The last ever tournament. Back row: Whitehead, Balmford, Dryden, Sharman, Newby, Layther, Osborne, Salter. Front row: Phillips, Sides, Leach (C), Harget.

The tale of The Bakery – Episode VI: Return of the Breadi

Some stories are too good to open each chapter with a gimmicky line like this. This isn’t one of them.

There is probably a bakery in the place that you live. It is difficult to stroll down anything resembling a high street without smelling a Greggs, bumping into your old friend Thomas the Baker, or, if you’re lucky enough to be in the north, being beckoned by an iced finger in Cooplands. There is a multitude of bakeries, but only one Bakery. You might be tempted by a sausage roll deal tomorrow in your local bakery, but today is the last you’ll hear of The Bakery for a while.

Of course, when this trilogy gets turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Bakery captain Thomas Leach, you’ll never hear the end of how The Bakery enabled Leo to snaffle his first Oscar. But for the near to medium future, this is probably it. Our saga resumes teetering on the edge of a tiny cliffhanger; can The Bakery secure 7th place in their penultimate weekly tournament thing? If you’re James Perched somewhere comfortable, then I shall begin. CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE, ADULT THEMES, AND HORRIBLE, JUST HORRIBLE PUNS.

For those of you have missed the first two episodes here and here, let me sum them up for you so badly that you’ll be forced to go and read them for yourself. I wouldn’t say The Bakery are the finest five/six-a-side team ever to grace the casual tournaments at the University of York, but they’re certainly in the top one… hundred. And that is probably being generous, considering their most notable achievements up to this point in the story have been thus: they capitulated to throw away the chance to qualify for a tournament’s semi-finals, this failure warranted them the opportunity to compete in a ‘plate’, and they capitulated in that too. In each episode I have rambled on about Star Wars for a bit, but this time I am going to let Trevor Willsmer’s Amazon review for Star Wars Episode VI do all the talking.

Return of the Jedi isn’t as bad as the scarred memories of working at a movie theatre showing it five times a day for 12 weeks would have it, but it’s still the least of the series. With no producer or studio to rein him in this time, Lucas offers something that’s little more than a rehash of the first two films, but with bigger Death Stars, more spaceships, more teddy bears and far, far too many Muppets, it’s crippled by an atrocious opening section where one after another the heroes try to rescue Han Solo only to get captured in the most tedious ways possible. Richard Marquand’s inability to direct action is much to the fore in this section, and he’s not much better in the rest of the film, while Harrison Ford gives a particularly bad performance that’s all too indicative of a bored man with nothing to do but stuck here anyway because of contractual obligation. If you can forget the dire first third, the rest of the film is okay when it’s dealing with the Skywalkers’ family feuds but less successful on the ground in the Teddy Bears Picnic – sorry, Ewok scenes. Still, it does have Princess Leia in the slavegirl outfit…

‘Rehash of the first two’. ‘Crippled by an atrocious opening section.’ ‘Inability to direct action’. ‘Performance that’s all too indicative of a bored man with nothing to do’. Now that Trevor, ray of sunshine that he is, has cast light on just how this episode might pan out, let’s get it the hell over with. And no, there will be no Princess Leia in the slavegirl outfit.

Could The Bakery finish 7th in a tournament? Let’s check in with our match reporter and see how he tried to make people care about the possibility of such a mediocre achievement.

The Bakery 11-7 Some Team Who Aren’t The Bakery

Love. Money. Fame. Friendship. Tits. These are just some of the things that people strive for in life. But I think there’s one thing that overshadows every one of these things, and that is Seventh Place In A Five-A-Side League. Today, The Bakery dared to dream of this lofty ambition, and today my friends, today they seized this dream with both hands and would not let go until it became reality.

