The nine teams you’ll come across at Manchester’s five-a-side leagues after lockdown lifts
And the tips you’ll need to beat them
Just around the corner is the promised land. The recently announced roadmap out of lockdown means that organised sports, including five-a-side football, will be back from the 29th of March.
In and around Manchester are many different leagues that will satisfy all your competitive footy cravings no matter your location or mode of travel. The leagues themselves are composed of people from every bit of Manchester, so you’ll more than likely come face-to-face with your favourite bouncer, busker or bartender (if you can remember what they look like).
So what better time to introduce you to some of the teams you’ll likely meet if you’re new to the area and interested in joining a league.
Here’s every single one of the teams you will come across in Manchester.
1) The locals
Arriving in their parkas, zipped to the top, they won’t mess around. Crunching tackles, shirt pulling, and dissent from the off, but no one can doubt their quality technique. You don’t grow up in the shadows of two massive clubs and not have footballing blood run through your veins.
Tip: Can cause a few upsets – tread lightly, or don’t, and see what happens. Five vs four, anyone?
2) The uni brigade
Usually, a complete mish-mash of players from all walks of life with varying interests; some will have never kicked a ball of this size or shape before, others will be ringers called in as an emergency back-up. However, you won’t fault their commitment, and they’ll be sure to thank you for a “top-notch, kick about”. For what it’s worth, I think UoM vs MMU vs Salford vs BIMM, round-robin style is a great idea.
Tip: May include a diamond in the rough, spot them early and negate their threat.
3) The rugby team
Disciplined and powerful, they form a great unit, but their size and lack of foot skills usually mean they won’t be able to keep it up for the entire game. Depending on time and place, some rugby teams may be hungover after a particularly large one at AU with too many VK’s paid for by Dad.
Tip: Utilise your speed advantage with quick passing but keep an eye out for increasing tempers and mid-game steroid use. Also, let them have the ball in the corner; it’s not worth the hassle.
4) The dad lads
They are experienced chaps who can vary on ability but will often play a controlled passing game. One or two will burn out, begin to think about golf and lose concentration. It should be an easy three points for any fit outfit. Found in the local boozer post-game.
Tip: Have fun and keep going to the end; they hate it and remember to shout “ole” after any nutmegs.
5) The workgroup
Hailing from the offices of Spinningfields, they are one of the more dangerous teams, as everyone has something to prove, probably that graduate dog-eat-dog mentality. Inconsistent line-ups mean that their position in the league may not accurately represent their weekly performances. So, watch out.
Tip: Look out for the one in the flashiest car and boots, mark him out of the game and watch his psyche capitulate. Some workgroups might be real estate agents. In this case, apply tip for the locals as well.
6) The ex-academy f*ck boys
Consisting of complete prima donnas at DEFCON Four before kick-off. Each member believes they are god’s gift to football and are held back from success by their teammates. Don’t scuff their boots, or they might key your car. May contain: Pushing, shoving, Phil Foden look-alikes, and sports science degrees.
Tip: Some big tackles required from your team to weather a few attacks. Watch out for fancy flicks and pointless stepovers. Eventually, frustration will set in.
7) The 11-a-side varsity selects
Team members will vary, but often the quality will not. They’re the team everyone aspires to be. Ability on the ball and off it, they are usually lead by the club captain who’s barking orders never cease. Don’t be disheartened when handed a humiliating defeat. Be careful going to Friendship Inn or Squirrels after because you’ll find them revelling in all their glory.
Tip: Set your boots on fire pre-game and whack on some slippers; these chaps mean business. (My team genuinely lost around 19-5 in Ardwick before Christmas – traumatising).
8) Fallow stompers, et al.
Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the girls; a banana skin fixture if there ever was one. Talking from experience, there are some ballers in Manchester, so give it large all you want, but make sure you back it up because there’s some serious class from the entire gender spectrum in this great footballing city.
Tip: They’ll hit you and hurt you, defend and attack. There’s only one way to beat them, and that’s around the back.
9) Your other mates
It’s the biggest game of the season; the champions league final, city-united, Tyne-Wear, rolled into one. When you come across a team of your mates, it’s a no-holds-barred sweat fest.
More importantly, it’s a precursor to either the best or the worst pint of your life. Withington-Mauldeth, Chorlton-Hulme; derbies for the annals of five-a-side history.
Tip: Confidence and strength of character are requirements; don’t let them or the occasion effect you.
Pro Tip: We all know it’s no sliding, but I suggest a cheeky reducer early doors to get into the game and let them know what’s-what. This lot are no longer your mates.
For anyone looking for a league to play in after lockdown, check out Manchester FA’s website for a map of local five-a-sides. If you pull a team together and sign up now, you will qualify for the new league starting at the beginning of April.
Featured image and all images within the article credited to: Brian Dainty.