The stand out, plum fixture of the table tennis calendar’s opening week is Hilton ‘E’ versus Hilton ‘D’. The latter, captained by Andrew Morey, cleaned up Division Two last season yet worries now permeate the camp that ex-player Craig Duncan’s new team will make a mockery of the Hilton ranking system.
To look at him now is to miss the man he was. Perhaps in the small, wrinkled canyons which line his face, it is possible to see a sliver of the past, a glimpse of the famous de Havilland Aircraft Company
Empires fall. Bit by bit they disintegrate – marry their mortar with the dust and dirt on the ground. The Ottomans, the Romans, the Persians, the Mongols – all had their era, their might, a trail of subjects and slaves
“He’ll know.” The words of Flixton’s John Hilton were not exactly suppliant. John doesn’t do suppliant, beggarly or any of that scraping around. He had simply nodded in my direction, somehow recalled my face from four months earlier, and assumed that I had lodged in my brain the November 2013 match score from his first encounter with Hilton A’s Mark Gibson.
Bandits, hustlers and ringers all descend from the same family line. Generally speaking they have had parts in old Westerns (mixing it up with Clint Eastwood), have hung around pool rooms waiting for the notes to stack up or have stood on the first tee at golf clubs with concealed smiles (their better scorecards destroyed before the hearth).
All sportsmen – be they amateur or professional – are essentially flat-pack players. They only come to life when loaded up with cam dowels, wood dowels and the beast of screws, cam locks. Without the assistance of this prudent army in the form of ball boys, caretakers, tea ladies, dietitians and the like sportsmen are merely floating apparitions.
I first met Malcolm Ngouala, the man from Congo-Brazzaville on 22nd September 2011. He ambled across the car park which was flush diagonal with the back of McDonald’s and offered his hand as if he had known me for twenty years.
Hilton’s Andrew Michnowiec is a man from a time machine. In his old, yellow Joola T-shirt, Umbro socks, and shorts evidently hired from Nomads’ Paul Brandwood, he represents a flashback to a better era
‘“It is not a bad feeling when you’re knocked out,” Floyd Patterson said. “It’s a good feeling, actually. It’s not painful, just a sharp grogginess. You don’t see angels or stars; you’re on a pleasant cloud.
Fifty years ago Oxford United knocked Blackburn Rovers out of the FA Cup 3-1 in what was arguably the biggest giant killing act in cup history. It was Division Four versus Division One – a team in only their second season of league football against established internationals.
Of the 77 points now accumulated by Little Lever, a slight majority (40) have been won on the road. This would suggest that visiting teams take great delight in driving along the aptly-named Victory Road to the Little Lever lair.
I applied for the Blackpool manager’s job via email on Thursday, 23rd January at 1.59pm. I have worked for enough bounders with no foresight, vision or inventiveness to know that it was time for the little man to have his day.
That I can just turn up at one of twenty eight table tennis matches each week seems to me pretty special. I pour over the fixtures hoping for an interesting clash and then days later wheedle my way in – sometimes with trepidation, often in the knowledge I’ll see a familiar face, always conscious that I scribble too much down and risk missing the deeper story.
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
Jeff Weston via Bolton Table Tennis League ::
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