The other team started fluently, whilst The Bakery started like Shteve McClaren trying to speak Dutch. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Four goals in quick succession left the Bakers at a loss, fearful of a loss. The end of the season was looking sadder than the John Lewis advert, and that moment where you realise instead of it being a heartwarming story of a penguin happily integrating into human society, it’s just another boring tale of ‘child having vivid imagination’. Devastating. The Bakers’ heads had dropped like the bass at a house night, but the drug that is OUR DREAMS picked us back up. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. And the dirt was gone. The third bang was particularly sexy, an absolutely incredible erection-inducing piece of skill from Newby setting up the rampaging Dryden who stroked it home, I don’t really know what Newby did but fuck, it was pure naughtiness. The scores were level. Then, fuck, The Bakery were on flames that couldn’t be put out, going 5-4 up before the break.

After the break, The Bakery caused more damage than a bull in a china shop. Or a bull in a supermarket. A bull anywhere to be honest. Goals goals goals left, right and centre, the scoreboard in our minds now reading 9-5. They nicked a couple of goals like a kid in the Pic’n’Mix section of Woolworths, but The Bakery romped home with a brace of their own. 11-7. Seventh place. Seventh heaven. This was the best footballing performance I’ve ever seen, or my name’s not Clive.

An unusual combination in goal proved successful, Phillips and Balmford taking a half each, Phillips showing that he has strong wrists to beat the ball away on a number of occasions, Balmford majestically throwing himself and his limbs everywhere in the name of everyone who loves bread. Dryden continued his fine form, not afraid to try an outrageous flick or to smash an opposition player’s head against a fence. I think he scored two more to cap a prolific season, and a triumphant return from the land of soccer. Will ‘One Goal A Game’ Sharman achieved his customary one goal a game, a cool dispatch into the corner with the outside of the foot. And as usual, he played through the pain barrier, in fact he totally obliterated that barrier. Newby and Osborne, the deadliest of duos, both were knee deep in goals today. They were like a bootylicious body that could not be handled, babe.

There we have it. Another season over. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, ‘He who finishes seventh is the true winner’. Seriously, look it up. Thank you to everyone who stepped onto the field in the name of The Bakery this season, you did yourself proud and I can confirm that each and every one of you fucked shit up in your own special baking way. Thank you to anyone out there who has made a Baker smile at some point this term, you’re the best. We knead you and you have our undying loaf. We couldn’t do it without you. In fact, we can barely do it with you, we only finished seventh. But thank you. It feels premature to wish everyone a Happy Christmas from The Bakery, so instead I wish you all the merriest of Novembers. Stay safe. Keep smiling. Keep on baking! Start baking! Bread! Friendship! Born and bread! Born in bread! Wait! Forget that last one! Bagels!!! Up The Bakery! ‪#‎UpTheBakery

Isn’t that heart-warming? Isn’t it? These aren’t rhetorical questions, I’m getting towards the end of writing an extensive three-part saga about a five/six-a-side football team and I don’t know how to feel about anything anymore. The Bakery steeled their resolve for one more season: why settle for crumbs under the table when you can bake a new loaf? So without further Freddy Adu, let’s dive right into the final season and hope that we don’t drown. The Bakery’s last ever season would go on to be one of their most miserably-documented, but would their fortunes on the pitch be as miserable? The season would certainly start happily, with a convincing scoreline of unprecedented nature.

The Bakery 3-0 Sons of Pitches

Hes Easterly winds were howling tonight, but underneath all the blustering there was a whispered message, a voice that seemed to say words like ‘The’, ‘Bakery’, ‘last’, ‘ever’, ‘season’, ‘tits’. Yes, this could be the start to The Bakery’s last ever season, but what a start! The Bakery were back with such a bang that Pornhub want to purchase the rights to it. Sons of Pitches did not stand a chance tonight, with The Bakery’s presence proving too much for the opposition.

The Bakery came out of the blocks quickly, far quicker than the SoP’s. Those who baked soon rustled up a mighty trio of goals. Newby, Leach, Osborne, Dryden, Sharman, Layther, a combination of these players can be attributed the goals. At the end of the day it does not really matter, for the team is bigger than any one player. The SoP’s rallied somewhat, but ultimately they were facing one of The Bakery’s most imperious performances yet. It was a night where the team spirit was flowing like the tequila in Willow. Even those Bakers who could not attend because of cases of shit-this-is-third-year-I-should-actually-try-itis seemed to make just as much of a contribution as those who bothered to attend, with The Bakery’s level of camaraderie unmatched in the world game.

