Some moments are made for remembering. Instant classics that we’ll still be recounting before and after games for years to come. Or possibly decades... But what if we could go forward in time and see how these moments will be looked back on in the future? We imagined just that back in Issue 003.
Peeling the price sticker off my new 1874-branded respirator I sighed and looked at the dust storm raging outside the galley window. Pulling your scarves up over your mouths had long since been dismissed as an effective method of protecting your lungs from the atmosphere, and my dust mask had given up the ghost in the cup match against Bolton Phoenix Phoenix the previous weekend, meaning I had had to shell out for something more substantial.
Still, it was another income stream for the club. Another €40 in the credit account.
I was lacing my boots and getting ready to leave for the day’s crucial six-pointer against Lancaster Spaceport FC, when my children burst in from their quarters, dressed head to toe in retro green and black memorabilia and merchandise.
“You been rooting through my storage boxes again?” I tutted.
“It’s pretty dusty out, Dad,” said the eldest, “are you sure it’s going to be on?”
“Yeah, course! I checked the climate missive from The Authority earlier,” I replied breezily, “besides, it’s always sunny in Lancaster. Now, what’s all this old clobber you’ve both got on?”
“We found it!” Beamed the youngest, “In your box labelled 1920. Were you really alive in 1920?!”
“Season 2019 to 2020,” I corrected him, whipping the scarf off him and handing him his respirator with a purposeful look, “I remember it well.”
“This looks like James Ormrod, but younger,” said the eldest, holding up a programme with Ormrod on the front.
“That’s because it is. Back in his playing days.”
“Wow... And, is he celebrating a goal? Did he score many?”
“Not loads, no, but some crucial ones. Few more important than that one, in fact.” I continued, “It wasn’t a classic game by any stretch, or even a world class finish, but I remember that goal like it was yesterday.”
“Why,” asked the youngest, putting his shoes on the wrong feet, “what happened?”
“Well, see, what it all boils down to is that football – and all sport, really – is made up of single moments. Sure, you have entire campaigns that occupy your every waking thought from one Saturday to the next, or thrilling cup runs, but you need those single moments to rally round. To build community spirit, a siege mentality, or the confidence that comes with feeling invincible.
"It’s entirely possible to win a cup by scoring two tap-ins in the first half and keeping it uneventful in the second. Do that seven times in a row and you’ve won a cup. But there’s not so much adrenaline there if you do it like that. Not really. No drama.”
Blank looks. I fixed the youngest’s shoes situation and continued.
“On the other hand, you could be fighting mid-level obscurity all season and still have a match in mid-April where you fight back from two nil down in a dead rubber that affects neither team. And if you push for a winner and score one in the dying seconds? Scenes. Limbs everywhere. Doesn’t matter how important the match actually is – those are the moments you remember. You need the dark to go with the light. The sunrise wouldn’t impress you if it wasn’t for the night.”
“How do you mean?” asked the eldest, asking the perfect question to allow me to continue elaborating my point, almost as if I needed another character to advance the plot of some ridiculous speculative fiction piece in a fanzine. Cough.
“Well, think about last season,” I continued, ignoring my inner monologue “what do you remember enjoying more? The slow march to the title with comfortable win after comfortable win? Or that last minute equaliser in the SpaceX Cup to take Manchester Corp. to a replay?”
“The SpaceX Cup.” No hesitation.
“Exactly. Who cares that they destroyed us in the replay? You need moments like that to really unite the fans and galvanise the entire club. You remember those moments. Those shared experiences. They create significance, and can inject an important essence of ‘Us vs The World’ into entire campaigns.
I consider that goal from Ormrod to be one of those moments. A turning point for the season.”
“Why, what happened?” asked the youngest, right on cue.
“Well, we were playing Rylands. Yes, that Rylands,” I added, seeing their confused faces, “but, back before they were taken over by that billionaire and moved to Dubai. Our season had been really good up to that point: we were flying high, and were top of the league by a decent margin when we played them that year after Christmas.”
I resigned myself to not leaving anytime soon and leaned back in my chair to tell the story.
“There was clearly a good team spirit amongst the squad, but up til that point there had been no ‘single moment’ in the league that had given us that moment of unity. Sure, there had been a penalty shoot-out win against the old swamp team, yeah, but that was different. This was the league campaign...
"It was a proper scrap of a match. They restricted us well and were giving us plenty to think about, but eventually pressure told and it was Lee Knight who picked up on his own blocked shot to rifle into the goal at the second attempt. It was a good foothold in the game, but right on the stroke of half-time they equalised, and we knew we were going to be in for a tough second half.
"And so it proved. There was ebb and flow, and both sides had their chances. It was a hard fought half with two teams making sure that they left everything out there. Just as it should have been. After all, we were trying to stay top of the table, and they were trying to chase into the promotion places.
"And then, just as we were approaching the point where you began to tell yourself you’d be happy with a point, we won a corner with mere minutes left on the clock. Gardner went up and took it. And, we hardly ever scored direct from corners back then, but my word Gardner could deliver a ball.
"He whipped it in neatly, and then came Ormrod, rising through the air with nobody around him.
Time seemed to stand still as we realised he was going to reach the ball before anybody else. It was like something out of a movie.
"The six yard box was a sea of players out there under the floodlights, but one man was moving in slow-motion, head and shoulders above the rest. Literally. His remarkable forehead connected, and with a thump and a whoosh of air the net rippled a mere moment later. Just a single moment, but what a moment.
"Right into the side of the net. The keeper never had a chance, and our breath was taken away in the celebrations. And the roar, oh how Townfield roared,” I said, going all teary-eyed at the memory of that unity.
Or possibly just some dust had gotten in. Hard to tell.
“I know you think you’ve heard the Stockton Kop make a din, but back before everyone had to wear masks you could make an awful lot of noise with just 300 people. Half of Barnton heard it, probably. We were jumping and singing for ages. Late winners are always great, but you could tell it was a crucial goal.”
The eldest nodded approvingly, correlating what I was describing with moments he’d experienced, and then looked back at the programme cover. “And, is that Mark Jones celebrating with him?”
“Of course! You love to see it, passion like that. It’s why we’re so delighted to still have them working with the club now, wearing the badge on their club jumpsuits. And to have Kyle Riley still working on the tannoy. You can’t let club men like that just drift away once they’ve finished playing. Nah, they’re 74 legends, all of them.”
“So, do you think we’ll get a moment like that today?”
“Let’s hope so kid! But we’d better hurry up if we’re going to meet the others on the way. You can keep that old gear on if you want, people will enjoy seeing it. Besides, we’re already running late and we really don’t want to miss kick off today,” I smiled, “I hear young Woolley is going to be handed his debut this afternoon.”
“What, you mean there’s another one?” asked the eldest incredulously.
“Well, you know what they say,” I winked, “there’s only four things certain in life: death, taxes, the inevitable rise of despotic AI, and a-“
“-a Woolley wearing the Green and Black, yes Dad.” They joined in, rolling their eyes as we exited our living pod and headed into the dust towards the commune’s mag-transit station.
“There’s still one thing you haven’t explained though,” continued the eldest through his respirator. “I know you remember it as being a turning point, Dad, but was it actually? How crucial did Ormrod’s goal prove in the end? How did the rest of the season pan out?”
“Oh, well, typical story!” I started to rant, arms waving,” There was this referee in a crucial game*, yeah, an-...”
*This bit was genuine speculation at the time of writing, of course, but it felt like a safe bet...
(originally published January 2020)