Old Robsonians' six-a-side heroes are still going strong after 15 years

The Independent charity auction winners have lifted 11 titles in seven years, had Shilton as their coach and even represented England. Sam Cunningham finds out how they do it

Surely this is what football is all about? Forget big stars, big wages and big egos, the Old Robsonians have been competing in six-a-side football for the last 15 years and three of their members still remain from their inception in 1996.

Since it all began as a group of workmates at accountancy firm Robson Rhodes they have only missed one week of competitive fixtures and now play in The Elms six-a-side Battersea Premier Division.

They no longer work for Robson Rhodes and have all gone off to various financial firms but, now in their late thirties and early forties, they still meet every Thursday, without fail. One of their number, Jez Vaughan, moved to Hungary because of work, but still made the commute back every week to join the team. Now that is commitment.

Last year they even represented their country after winning a competition – coached by Peter Shilton they faced Germany in a five-a-side fixture. One of their players Martin Eales, who was in the team back in 1996, recalls how the biggest piece of advice Shilton gave them was: "Do not concede an early goal". They were three down after 90 seconds and went on to lose 8-4.

Despite their lofty achievements (in five-a-side terms) none of the squad have ever put in a public transfer request to increase their wages, none have had their names smeared across the front pages of the tabloids and none have been banned for placing bets on their own matches.

The Independent caught up with the team as they attempted to secure their 11th league title. They won their first in 2004 and their most recent in August last year.

Sitting level on points with top of the table Locale Loco but three goals behind on goal difference, they watched nervously as their title rivals lost 3-2 to Clitheroes. The result meant that Old Robsonians needed only a draw in their final match of the season against Cheeky Beers to win the title, but that both sides would claim the title with a win.

The match did not start as planned. The Old Robsonians were down by two in the opening five minutes. Calm finishes from Cheeky Beers' Adam Bravern and Dan Hyde made the task of drawing to take an 11th league title appear ominous.

Before the match there were a few doubts from the Old Robsonians' ranks about tempting fate by inviting along a journalist to their final game of the season. And after the second goal went in, forward Nick Hunter turned to Eales, who had arranged my visit, and commented sarcastically: "Aren't you pleased you brought the journalist along?"

But drawing on those 15 years of experience, they pulled it back by half-time. Jon Edwards cleanly struck the first and that was quickly followed by another from Hunter, who received a pass from Danny Press – who used to be on the books at Southampton as a teenager – before turning and finishing well.

With legs more tired than those of their somewhat younger opponents, the substitutes rolled quicker in the second half than the first, and Cheeky Beers began to dominate.

And when their possession finally paid off and Tom Messer put Cheeky Beers ahead, it looked as though Old Robsonians' dreams of winning another title were over. But, with two minutes of the 18-minute half remaining, Edwards got his second – a goal worthy of winning any title. He took one touch after Press rolled a free-kick back to him and, just inside the opposition's half (bear in mind it is six-a-side, so the length of the pitch is the width of a normal one) he drilled the ball into the left corner. "It was the sweetest goal I have struck all season," he said after the match.

One of The Elms Premier Division players, Ron Hanson, is 55 and has been competing for 18 years. Who knows how many more league trophies the Old Robsonians can collect before they hang up their boots? "We want to keep playing for as long as we can," Eales said. "At least as long as Ron, and possibly even longer."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food