albeit only after the youngsters had come over all Arsenal and tried to walk the ball into the goal (to put it into layman’s terms, they were dicking about).

Convo’s eight-goal lead lasted for barely sixty seconds. From the restart Bühnen Köln managed to keep possession for a change and after a number of unambitious passes around the middle third of the pitch Schultz eventually slipped one forward into the hosts’ penalty area for Dreissigacker, who immediately folded like an ironing board the moment an opponent came within touching distance of him; referee John Topping – for it was he – immediately assumed the Mike Dean stance. After the game Delicate Max would blame “the demon in my head” for such an obvious dive, but there and then he wasn’t trusted to take the spot kick: instead (German) Ben converted, but only after partaking in a thoroughly bizarre, zigzagging run-up that would have been deemed excessive if he’d been trying to dodge a sniper.

The comeback was on.

Of course it wasn’t. But there were some on the Bühnen Köln sideline who were sure they had that little bit of genius that could kick-start one, which is why the lofty Chris McNally took it upon himself to enter the fray just after the penalty conversion; Mike Kent joined the First Team Captain on the pitch moments later. There was no denying that the tourists (and co.) were on the up though, and when Schultz was found in acres of space inside the Convocation penalty area not long after that he should really have done better than fire into the side netting.

Uli – the German Dicko – was sent back on for the tourists (and co.) for the final twenty minutes, while Craig Kaye was also given the green light to take part, although the official wasn’t informed, no one was withdrawn, and the German side adopted an unconventional 4-4-3 formation. The numerical disparity didn’t appear to faze Convocation though, and with Seed and Lees (amongst others) putting in decent performances at the back it never really looked like their whopping lead was in any danger of being greatly reduced. If anything it should have been increased seeing as how Reed and Turner, and Stone and Griffiths (amongst others) had the advantage of their opponents’ continued midfield truancy.

Nonetheless it was Bühnen Köln who were now creating the better chances, although you might have had trouble convincing Dreissigacker, whose game was becoming ever more like the nightmare of a lunatic – when yet again he was played clear through on Borde the ‘keeper thwarted his subsequent attempt on goal with an outstretched leg. The German forward nearly, sort of, turned provider not long after that though, when he attacked down the left and put a low cross through the box that everyone in white missed, although running in from the opposite wing was Dirk and on the gallop it seemed that he must score when he smashed the ball at the heart of the target. Unfortunately for him Ansger managed to get in the way and accidentally cleared the shot off his opponents’ line, later on joking, “I reacted the quickest.”

Despite the German side’s semi-enlivenment they still had plenty of problems, none more jeopardous than that big gaping chasm in midfield, the presence of which was hardly a surprise really considering that ‘big gaping chasm in midfield’ is the unofficial motto of the club that most of their guest players usually turn out for. It was once again a factor with about fifteen minutes remaining when one of the Convo tyros streaked through the void and then gave Herr Hawe the slip down the right, before knocking a pass inside for a thoroughly unmarked colleague who whacked a shot on target from the vicinity of the ‘D’. Tanzbär was in the right place to block the effort but in doing so somewhat unconvincingly he pushed the ball back into the danger zone where Schultz, running in at speed, attempted to return it to him with his chest but instead nearly bundled the thing over the line – only the quick reaction of the #1, throwing up an strong arm at the last second, prevented another own goal.

The wind had started getting up by the time the game entered its final quarter, and by the time Bühnen Köln scored another consolation the second half was starting to feel as if it had been going for hours. In the absence of anything resembling a functioning midfield the German side decided to go for the ‘England in the Eighties’ approach and launched a huge long ball into the Convocation area that then bounced up and struck Quinn (?) on the arm, and once again Topper the Tamperer pointed to the spot. It was quite a harsh penalty award but at first it seemed that justice had been served when the taker struck the foot of the right-hand upright (as he would have looked at it) – no prizes for guessing which (misfiring) tourist it was – but then Ansger was first to the rebound and subsequently slotted past Borde.

In the ten-and-a-couple minutes that were left the tourists (and co.) actually had four more chances to score again, although Morgan should really have chalked up another for Convo as well near the end when he was put through one-on-one with Tanzbär but was thwarted by a jolly good save. Bühnen Köln were momentarily awarded a goal when Kent fired into and through the hosts’ side netting and Topper’s guide dog barked that it was legit, but it was Kaye who had the two best real opportunities to further reduce the deficit: from just outside the penalty area he attempted to lob Borde – who, let’s be honest, was near the back of the queue when they were dishing out height – although a fingertip stop at full stretch confounded him then, whilst inside the final sixty seconds the trespasser was sent clear of the hosts’ back line but was again denied by a fine low save from the ‘keeper.

The final say of the game with its final kick actually went to (German) Ben, who smashed an effort high over the Convocation crossbar after either Kent or Kersch (they’re both MKs) had pulled the ball back for him from near the right-side corner flag. And with the seemingly never-ending second half still delicately poised at 2-2, full time was signalled immediately.

If you believe the government then Austerity is nearly over, but you’d only had to have been at Wyncote on Saturday to be sure that a bright future beckons for Convocation. The young lads that turned out in the club’s colours all seemed decent coves, and quite able, albeit against very wobbly and tired opposition, and while their presence was nowhere near a changing of the guard – most of them probably won’t stick around past graduation – it does go a fair way towards reassuring doubts about the ability to recruit. Most of them went back to the APH after the game as well, so they’re boozers to boot. Hurrah!

After Aigburth the tourists and Convocation debauchees retired to the huge Punch Tarmey’s (down by the Cain’s Brewery) to watch the Arsenal-Liverpool game, and the beer continued flowing – you couldn’t be sure that David Cameron and the late Burt Reynolds were there, but the lesser-spotted Joel Jelen definitely was. Carousing went on long into the night, as always when the good lads of Cologne are in town, and a great weekend was had by all – if there was a downside it was that there wasn’t more of them… although if they had had enough then there wouldn’t have been a need to call up the youngsters, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

Men Of The Match: First of all everyone who got involved deserves a pat on the back, especially the lads from “Fisher Price Convo” (as one wit on the sideline described them) and Chairman Farrell for sorting things out in that department. For a change the MOTMs for each side were chosen by… well, no one was quite sure, but Topper announced the winners in the APH:

For Convocation O’Sullivan quite rightly got the nod, having come all the way back from Scotland just for the game and then scored a hatful. He was actually missing when his name was announced but soon returned from the bogs to receive his prize, the big question on everybody’s lips then being, ‘did he wash his hands?’

It was his toughest opponent who was (eventually) picked as Bühnen Köln best player, as despite conceding eight Tanzbär made about as many good saves to keep the scoreline semi-respectable. However, that didn’t stop Topper initially giving the award to Dreissigacker, another shady decision from a shady referee that was rightly overruled by the pundits on the piss.

Convocation (3-5-2): Borde; Quinn, Seed, Lees; Reed, Morgan, Chivers, Stone, Turner; O’Sullivan A, Cullen; Subs: Evans, Napper, Griffiths, Farrell

Bühnen Köln (4-4-2): ‘Tanzbär’; Hawe, Prince, Ragnauth, ‘Uli’; Schultz, ‘Ansger’, ‘Ben’, Kersch; Dreissigacker, ‘Dirk’; Subs: Jago, Edwards, Welsh J, McNally, Kent, Kaye