Category Archives: Montpelier Villa Women

The final score is… just detail 

This was the scoreline after only 10 seconds and although it didn’t finish like this, it was probably our most valuable lesson this season: realising that the final score is such an incredibly small part of football. 

The Seagulls dominate football in this city not just through their flagship professional teams but the incredible work that is done through Albion in the Community which not only provides football sessions for so many, but they are also building sustainable and affordable homes in Lancing. Unlike most other professional teams, it’s hard to see them as an enemy. Until you’re on the pitch. 

A dramatic penalty shootout win against Saltdean United set up a semi-final clash against Brighton’s u21 side. A huge reward for our players and a perfect opportunity to test our mantra that we’re good enough to beat anyone. 

The game was scheduled to take place at the end of February half-term which was good for a number of reasons; it allowed those of us who work in education time to watch the 10 hours of footage we acquired of the Brighton team and plan a strategy based on it. The fact we were watching Brighton play against Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs didn’t deter us from our plan. Conveniently for us the game was also scheduled to take place during the international break. This though impacted our opponents more than us. 

The day before the game I found myself on the bridge across Falmer station as fans flocked to watched the men’s team play Fulham, I forced leaflets into the hands of at least 100 fans and in an attempt to conjure up support from our opponents international fanbase employed Google translate to learn some basic Japanese.

The David Brent antics didn’t stop there unfortunately. The half-time scoreline read Montpelier Villa 1 – 8 Brighton and Hove Albion and I felt the best thing I could do was get on the tannoy and tell some jokes to the large crowd. 

The harshest lesson we learned that day and one that I’m still struggling to come to terms with is that we’re not as good as Arsenal, Chelsea or even Spurs. Brighton certainly had no problem addressing any delusions of grandeur we had. 

Brighton have since gone on to win the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup and deservedly so scoring 17 goals in their four games and only conceding two in the process. Admittedly 11 of those goals scored were against us but those two goals they conceded were also us. Both of them. 

Not only will those two players have a story to dine out on for the rest of their lives, their team-mates will never forget the day they shared a pitch with Brighton and can be safe in the knowledge

that their approach as a team was not to sit back and wait for the onslaught of the seagulls but to be positive, be proactive and not be afraid of taking opportunities when they come. 

The result may not have gone our way but there were some moments that are unforgettable, our u10 mascots and their unerring support of our team, the sheer volume of supporters which was mainly family and friends but still gave our side the chance to play in front of a vocal home crowd. The most lasting feeling is that of taking the lead against a professional side is something that can never be taken away from us and although the final score suggests Brighton are significantly better than us, it’s those fleeting moments that make it all worthwhile.

In sport as in life we find art

It takes a lot of guts to be a writer, to not only put yourself in the centre of any narrative but to claim that your perspective is something new, fresh and worth reading. Les Misérables was first published in 1862 and has had countless adaptations and interpretations since then so it would be naive to suggest I could offer something new and exciting however I doubt many have looked at Les Mis through a Leeds United lens. 

The novel begins with Jean Valjean being released from 19 years imprisonment for stealing bread and few metaphors describe Leeds United’s 16 year exile from the Premier League. Leeds first season in the Championship brought a play-off final defeat so fans would be forgiven for thinking a swift return to the big-time was on the cards however relegation to League One followed the season after. Les Miserables the musical opens with the song “Look Down.”

On 26th February 2022 I watched Leeds United against Tottenham Hotspur on television from the comfort of my living room before traveling to London to watch Les Misérables the musical. Despite the 4-0 scoreline in favour of the North London side, Leeds had hit the woodwork twice and Stuart Dallas seemed certain to score when putting the ball past Hugo Lloris only for a combination of Dallas’ patience and some determined defending from Ben Davies ensured that didn’t happen. That was Marcelo Bielsa’s last game in charge of Leeds United and I found out that he had “parted company” during the interval of Les Mis. 

Susan Boyle was laughed at in her Britain’s Got Talent audition when she stated she wanted to be a professional singer and when Bielsa named his first starting 11 against Stoke City there were similar howls of derision. How had he included only one new signing in this team that finished 14th in the league the season before? Unlike Susan Boyle, Leeds fans had seen the same players only months prior and knew that they weren’t good enough to go up. If Boyle and Bielsa proved anything in their first public outing in the UK it was that looks could be deceiving. Boyle’s song choice – I dreamed a dream from Les Mis. 

