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Monday
Sep152014

Raiders of the Lost Ashes? Saigon Saints reclaim city-wide bragging rights with 2-1 win 

Saigon Ashes: Saints 2 Raiders 1

Ky Hoa Stadium, September 13, 2014

Attendance: Literally dozens (including groundskeepers and random punters)

After losing the Ashes last year for the first time ever in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD, the Saints needed no big team talk before resuming “friendly hostilities” with long term rivals, the Saigon Raiders, which is lucky as everyone arrived 10 minutes before kick-off and there was no time for a team talk.  “Let’s get a quick touch,” said someone to someone else before someone else said that someone else who may or may not be called Ben Hulbert hadn’t brought the balls.

No matter. Who needs a ball. We're all about the preparation and tactics. After consulting vice captain Ben Hulbert, club skipper Steve “I’m Going Straight to the Pitch” Shaw named the team as the Saints stretched. Going with a revolutionary 4-4-2 formation, the Saints pressed and worked the large pitch to try and open up the Raiders with Chuck Mellow Roger lively in the middle of the park and Roel the Flying Belgian working the left flank. With the tallest front line town, Aidan McNally and Webmaster Stokes brought a combined total of 12 feet 8 inches in aerial options so obviously the Saints tried to keep it on the deck. With the ball bouncing somewhere in between in the air and on the ground, the webmaster kneed the ball to send Aidan away from the halfway line. He made it to the by line by edge of the box before pulling it back to Chuck who pinged it off the post completely on purpose to set up the Saints’ Spanish maestro Adrian Paz Franco who coolly picked a spot and rifled home a shot from 15 years out. From start to finish it was a move that quite clearly came straight from the training ground.

The Honourable Chairman, Benjamin Peadon also made some fine saves in the first half helping the Saints to go into the outdoor dressing room at halftime one-up. All the talk was of a good start to the second half and getting that all important second goal. It came quicker than the Saints could have hoped. Again Aidan proved troublesome for the Raiders, working his way on the right (something he did all day long) and pulled it back across the goal. Chuck looked likely to shoot but he heard the call from Ben Hulbert who had wandered up from left back. Chuck’s simple but classy back heeled flick teed up the vice-captain who creamed an absolute peach into the roof of the net from outside the box. That’s right: another fairly standard training drill in action: two-zip.  

The Saints were bossing the game everywhere – the defence, Ian Pavitt, Dr. Iaiain Campbell, Alex Crane, Ben Hulbert, including important defensive shifts from Darrell and Simon on the flanks, were all outstanding, and Skipper Shaw was tireless in midfield with his young apprentice Sean Skene also putting in a great shift. The Saints were also still creating opportunities. Chuck was sent clear by a hoof over the top only for a Raider to flatten him out when clean through. Slightly aggrieved that this player had escaped any kind of card, Chuck decided to query this with the referee. After being blanked by the ref, our young American unleashed an expletive-based sonic scream inches from the referee’s face in an effort to transform the referee’s perception of the universe and his interpretation of the rules of the game. The logical outcome would be the ref realising the error of his ways, reversing his non-decision and producing a red for the Raider, perhaps apologising to Chuck for good measure. Unfortunately, it backfired ever so slightly and Chuck got a straight red.     

But even down to 10 men, the Saints created plenty of opportunities, Sam Green was unlucky a couple of chances didn’t fall kindly for him in the box. Adrian and Aidan combined beautifully to set the latter up but he skied his effort + young Dom outsprinted the defence to glance a header over the onrushing keeper only to see it go inches wide. The Raiders pulled one back – only a deflected shot that clearly didn’t come straight from the training ground -- to make sure the last five minutes were torture for the players on the side-lines and our fans (nearly double figures thanks to Roel’s growing harem). The Raiders managed to waste a couple of chances probably because Ben Peadon looked distractingly nervous in goals and thankfully the ref blew it up, returning the figurative Ashes to the Saints’ imaginary trophy cabinet.

A famous victory required the consumption of light ales in a number of venues across town with everyone wearing their new Saigon Saints-Game On polo shirts, which entitles every squad member to work either behind the bar at Game On or alternatively parking motorbikes whenever they feel like it.

 

Next week: Saigon Sevens

 

Monday
Sep082014

A win's a win's a win's a win: Saints 2 Olympique 1

There had been a whiff of an upset all morning. It didn't matter how much it rained (and it rained a lot), nothing could stop the Saigon Saints leaving their bikes at home and paying a taxi driver to risk his livelihood by transporting us to Phuoc Long A in the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City to take on long-term rivals Olympique Saigon.

