Football Action Scene - Boxing Day

Fri, Mar 17 2017 08:49am GMT 1
Paris Paul
Paris Paul
20 Posts
I use the word "Action" liberally here. My book about football does actually have a few scenes where people actually play at football. This is the first of them, with a game of five a side (that leads to the eventual challenge to play a proper game on Boxing Day). I am sure that there are many general things left to do, but I am particularly interested to know if you feel the sense of "action" in the footballing parts.

“So, it’s six against seven then.” Red Al, resplendent in the full 1994 FA Vase semi-final Whites strip was last out of the changing rooms. Years ago he would have been known as a full kit wanker. These days he was more like a walking museum exhibit. Danny looked around at the other pitches. It was here that he most felt hope, a hope that someone, somehow would be able to put everything back to how it had been, before it all got broken. Not here the bland look of the towns on Saturday afternoons, the bland white of the Northern Whites, or the harlequin colours of the London Monarchs, or an occasional mixture of the two. Here people still remembered. People wore the colours from the old times, like Native American Indians wearing their headdresses in Vegas. There were twelve pitches, packed together like squares on a chessboard. Looking around Danny could see the colours of his youth, the signs that other people, like him, still hung on. There was the yellow and green of Norwich and the proud gold of Wolves. Blues from Ipswich and Wimbledon, Whites from Preston and Port Vale. Reds from Nottingham Forest and Charlton and the claret and blue of Scunthorpe. Hoops from Queens Park Rangers and Doncaster, stripes from Huddersfield and Plymouth, quarters from Bristol Rovers and Wycombe. Every colour and pattern that you could imagine was represented, each one the symbol of a boyhood fantasy and a burning desire ever since to see their team do well. This surely could never die.

“So who’s got seven then, us or them?”

“Us I think. Me, Danny, you, Richo, Dev, Harish and Marlon” Al counted them off deliberately.

“But Marlon doesn’t play for us, he plays for them. He has done for the last five hundred games!” this was one of Statto’s least accurate announcements.

“Yep, you’re right. So it looks like they’ve got seven and us six. It’s going to be a tough night!” Al was not joking. Their opponents often had the upper hand and with the extra man things would be tough.

“Don’t worry about them. We finished really strong last week, just carry on how we were then and we’ll give them a good game.” Danny looked around. Dev and Harish made a great combination on the left and Richo would score more than he missed. He would stay in the centre, trying to shore everything up leaving Al to cope with the right. Statto was so big that he made a formidable keeper, even if he was a little less mobile now than when they had started playing a few years before. Each one of them was in white. Not the new white, but the old white, the one they had grown up loving. They were as ready as they could be.

At the other end of the pitch Ted the Trainer now had the Blues going through a ridiculous warm up routine, all grotesque actions, like a Stravinsky ballet. He would no doubt be squealing to them how important it was to be warmed up fully before the game started. People had already forgotten that he had no qualifications or experience in sports. He had just been in the right place when it came to buying some old gym kit and had never looked back since. With the events of the weekend still fresh in everybody’s minds it promised to be a good evening.

“Come on then you Blues, don’t forget that it’s a game of two halves, so don’t get too down if things don’t go how we would want from the start.” The unmistakeable sound of Dave announced that the warm up was over.

“Yep, we’re the Magnificent Seven tonight, so we should give these White Shite a bit of a seeing to,” added Marlon. Benjamin and Rodney just looked on silently, backed up by Arnie, Trev and Ted Holmes. How they had started to play together Danny couldn’t quite remember. Playing against the management had always seemed strange, but fortunately things always seemed to remain calm. The game was normally played in a good spirit, but tonight promised to be a worthy test of that unwritten rule. Four blues, an orange, green hoops and black and white stripes. There shouldn’t be any colour clashes. For the first time that day, Danny felt good.

Four minutes gone, skipping run down the left, Holmes avoiding a scything challenge. Cross shot parried out by the keeper, defender misses the clearance “Goal!!” Seven minutes gone, moving calmly out of defence, takes aim, shoots. Thunderbolt into the top corner.

“Yes, two nil!!” Nine minutes gone, one two in midfield, and Holmes falls to the floor as he is challenged late. Play goes on as Danny smiles, pass up to the forward with his back to goal, lay off to the right, back to the centre, defender slips, goalie goes down too early, ball rolled into the back of the net.

“Three nil, here we go, here we go, here we go!!”

“Fucks sake!” Danny couldn’t believe it. How could they have started so badly?

“It could be a cricket score here.” Dave was not helping.

It happened to him sometimes. His uncontrollable rage transformed into an energising anger. He no longer looked on as an impotent viewer, but he became the leader.

“Right then, plan B,” they huddled together. “Dev, you switch to the right, put pressure on Rodney. Al, get in Ben’s face and stay there, don’t give him any time and if he moves kick him. Statto, just stand up. You don’t have to dive, believe me. And all of us, let’s toughen up a bit.” Things remaining calm sometimes had their limits.

The passing got crisper and the movement better. Danny to Dev, Dev into Al, quickly up to Richo. Dave would have said that he turned on a sixpence but it was just speed and power and a wonderful finish. 3 – 1. Al pressuring Benjamin, a misplaced pass, interception by Harish, who crumpled under a late challenge from Holmes. The ball rolled on to Richo and another great finish. 3 – 2. Danny moving forward, thump!

“You bastard!” as he rolled on the floor. Holmes smiling down at him as Benjamin restored the two goal lead. A quick restart and Richo straight away adding a third for him and bringing the Whites back to within a goal. Al and Dev with an overlap, sweet cross and what a volley! Harish was on the scoresheet and even stevens. More tough tackles from both sides, neither willing to give an inch and doing everything they can to take the prize. Disaster struck. Harish limped out of a cruncher with Holmes and two quickfire strikes from Rodney seemed to have taken the game away.