Bielsa’s nickname is El Loco and his intense fitness demands and steadfast refusal to deviate from his attacking philosophy is what earned him that nickname but he lived by an honour code that made him human and in the world of professional football that is crazy. He lived in a small flat in Wetherby so he could walk to and from the training ground refusing the plush surroundings initially offered to him by Leeds United, he was often seen preparing for games in the local coffee shop, he reportedly spent hours every morning responding individually to fans messages, he didn’t give exclusive interviews because to do so would undermine his weekly 

press conference that was available to all. It’s important to remember he was doing this with Leeds United, Dirty Leeds. The team that celebrated Norman “bite yer legs” Hunter and the ground that during the 80’s became a hotbed of support for the National Front and the associated hooliganism that blighted English football for that decade. Leeds have never been popular and sometimes with good reason. 

Bielsa’s ability to get Leeds promoted is nothing compared to the achievement that is getting supporters of other teams to actively like Leeds United and causes us Leeds fans to question who we actually are – much like Jean Valjean does in Les Mis. The nadir of this honour code was undoubtedly allowing Aston Villa to score unopposed at Elland Road following what was a controversial but not illegal goal. The willingness to risk the ire of the vociferous crowd in order to do what he thought was right shows the El Loco nickname is warranted. 

The last song before the interval is “One Day More” and before I had turned my phone off to enjoy the show there had been rumblings that Bielsa was gone. The song begins with Jean Valjean pondering “These men who seem to know my crime will surely come a second time.”

But more suitable for Bielsa’s relationship with Leeds is the line “I did not live until today, how can I live when we are parted?”

Skip Kelly of Montpelier Villa Women Remembers The Important Things

The coffin was surrounded by dozens of family photos. I featured in only one,a chubby-cheeked youngster decked out in various items of clothing coloured blue and white to show our support for the Waterford hurling team in their quest to win their first All-Ireland Hurling title since 1959. He was born in 1960 and in the obituary I was listed as his son, but I never considered him my father. 

There were many facets of our relationship that you’d expect in a father-son relationship. I was the only one listed in the obituary that supported the same football team as him which often meant that our relationship rarely went beyond analysis of the most recent Leeds United result. 

“It doesn’t matter that we lost to Cheltenham Town because if we beat Scunthorpe United then we’re only 12 points outside the play-offs with 13 games to go,” I’d declare enthusiastically only to be met with some variation of “I’m still going to have to go to work in the morning.”  This humility was something that always irked me.  

When I received my Junior Certificate results, I was picked up by him and told that I was expected to work for his gardening business that afternoon. I stared blankly at the road in front of us as I could see my friends plan infinitely more exciting activities than cutting grass. It was the kind of humility that never caused me anger when displayed by Marcelo Bielsa when he famously insisted the Leeds United squad picked up litter for three hours.

I couldn’t help question why there weren’t more photos of me, but also what did I know about this man? I was given the opportunity to confront these questions sooner than I had anticipated with the arrival of early onset dementia. 

I knew he was stubborn, once falling off a ladder two stories high and breaking two ribs while painting but climbing up the ladder to finish the job before seeking any kind of treatment. 

I knew he enjoyed old western movies and although never expressed out loud did not have an affinity for the slick cowboys with their pistols but rather with the Indians and their measly weapons. I remember his frustration at being given a dream-catcher that “wouldn’t work” because it had the caricature of a chief’s head in the middle. An incredible piece of knowledge for someone to have who left school before gracing the doors of a secondary school but his lack of gratitude had annoyed me. It was the sort of knowledge that didn’t annoy me when inspired by The Last Dance. I read an array of books about Phil Jackson who used his knowledge of Native American culture to inspire his Chicago Bulls team to an incredible run. 

Although he enjoyed sports, he somehow knew his life wasn’t dictated by results in Yorkshire. I couldn’t disagree more and it was this perennial unspoken conflict that meant our conversations that were based solely on analysis of results waned and eventually disappeared. I visited him every Christmas when I went home out of a sense of duty. 

Although he remembered my name, he forgot how old I was, he forgot I moved, he forgot his siblings names, he forgot snippets of conversation that we just had and he even forgot he supported Leeds United. Hardly surprising considering he had never been to Elland Road and only owned one replica shirt which was a gift for his 40th birthday.

I realised it’s easy to attribute characteristics I admire to the likes of Bielsa and Phil Jackson because it suggests I found them and I don’t have to acknowledge the real source which was much closer to home. 

I was told my step-father passed away on a Saturday afternoon. I booked a flight that I could make that didn’t clash with the Bexhill game the following day. I’m still going to have to go to work in the morning. 

Dream-catchers don’t actually catch dreams but rather ward off nightmares, specifically from children. I never considered him my father, but that never stopped him from seeing me as his son.