Are you sitting down? You probably are. I assume most people read these things while sat on the toilet anyway. But yes, tonight witnessed a startling stat so unprecedented that I am about to write in capitals. THE BAKERY GOT THEIR FIRST EVER CLEAN SHEET. To keep a clean sheet in a 5-a-side format, well that might just be the greatest achievement since sliced bread. Defensively flawless from the bakers, I can’t remember a single shot from the SoP’s. It was like they just did not turn up at all. In fact, they didn’t. They literally didn’t turn up at all. But let’s not forget that THE BAKERY WON by default BUT WE WON.  Is there a right way to play football? Some win by playing direct, some win by playing tiki-taka, some win by default. It doesn’t really matter how you get the job done. Remember, this could be the last ever season so everyone should get down to Hes East next Thursday to savour in the bready goodness. Don’t let The Bakery be your ‘what-if?’ from university. Seize the day, come and watch football, and dare to fall in love. Three paragraphs for a game that did not happen. I’m so sorry. The captain made me do it. TOP OF THE LEAGUE. UP THE BAKERY. #UpTheBakery

There is no match report for the next game, but my detective skills may have unearthed the result. On The Bakery’s Facebook group page (they have headbands and business cards, of course they have a Facebook page), Captain Leach posted about an upcoming game against Gishmael Millers. The governor general of the team, Chris Osborne, commented with bad news:

I am unavailable, sorry pal

So it is a fair assumption that The Bakery lost that one. Games against The Rime of Andre Marriner and Exeter Gently followed, with a victory coming in one and a defeat in another. Look, I would have made more of an effort to record the scores if I’d known I’d be writing this bloody article. In the middle of all the winning and the losing The Bakery belatedly created their official logo, designed by the innovative and fragrant mind of Robin Newby, it was definitely Robin Newby.

the bakery logo

 

Simply majestic. This new logo was a veritable boon for squad morale, and at an opportune time too. The Bakery lay second in the table, separated from third and fourth merely by goal difference. Six points ahead sat Shakhtar Senseless, with a truly thunderfucking goal difference of plus 57. Four games, plus 57. What. Anyway, the odds were stacked well and truly against The Bakery, some local pundits calling a Shakhtar Senseless victory a dead cert. With the usual match reporter out of town, and quite frankly lacking the required commitment to chronicle The Bakery’s final season, Will ‘Michael Owen’ Sharman stepped up to the fore to describe events.

steele-more signs
William Sharman presents Michael Steele-Moore with his Bakery headband, in a tradition as old as time itself. Steele-Moore, along with fellow lacrosser Andy Thomas, would go on to weave an important thread in The Bakery’s twisted tapestry.

The Bakery 7-6 Shakhtar Senseless

On yet another cold, wet and windy evening in the wasteland that is Hes East the Bakery took to the field with what can only be described as the ‘motliest of crews’. With multiple bakers absent for reasons ranging from credible to lame, George used his lacrosse contacts to ensure that we had enough manpower to take on the might of Shakhtar Senseless.

With five out of six bakers arriving at exactly 17:43, Stephen Harget was left to go through his rigorous pre-match routine alone, striking fear into the hearts of the enemy in the process. With honorary baker Michael Steele-Moore’s shouts of ‘football’ and ‘yeah football’ ringing in our ears the game began at a ferocious pace. While the start was fairly even we somehow managed to go 4-0 behind fairly quickly due to some sloppy defending, awful officiating and dreadful finishing.

After about 20 attempts I finally managed to slot one away to give us a life line and maintain a goal to shot ratio that even Mario Balotelli would have been proud of. At this point the game began to turn ‘bitty’ and the tackles started to fly in. The referee tried his best to control the rising temperature of the game and eventually decided to start handing out bookings. Well just one in fact, to me. Apparently you can no longer verbally abuse the referee or physically abuse the opposition in the modern game without facing punishment. It was the Bakery’s first ever yellow card though, so a silver lining there.