There was also another good omen. At least there was a lack of bad omens. The strange, demented, usually naked child who inhabits Phuoc Long A was nowhere to be seen. The Saints had lost every time this child has appeared to lick the ground around us and casually vomit in our vicinity. 

Playing in front of a crowd of none, the Saints started brightly on a waterlogged pitch. Hopes that the rain was fading proved naïve. It actually started coming down harder. The Saints pressed well and soon got their reward with a crisp finish from outside the box by one of the club’s stellar new signings, Aidan McNally who paired up nicely with Chuck “Mellow” Roger, who had cleverly scooped the ball through to his striking partner. Chuck was unlucky not to get one himself after smashing one shot off the upright. Olympique also had a goal correctly disallowed after the 72-year old referee with perfect vision spotted somebody (who knows who -- probably French) doing something (who knows what, who cares) wrong.  

And so the half ended with the Saints holding on to that slender but deserved advantage.

Throughout the match at the back another new signing Sean Campbell also teamed up well with Ian Pavitt at the heart of defense. Dr. Iaian Campbell and vice-skipper Ben Hulbert also worked tirelessly as full backs. Iaian in particular had a great battle with the Olympique winger. Dr. Campbell also set up the Webmaster’s first goal in 7,200 minutes of football with a sweet cross that (thankfully) just couldn’t be fluffed. This headed goal put Saints two up and they probably should have added one or two more with one very good chance for the Flying Roel Borremans, who is rediscovering his best form in the nick of time (must be all that pre-training badmington).   

After Olympqiue pulled one back with a well-taken free kick, the Saints had to dig deep to hold out with Sean Boyle feeling the pressure in between the sticks. Everyone was pitching in with midfielders Steve Shaw, Sean Skene and Alex Crane all helping out for each of Olympique's 27 corners. They did put one in the net after one almighty stramash in the box but the ref correctly ruled that somebody (who knows who--maybe somebody French) was doing something incorrectly (who knows what... and who cares!) and disallowed the goal. We also had a few more chances with Aidan going close and Darrel very, very nearly getting a shot away before falling over instead.

The Saints probably laboured against 10-men (one Olympique player went off injured) for the last 10-15 minutes more than they should have but after a record-breaking winless run for who-knows-how-long the main thing was holding out. A win’s a win's a win's a win as they say.

The boys then headed back to HQ at Game On for some light refreshments.

Other highlights/ lowlights/ fines: The webmaster’s 5-point turn in the middle of the park, Sam Greene’s agricultural tackle, a yellow card for Ben Hulbert’s perfectly acceptable professional foul, Dong getting even better at his foul throws.

Any other highlights/ lowlights add them in the facebook page... 

 

 

 

 

Monday
Aug252014

Reloaded's Pyramid Tournament 18 August, 2014

Reloaded’s Pyramid Tournament turned into a rectangular event with six teams including the Saigon Saints competing for the glory of whatever the prize was – the Saints enormous squad for the day didn’t stick around to find out, opting instead to use the event as a light training session before leaving at the earliest opportunity while also crucially ensuring we weren’t last. Job done.

“Couldn’t be happier with the way the lads substituted themselves – that was world class,” said Captain Steven Shaw of Nottinghamshire who denied that he was desperately searching for positives. “By losing the first two games one-nil, we also showed that we can be very consistent moving from scorching sunshine into torrential rain.”

The Saints played what looked like the best team in the tournament first (The Me Kong Somethings), an annoyingly well drilled, fit and “technically sound” side. After the game according to various Saints the player who scored by chipping Sean “Sleepy Eyes” Boyle was either a) 10m offside b) just offside or c) possibly onside and just very quick. From the Saints’ perspective, there was not much else to talk about other than Chuck “Mellow” Marion’s disallowed goal -- deemed “somewhat controversial” by the young American who was adjudged to have shown too much of his studs when winning the ball before smashing it into the corner of the net. Following a strict Saints’ tradition, Chuck went through a period of gentle remonstration with the referee over the decision. Subsequently, the ref said, “Well, on reflection I think you are right—it was an excellent goal and an unfair decision on my part to award that free, sadly, I cannot reverse the decision but if we could only somehow turn back time, I would gladly wave play on alas I do not have this power…” 

