Matt Boland: Tales of an idealistic PE Teacher
Brand spanking new for 2011, Football Pubcast blogger Hayden Shaw introduces the tales of an idealistic PE teacher. Ladies and gents, meet Matt Boland…
On his way to the sports hall he briefly checked his reflection in a window. It wasn’t that he was a particularly vain man, but first impressions count – and never more than with a class of young boys – an open fly and he’d never recover. But everything was fine. You could definitely tell that unlike Jose his coat really was from Matalan. Maybe the designer stubble was a bit less cool and a bit less stubbly than he’d hoped, but he just about looked the part – a smart, modern, sports science graduate of a PE Teacher.
As he enters the room he’s still undecided whether to go with gang, or guys. Then he remembers the school’s policy on gangs and decides that guys is the safer option, don’t want to go against the school principles (or principal) this early on.
A mumbled response of “alright” “hello” and “sir” all mix into one groan, but he’s still fairly happy because now he’s got a dialogue going and, on the first day with a new class, teaching is surprisingly similar to hostage negotiation.
“So, my name is Mr Boland and I’m going to be your new PE Teacher. As you know, Mr White has had to take some time off due to…well, he just has. I’m sure you’ll wish him well.”
Sniggers of “yeah right” undermine the brilliant side stepping of the fact that Mr White is currently signed off long term sick with stress related illness as a direct result of the horrors he sustained in this very room.
“OK well, I watched your game last week, and first of all, well done on the effort you all put in, it was definitely a, umm, spirited performance. Yes, you with your hand up, sorry I’ve not really learnt names yet.”
“Jimmy, Sir. Just wondering what spirited means? Isn’t that like ghosts?”
“Not in this case. It means you tried hard. Miss Jenkins takes you for English right?”
Boland reminds himself to speak to Miss Jenkins later.
“Anyway, although you tried hard there were a few things that I thought we could work on to make things even better and you know, maybe help you get a bit closer to winning, or drawing the game.”
“Like what? That was Monkton, Sir. They beat us in the Final last year. How we meant to beat them eh? I’m the only one who could fight any of their lot.”
Fight their lot? “Oh Jesus” thinks Boland, but he hides it well.
“Well, Liam right?”
“Well Liam, tactics for a start.”
“No offence, but Mr White sorted the tactics out last year and we did ok. Me and Steve go up front because we’re the biggest. Quick kids in midfield, anyone else in defence. Jimmy goes in goal because he’s thick.”
Jimmy thinks about shouting something back, but one look at Liam and some sort of natural survival mechanisms keep him quiet. He might be thick, but he isn’t suicidal.
“But like I say, they’re ALL big, even their defenders are big AND quick. How we going to beat that?”
“Well, I noticed that you all, umm, tried to run it past their whole team quite a lot before getting tackled and they scored. I was thinking that we could try passing it a bit more. And umm, you all seemed to just chase the ball a lot…”
“Kind of the point right Sir?”
“OK. Kind of the point. But, if instead of just chasing where it is, if you found some space, then you would be in a better position for someone to pass to you, yeah?”
“Nah Sir, look at Gay Dave, he stands in space out on the wing all bloody lesson because he’s scared of the ball. But he’s shit, so I don’t think this space thing is going to work. Stevie G chases the ball and he’s amazing.”
Choruses of “Yeah” and this time it’s not just because Liam is hard, it’s because he’s saying what they all are thinking. Apart from Gay Dave, who thinks this is all very silly.
Whilst the kids are agreeing, Boland is trying not to let his emotions show. It’s not their fault he tells himself, before taking a deep, deep breath. Silently he walks to the store room, wheels out the tired old TV which is attatched to the last video player. Preparation is everything you see. He’d anticipated that words alone might not sell it to these kids. It was time to show them the Barcelona video.
“JESUS, Sir – who’s that pale bloke?”
“That’s Andres Iniesta.”
Aware that he might as well of said “Christopher Columbus” Boland adds, “He plays for Spain.”
“He might be little, but he’s almost as good as Carrick.”
A small part of Boland dies. Just when the waves are crashing his soul against the rocks, Jimmy provides some inadvertent comic relief, pulling him out to calmer waters,
“Hang on, if he’s Spanish, why hasn’t he got a tan? My Nan always comes back from there with a tan and she only goes for a week.”
“Jimmy, I think it’s a pigment thing. Ask your Science Teacher about pigment. Anyway, that’s not really the point. The point is his control, his movement and his passing mean that it doesn’t matter if the other guys are bigger, right?”
A chorus of “maybe” indicates that he’s got his hook, time for the big guns, time for Mess…wait, he just told them he didn’t want them trying to take it around the whole of the other team on their own, maybe Messi is a bad idea. Xavi! That’s right, Xavi. And Scholes! They’ll have heard of Scholes. “GENIUS” he congratulates himself in his head, that save was worthy of Schmeichel. A few clips later and Boland is ready to end the lesson with a lesson.
“So, have any of you heard of Tiki-Taka?”
“Yes Sir,” says Liam. “I had some earlier but Mrs Jefferson confiscated them, said I couldn’t eat in class. If you have a word with her I don’t mind you blaggin’ a couple as long as I get ‘em back.”
“Very funny Liam, very funny. Tiki-Taka isn’t a mint though; it’s a style of football. It’s how the kids who train with Barcelona learn to play. It’s all about taking one touch and then passing to somebody in space. That way, by the time the other team get to you to try and tackle you, the ball has moved to somebody else. The more you keep the ball, the easier it is for you, the harder it is for them. I want you all to think about that, and next time we’re going to try putting it all into practice. I’m sorry you didn’t get time to go out onto the field today, but next time we’ll make up for it. OK, enjoy the rest of your day and I’ll see you next time.”
“That went pretty well, all things told,” he thinks to himself.
“Sir, about those Tic-Tacs?”
“I’ll see what I can do Liam, I’ll see what I can do”
Hmm, maybe just fairly well after all.