After this commotion Leach decided to start being good at football and showed us all why he is captain. I don’t really know how but el capitano slotted away a quickfire hatrick (unless someone else scored, I can’t really remember what happened after I got booked) with some Newbyesque clinical finishing. The opposition didn’t know what had hit them and after a mammoth first half the game was finely poised at 4-4 with all up for grabs in the second half.

When play resumed the Bakery learnt from their earlier mistakes and quickly took a 6-4 lead. I presume Staunts (correct spelling? Who knows?) scored one of these because he is good at football. The other came from Leachy again or possibly George who had thrown his gloves down and was stampeding around the pitch as only he can. With around five minutes left however tragedy struck and the enemy hit back with two quickfire goals of their own.

It was in these final few minutes that the Bakery found itself a new hero in the form of Andy Thomas, who showed he can play with big balls as well as small. Picking the spherical object up at around halfway he unleashed an unstoppable drive into the corer of the goal and gave the Bakery a precious lead to cling onto. With the memory of late goals from 2nd year still fresh in everyone’s minds we made sure to hold on for the win. This was thanks to some resolute defending and inspired goalkeeping from Steele-Moore.But finally the whistle went and the Bakery had done it against all the odds, the 3 points were ours.

So there it is, the story of how six people beat another group of six people through the use of a ball, a pitch and some goals. This match truly was the stuff legends are made of. Just a shame most of you fair weather bakers missed it…

Sharman delivers perhaps the most stirring account of a Bakery game yet: tempers were high and balls were kicked as The Bakery defied odds and logic to vanquish the league-leading opposition. Michael Dryden registered his incredulity at these shenanigans:

I have no idea how this happened, what a team, what a club, what a game!

Sharman was soon logging another match report as The Bakery’s season gained momentum. As fine a wordsmith as he is a footballer (whether this is much of a compliment depends on how good you think you are at football, Will), Sharman proffered a report of length and stature that put the standard match reporter to shame. And what a game it was, too!

The Bakery 8 – 7 (Some sexual innuendo using the phrase Hes East)

After the drama of last Thursday the Bakery took to the field for the second time in a matter of days in the hopes of cementing our position at the top of the table. However with the lure of Kuda Tuesdays too much for the majority of bakers we were without a recognised keeper and down to the bare bones. It’s alright though because we were only playing bottom of the league, an easy win right?

Wrong.

In classic Bakery style we started slowly and went 1-0 down within a few minutes, not able to compete with the high energy levels of the opposition. Despite our slow start we dragged ourselves back into the game when I slotted into the corner after a mistake by one of their players. Newby was especially happy about this goal as it brought in his bet of ‘Sharman as first Bakery goal scorer’, at cracking odds of 5/1. Buoyed by the equalizer we pushed hard and Leach continued his recent run of good form by scoring a quick double to give us a 3-1 midway through the first half. However complacency once again settled in and we gave away two goals before the break despite the heroics of Newby in goal. One such example of these heroics was when in an attempt to save a fierce shot he could only turn and watch the ball ricochet off the fence into his face, before rolling harmlessly away from danger. But yeah despite these moments of comedy we went in at the break with the score at 3-3 and all to play for.

In an attempt to start the second half faster than the first, the decision was made to bring Newby out of goal and put myself in net. The plan worked wonders with Newby scoring shortly after the restart with a lovely turn and placed shot. It was at this point however that one major flaw in our tactical change was realised, namely the fact that I am dreadful in goal. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tom Phillips, Jem and George for their past efforts as goalkeeper because people kick the ball way too hard for my liking. So anyway we conceded a few goals and heads were beginning to drop with the score at 4-6. Luckily it was at this moment that the outfield players channeled their inner baker and we came charging back into the game. Stephen started to dictate the play and spread the ball about in such a majestic manner that even Xavi would have been put to shame. The ever enthusiastic Layther ran his socks off chasing every loose ball and flying in with tackles that would have been more at home in the six nations than 5-a-side. As for Leach he decided that blocking the ball was a good way of stopping goals and started his very own version of 300 in front of our box. With the upped intensity we managed to get in front with three more goals from Newby and a further two from Leach, only conceding one goal in the process. All our goals I’m sure were brilliant but I was too busy attempting to be a competent goal keeper that I can’t really remember them.

