Category Archives: 2014/15

31st May – Marlins are Champions

Shanghai Marlins 2 – 0 Cowboys (Shanghai Marlins are Champions!

)

The last gameweek of the season arrived. It was D-Day for Shanghai Marlins who knew that a win against a strong Cowboys side would guarantee their first ever league title.

Their only rivals, ERS, sat one-point behind them with a tricky tie at Century Park against Shanghai 2000 – the only team the Marlins hasn’t defeated this season.

Jinqiao was awash with blue as over 20 Marlins players turned up to support their side. Wives, girlfriends, in-laws, children and dogs were also in attendance on what was hoped to be an historic day.

The lure of drinking with the French was somehow enough to persuade Cowboys to field their strongest team – something they failed to do twice against ERS. But not to be perturbed (Dale’s word for the day), Shanghai Marlins prepared themselves as best they could and were more than willing to take on whatever was put in front of them.

As the players warmed-up, there was no doubting the game’s importance. A sense of anxiety could be felt and understandably so. These players were preparing for their best opportunity of a maiden title in anything up to six years.

Steve Fishwick’s team talk was clear and simple – unlike anything Banksy says. Steve emphasised that it was just another game, that the team had their best squad for the upcoming challenge and that he was positively bricking it. The revelations of the Gaffer’s Sunday morning bowel movements seemed to calm the atmosphere as Banksy rallied the troops for one final battle.

The opening period of the game saw Cowboys have the majority of possession. But they were given little time on the ball as the boys in blue harried and chased down every dribble and pass. Even Gui was busting a bollock or two as he led from the front and by example.

Despite the possession, Cowboys were lacking an incisive pass in the final third. The solid backline of the Marlins was enough to nullify their attacks, especially with Dale ‘100%’ Johnson in commanding form. His quick reflexes and outstretched arm proved crucial as the Chinese forward tried to bundle his way through.

The best chances however, fell to the Marlins and in particular, Gui Leclerq. He was played through from the angle after some good team pressing, but despite taking his time, he under hit his attempted lob, allowing the confident keeper to gratefully gather the ball.

Moments later, another opportunity fell the Frenchman’s way as the keeper was caught under Calf Crooks’ long throw. The attempted punch dropped to Gui who connected cleanly but was unable to keep down his volley from 15-yards.

Those chances were a let off for Cowboys but it wasn’t long until they were punished, and how! The ever-running James picked up the ball on the right flank. He took one look before crossing deep to McGoo on the left-hand side. The White Feather took one touch, lined up the bouncing ball and struck a perfect dipping volley into the far corner, sending the supporters and team on the sidelines into as much jubilation as he did the previous week against Gremio. It was a stunning goal worthy of such an occasion.

Having got the all-important opening goal, the Marlins were able to relax a little more as they doubled their advantage within ten minutes of breaking the deadlock. This time McGoo was the provider as he took a freekick from the right wing. With Cowboys’ keeper so keen to collect balls into his box, The White Feather opted for a deep cross to the far post where Gui had made his run. But just when it looked like it would be inches too high, he leapt and hung in the air like Michael Jordan/ Calf Crooks before somehow getting his head over the ball and directing it past the flapping keeper into the roof of the net. It was a quite brilliant header and Shanghai Marlins suddenly had a two-goal cushion.

The remaining 15 minutes before half-time saw Shanghai Marlins hold onto their lead. They stifled any threat posed by Cowboys, largely thanks to the commitment and effort displayed by the Marlins’ players, including the wingers who didn’t shy away from their defensive duties.

At half-time, Steve brought the team in via some shouting and clapping by Captain Banksy. He was delighted with the scoreline but wanted a little more composure with the ball. Too often, the Marlins were relinquishing possession, causing them to run even further. Fortunately, they had a big enough squad that could be utilised to ensure the tempo and intensity didn’t drop.

A few changes were made, fresh legs were brought on and the Marlins were back out on the field knowing that they were 45 minutes from the title.

Early into the second half, Gui was mightily close to demoralising Cowboys as he attempted another lob following Fedja’s great throughball. It dropped just wide of the goal but it was a sign that the Marlins weren’t going to drop their levels any time soon.

