Danny Chips vs Week 5
Cambridge can be a pretty shitty place come mid-November and old Chipsy is a bit of a mess
Just as night follows day, darkness comes after light, and Rugby League highlights now mercilessly invade BBC1 immediately after Match of the Day; so week five follows four. Deadlines begin to pile up. Essays accrue. All attempts to convince the Great Black Dog to stop sniffing my crotch and start chasing its own tail are confounded by a pervasive sense of worthlessness and defeat. In my dreams the abyss lies open before me, spewing a continuous stream of identical emails from my supervisors: “Dear Danny, you are a prick. All the best.” In short, your old pal Chipsy is a mess.
I probably don’t need to explain that Cambridge can be a pretty shitty place to be in mid-November. At one time sliding into the faculty and coming out with a decent mark from a supervision might have seemed like winning away at Old Trafford (your 92nd minute ironic ‘Fergie-time’ winner being in this case a controversial conclusion in which you somehow cited Sarah Michelle-Geller in support of a sixth-century composition date for Beowulf), but now every day seems like a dreary home afternoon at Fratton Park, and your bemused Pompey side is being absolutely hammered by a team strangely consisting of only Shola Ameobi. Solace is understandably not an abundant commodity right now.
Still, beneath the drear and grime of dejection and self-doubt, the indomitable spirit of the Sizzling Seconds endeavours to persevere. Not for a thousand missed deadlines or a million overdue library books would we lie down in the face of adversity, and Captain Chips was keen as ever to fire a tasty footballing broadside into the poop deck of whichever college ship the Cuppers winds (or Shielders winds, whatever, fuck off…) might place before us. Our results so far this season have been decent – the unbeaten mavericks of Div 5 came into this game with nothing to prove – but the saucy temptress that is knockout-competition football unfortunately doesn’t give a shit about previous form; she wants a performance when it counts.
I don’t need to tell you that we stepped up. But I will: we stepped up. Big time. With a scoreline clearly representing the immense quality of both side’s strikeforces and not at all a series of catastrophic defensive errors, the hard-fought encounter was level at half time, and then full time. The goal-fairy ran amok, sprinkling his delightful treats with the generosity of a yuletide Angel Rangel and the godawful timing of that ridiculously long train from Birmingham to Cambridge, as two last-minute equalisers in the 90th and 120th minutes saw the withered finger of the penalty shootout beckoning a none-too-seductive ‘come hither’ to a frightened Chipsy and his boys.
By this time darkness had gathered over the pitch. The 18-yard box became transformed into a kind of footballing twilight zone by its newfound significance and the eerie light provided by a nearby streetlamp. I sensibly chose to delegate the first and second penalties, knowing that the crucial one would be the third, and predictably one fresher missed (I thought it would be a good idea to get that out of the way, and I was right). As I strolled over to the spot, externally tranquil but internally brimming with the kind of serious turmoil implied by any one of Stuart Pearce’s goal celebrations, I clutched for encouraging words from my vast mental repository of inspirational Queen lyrics. Through the echoing caverns of my mind, Mercury’s voice sang forth: “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?” Yes, I thought. Yes, I will do the Fandango.
As the ball flew in, I knew the game would be ours, and when the final opposing penno missed and all hell broke loose amongst us, the fifth-week blues seemed a mile away, chased off by a glorious victory in the face of mild adversity and roughly even odds.