So at the end of play the Bakery yet again came out victorious with a final score of 8-7. Showing once more that the team who scores more goals will go on to win the game. As for the bakers who were absent from today’s game return at some point if you so desire, unless you are a goal keeper in which case be there on Thursday or fear my not so sizeable wrath.

Let’s step away from this season for a moment to reflect on other matters. Firstly, The Bakery took on FC Wente in a friendly match, a game about which I have nothing else to say because I did not witness it other than that Jem ‘White Bread’ Whitehead reliably informs me that he played a blinder in it. So you’re welcome, Jem. Secondly, let me take just a moment of your clearly not very valuable time (think about what you’re sat here reading, for god’s sake) to remind you of how for one Baker, bread was not enough. George Balmford, core Baker and key player, entered the race for YUSU President. Campus was littered, nay, decorated with George’s face and catchy slogans in a keenly-fought contest against someone who, rumour has it, was Derwent Chair once. Like Jesus, The Bakery’s Twitter account returned from the dead for the good of mankind. Let’s hear some analysis of Debate Night through the treacly voice of Robin Newby.

 

Taken out of context, all of those tweets sound really weird and nonsensical. With context, not much changes. York Vision registered their bewilderment on their liveblog of events at The Bakery’s comment on Balmford’s fiercest rival, Derwent ‘Ben Leatham’ Chair.

bakery vision

Shut up BJL, what do you even mean. As the presidential battle persisted, The Bakery took to the field for their biggest game yet. Every Baker was unwavering in the desire to ensure that fine margins would not stop their promotion charge. Will Sharman’s glittering loan spell as match reporter was ended, allowing him to focus all of his considerable energies on the game. The usual match reporter returned to chronicle events whilst attempting to drum up support for George Balmford’s ongoing campaign.

The Bakery vs Team Twenty-One

The Bakery took to the cage one last time this season, with everything to play for and 40 minutes on a cold Thursday night on Hes East to play it in. Another bread-rollercoaster of a season had seen The Bakery defy all critics to string together win after win, landing them a place in a promotion-relegation play-off. Victory today would seal promotion to a league that we’ll ultimately never play in – IT DOESN’T GET MUCH BIGGER THAN THIS.

A depleted squad got aboard the Orient Express of uni, the bus to Hes East. Veteran goal-tender Whitehead was supported by an outfield complement of Captain Leach, Sharman and Dryden, with Higgins and New making their return after long-term excuses. George Balmford couldn’t make it for some reason, not sure why, in fact has anyone seen him around lately?

Swirling winds swirled as only swirling winds can, and the game got underway. In typical fashion, The Bakery dozed early on, and the stupidly-named Team Twenty-One took the lead. I mean, come on guys, put a bit more thought into your team name you know? But their lead did not linger, with Sharman deftly nurdling home a finish with the outside of his boot. Forget the Balmy Army, this was the Sharmy Army. Actually don’t forget about the Balmy Army, #Balm4Pres. Alas, the opposition regained the lead by putting the ball into the net. Whitehead made a succession of great saves as The Bakery tried to gain a foothold in the game, beginning to find their rhythm and zipping the ball around like a monorail. Leach and Dryden kept the play ticking like a timeBALM, with New bringing fresh legs (sort of) and making crucial challenges. Yet a bitty 2-1 remained the score by half-time.