The second match against the Hotshots was a bit of a washout with a rainstorm being the most memorable event. The Saints subbed en masse and the refreshed defense was too slow to pick up on a stray hot shot who wandered in unmarked at the back post to scuff in the winner.  No matter, as the Saints were clearly saving their best till last. By loaning a depleted Reloaded side several of our players –Teaguey, Aiden and Ian Pavitt, all cleverly appearing to give 100% but secretly giving 40% – we were always in control. There were goals, three of them. First, Roel took a break from braiding his lady friend’s hair to finish off a stylish straight-from-the-training-ground-initiate-a-bit-of-mayhem-in-the-box-and-hopefully-score-move. Second, Sam Greene showed a Sheareresque turn in the box before finishing emphatically from close range. Third, Chuck, who had made his peace with the universe since the first game, tore after a flick from the Webmaster and chipped the ball over the onrushing keeper for an in-off-the-post-winner.

After that, having seen enough of Me Kong Somethings play piggy in the middle by the corner flag, the Saints departed and reassembled at Game On for light refreshments. 

Other highlights: Aiden (getting fined for) scoring a bit of a cracker while on loan to Reloaded; our new signing John putting in a MVP performance; Haider getting a full workout and a bit of nap back home before coming back out for a pie, Dr Iaian Campbell picking up an exquisite “xe om driver’s tan”.

Lowlights: The bookies weren’t taking bets on yellow cards for our two Seans – very sensible, as both were predictably booked. Chuck’s “period of gentle remonstration” also earned him a yellow. Other than that the Saints behaved… um… like Saints.

 

Wednesday
Jun252014

The Saigon Saints Board of Directors

After selling a number of board members and players to various random locations around the world this summer, we sat down at Game On Sports Bar last Saturday to vote on various positions to oversee day-to-day affairs here at Saigon Saints FC...
***
Saigon Saints Board for 2014/15
Chairman: Ben Peadon
Captain: Steve Shaw
Vice Captain: Ben Hulbert
Treasurer/Mr 20%: Haider Al Asady
Director of Social Media and Technology: Connla Stokes
International and domestic tours manager: Ian Pavitt
Secretary: Iaian Campbell/Haider Al Asady
Social and events managers: Alex Crane and Sean Boyle
League representative: Draw names out of a hat
***
Onward and upward Saints!


Wednesday
Jun252014

The Great Exodus Match Day Programme

Captain Sam + J.R.’s Spring Chickens XI versus Rosie + Richie’s Evergreen Wonders

Preamble: When news broke that no less than four of the Saints’ biggest stars were leaving the club this summer there was plenty of wild speculation in all four corners of Saigon’s finest tavern for beer and sports, GAME ON (free beer every time I mention Game On, right Damo?). Had the right honourable Chairman Peadon decided enough was enough with all the egos, the thrashed hotel rooms and temper tantrums? Was it true that vice-captain and self-appointed tactician-extraordinaire John Redmond’s mum found out what he’s been up to in the Orient and summoned him back to the motherland? Did our upstanding captain-and-makeshift-manager Sam Morley suddenly realise this wasn’t all a very long and fantastic lifelike dream and realise he was six years late for a job interview back in the UK? Surely our record-goals-scorer David “You do the math!” Rosenberg doesn’t really think the referees in Costa Rica will be any better than Vietnam? And is Richard “My Left Foot” Langley finally ready to fulfil his destiny and star in a small-hall-in-Christchurch-only stage adaptation of Footloose?

Perhaps, we will never know the whole truth but (for a few hours anyway) we’ll give the lads the benefit of the doubt that this isn’t an absolutely terrible decision that they’ll regret for the rest of their lives and wish them all the best as they embark on the next chapter in their (amateur footballing) careers.

As readers of this special programme will already know today’s exhibition match pits Sam and J.R.’s Spring Chickens against Rosie and Langer’s Evergreen Wonders before we all head to GAME ON (second mention) for light refreshments and the usual session of morale-shattering abuse in the lads’ final kangaroo court. So will the team of wily, wise and wonderful elders ultimately flounder against their younger opponents? Or will Sam and J.R.’s spring chickens once again show that youth is wasted on the young? Either way in six hours’ time when we are all four sheets to the wind in GAME ON (third) it won’t matter when we all sing, “OH WHEN THE SAINTS…” as one.

