The Hoofer: Avoid trouble - mark the goal post

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New year is a time for re-invention, a subject that the average park player knows a lot about. In my career so far, I have alternated between defence and attack, with a disastrous period in midfield.

New year is a time for re-invention, a subject that the average park player knows a lot about. In my career so far, I have alternated between defence and attack, with a disastrous period in midfield.

Most footballers want to play up front – the knack is to find a team bad enough to accommodate you. At college I found a temporary niche as a barnstorming centre-forward, but I had to drop down to the fifth XI in order to get a game.

Unfortunately, at Oxygen FC the standard is dispiritingly high, so I have been forced to revert to a position untried since school. Centre-half. As I see it, the function of a centre-half is comparable to those great lumps of rock used to shore up harbours. Essentially, I'm a lump of footballing ballast used to prevent our defences being washed away.

In our last match the opposition fielded two monsters. Usually defenders, these lumps of meat are released from their cages at corner kicks and, as a centre-half, there is some sort of moral obligation to mark one.

There are various ways you can try to avoid this, none of them particularly successful. One is to mark someone smaller, but this tactic can fall down. "Who's got the big bloke?'' a belligerent colleague – usually Daymo in our team – will inevitably shout. If, at this moment, you are seen marking a man no taller than the average Oompa Loompa, your commitment to the team may be questioned.

A good alternative is to volunteer as the "free'' man, attacking the ball rather than marking a particular opponent. This way, you have only to challenge their man-mountain centre-half if the ball drifts in your direction.

A crafty method to avoid the issue entirely is to take up a position at the near post. Or, pick a man early, perhaps their second biggest player if you want to maintain some honour, and stick to him. Otherwise, it's musical chairs. Last one to pick a player is left with the 7ft extra from The Lord of the Rings.

If you do find yourself in this position, the only option is to foul your opponent. The reasoning is simple: he has less chance of winning a header if he's can't leave the ground, less chance of getting to the ball if you're tugging on his shirt.

In our last match I lost concentration for a moment while dreaming of a hot shower followed by a cold beer, and found myself assigned to the local battering ram. He tried to gain an unfair advantage, I felt, by taking up a spot on the far side of the puddle in our six-yard box. I took the long way around and stood alongside, trying to intimidate the fellow by elbowing him in the shins. When the ball arrived I chased him around the six-yard box, leaning against him as if I was about to fall over. This was enough to prevent take-off and deceive the referee.

Our right-back, Zakes, complimented me afterwards on a fine piece of defending. As far as I was concerned I had merely obstructed him, and I couldn't even claim the technique as my own; I'd been on the sharp end of such a manoeuvre in the queue for the 159 bus, and had been wanting revenge ever since.

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