A new half breathed new life into The Bakery as our heroes pushed forward aggressively – well, they’d be balmy not to. Vote Balm for Pres. The opposition briefly bent over and presented themselves for The Bakery to thrust forth their baguettes. What a lovely metaphor. And thrust they did; Higgins crumpeted home an emphatic finish, Captain Leach bageled a shot right through the keeper’s legs, and Higgins finessed home a spectacular curler into the far corner. 4-3 was the score in The Bakery’s favour. Then someone scored, it may have been Dryden, I will give it to Dryden because ultimately who cares. Will ‘One Goal A Game’ Sharman tucked home his second of the night, which may well signal an imminent apocalypse and the implosion of the universe. But yes the opposition scored a couple too, and 6-6 was the score. The game was in the balance. It could have gone either way.

Fuck, it went the wrong way. The opposition were relentless in their physicality and their clinical finishing, Pulis-ing their way to a flurry of goals. Each attack was about as welcome as yet another Frozen parody – seriously, let it fucking go – and they notched four in as many minutes. In the midst of this Whitehead still kept beating away balls with his hands. Making great saves and that. But fate was not on our side. Sharman was cruelly denied a hat-trick for dispossessing one of their players by, um, kicking him. However Higgins did seal his hat-trick with a finish reminiscent of Patrick Bamford, who oh my god incidentally looks a bit like George Balmford VOTE BALM  FOR PRES. Seamless transition, seamless I tell ya. But yeah, they scored again. And promotion was not to be. Not this season. Not ever.

But you know what, the best thing about being a baker is the prerogative to have a little fun. Sure, in the immediate aftermath the bakers were despondent, as sad as Christian Grey when he can only have a conventional wank. But the season as a whole has been 50 Shades of Yay. There have been dizzying highs. Laughs. Goals. Football. Bread. Friendship. Join us next season when there might not actually be a season. Failing that, one more tournament awaits The Bakery this term. One last shot at “glory”. One last chance to be “winners”. But fuck that, we are already winners. We have the glory of friendship. We have the glory of bread. Peace and love to you all. Vote Balm for Pres. #UpTheBakery  

Team Twenty-One had broken bread. Promotion was not to be. In a matter of days, another devastating defeat was delivered. If George ‘Balm’ Balmford had triumphed over Ben ‘Let It Go’ Leatham, then The Bakery’s spirit could have permeated the University with manifest increases in levels of fun, camaraderie and bread. Alas, the finest of margins left the University in the hands of the bureaucrat. Fine margins, fine margins. They were always fine margins where The Bakery was concerned. Apart from in the first ever tournament where they were royally spanked in every game.

How do you deal with fine margins? You focus on what surrounds them, that’s how. Because on the far side of the margin, you have the cold hard reality of scorelines that have gone against The Bakery, you have the cold hard statistics that made Ben Leatham the people’s choice. But look at the near side of the margin, the side in which we lived and breathed and made memories. You have the glorious goals, you have the cheekiest of smiles, you have a witty and heart-warming presidential campaign that brought hope to the common man, you have the bread, you have the friendship. It is great to win. But it is more important to have fun.

No further introduction is needed than to say that this is the match report from The Bakery’s last ever outing as a football team.

THE BAKERY – The final tournament, Sat June 6, 2015. The longest goddamn match report ever, Mon June 8, 2015.

This was it. This was the culmination of two and a half years of glory and heartbreak, of pub quizzes and FIFA tournaments, of headbands and business cards, of bread and friendship. I think this was the way we all thought it would end: with a Will Sharman penalty. Our young Conservative was left out of the starting line-up in the first game of the tournament, but his determination and resurgence saw him claw his way back into the line-up for this crucial moment, ready to take the most crucial of penalties. The world stood still; there are highly unconfirmed reports that Greggs everywhere stopped serving for a whole minute. The wait seemed to go on longer than a Sharman snapchat story. This was the chance for fame, fortune and everything that goes with it. Sharman steadied himself to take the one-step penalty. One small step for the baker, one giant leap for The Bakery.

—————————————————————————————————————————

But we’ll get back to that later. This was it, the last ever tournament for the lovable bunch of misfits called The Bakery. This is the last time you’ll ever read an extensive match report for what is essentially a glorified kickabout. Hes East looked particularly depressing, as if it knew it was the last time it would host The Bakery. The winds swirled and swirled, buffeting and blowing; the last time I felt this scared by winds, it was just after a Bakery curry night. The draw was made. The Bakery would have to top their group to guarantee qualification to the semi-finals, or be the best second-placed team. If history has taught us anything, The Bakery would not do this the easy way.