So before the game starts, let’s ridicule introduce our four departing comrades!

Oh, and if I didn’t mention we’re going to GAME ON (fourth) later, as a reminder we’re going to GAME ON (fifth) later.

David “Rosie” Rosenberg: Shakira? She knows the hips don’t lie. Rosie? This fully-grown mathematical whizz kid knows the stats don’t lie. In six years of top flight amateur football in Vietnam, our former club captain, playmaker and goal scorer supreme completed approximately 15 passes for the Saints. His biggest fans (that’ll be his mum and J.R.) will always point to the goal scoring charts and say our Rosie, he doesn’t need to pass—or at least they would point to the goal scoring charts if we had any. Unfortunately, we’re not sure how many goals he bagged for the Saints, but we have a sneaky suspicion he’s been recording them in a jotter which he stuffs under his mattress along with wads of smelly dong and Panini stickers. Suffice to say, he is definitely one of the club’s all-time record goal scorers and his eye for the audacious also means Rosie’s scored some of the club’s most spectacular goals ever. Ever since he made his debut for King David Juniors as a seven-year old his mum has apparently wanted to protect Rosie from hard-tackling defenders but anyone who has played alongside Rosie knows that he has never been afraid to put himself about on the pitch. His passion for the Saints has never been questioned (at least it wasn’t until he quit the committee and told us he was moving to Costa Rica—I think somebody told him there’s a Bury FC Supporters Club there) and off the pitch he has been a major driver in ensuring the Saints are the most fun and socially active club (read: heaviest drinking team) in downtown Saigon and he has always made a great effort to welcome new drinkers players to the club. Most importantly, he also leaves Vietnam with one record intact: he is still the fastest man ever seen running a backward dash (on a beach in Vung Tau anyway).

 

What you didn’t know about Rosie: He was once coached by his Dad who apparently takes credit for moulding Rosie into the player he is today—guess they got stuck on the “How to Shoot” and “How To Dribble the Ball” chapters. Also, when aged 20, Rosie went to study coaching something called “soccer-ball” in the US (FINE).

 

Career lowlight: Picture Rosie, aged 11, baggy shorts, shirt down to his knees, embroiled in a classic “tricky away tie” somewhere across the English border in a strange and terrible place called northern Wales; he’s playing a team his club has never beaten and now he’s stepping up to the penalty spot in the VERY last minute—if he scores, they win, and if he… oh dear, what’s Welsh for “MASSIVE BACKDATED FINE”?  

 

Some helpful advice on the rest of your life: “Start working on the Latin dance moves Rosie,” says Roel Borremans. “You have only got one move and it isn't very good.” His old mate Adam Smith gets to the point: “Pass, Rosie.” The club wishes him the very best with his new club the San Jose Rocketeers which doubles as a math club. No, you go figure out the odds on that!

 

Richard “Richie” Langley: The squad’s original Alabama Dreamboat, Richard Langley will leave one magnificent pair of underpants and also a large black corset—fine!—to be filled at the end of this season (perhaps it’s just something he might have got away with while playing with his previous team, the mighty “Sheen Old Grammarians” of old London town). For starters this prime cut of Grade A Kiwi manliness scored the greatest own goal ever, ever, ever with the Saints (from 12 meters out with the outside of the boot he curled an absolute peach into the top corner – fine!). It may never be bettered although Chairman Peadon did try this season. He was also voted the Saint’s MVP on the dance floor home and away in consecutive seasons. Richie’s natural ability to kick the ball with his left foot inevitably saw him pigeon-holed as a left-sided player for much of his career in Vietnam but while playing for the Saints he has done a shift in pretty much every position. It must be said that no matter where he played on the park, he always managed to berate the referee for penalizing his superior manliness with the same shrieking-authority (weirdly the ref never changed his mind). It is also possible he would have booked him much more if the refs weren’t blinded by his dreamy good looks. On that note, it should also be noted by footballing historians, that Richard Langley bounced back from the greatest crisis of his career this season—the controversial signing of Swedish stud muffin Roger Folkhage in mid-2013 which most certainly rocked the boat. The Saints didn’t know where to look. Who was the fairest of them all? In an attention-grabbing fit of desperation Richie grew a beard (a magnificent beard that J.R. could only dream of cultivating it must be said) and minced around wearing denim shorts (fine) on match days. Richie’s crisis plus Roger’s effortless sense of style and million-dollar smiles seemed to be giving the Swede the edge but Richie dug deep and returned to the peak of his handsomeness. When Folkhage was quietly transferred to Hanoi, it felt like Langer’s greatest victory. He leaves as he arrived: one handsome bastard of a man.

