Saigon Raiders Club

Sunday night game. Floodlights. Light drizzle. Perfect footballing conditions for us foreigners.

I arrived early to see Mick Stanbrook watching over the earlier KO. He told me about his recent visit to Japan; clean air, cycle rides, bullet trains and robot restaurants. Life was good on many levels. Pat arrived later with the rest of the kits who had seen their first taste of an International Raiders tour. Surprisingly, they were as clean and as fresh as the air Mick has so poignantly described.

The mood was good in the camp. We took to the pitch following an eye-opening game of ‘ball in the basket’ (Nico’s invention) where it became clear that 10 passes around a circle amongst Raiders was an impossible feat. To save our blushes, Nico eventually found the basket before we left for the warm up.

Our captain managed to find enough space to conduct a highly innovative warm-up whilst the game around us carried on. ‘Feet in your arse… knees to the chin…stretch the balls… swiiiiiing da arms!’. It was the coolest warm up in Raiders history but we were pumped. Coach Colin ‘Pep’ reminded us not to take the bottom side too lightly. Nico chuckled out loud! Could he redeem himself?

A solid line-up: Mirko, Ohashi, Jerry, Olly, Danny Vo, Nico, Daniel ©, Mick, Gary, Pat, Nico. Subs: Jamie, Edwin, Pete, Luke, Vincent, Nano (did I forget anyone?) We began by dictating the tempo and we were confidently working the back line until… Turkey moment of the match. I decided to test the striker’s confidence in front of goal early doors by teeing him up for a one-on- one. He missed, he was done for the game. Ingenious move!

We pressed on with the game plan with the midfield working hard and spreading the ball wide and Nico showing some great movement up top. Jamie was brought on into CB and I was moved to CM (deer in headlights moment), Gary replaced Pat in the No.10 position. We started to move the ball nicely and ‘penetrate the ass’ of the opposition. I was fouled (twice) then booked for asking ‘How comes I didn’t get a foul?’ translated into Vietnamese as ‘Fuck you ref!’ He didn’t last long though, his lino subbed him off at half-time. We noticed this on 65 minutes. I feel I must mention, as it seemed to slip out of the Raiders consciousness, that in the same passage of play, Danny Vo produced another one of his hold-your- breath diving tackles. Scott you missed it. Danny got up smiling. The opponent lay crumbled on the floor weeping. Nobody said anything. Sweet! Shortly after, Pete Bloor was on to replace Danny who proceeded to walk up and down the line, topless, seething with regret. Pete basically did what he does every week, brought calmness to the back line and kept the ball moving.

Shortly after, Gary and I both received free-kicks following Conor McGregor style take downs. Here I am not sure which resulting free-kick led to our first moment of magic, apologies. Nico lined up both. Confident from his recent success during ‘ball in the basket’, he majestically jogged up and curled a beaut into the top corner faster than the bullet train afore mentioned by Mick. That baby was in from the minute it left his large right toe. 1-0 Raiders. You totally redeemed yourself!

Half time team talk. Don’t talk to Nico. He will explode. So Pat decided to tell him he was a ‘dumb shit!’(I hate to say it, but Pat was right) Then in response, Nico accidentally tripped and threw a cup of Cha da at Pat. Full facial. Pat carried on his speech and barely flinched. It was impressive. Colin told Daniel and I, quite rightly, to grow up.

Second half. Same team, different referee.

The game started well, the Raiders quickly settled into it and began some nice passages of play. At some point, big Vince arrived on the pitch and began marauding down the right side like a man possessed. One of these moves led to some breath-taking football down the right involving Vincent, Nico and Gary, which ended with a sublime goal. Chris Kamara just came in his pants.

We had the game under control. Nano and Edwin were introduced into the midfield and had to work hard as the opposition were sneaking back into the game. To our credit, the back line kept the shape throughout and the midfield worked hard to press. Luke came on for Nico up front and made some great contributions to the attacking movements of the team. Is there anywhere this boy cannot play? The boys up-top continued to battle and it nearly led to another goal from Gary, whose glancing header just missed the top left corner.

The game was seen out and we achieved our goal. 3 points. We didn’t get careless and we heeded the coach’s message from the warm-up. Overall, great conditions to play football in.

For some reason, the team voted for Turkey of the Match. I was already taking my shot. My John Stones moment of the season (my last I hope). Then onto MOM. Some great performances on the night, Daniel and Jerry were rightfully mentioned but, once again, Gary’s flair, determination and work-ethic secured him another MOM. Well deserved.

A lot of positives to take from another victory and a lot to learn, both as individuals and as a team. This season is an evolutionary experience but we are moving in the right direction.

Now we look forward to some more Friday nights under the lights and a Christmas buffet extravaganza.


Become a Saigon Raider

Become a Saigon Raider