The Hapless Goal Keeper at Yeadon
By Alan Russell
Between The Premier Inn at Leeds Bradford Airport and Yeadon is an open space of public park called ‘Tarnfield Park’. About ninety per cent of this designated area is lake named ‘Yeadon Tarn’. While I was looking across the Tarn at people walking along it’s shore, geese and ducks paddling around ever watchful for a morsel and a rowing four exercising in their boat up and down the length of the lake I heard shouting to break the pastoral charm of the view.
I looked towards its source.
Deep hoarse calls of ‘Hold it, hold it………pass………oh for fooks sake pass the fooking ball man’ echoing through the trees and down to the Tarn echoing across the water. It was still Sunday morning and my only deadline was to check in at the nearby airport at three. I had time. I wandered up to where I could watch the match from behind a stone wall marking the perimeter of the park. And where I stood was behind one of the goals.
The goal keeper was wearing what was once burgundy strip with the number one on it. His team mates were in black and white. It took me a few seconds to realise that they were all on the same team as I wasn’t sure at first if they were attacking the goal I was near or defending it. The opposition were wearing two tone blue strip; the blues.
While I watched the blues get at least three past the goal keeper and into the net. Two were the result of some adroit passing and the third was a lob with a lucky bounce from just inside the half. The goal keeper just didn’t have the confidence or agility to intercept the players coming towards him. Mind you his defenders were not much better and with one of them he was completely flat footed when the opposition rang rings around him to get past and score, again.
The mud on the pitch at Yeadon was thick and I could hear the sounds of congealing slurping when boots were wrenched from its depths as players ran in the course of play. There were divots everywhere and the goal mouth I was near was all mud. No wonder the ball spun off in random directions when it was passed forward and ricocheted off the uneven ground and as so often happened, into the back of the net.
Despite the conditions this was a game being played on a Sunday morning with all the drama of a Shakespearian play. In the case of the goal keeper near me it was definitely a tragedy. Players were covered in mud stains as there was no risk from grass ones. Somewhere in each of their hopes they may have harboured dreams to be teleported to a premiership stadium to play on a pristine surface. Somewhere in each of their dreams there was memory of watching their premiership heroes doing some clever and nifty ball control which they would try to copy to gain advantage. Although with the blues they did not have to try very hard to outplay their opponents.
I went off and explored Yeadon.
On my way back from Yeadon I stopped off at the football match which was still going on. The goal keeper I had been near previously was now at the other end of the pitch. A change of ends but no change of circumstances. The blues were popping in goals with regular monotony. By now the hapless goal keeper had dropped his shoulders and lost any vestiges of energy he had had earlier. He was beaten but there was just one more ultimate humiliation to come before the final whistle which could not come soon enough for him.
The blues scored another easy goal. The goal keeper walked despondently to the back of the net to retrieve the ball. He walked forward and as threw the ball towards the centre. As he did so his feet went out from underneath him and he went face down into the mud. He lay there holding his head in his hands almost in prayer for the ground to open up and swallow him or some miraculous power swoop down and take him away, anywhere, just anywhere but here.
One more goal and the final whistle blew. His humiliation was over.
His team mates went around the blues shaking their hands. No one shook hands with the hapless goal keeper. Twenty-one muddy players left the pitch for the changing rooms. The hapless goal keeper stayed on the pitch not to relive the last ninety traumatic minutes but to help take down the nets and corner flags as if he was trying to destroy all of the evidence that a game ever took place.
He was a hapless goal keeper into whose net fell many goals. (Adapted from Rene Balcer, 1954.)