In the midst of this thoroughly draining second lockdown I’ve found myself missing playing football more than the first time around. In lockdown 1.0, I was often asked the question, “What do you miss about playing football?”. I would answer by talking about the matches themselves before elaborating on my love for small sided training games. That being said, with significantly more time to think, the aspect I really miss is small possession boxes.
People who have played football at any level, will enjoy a small possession box. Whether they know it as a rondo, piggy in the middle or simply “boxes”; it will have formed a vital part of their training and football experience. For the few that are not in the know, I will break it down simply. It’s a 6 by 6 metre (approximately) box, where 4-5 of you keep the ball of 2 pressers in the middle and if the pressers get a touch on your pass – you become the presser. Simple, sharp, enjoyable.
It is enjoyable for different reasons, but for me, a key reason is that It brings a lot of hidden personality traits to the surface. You can see how your teammates react under pressure, see if they can take a joke and basically see what your team mates are all about. Think of the rondo box as the footballing version of the sorting hat in Harry Potter, it chooses you. You will be in one of the following categories:
- The nervous guy
This player is usually a good player on a match day; however this is a player who forgets how to kick a ball as soon as he enters a tight rondo box. It is paramount that these guys have a good start, getting a few passes out the way or it is likely that they will find themselves with a season ticket in the middle. It usually ends badly with this individual being nutmegged and the chorus of cheers from other boys is deafening. You just pray he has a couple paracetamol, an early kip and can shake off the trauma to fight another day.
- The guy who never walks
This character will refuse to go in the middle by constantly making an excuse. The other player gave them a crap pass, the other player should have made it to the pass and just sheer refusal of the pressor getting a touch on the ball. Some would call these guys competitive; others might call them bawbags; I find my thinking supports the latter. Stop being a baby and get in the middle will you. Likely to get booked for arguing with a ref on a Saturday.
- The guy that always plays for nutmegs
These games will usually have conditions, such as 10 passes and you are in again. However, the key rule, is that if you have the misfortune of being nutmegged, you are in for double. With this in mind, there is always one individual who will continuously try to meg people. Traditionally speaking they will be sporting colourful boots and have some kind of tape on the wrist gimmick going on. That being said, they bring an element of danger to the game. One ball roll through a poor victim’s legs and it can be pandemonium. The naughtier the meg, the larger the pandemonium. The megger is always in danger of the wrath of the tantrum thrower (see later). Usually a number 10 or a tricky winger, who doesn’t deliver the end product which matches their technical ability on a Saturday.
- The man that could keep a ball of you in a phone box
This player will never spend any time in the middle, they have well and truly mastered the box. At my level, this player is traditionally a technically gifted player who does not move out of the centre circle on a match day. Give them time and they will keep it simple, get too tight and they will find an angle from somewhere. If in the middle, you just have to let them give it to someone who has a trampoline touch, then you pounce. The artist of the box, a modern-day Michelangelo.
- The hand on the ball guy
This guy will never let the game run. If he’s been given a ropey pass early on he will put his hand on the ball to suggest the game hasn’t started. Takes a wiley old fox to get away with it. Their timing is usually impeccable and they rarely get penalised for this gamesmanship. The kind of guy that will somehow get away with 5 bad tackles without getting a booking on a Saturday. The modern-day shithouse.
- The tantrum thrower
Nobody likes being in the middle, however some take it worse than others. Those with a poor temperament are likely to explode if they are in the middle for too long. Popping passes around this poor individual and ramping up his anger. It’s like playing that classic game buckaroo, what will be the trigger. It might be the smug shouts of those on the side shouting “is anybody in?”, It might be a couple of no look passes as the score accumulates; however, the usual trigger is a well-placed nutmeg which will result in a lungey malicious tackle on the nutmegger. Probably serves him right. Most likely to two foot tackle someone when you are 4-0 down on a Saturday.
These are the 6 standout categories for me. You are either exclusively in one category or in a mixture of a few. I can’t think of anymore of the top of my head; I may be wrong. One thing’s for sure, I miss them. I’m probably about one more lockdown away from setting up a rondo with the garden gnomes. Which one are you?