The first group game witnessed a landmark moment, as The Bakery took on a team predominantly comprised of females. The bakers treated this just like any other game, showing their love for equality; you should have seen the way Dryden and Leach flew aggressively into tackles. Certainly this was not the first time for some bakers that girls kept trying to run away from them. The Bakery started with such a bang that Pornhub want to purchase the rights to it. Osborne (who else?) opened the scoring with a classy finish, then waltzed through the defence to deliver the most sweaty of passes for Newby to tap in. Whilst this game made generic Bakery shouts such as ‘Man on’ and ‘Keep it tight’ fraught with all sorts of awkward connotations, ultimately it proved to be a resounding 2-0 victory.

Next game, next challenge. Nobody sent me any team names so let’s just assume their name was some sort of sexual/footballing pun like Breast Ham United or something equally terrible. This game was very bitty, the kind that makes you wonder why you got out of bed to go stand in the howling wind essentially just so you can write a match report that nobody really cares about. But I digress. Whitehead was an imperious figure in goal, keeping the Breast Ham boys at bay. Then Osborne (who else?) manoeuvred himself sufficient space to crash a shot into the bottom corner and snatch a 1-0 victory. Smash and grab. Not so resounding.

The final group game. The other team had also prevailed in both games, but with a better goal difference. The Bakery had to win to seal qualification. You could cut the tension with a bread knife. Our bakers started brightly; master baker Leach smashed a shot towards goal that deflected in off the master poacher Newby. Leach claimed it, Newby celebrated it, it doesn’t matter: The Bakery scored it. But The Bakery’s defence was undone by a glorious move that saw a header bring the game back to equal terms. Both teams knew what was at stake. Sharman made a brave dash down the pitch to create a scoring chance; ten seconds later, he was on his own goal-line to clear the ball. Such endeavour epitomised The Bakery. Liam Sides was a constant menace up front, whilst Whitehead remained intransigent in the Bakery goal. The last kick of the game, and Harget opened up his body to curl in a fantastic effort that crashed off the crossbar. So near, and yet so far. And yet so near, really. More near than far. 1-1 full-time. The news filtered in from the other group; The Bakery were going to the semi-finals as the best second-placed team. Can you believe it? You can? It’s quite believable.

Semi-finals. Or should I say SEMI-FINALS. Because this was huge. The other team were full to the brim with players for the university team; The Bakery were not. But undaunted, the bakers galvanised for a biblical effort and dominated the first half. What The Bakery lacked in university players, they made up for in grit, determination and a sexy manager. The opposition struggled to handle The Bakery’s creative spark. Bakers are known for being innovators; after all, they came up with the idea of sliced bread, and we all know how fucking successfully that turned out. Alas, no goals came from the first half. The second half brought catastrophe, with the opposition striker becoming like Yuri Gagarin and finding space for the first time. He tucked in a devastating goal from which there was no recovery. Dryden made some crucial last-ditch interceptions, extending a long leg to thwart the attackers. Leach sought to inspire his men with some crunching tackles, Whitehead goaltended to the highest order and Harget’s precise passing was a calming influence. These guys would do anything for loaf, but giving up? No. They won’t do that.  But it was not enough. 1-0 defeat. 

‘Wait, Paulo, wait’, the voices in my head shout, ‘where is this Sharman penalty?’ The third-placed play-off, muthafuckas. The Bakery regrouped and revitalised. The opponents were the team from the final group game. Time for redemption. Time for heroes. Time for bakers. The game started badly, with the opponents snatching a lead. There’s no two ways about it, the quality of this game was shite. But Sides finally got his reward for a hard day’s graft up front, powering (not passing) the ball into the back of the net. 1-1. We had penalties, bitches.

