Manx Football Blog 25: The plight of the 14th man...

14TH MAN: Laxey full-back Gary Williams tries to work out who's Laxey's 14th man

14TH MAN: Laxey full-back Gary Williams tries to work out who's Laxey's 14th man

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In this week’s Manx Football Blog: Rushen, Old Boys, substitutes and novelty football pitches

RESPLENDENT in my Del Boy/unemployed country gent flat cap, wellies, wax jacket and jogging bottoms I made my way to the Costa Del Port Erin on Saturday to take in Rushen’s Canada Life Premier League clash with DHSOB.

With the latter in the top-flight title hunt, three points was a must from the weekend’s encounter with the reigning champions and the visitors from Blackberry Lane duly delivered thanks to goals from in-form skipper Craig Stewart and midfielder lynchpin Robbie Ward.

Although, the Spaniards have lost the je ne sais quoi that set them apart from the rest last season they are still a capable side and the three points gained from this fixture perhaps underlines how far Old Boys have come this term.

In previous campaigns the precocious Old Boys talents would have struggled to grind out results like they did at the weekend in what was by no means their best performance of the season.

Colin Purvis and Chris Dycher’s men are currently six points clear at the table’s summit, but will soon have the St George’s juggernaut breathing down their neck, with the latter having played four less games.

All the 2009 FA Cup winners can do is keep winning and hope someone takes points off Chris Bass Sr’s ‘undefeatables’ as they catch up on a raft of postponed fixtures.

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The 14th man

In my already detailed trip to Croit Lowey, I noticed a rarely discussed phenomenon of the Manx game – the 14th man or, if you will, the ‘third’ substitute.

The 14th man’s lot is a varied one. Sometimes you can make an instant impact changing games with vital goals or assists, other times, however, you can be left ‘warming up’ profusely before being given only a matter of seconds to showcase your undoubted talents.

There is, of course, a third even more depressing fate that can befall the 14th man, one that struck both benches in Saturday’s tussle in Port Erin. You simply don’t get on at all and are left pining for a return to your club’s always welcoming, and often desperate, combination side.

Now how you take the latter occurrence depends entirely on the individual. The Orwellians among you will point to the collective good of the team and be content in the knowledge you’ve played you part, even if it was just limited to filling the water bottles and aiding the goalkeeper in his/her ever-increasing pre-match drills.

However, the prima donnas will react entirely differently, wishing a gypsy curse on the coach(es) who elected not to utilise their unique skill set.

Even in my very short football career (less than half a season for St John’s 14-16s) I had the ‘joy’ of being the 14th man, a game I remember to this very day.

Ironically the scene was Blackberry Lane and the opposition Old Boys’ gifted youth team of the mid 90s. To be honest I was shocked to have even made the match day squad given the obvious shortcomings in my talent and the fact I was a goalkeeper, a position not known for its tactical substitutions. I was even more surprised prior to kick-off when the gaffer (the counseling has helped me expunge his name from my memory) made me the age old promise of ‘45’.

With Old Boys ruthless in attack we soon had shipped several goals. The murmurings on the bench were that ‘I couldn’t do any worse’ than our current number one, so I donned my gloves and readied myself for the call. At half-time the coach beckoned me over and with a mixture of trepidation and restricted circulation (the reserve team keeper top was very tight) I bound over.

The following words still resonate: ‘Sorry Andy, Ben’s playing really well so I’m going to keep him on.’ The score was 8-0 at the time…

Surely I’m not the only one with tales of this most undervalued of positions. Email in your 14th man plights to the manxfootballblog@newsiom.co.im

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Consider yourself lucky

Although at times we may curse the Isle of Man’s unique playing surfaces, it could be worse. See picture inset – I wonder whether they employ zonal or man marking in the wooded area?

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Right that’s it for this week’s chapter and verse. I’m off to Tromode on Saturday to see if Gymns’ Great Escape can continue with the visit of in-form Ramsey.

Click back next week to see what occurred…

TTFN

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