Cowboys to their credit however, did pick up theirs. They had a strong team, full of composed footballers but they just couldn’t find a way past the solid unit in front of Dale. It was a unit superbly marshaled by Loic, alongside The Rock (formerly known as the Fulcrum) with Le No-Nonsense Bon (and a notable classy header back to Dale) and Davey Watson at full-back, it was a bank of four that simply put, gave away nothing. It was also a bank of four that was ably assisted by Captain Banksy and Calf Crooks. They provided another gauntlet for the Chinese to pass with the pair constantly slamming the Doar (Will’s surname, play on words…tick) shut!

As the entire Marlins side dug deep – much like Mike Jones looking for criminal evidence on Facebook – Cowboys pressed for a goal that could spark a comeback and at least trigger Steve’s sphincter into some sort of uncontrollable action. But that goal just wouldn’t arrive.

There were outstanding performances across the pitch from the Marlins’ side. Dale’s distribution was so good that he topped the passing charts with 100% Johnson passes completed, while The Bearded Magician worked so tirelessly that he got injured several times before making miraculous recoveries that allowed him to re-enter the field and passionately declare some shirt pulling as “outrageous!” Jamie Lally – who made his long-awaited comeback from injury – and Pete Roberts both put in great shifts, while Pete Harrod became the new Makelele and appeared to be wearing Claude’s shorts too. Fedj had to come off with concussion (honest), which allowed Gerrard to provide another lung busting performance and Ale was busy sweating off some Pisco on the left. Unfortunately, not everyone could get on but they all played their part in supporting their fellow teammates from the sidelines and proving how great a team the Marlins truly is.

As Captain Banksy constantly reminded everyone that he lacks any sense of time, the clearances became less concerned with accuracy but more so with distance. Just ask Gerrard who is adamant he did a really super-duper big kick of around 80-yards from corner to corner.

Eventually, Banksy’s badgering of Kevin the referee was enough to see him blow the whistle and officially crown Shanghai Marlins champions of the Shanghai Premier League! Sheer joy and relief cascaded on those in blue as more than a season’s hard work, dedication and commitment finally paid off.

To celebrate, they gathered into a hurdle and soaked each other with beer and dolphin champagne (I assume). English Pete had never been so drunk or smelt so much like Dave and Dale before.

In all seriousness though, these are very much worthy champions. They are a team of mates. A band of brothers. A group of players that will always have each other’s back. They thrive in adversity and flourish in battle. The league never lies and they are deservedly acknowledged as the best team in the SPL. Congratulations Shanghai Marlins!

*PLEASE NOTE: ERS did defeat Shanghai 2000 but it didn’t matter…not one iota!!!!!!!

PERSONAL NOTE:

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was associated with the Marlins either this season or previously. Those who have left Shanghai (and ultimately this great team) such as; Graham Thompsett, James Puckett, Lee Mcluckie, Luke Kelly, Tom Housden, Stefan Mikic, Johnny Dicken, Alex Hull, Hamish Ritchie, Luke Jones et al. all contributed to this season’s title win. Without them, Steve and Banksy wouldn’t have been able to build this side to where we find ourselves today.

Of course, Steve and Banksy have exceeded their responsibilities as Manager and Captain since day one and I’m sure the rest of the team will allow me to speak on their behalf (because it’s not complicated by a dodgy scouse accent) when I say a huge a thank you for their efforts. We all look forward to building further on this season’s success and defending our title next year.

Unfortunately, we will have to do that without Calf Crooks who has been nothing short of a bulldozer this season with consistent performances throughout. He will be sorely missed both on and off the pitch as he’s actually an alright guy for a yank! We seem to do pretty well when it comes to separating the decent ones from the bellends. Good luck with your future endeavors back in Chicago and be sure to continue heading beams and ceilings in restaurants like Sunday night.

Finally, I’d like to cast your memories – which most of you seem intent on drinking away – to when we last played Cowboys earlier in the season. As you all know, we lost 1-0 to a controversial penalty awarded just before half-time. We also lost two players to brain-fart red cards as Zhao and then Zhu got a little too physical with the referee. That was the last game they would ever play for Shanghai Marlins and at half-time, Gui told them how selfish and stupid they had been by ruining the team’s and in particular, Steve’s best chance of winning the league. Despite heroic efforts by the nine that remained with their brains intact (well eight plus Dale), we lost 1-0 and were chasing the league from then on.