Sides stepped up first. Goal. Their guy stepped up. Wide. Dryden next, emphatic. Goal. Their guy was confronted by a majestic Whitehead. Save. Then two more bakers, who presumably don’t want to be named, stepped up and missed, sandwiching a goal from the other team. The opponents’ fourth penalty crashed down off the crossbar, off Whitehead and away. This gave Sharman his chance to bring glory to those who bake. One step. I think you know what’s coming, AAAAAAAAH HE SCORED. THIRD PLACE. THIRD. IT DOESN’T GET TOO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, ‘He who finishes third is the true winner’. A fitting way to end. A defiant performance ultimately came up short, but then The Bakery snaffled moderate glory in the most mediocre of ways.

This concludes the epic adventure of The Bakery. So, thank you. Thanks to the skipper, Tom ‘The Reader’ Leach, for having the administrative skills to get us all in one place at the right time, and for never ever pulling out of a challenge. Every day is Leachy Thursday. Thanks to Robin ‘Giroud’ Newby, for the turn-and-shots, for the tricks and the flicks, for occasionally running, for being The Bakery’s all-time top scorer. Thanks to Jem ‘White Bread’ Whitehead, for coming to the rescue so many times when The Bakery’s defence all ventured down the pitch, for pulling so many saves right out of the very top drawer. Thanks to George ‘President’ Balmford, for the boundless energy in his performance, for rushing after goals as vigorously as he rushes after gold. Thanks to Richard ‘Basilisk’ Layther, for the Rodallega-esque touches, for getting around the pitch as enthusiastically as if it were another floor in the JB Morrell library. Thanks to Tom ‘Cameo’ Phillips, for some dramatic substitute appearances, for some dedication fit to grace the Camp Nou as a ballboy. Thanks to ‘Guys let’s just pass the ball to’ Chris Osborne, for being really really good at football. Thanks to Stephen ‘The Playmaker’ Harget, for being a cross between Xavi, Pirlo and Staunton, for putting in slide tackles where no-one else would. Except the Leach, of course. Thanks to Liam ‘We probably should have signed him earlier’ Sides, for scoring The Bakery’s last ever goal in open play. Thanks to Will ‘One Goal A Game’ Sharman, for the winning penalty, for being the only baker to ever go out on loan, for winding up referees everywhere. Thanks to Jake ‘Out With The Old, In With The’ New  for the cultured left foot and thanks to Kieran ‘Shoots A Lot’ Higgins for shooting a lot and scoring a few; both careers were blighted by injury, but had some great moments. Thanks to Michael ‘The Sitter’ Dryden, for sitting and dictating play, for the backheels and the interceptions, for being totally impossible to predict what he’ll do next. Thanks to everyone who has played, to Michael Steele-Moore and Andy Thomas, the lacrosse boys whose attitude was anything but lax. Thank you to everyone who ever supported The Bakery. If you ever made a baker smile, we kneaded you and we salute you. Up The Bakery my friends, and indeed my enemies too. It has been one hell of a ride, but like a loaf, you can only rise so far.

When we first took upon the name The Bakery, I had no idea what it meant. I mean, I knew what a bakery was, I’m not an idiot. But now I know what it truly means. It means committing to ideas that sound initially bizarre, but through dedication and passion turn into something brilliant. It means finding joy in the strangest of places (Hes East). It means bread and friendship, forever. Dough not give up. Be bready for anything. Ba-get stuck in. Never roll over. Up The Bakery, BORN AND BREAD. #UpTheBakery

It was an absolute pleasure to be The Gaffer, and to attempt to capture the boundless spirit and unrestricted glee of a casual football team through some ridiculous little (or not so little) match reports. I hope this saga has not besmirched the good name of The Yorker, for this kind of story (or non-story) is what makes the University of York such a special place to study at and to live in. All you knead is love.

Here is a gallery of some of The Bakery’s finest moments captured digitally. If you click on the photo, it appears slightly bigger. But it does so on a new page, which is pretty annoying. It’s a lose-lose really. Apt way to finish this article, dontcha think.

 

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Paul Salter

Sports Editor. Third year History student. These are just two of the three interesting facts about me.