The Hoofer | Peter Conchie

Sad? I watch Man U and Arsenal reserves
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The Independent Online

It's been three weeks since I kicked a ball in anger and it's starting to get to me. Another week, another morning spent with Ant and Dec as Saturday's match is cancelled.

On Thursday lunchtime I received this email from our left-back (and sometime goalkeeper) Russ. "Sadly, again we have no game this weekend. Dynamo FC have dropped out of the league. I have made a few calls to try to organise a friendly, but there are no teams available at such short notice. All academic really, as the pitch people would like to do a bit more work on it to make sure it's OK for our next game."

No doubt Dynamo heard about Oxygen FC's impressive 1-1 draw in our last match against South West Central and, realising their number was up, quit the game in fear. (Theirs, incidentally, is a team name that I still find confusing. I mean, are they in the south west or are they in the centre?) Russ, as you might gather, is in charge of communications while Josh, as team captain, makes the big decisions about selection, tactical changes and who chops up the oranges.

In many respects, Russ is Alastair Campbell to Josh's Tony Blair. This delegation of power to an unaccountable figure is explained by the fact that Josh, who works in the teaching profession, does not have access to a computer. My own role in the team seems to be as a John Prescott figure, a sizeable presence in defence but nowhere near as aggressive.

In the meantime, this arrives from Gareth, a nippy right-winger with courage, stamina and an email account.

"I imagine it must be tough for the groundsmen to sit in their deckchairs all day doing bugger all about the length of the grass and the miniature lagoon in the centre circle. Oh sorry, I forgot ... that was a left over Charlie Dimmock water feature from the flower show."

I should explain: the Oxygen FC home pitch is on the site of the Chelsea Flower Show, in the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital. But Charlie Dimmock isn't to blame for the state of our pitch. Thanks to the weather this season, it has resembled a site of special scientific interest given over to nature to encourage the growth of rare water-bog flora, a state of affairs the groundsman in his wisdom seems content with.

Unfortunately, it's rather harder for the players. In our last outing we had to contend with a miniature lake in the centre and a swamp on the penalty spot. Consequently, your everyday midfield tussle is transformed into a scene from Wildlife on One.

The cumulative effect of this non-footballing time is not healthy. I cycled half way across London last week in pursuit of a game of five-a-side. When I arrived I discovered our match had been cancelled and in its place was another, with 10 wheezing, puffing middle-aged men who hadn't the faintest idea about even the most rudimentary skills of the game. Sadly, I found this quite entertaining and stayed for 20 minutes.

So desperate was I for any sort of footballing contact that when a friend offered me a ticket for Arsenal against Manchester United in the Worthington Cup I accepted. Ninety minutes alongside a Mancunian selling smuggled cigarettes and the only players I recognised were Dwight Yorke and Ray Parlour.

The situation is hopeless. Anyone fancy a game next weekend?

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