But whilst it is hard to forget that game, regardless of the number of Ultimate Long Islands or ceiling headers you might have had since, I (the teetotal one) can recall what our very own captain, Jon Banks, said afterwards. He emphasised that we didn’t need those two players who got stupidly sent off, ignored the meaning of the word team and let everyone down. That it will mean so much more when we win the league with our mates come the end of the season. Well lads, I think Banksy was right (for once). It did mean so much more and it was an absolute pleasure to share the victory with you all.

Of course, I can’t finish on Banksy being right about something because I have writer’s rights here. I’ve copied a paragraph I wrote after the luckless loss to ERS…

Djimi Traore has a Champions League medal. Man City scored two goals in the final minutes of the final game to win the league. Greece won Euro 2004. Bebe cost over £7m. Qatar are due to host a winter World Cup. Sven-Goran Eriksson keeps getting jobs. What I’m saying is don’t lose hope, stranger things have happened in football and this league is particularly tight this season.

 

I bloody told you so! Pete Rosselli

May 24th – Shanghai Marlins 2-1 Gremio

 

The penultimate weekend of the season saw Shanghai Marlins take on best friends, Gremio, as Steve Fishwick’s side looked to maintain pressure on league leaders, ERS.

The Marlin’s previous opponents, Lions, were taking on ERS in the battle of the French. Marlins were arriving at Jinqiao in hope that Freek’s Youth team sprinkled with experience could do them a huge favour.

With scores level at 2-2 after an hour’s play, Lions scored two well-taken goals in the space of a few minutes to raise excitement on the sidelines for those dressed in blue. ERS did get a goal back to ensure an anxious finish but thankfully for the Marlins, they couldn’t find an equaliser.

After a shock defeat supported by the Child Catcher, Shanghai Marlins were back in the driving seat since their unfortunate defeat to ERS in March.

Their warm-up was heavily distracted by events on the pitch and the fact that their opponents were yet to arrive.

After the ERS loss, it was discovered that Gremio were told kick-off was at 3 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. This allowed the Marlins to take a rest, bask in the sun and watch Dale and Dave top up their lobster look.

Eventually the Gremio players arrived and the game kicked-off with added pressure.

Shanghai Marlins looked to thrive on that pressure as they attacked from the very start. Creating havoc down the wings, the Marlins should have taken the lead after just a few minutes as the rebound from Ale’s angled effort fell to English Pete who snatched at his shot and dragged it wofully wide. It was a let-off for Gremio, which they didn’t learn from.

Minutes later, Gremio’s offside trap was broken and Wilson found himself down the right-channel. He squared his pass to English Pete who saw his first effort well saved but made sure with the rebound from two-yards. The King of crap goals struck again, but he was more relieved than happy following his earlier miss.

Momentum was with the Marlins. The onus on them to win this game wasn’t restricting them in their search for goals and it was nearly two when another strike by Ale from a tight-angle was parried into the air but English Pete was unable to judge the bounce and make a clean connection.

Gremio were all at sea as they tried to play the ball out from the back but often found the pressure too much to cope with.

English Pete – the well-known thug and controversial puppy puncher – was shown the second yellow card of his life (both from Kevin) when he took Banksy’s through ball in his stride and put it in the goal after the whistle was blown for offside.

Another glorious chance came English Pete’s way after the Bearded Magician had flicked on a long ball from the back. The lanky streak of piss galloped through on goal taking his first touch away from the defender before lining up his shot. Unfortunately he took his eye off the ball and his composure failed him again as he cleared the crossbar by inches despite aiming for the bottom corner.

Gremio did strike the crossbar with a great effort from distance but that was their first meaningful effort on goal with over half an hour played.

The Marlins should have been out of sight against a team that often struggles to display the right mentality when more than a couple of goals behind.

As the half went on, more opportunities and chances were missed or wasted. McGoo nearly scored from distance with a superb display of vision as he spotted the keeper off his line. Gremio were being as hammered as a team that was one-nil down could be.

But with five minutes of the half remaining, they equalized when the Jason Lee lookalike latched onto a clipped pass before drilling past Dale in goal. It was obviously a body blow to Shanghai Marlins not just because of the timing but also because the game could have all but been over as a contest by then.