“Time out, Harish is injured.” A breather for everyone to take stock, but the clock is ticking away. Danny again “Come on lads, we can do this. We may be a man down, two now, but we are fitter than them and we are better than them. Al, you are having a great game,” the smile on his face was a picture. “Richo you can’t miss tonight. Statto they need miracles to beat you. Dev and Harish, I haven’t seen you play this well all year. So come on, keep doing what we are doing and we will win this!”

He didn’t know where it came from, where he found these words. It happened not only here on the football field, but in the factory too. He must have heard people speak like this before, perhaps it was his dad. He must have heard and remembered and when the need came the words just floated out. He could see in the eyes of the team that they all believed. That they knew what they were capable of achieving and that they could win.

“Come on girls, I can’t believe that you are playing for the 6 – 4 draw.” Who else but Benjamin. “Much as though I don’t mind winning like that I do admit that I would quite like a bigger margin. Oh, and there are ten minutes left. Just like you lot don’t like staying behind at work after time, unless of course there is bloody extra money in it for you, I don’t like overtime on the footy pitch either, so best get on with it and get it over. Come on you Blues!”

Restart with the Whites. Flowing football, but less movement now. Playing a man down all game had made them tired and it was difficult to break the Blues down. Dev to Harish, who dummied and let it run.

“Yes, four for me,” and Richo had another. The clock ticking down and few chances for either team. Statto rolled the ball out to Danny. A dribble it would be. Round one, round two, through Rodney’s legs, body swaying left and the ball going right. Through on goal, dropped the shoulder and shoots. Hits the bar!! The Blues break and no one is covering. Holmes versus Statto, one on one. Statto stands firm, holding his ground as Holmes weighs up his options. Fast approaching the D, he has to decide. He rolls the ball left, no real pace but on the ground. Statto tries to get down, but he is a big man. The net doesn’t ruffle, there is not enough pace, but the ball is there, nestling in the corner. Announcing another goal, the last goal, and a 7 – 5 defeat for the Whites.

Jubilation from the Blues. It was like they really had won the cup.

“He’s got genuine pace has our Ted!” Fuck off Dave thought Danny. “I never believed that we could play so well! You should be proud Blues.” There were handshakes and back slaps all round. This was how they relieved the stress of work every Monday and everyone seemed to have enjoyed the thrill of the game. They even noticed that a small crowd of spectators had formed at the end of the pitch. People walking to their pitch for the next session. These people who could easily have walked by, but had decided to stop and watch the end of their match. Danny was lost, in thoughts and his anger. He had really wanted to finish this day with a victory. Something to lift his spirits and those of his friends, something for them to laugh about in the Bell later. But no, all he had to show was another defeat to add in to the tally for the day.

Sat, Mar 18 2017 05:41am GMT 2
3228 Posts
I think you're probably asking the wrong question re action, and overlooking that this scene should have a message that moves along the story in some way. And what you need to show to make this message clear to the reader? For example are you intending to fill out aspects of the characters, to show the reader more depth, and/or are you intending to show why this match is an important aspect to the story? If the latter, then you need to focus more on that, e.g. the uneasy relationship between management and staff, the demise of football clubs etc. rather than describe all the goals and how they were scored (which is a bit monotonous, IMO).

As to that, I found the last paragraph most revealing/interesting, particularly the spectator attraction which could be a key element to the storyline, in that even when football clubs were packing up left right and centre there were still plenty of people willing to watch and enjoy games at grass roots level.
Thu, Mar 23 2017 11:06am GMT 3
1265 Posts
Hi Paul
As a non football lover I'm not sure I'm qualified to say if I felt the action, but what I did notice was that your point of view jumps about a bit. The narrator moves us around between the different groups, but then adds in Danny's comments. I found this disjointed and couldn't always follow where we were.
I think you need to decide whose point of view your telling this from and anchor the story more firmly to them. The reader should see the action through your main characters eyes. If you do this then the we should be pulled closer to the action, and you can also start to feed in Danny's reactions to what happens. It becomes more emotive and the reader can engage with the character more.
There are some places where you do this well, but then you'll wander off to another character . I think the narration follows the ball rather than having Danny's eyes follow the ball. Does that make sense?
There are places where you do a great job of putting us close to Danny, but I think you need to keep us there. I'll try and tweak one of your paragraphs so you can see what I mean about staying with Danny and feeding in his emotions. It will lose your unique voice, so apologise for that, but sometimes it's easier to show.
Statto rolled the ball out to Danny. A dribble it would be. Round one, round two, through Rodney’s legs, swaying left and the ball going right. Feet on fire. Unstoppable. Through on goal, dropped the shoulder and shoot.
No No No
Why? When he really needed the win.
It hits the bar!!
The Blues break. No one is covering. Danny grinds his teeth. Damnit, where are they. Holmes versus Statto, one on one. Come one Statto, stand firm, hold your ground. You can do this. Holme's weighing up his options. Fast approaching the D, time to decide. He knows the team too well. Knows Statto - nothing Danny can do but watch. Holmes rolls the ball left, no real pace but on the ground. Come on Statto, try to get down, but he is a big man. The net doesn’t ruffle, there is not enough pace, but the ball is there, nestling in the corner.
Sour disappointment floods Danny's mouth. He spits. Not Stato's fault. Not there day. When is it ever.
A 7 – 5 defeat for the Whites.
Hope some of this is helpful, but just my thoughts so ignore if they don't work for you.

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