Season Review – Men’s 1st Team Captain
The 2019-20 season for the Men’s 1st Team is best summarised by the contrast of before and after Christmas. Expectations were high going into the league campaign with the clear goal of promotion within our sights, a solid draw at home to potential challengers Heriot-Watt in the opening fixture reaffirmed this aim. However, subsequent league defeats by Strathclyde, Dundee and Napier ensured that our new goal was to achieve as many points as possible whilst ensuring we found success in cup competitions. Extremely frustratingly, we never played all too badly in the league, yet multiple individual errors meant that our league campaign was over before it really got going. However, this was not the case in the cup competitions; we outclassed Strathclyde 4-0 in the last 16 of the QPS and overcame appalling refereeing in the Conference Cup whilst showing a resoluteness which eluded us for much of the season. This meant that heading into Winter break, we had much to look forward to.
After Christmas, a change of shape to a diamond in midfield and a change in tempo and attitude from all parties drastically improved the mood in the camp. We looked fitter and more determined than ever to make something of the season. We hammered Dundee 1s 4-0 at home and defeated Glasgow 2s twice with relative ease thanks to some horrendous goalkeeping on their part. These were all fine results, yet the epitomisation of our season lies in the QPS Quarter-Final at home to Stirling 1s (newly crowned BUCS Prem North Champions). A wonder goal from attacker Euan Smith, his first for the club in 18 (eighteen) months, and a collective work-rate abundantly clear for everyone to see meant that we had won 1-0 and caused the greatest upset in my time at the university. The next week, we thumped our own 2s 5-1 to book a place in the Conference Cup Final, despite some loudmouthing in the run-up to the match. Mind the gap.
The QPS Semi-Final vs RGU was a sore one to take, losing 2-1 despite controlling large portions of the match. Our downfall was conceding from two set pieces, something which was very much unlike us, yet we knew that all would be forgiven if we went out and lifted the Conference Cup the following week.
The Final itself was a pretty rubbish game, as can be the case with two evenly matched teams. We were graced with some of the worst hailstones known to Fife, perhaps reminiscent of the 2018 QPS Final when similar weather was braved. This was a clear sign that it was to be our day. A fantastic piece of individual brilliance from fresher Seb Ratzan to send both incoming defender and goalkeeper with a classy dummy before sending his shot into the bottom corner ensured we went into half-time with a perhaps undeserved lead. We expected Strathclyde to utilise the microclimate of Pitch 1 (F1) and pin us back, something they were unable to do so as we created passing avenues which cut them open the more they attacked. With twenty minutes remaining, it was not the silky football which cut them open, but two shells from postgrads Robbie and Tyler (justifying their 20 grand price tag) released hitman Flynn Gray who fired a half-volley into the bottom corner to send the entire club into frenzied celebration. We saw out the game with a strange amount of ease thanks to some composed defending and a pompousness which annoyed the visitors so much that they didn’t fancy attending the trophy presentation afterwards. A fine end to a season which started so poorly.
As I reflect on the season from the comfort (and boredom) of home, I am extremely grateful to have shared the pitch with such a fine group of guys who have dedicated so much to the team. From ‘fish and chips’ in Guardbridge to literal fish and chips in Guardbridge, we have been through it all and created memories which I will treasure for a long time. Knowing the squad, they will soon be itching to kick a baw and working towards next season in which we hope to finally break the curse of 2A.
Whilst the success of the Mens 1st Team has been the focus of this rather long piece, it is extremely important to recognise the unprecedented success of the Women’s 1s. Having watched them multiple times, I have never come across a team which has sustained such levels of consistency, quality, and ease across an entire season. They truly have set the benchmark for us, and the rest of the club.
A fitting end to this piece is a reminder that, as this global pandemic should remind us, some things are far more important than football. Almost a year ago, the club was shocked by the news that Charlie Andrews was diagnosed with extremely aggressive Lymphoma. Testament to his character, he fought through it and returned to St Andrews after Christmas giving a lift to the dressing room and acting as a catalyst for our success. It is one of my proudest achievements to have shared the pitch with him as we strolled to victory in the Conference Cup and to have given him his Eric Abidal moment in the trophy ceremony, despite his earlier efforts to get sent off within five minutes of coming off the bench. There is no doubt that Charlie’s remarkable recovery is the greatest victory of the season.
Mens 1st Team Captain