MY GREATEST GAME: BOXLEY v SMURFIT TOWNSEND HOOK, 2006
WORDS: SAM DIXON ILLUSTRATIONS: MILLIE CHESTERS
This was my greatest game. Playing for Boxley FC was always an “experience”. Happily nicknamed the BKF Crew, it was a Sunday morning team full of mercurial talents and players that could barely kick a football. We would often turn up to matches in last night’s clobber, reeking of Oranjeboom, yet despite this we weren’t a bad side and we were working our way up through the leagues. But most importantly, we loved it. On occasion, if the night before had been a long one, or if we turned up with ten, we could get battered. On our day, though, we could beat absolutely anyone in our hometown of Maidstone, and we fancied it when we pulled Premier League team Smurfit Townsend Hook in the cup.
Named after a local paper mill, Smurfit were apparently unbeaten in about fifty years, but with the rain hammering down, it stank of an upset. Our player-manager Dave “Honk” Hool changed from our much-loved 3-6-1 formation to a sturdy 4-4-2 with myself, a sprightly lad fresh into Men’s football, and “Donkey” Craig Russell – Boxley’s all-time leading scorer – up top. Honk told us to get at them, and we bloody did.
A see-saw encounter saw us trade goals throughout as we surprised our more illustrious and now-exasperated opponents. I got hacked down midway through the second half. The majority of the subs were BKF members who, having noticed it was a tight game, knew there was no chance of getting on, so had retired to the car to watch. The one who had braved the weather came on with the first aid kit, only to find that it contained a can of lager, a can of Brut and a can of fresh car scent. So, I just got on with it.
With the game level at 3-3 I got put through in the last seconds to seal glory. Normally a decent finisher, I eyed the keeper up and completely shanked it wide just before the full-time whistle blew. Being a younger member of the team, the lads told me not to worry, that another chance would come my way in extra time. Feeling better, I was up for it, until my brother, “Square” (our keeper, named after his love of facts and pub quiz machines), came up to me and gave me an absolute beasting for missing the chance, much to the amusement of the rest of the lads.
We fell a goal behind going into the second-half of extra time when player-manager Dave Hool entered the fray. He had this knack of trundling up from left-back for corners and scoring off his shin and had recently netted a few. Amusingly, the local reporter always got his name wrong, with recent editions calling him Dave Hook, Hall and Horn. Anyway, somehow he managed to get his head onto another corner to plant it in the bottom corner. In celebration he slid on his knees, making a “horn honking” motion in front of the subs in their cars who excitedly honked their horns in return. He’s still known as Honk to this day.
Level at 4-4 and with a ropey pen shootout record, it was now or never. I can remember this goal like it was yesterday: a terrible ball was played in straight to a defender but at the last second it kicked off the surface and he missed it. Just as he turned and the keeper came off his line I managed to get a toe poke on the ball from about fifteen yards and watched as the ball agonisingly slowed up in the rain as it reached the goal line. Luckily, it just had the legs and I was mobbed by everyone, apart from Square, within seconds. He was still annoyed that he had to stand in the rain for another half an hour.
The final whistle blew soon after and it was back to the Early Bird for six pints and a lovely roast. Football at its finest. My greatest game.