After missing last week’s 5-a-side session (it snowed, did you notice?) I was eager to get back to football. But where was I getting back to? Last week we changed location to a new sports ground after more than seven years at our previous pitch. This is a momentous change. Over those years I have honed my abilities specifically around the peculiarities of that pitch.
Where’s the best bit of wall to play a one-two off of?
What is the stopping distance of a player in beaten up old trainers on a playing surface consisting predominantly of sand?
Which bits of the goalmouth do you definitely want to avoid standing in when you are in goal (there are strange aromas in those goalmouths)?
Where does the pitch ice over when it’s cold?
These are all important questions that every footballer asks themselves. Over those long years I have found the answers to these questions and many more. My playing style has developed into something that is focused on getting the absolute best out of one hour on a sandy, windswept, litter-strewn and strange smelling pitch. It has been quite a wrench to leave that all behind.
And the new pitch? That is nothing by comparison. A rubber crumb-based surface to mimic the bounce of real grass. Long blades of clean, green (fake) grass to play on. Goalmouths empty of anything but a solitary goalkeeper. No angry young delinquents shouting stinging critiques of our performances from outside the caged walls.
It was all very disappointing. I might have to complain.