Since competitive football was invented in Sheffield in 1858 only one match has ever really mattered. Forget the Premier League. Forget local boys United and Wednesday. Forget even football’s founders Sheffield FC. Yes, the grudge match to eclipse all others… University of Sheffield Staff v Hallam University Staff. And this year I was lucky enough to blag myself a spot in the University team – it was to be my first game of 11-a-side football since primary school, and the achievement of a long held life goal.
The turbulent contest was played as a violent storm battered the UK. Pathetic fallacy in action. The two teams trying to assert their dominance on the match through the ferocity of their tackling. Ten minutes in and two Uni players were already injured. So I made my appearance at right back (where all the best footballers play of course!). For fifteen minutes I put in a sterling performance without any danger of setting the game alight. I hustled hard, passed to feet and kept my opposite number quiet. A solid first stint – time to roll off and allow another of the subs a chance.
Unfortunately Uni couldn’t win the physical battle and Hallam finally took a deserved lead. A fine 25 yard strike clipping the post as it found the corner. Uni’s shape became increasingly defensive as Hallam continually infiltrated our gaping midfield. I was called upon once more… this time on the right wing. Was this to be my moment of glory? Could I conjure up a magical comeback? Er… no. Despite whipping in a couple of touchline crosses, I struggled to make any mark on the game and most of my time was to be spent as a second right back attempting to thwart the Hallam onslaught.
We fought hard, battled bravely and tried to push forwards whenever we could. But two minutes from time the inevitable happened and Hallam took an unassailable 2-0 lead. University had lost football’s greatest grudge match. Heads dropped and minds went wandering to a time when we would have our chance at revenge.
Despite the result, this was a wonderful experience and I’m left yearning for more. It’s also a fantastic example of how setting life goals can help you do the things you’ve always wanted to do in life. Without my quest to achieve 50 Goals in a Year I would have been unlikely to try and blag my way onto the team, and would not have achieved my life goal to play in an 11-a-side football match.