Slightly older, but worthy winners.
The regular league at Downhill ended back in 2011 on a cold, wet and miserable February evening, concluding 17 seasons of weekly football.
Since then, a small revival with only three teams over a couple of weeks in 2015 happened with a whimper, but two years ago, we had a great tournament, albeit only with Crown and Sassco and Posithread being regulars of the previous leagues, and two new sides in AEL and Sunderland Deaf. That was back in 2016.
Season 19 started building up momentum only a few weeks ago, with Tommy Bell reminiscing about his glory days. A few conversations here and there, and the result was five entrants; all veterans of the Sassco Leagues, getting on board. A round-robin tournament was organised, ensuring all the teams played each other for 20 minute games.
A number of dinosaurs were being dug up to take part. Wardle and the Robasons were on form with Crown. Sporting kept their squad under wraps, but as Fatboy was financing a free game, you knew that Wilson would turn up, and naturally, Kelsey, Si Williamson and co signed on the dotted line. O’Brien FC, with Teeb, dragged in Critter Conlon and a few superstars, but Tommy Bell, as expected, didn’t show. Sassco grabbed the veteran arthritic, diabetic Nelly Richardson, while Macca didn’t have these problems, but was just shit. Dixon and Cooper filled the other spots, with Sangha still worrying about kits over tactics.
Finally, the Redhouse Fusion team came on-board. They were actually weakened, but still in their prime, as the last time they played they used to doll off school to play in the competition at Downhill back in the last decade. Josh Lay and Dean Robinson were there from before, while Gavin Quinn and Liam Lay were recent additions from their last win.
The venue was Washington Leisure Centre, which is superb. The pitches are compact and the rules have been adapted from the wide open spaces of Downhill, avoiding the broken glass and illegitimate children who specialised in stealing the Sassco balls, to the more smaller venue. The back-pass rule was still in force, which made it exceptionally difficult for the teams to slow the game down and also for Sporting Redhouse to keep a lead.
It kicked off with Anth Topping refereeing from mainly a static position due to the small pitch. But ironically, he probably moved more than Anth Mouat or Tommy Foster.
Redhouse Fusion 6 Sassco.co.uk 1
The first game saw Sassco take the lead through Neil Richardson, but eventually the legs gave away and Fusion fired goals in return, helped by a rotating squad. Liam Lay and Josh Lay got two each, while the others went to Gavin Quinn and Tommy Jones.
O’Briens 6 Crown Electrics 4
A see-saw of a game saw Teeb moaning, but being out whinged by Fatty Wardle, but still getting the win. Some giants in Sassco football were present on the pitch, but I’m not talking about stature, more of volume. Critter Conlon was spearheading the O’Brien FC team, and did so to an important win.
Redhouse Fusion 5 O’Briens FC 4
Fusion were storming ahead, with goals shared amongst their team, but O’Briens made a late comeback, but failed to add that all important equaliser.
Sassco.co.uk 3 Crown Electrics 2
Sassco defeated them in Season 18 in the same venue,a couple of years ago and then did the same today. Wardle fired Crown into the lead, but Sassco dug in and fought back to secure a win.
Redhouse Fusion 3 Crown Electrics 2
A very tight game, and we’re not talking about the shirt being squeezed over Fattys ample frame. A superb long range effort from Etherington broke the deadlock for Crown (watch it on video), but Fusion soon equalised and then led. Fatty snuck in (baffles us how) and equalised for Crown, and then decided to waste a bit of time (tactically, of course). However, Fusion grabbed a late winner – a reward for their positive football.
Sporting Redhouse 4 Sassco.co.uk 3
A humdinger of a game. Sporting requested a late kick off as their stars couldn’t be bothered to turn up on time. But then Sassco didn’t neither, after going 3-0 down. A revival happened when they struck almost immediately after, eventually clawing back to 3-3, but then losing at the death, despite a number of changes, with both keepers doing well.
O’Brien FC 6 Sassco.co.uk 0
A tired Sassco were walloped by O’Briens. It was tight, until Teeb came on and ended it.
Sporting Redhouse 5 Crown Electrics 5
This was a critical game for Sporting. They turned all in a fresh new kit, only to be nailed by Fatty with his out-of-date top and rolled down socks, like a version of Maradona (as he looks now). The skill was still there and goals galore, as both teams scored one after another. A draw ensued, which put a dent in Sporting’s title hopes. Tarnjit Sangha, in goal, performed admirably, having not kicked anything in anger for a number of years, but with his orange top, he let in the softest penalty ever taken and more resembled a Space Hopper.
Redhouse Fusion 6 Sporting Redhouse 3
Sporting were cruising at 3-0 up in the decisive game. Fusion realistically only needed a point, but were looking as if they’d run out of steam, or at least caught up with the veterans with their creaking legs. However, a massive turnaround; Josh Lay, who used to get bullied and always had his pocket money stolen by Kelsey and Wilson and co. had his revenge with a superb hat-trick, alongside a double from Gavin Quinn and one from Tommy Jones. Well deserved winners were Redhouse Fusion who take back the trophy after winning it two seasons back in 2015.
Sporting Redhouse 3 O’Brien FC 0
The last game was academic, but it was a bonus for Sporting as they kept a lead for the first time in the competition. O’Brien FC and Teeb played as if they weren’t even there.
All-in-all, a superb tournament enjoyed by everyone. Crown and O’Brien FC had minor kit problems, but the irony is that they’d be the best dressed team in the other leagues that are floating out there. Sassco.co.uk, Sporting and Redhouse Fusion were all impeccably dressed, which is always the ethos of the Sassco Leagues.
It’s likely that Season 20 will span over a few months. We’ll have one off sessions of games and then wait a month for the second session, until everyone has played each other either once or twice.