At half-time, Steve emphasised that nothing was lost, the performance was very good and the team just needed to be a bit more clinical in front of goal. An apologetic English Pete pointed out the laws of probability if Shanghai Marlins continued to create the chances in the second half that they managed to in the first.

Given the heat and humidity, Steve was making full use of the large squad that he had at his disposal in order to maintain high intensity on the field.

The second half was similar to the first as the Marlins continued to press in search of the lead. Dave did his best impression of a salmon, being inches away from connecting with the Bearded Magician’s – who earlier was unable to collapse like a continental when having his shirt tugged in the area – half volley cross.

Gremio correctly had a goal disallowed for offside when their striker would have been better off shooting than passing to his teammate.

Zippy also suffered from having the same sense of pride and dignity as Wilson when he failed to preempt contact from the onrushing keeper. The streamlined Kiwi burst onto the ball but was forced too wide to have a clear sight of goal and unfortunately there was no one in the six-yard box to tap home.

But with time running out, and more players committing forwards in search of that elusive goal, Shanghai Marlins finally scored their second of the game. McGoo picked up the ball out wide on the right. The White Feather took on the defender, cut inside onto his stronger left-foot and beat the keeper at his near post.

Cue scenes of pandemonium on and off the pitch. Steve and English Pete had a Mancini and Platt moment on the sidelines while McGoo was surrounded by elated teammates.

The excitement was quite literally too much for McGoo who had to bring himself off following his heroics. This was partly due to fatigue, mainly due to wanting an ovation.

Just under ten minutes remained and it was both nervy and no nonsense. Balls were cleared to the corners. Bodies were thrown in the way. Tactical substitutions were made. And it all paid off when Kevin blew his whistle for full-time.

Shanghai Marlins had earned the vital win they needed to head into the final game of the season knowing a win will guarantee their status as Champions.

Their opponents for the crunch game are Cowboys who have proven to be difficult in the past. Who could forget the corresponding fixture this season that saw two players from the Marlins receive red cards for violent conduct – and subsequent season-long bans – immediately after conceding the only goal of the game via a first half penalty. But to have been the better team – even with nine men – proves that this Marlins side is more than capable of getting their last win of the season. It was also just under a year ago that Shanghai Marlins defeated Cowboys in the final of the Mini-World Cup tournament.

This coming Sunday promises to be a big game for all involved and the Marlins will need plenty of support to ensure it is the greatest Sunday Funday of all time!

This season we’ve had some battles to earn the points that have proven to be valuable given where we find ourselves now:

3-3 v Shanghai 2000

2-0 v Bulls

2-1 v Super 48

1-0 v ERS

2-1 v Gremio

2-1 v Lions

2-1 v Flamenkos

4-2 v Japan

4-3 v Bulls

2-2 v Shanghai 2000

2-1 v Gremio

That’s 11 games where we’ve won or avoided defeat and battled until the very end to ensure that no matter what, we came out with something. It’s that attitude that separates us from any other team in the league. We know we have the best team spirit on and off the pitch; this weekend is our chance to prove that to everyone else. We do not make those 11 hard fought games (and the other eight) insignificant come Sunday evening!

The Cowboys game is the last stage of the gauntlet. The definitive fixture. The final hurdle. The moment we all want to be a part of. Our chance to stand up and be counted. Our time to shine.

We’ve turned up through the wind and rain. Disappointed our better halves and family. Committed countless hours to the team both on and off the pitch. And none of this will be worth it unless we turn up on Sunday. The quality is there, the only thing standing in our way of success is our preparation, our concentration, our effort and our commitment. It is all down to us. No one else. We control our fate. Together we will succeed.

November 23rd – Shanghai Marlins 2-1 Gremio

In the battle at the top, it was Shanghai Marlins who came out victorious. The game began in an open fashion and it was no surprise that a goal by either side was scored in the early stages. Shanghai Marlins drew first blood when former Gremio striker, Zhu, controlled Fedja’s cross before volleying into the roof of the net. For Dale’s sake, the move began with a perfect drop kick! Moments later the scores were level when Gremio’s main threat cut in from the left and curled a great shot into the far corner, leaving Dale no chance. The scores remained level until half-time largely due to Pete Rosselli’s inability to hit the deck when kicked. A call from crafty Frenchman, Loic, to go down was met with, “I can’t because I’m English!” But then again, so is Ashley Young.

