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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project