So the Team Picker Cup is here? Already?
Yes the signature competition has arrived with little aplomb and little notice, but as always plenty of hype. Will there be a new champion this year, continuing a trend since the very first trophy was won? Or will someone become immortalised in TTFE folklore by actually win back-to-back titles? No pressure Karl!
As the flood lights took aim at the centre stage that is the pitch of Sophia, the curtains raised to tell the tale of the Rumbustious Rookie and the Herculean Harlequin – both fated to meet and only one will prevail. Peter Jenkins, the eager newbie with such a desire to win it would fill the Pacific Ocean twice over, versus the gleeful Mikey Van Birgelen, the ever-grinner who may be smiling from ear-to-ear but underneath the pain of being ousted in last year’s contest still burns a blackened hole into his very soul. With the actors in place on what was a hazy, summer’s evening we just needed an audience; shame it was only the swarm of midges which took up way too many of the front row seats.
As the story began to unfold, it would be the debutant who would strike the first and all important blow. The game popped open with the traditional vigour that the TPC is known for – not to mention being fast, frantic and loud. On rating the teams, Team Pete looked fluid, countered well and had a solid defence. Team Mikey perhaps relied a little too much on the long ball early on and failed to gel well in the first half.
Speaking of swarms, the makeshift attack of Dan Pato, James Pugh and TPC champ Karl Powell seemed to work well together and presented the opposition with real problems. As the counter attacking continued, Team Mikey began to crumble and needed had to find answers fast.
Half time marked the twist to the tale, but sadly one which turned this thrilling page-turner into a War and Peace snoozefest. With the score at 7-3 to Pete, the feeling of inevitability seemed to take ahold – the same feeling you get when watching an episode of X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent; the game just felt already decided. This wasn’t an arrogant statement by any means – but with Pete’s usual hunger for winning enthusiasm neutralised by his hunger for a giant meal prior to playing, in addition to Mikey’s muted optimism not having the usual joyous effect on his comrades, the second half become a mere shadow of its predecessor. It was sluggish, turgid and increasingly desperate for something to happen – just like sitting through an Aston Villa match.
Pete continued to be the engine room of his team, leading from the heart of midfield, however it was clear that he could coast in second gear to see the game out. That said, Team Mikey did catch a break and actually outscored their rivals in the second half, but the damage was already done. At 10-7 the game seemed closer than it appeared.
In summary – it’s more agony for Mikey as he crashes out of the TPC at the same hurdle AND once again in the opening game. Will it be third time lucky for the Burgular – we can only hope he overcomes the shame and doesn’t throw in the towel? Meanwhile for Pete it was a good game to win and be below par performance wise, but don’t they say the mark of a true champion is to grind out the 1-0’s even when you’re not at your best? I look foward with interest to see Mr Jenkins firing on all cylinders in the quarter finals.