At half-time there was plenty of raised voices and tactical advice before the restart. But once the second half began, the Marlins came out looking the more likely to take the lead again. Zhu had a shot that went narrowly wide while he also broke Gremio’s poor offside trap – often saved by some dubious flag raising by the linesman – on a couple of occasions but was thwarted either by his control or the keeper. At the other end, Gremio were restricted to nothing more than pot-shots from distance or Didier Drogba wannabe freekicks. Halfway through the second half, Shanghai Marlins deservedly retook the lead as Zhu grabbed his second of the afternoon. Again, Fedja provided the ball over the top for Zhu to show great composure and lob the keeper. The remainder of the match saw only one clear chance for Gremio to equalise but that was blazed over from ten-yards. Shanghai Marlins could have made the match more comfortable at the end but the referee was happy to provide as many freekicks on the edge of the box for Gremio as possible. Thus giving Steve more than a squeaky bum! But karma prevailed and the boys in blue got a win against their rivals. Momentum is building and the next match against the reigning champions, Lions, just became even more important!

November 9th – Shanghai Marlins 1-0 ERS

In their toughest battle since Dave tried playing ‘Cheeks’ backwards, Shanghai Marlins took on high flying ERS at the ever welcoming Century Park – no standing, thank you.

The opening period was tight and competitive with the French side coming closest to taking the lead. They struck the underside of the crossbar and failed to score the rebound, which the Marlins would later repeat after Banksy saw his effort hit the bar. The ERS keeper pulled off a couple of saves in the first half, including an acrobatic catch from Zhu’s long-range strike. Shanghai Marlins pressed for the opening goal but their finishing and final ball was a little off. The ERS keeper and a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal meant the scores remained level at half-time. That was despite ERS testing Dale’s knowledge of his angles and hitting the bar for a second time – much like Dale on a Monday morning.

After a couple of changes and words of encouragement from Steve, the boys in blue went out again knowing that if they kept knocking at the door they’ll eventually get in – don’t take this attitude to actually knocking on doors, Dale. It’s frowned upon. There were more chances squandered or saved by the flamboyant French keeper, who showed little signs of being beaten. At the other end, ERS were restricted to long-range efforts thanks to some great defending by Peter Harrod and Dan, plus the threat of Dale’s ‘natural’ scent. Heading into the last quarter, the Marlins continued to press for that all important first goal but were thwarted time and time again. Pete Rosselli was played through by Banksy but his effort was saved by the keeper’s foot while the cross of the game by Calf Crooks saw Rosselli’s header tipped over the bar. From the resulting corner, Harrod picked up the loose ball, danced his way down the right wing like it was Saturday night at the Apartment and put a ball into the mixer. Rosselli flicked the ball high in the air and Wilson showed great awareness to lay the ball off for Zhu who took a touch or two before toe-poking into the bottom corner! Cue jubilant celebrations and the throwing of an innocent water bottle by Steve.

With only two minutes remaining, it was all hands on deck as Shanghai Marlins looked to hold on for a vital win. That was nearly destroyed when ERS broke through and had a one on one chance from the right. But despite having a quieter game than his French counterpart, Dale proved why he was voted the best keeper in the league last season when he came flying out of his goal to make a game-winning save!

Shanghai Marlins held on for the win with a goal in Fishwick time and they can now look forward to another battle against Gremio this Sunday.

 

It could and should have been more but thanks to the side’s patience and persistence, Shanghai Marlins remain unbeaten and are playing better football!

October 26th – Shanghai Marlins 2-1 Super 48

After the army of last week, the Marlins did a bit of a Blackpool as they just about managed to get 11 players for kick-off. Dave and Dale were fashionably late and as always, welcome arrivals after their paddle tennis competition – a reference to the swimming trophies at a tennis event for those who don’t know, including Dale apparently. Due to some family nonsense going on at Jinqiao where parents pretend to do their ‘job’ by letting their spoilt children tombstone one another on bouncy castles – Dan take note – the game had to be held at windy and rock hard Waigaoqiao. The lack of players, timid preparation and poor mentality at the start of the game saw a pretty flat first period. Despite this, Shanghai Marlins still had several good opportunities to open the scoring against an improved Super48. Eventually, the boys in blue got the first goal as Zhu ran on to a great ball by Gui before cooly placing his shot into the far corner. As the Marlins went in search of a second, Super48 equalised with their first meaningful effort on goal. A great cross from the right allowed their striker to run on to the ball and let it hit his head.