Career lowlight: That own goal.

Career highlight: That own goal.

Best kangaroo court fine: Maybe the one for that own goal?

Some helpful advice on the rest of your life: “Bring back the beard,” suggests Mark Harbison, who also liked the denim shorts and believes, “Richie blazed a trail for the Saints most handsome players like Roger… and myself.”


John “J.R.” Redmond: A leader of manly men, a lover of beautiful women, a philosopher, a poet, a man of letters, a rousing speech maker, a formidable tactician, a midfield talisman with telepathic vision, and if requested, a centre back of Herculean strength, yes, when John Redmond daydreams at work that’s the man he dares to believe that we think he is – but mostly we shall probably remember him as the oldest looking 24-year old who’s ever graced the lush playing fields of Ho Chi Minh City (and that’s when he’s clean shaven). Serious note: JR’s commitment to the glories of amateur sport is unparalleled. While in Vietnam he’s represented two Gaelic clubs, the Viet Celts and Saigon Gaels, one Aussie Rules outfit (the Swans) while also playing for (in no particular order) the Hotshots, Olympique,  Singapore Pirates, The Bespectacled Korean Accountants XI, and several other teams, all against the Saints – in fact, the best goal he ever scored in Vietnam was against the Saints and no, he didn’t do the “no celebration-celebration”, he whooped, he fist-pumped, he grinned from ear-to-ear and just about resisted the temptation to take his top off. Hailing from Cookstown in County Tyrone it turns out J.R. was known locally for (no surprises here) playing sport, dressing up as a woman and picking on younger students on the bus. He will also leave a large hole in the Saigon social scene, not just for the Saints, but for the whole city, and the kangaroo court may never be the same again. 

Saigon lowlight: Rosie announcing he was moving to Costa Rica and J.R. wasn’t allowed to come. “He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, my noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,” said J.R. wistfully. “I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong….”

Saigon highlight: Pretty much every brunch at the InterCon where according to Mark Harbison, J.R. assumed the position of Mischief Maker-in-Chief and excelled at imposing tactics to ensure there were always enough Mojitos (four per person) on the table.

Some helpful advice on the rest-of-your-life: “Shave the beard,” says Delphine, the future wife of the future mayor of a small but well-functioning town in Belgium. “Give up,” suggests Smithy. “There is no KC or Smiley's equivalent in Cookstown so fill your boots while you’re still there and get rid of that beard,” weighs in Harby.

 

The Upstanding Captain Samuel Morley: Sam hails from Disleyland in Lancashire where all the rides were free. Historians will note that as a boy he excelled at avoiding sports and academic pursuits—instead he chose to sit in a blue van belonging to a man known as Roy and smoke “exotic cheroots”. According to his brother, his fame to claim is that he once punched John Critchelow, the local hard case, in the face for winding up his girlfriend—this from a man who once admitted while on tour with the Saints in Cambodia that he used to play a game called “Gay Chicken” at university (FINE). He will, of course, be remembered for many wonderful achievements while with the Saints: for example, his stunning debut (he played in nets) against Hiep Phu; scoring one of the greatest Saints’ goals ever this season against the Hotshots; taking on the role of player-manager-cum-captain after Ol’ Gaffer Greer cracked under the pressure of top-flight football and fled the country; squatting in strange places; watering the plants in his hotel room while on tour (clarification—there were no plants in the room), demanding everyone keep a cool head then pushing the ref over after a contentious decision and getting a straight red. When discussing his plans for the future, Sam has promised to continue travelling the world eating pies and reviewing them on everyone’s favourite website: Trusted Pie Review (yeah, bookmark that puppy Saints).

  

Career lowlight: Ending up as makeshift gaffer in what football historians already refer to as “the Season of Perpetual Crisis.”

 

Career highlight: The group pile-up after scoring that sweet, sweet, stoppage time screamer from 35-yards out against the Hotshots (after a massive brawl) is right up there as one of the greatest Saints goals ever.

 

What he’ll be remembered for most: 9 out of 10 Saints said “running like a penguin.”

 

Some helpful advice on the rest of your life:  “Keep watch in case smoke comes out of your modem,” says Stu Clark.