Seconds later the half-time whistle blew and Shanghai Marlins were left disappointed with their performance.

A fair talking to from the returning Steve Fishwick after his gardening leave, gave the team the necessary belief and confidence to go back out and claim the three points. The second half saw more chances created, more possession of the ball and more patience with the build up. And much like Dale competing with Simon on tinder, there was little to no threat from the opposition. Eventually, the Marlins took the lead again after Gui’s strike squirmed under the flapping keeper. The score remained that way despite further chances and openings being squandered. Fortunately, Dale didn’t have a save to make at the other end.

As the referee – who was incapable of playing advantage – blew the final whistle, Shanghai Marlins came off the pitch with the three points but a little dejected. Paying the price for a poor mindset and preparation before the game, they’ll have to put it right against an ERS side who looked impressive during their victory over Lions – last season’s champions. But with the side still top of the league, they needn’t put so much pressure on themselves and instead trust each other’s ability to ensure they remain there for the entirety of the season.

Pete Rosselli

October 19th – Shanghai Marlins 14-0 AVL Galacticos

After a three-week break or three Watford managers, the Marlins took on Galacticos in only their third game of the season. Anticipating a more difficult encounter than previous seasons, the Marlins let the gaffer do a Brian McDermott and take the weekend off. With a minor army of players that would only be matched by Japan, Shanghai Marlins took to the field knowing that there was plenty of strength and depth in the side. After controlling the opening few minutes, the Marlins – in their white away kit – took the lead when Pete Rosselli drilled his effort into the far corner. Straight from kick off it was 2-0 when Rosselli played strike partner, Zhu, through on goal and he made no mistake as he struck high into the roof of the net. Given the seconds that took place between the opening two goals, it was no surprise that Galacticos’ heads dropped and Shanghai Marlins grew in confidence. It was three when Rosselli dropped his good shoulder before scoring and then four when Gerrard tapped the ball home before hitting the post even harder. The post lost. Zhu made it five with a lofted finish from Rosselli’s cross before completing his first half hat-trick with another well-taken finish. With John allowed enough time to throw his visa (apparently heading for a round of golf afterwards) on the ball whenever it came near him, the defence in complete control, midfield dominating the ball while making incisive passes and the strikers regularly linking up, it was no wonder  Galacticos were having such a difficult game. And like Pele on viagra, it got even harder when Zhu supplied Rosselli with an unorthodox finish from close range and Gui struck from outside the area to make it eight before half-time.

Given the numbers, it was important for there to be plenty of squad rotation and to ensure the tempo didn’t drop during the second half despite the game already being won. The fresh legs made sure that the Marlins didn’t rest on their laurels as they went in search of more goals. Zhao got his name on the scoresheet with a cool finish and Zhu took the team’s tally into double figures. Rosselli was presented with an open goal thanks to Zhu’s unselfish play, which he scored. It was then 12-0 when Rosselli scored the rebound following James’ initial effort. Lucky 13 was scored by James after he dribbled past a couple of cones before finding the far corner from the sort of angle that would make Sylvain Wiltord proud! Zhu grabbed his fifth and the team’s fourteenth with another mazy run beyond some static defenders and a calm finish.

That completed the scoring but there was still ample time between the goals for Will to show off his new triangular haircut as he headed wide, James proved his goal of the season was a swinger with the left-foot while Gui was giving everyone a lesson in French swearing…merde! Special congratulations to Dave, Will and Banksy (the three hacketeers) for doing a Yaya Toure and not receiving any sort of card! A great win and an uneasy game to be motivated for but it’s always good to improve the fitness and goal difference, especially as the league this season appears to be less predictable than before.

Up next are Super 48 and Shanghai Marlins will be looking to consolidate their position at the top of the table with another three-points!

Pete