Greensmith: Clinical

Greensmith: Clinical

“You never retire from Albion, you just stop playing.”

Matt Greensmith officially stopped playing for Albion in 2004 after many years of clinical goalscoring. Following his return to the north his Albion appearances are limited to regular Buenner Cup outings, where he still scores clinically before incurring an inevitable hamstring injury.

Here, following recently unearthed photographic evidence of the 2000/1 team, he recounts his memories of this auspicious side. Find out about the inaugral Buenner Cup champions, future managers Neale Scott, Jade Barker and what Dan Roberts looks like. With hair.

I came across this Albion team photo from the summer of 2000 whilst sorting through the garage one Saturday afternoon. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Matt Greensmith a former Albion player (1999 -2004). It’s now 5 or 6 six years since I last played for the Albion in England although I’m the first to book my flight for the incomparable Buenner Cup in Germany each year.

From left to right back row:

Matt Greensmith – Centre Forward, Damian Faulkner – Centre Back (Non Albion maybe played in a friendly) a colleague and friend from Mobil Gas, Mark Wheeler Full Back and Chelsea Fanzine writer, Mike Rigby – Centre Half / Centre Midfield,?, Neale Scott -Centre Midfield, Jade Barker – Centre Forward, Ian Kier –  Wing.

Front row:

Dan Roberts – Centre Forward / Right Midfield, Pat – Goalkeeper, Louis –  Centre Back, Dave Clarke – Midfield / Full back, Rich – Centre Midfield, Kinsgley – Wing.

Albion circa 2000/1

Albion circa 2000/1

I think the photo was taken prior to a pre-season friendly and was distributed by then manager Dave Clarke, perhaps to commemorate winning the trophy visible on the grass in front of the team. The trophy was from the inaugural Buenner Cup a four team, 11 a side tournament played in Germany and hosted by the amazing Meyer family, now long standing friends of the Albion who humour the grateful schnitzel loving Albion each summer. Club Secretary Roger Soper may be able to provide some information on the last time the Albion won a trophy but I think this may be the only silverware won by the club in the last 20 years or so.

In the photo we are resplendent in our new blue and black kit having just replaced an old red kit which would have shamed a third world junior school team. The old kit’s sleeves barely came past John Stanley’s elbows and cunningly in a referee confusing tactic, one of the numbers was replicated on another shirt. Some shirts had no numbers at all and some shirts were a different shade of red altogether. The socks were so small it hurt to put them on and I’m a mere size 9.

Mike Rigby: Former captain, scouser, and petty criminal

Mike Rigby: Former captain, scouser, and petty criminal

The side you can see in the photograph from 2000 was very different from the one I joined in 1999 with half the squad moving on in the intervening period; many to the Albion veterans team. The influx of new players between 1999 and 2000 included Neale Scott and Mike Rigby, colleagues and team mates from Mobil Gas who were drafted in and gave years of  outstanding service to the Albion. Mike was a proper footballer who longed to play in his natural centre midfield position but was often called upon to play in the heart of the Albion defence alongside John Stanley. Neale was a combative central midfielder famed for his bad temper, hoarse remonstrations with officials and tireless work rate.

Around the time this photograph was taken the Albion squad were stunned to find Dave Clarke had set aside 30 minutes of a pre season training session for a Neale Scott skills workshop. Neale had surprised himself and team mates alike with the successful execution of a’ Maradona’ turn in the Buenner Cup and Dave instructed Neale to demonstrate this complex trick to his team mates. We then had to replicate the turn endlessly until we had the same balletic grace as Neale. To be fair to Neale I did see him execute the turn a number of times again over the years, not as often as I witnessed one of his over hit up field ‘passes’ though.

The team I joined in 1999 was short on players and as a 24 year old who had never lived away from Hull I was appreciative of the warm welcome given and made the bench on my debut, a double header played on Clapham Common. Typical of the Albion it was a group of great lads, full of experienced players which perhaps needed some fresh legs.

Those pictured that were with the club when I joined in 1999 were Mark Wheeler, Jade and player manager Dave Clarke. Dan Roberts was an Albion player but was away travelling in America at the time and much as I hate to admit it, I remember team mates talking about Dan’s return and what he would add to the side when he came back. Rich on the front row was also playing for the side around the time I joined. The 1999 team was typical of the Albion, a group of great lads, full of experienced players although clearly in need of some fresh legs.

Notable absentees from the photo and team of the time are Gordon Clarke, Buenner Cup regular and progressive left footed full back. John Stanley another missing from the photo was a long standing fixture in the Albion defence, tall, pacey and capable of causing chaos in both boxes, although on his day unbeatable. Jimmy, also absent was Ian Kier’s housemate and a brilliant goal scoring midfielder who was fearless, skilful, athletic and unbeatable in the air. Ian himself was a prolific winger who preferred to come inside and shoot rather than cross the ball. No resentment harboured here then.

Damian Faulkner was a colleague and friend from Mobil Gas who must have turned out to play in a pre season friendly and never registered as an Albion player.

This side continued to evolve and improve, but like all Albion teams I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with, attracts really sound lads who continue the Albion ethos an amalgamation of camaraderie, pseudo laddery, genuine team spirit and a love of the game.

For all current Albionista, enjoy it while you can, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

  1. #1 by Jindy on 17 November 2010 - 7:42 pm

    Great article Matt, and brilliant to have some reflection on an Albion that very few of us were involved in. It’s good to retain the history.

    I was waiting for a reference to the eternal ‘not passing to each other/not celebrating each other’s goals/who’s the no.1 legend’ debate between you and Dan. But it never came. Well done.

  2. #2 by Francesco Totti on 19 November 2010 - 4:00 pm

    Niiiice. I like.

    I joined the Albion in Oct 2001, Neale was manager by then, seems like his first year. From the photo I remember Mark Wheeler, although don’t remember much about him. Obviously I remember Dan, Mat, Mike, Neale and Jade. I do remember Irish Pat. I confirm he wouldn’t wear gloves, often had fag or can of beer/cider in the goal, often both. Louis, despite being ‘not tall’, was quality centre back n sometimes goalie. He still could be seen cycling around Balham area these days. I nearly run him over the other day… I remember Rich, my first season was his last, he won Player of the year for 2001/02 and left. Never heard from him since. Kingsley usually turned up 40 minutes late and with no subs… didnt last long.

    People who played in Oct 2001 were also Jon Stanley, Jon Roberts, Tim Wright or Will Slater – need no introduction. I used to play left wing (just like today :-), and often had Gordon Clarke as left back behind me (Slater was still learning his trade). I wasn’t too fluent in English those days (some may argue that I’m not much better today) and Gordon famously taught me one Scottish word, which is ‘shite’. It was unintentional though, he usually bollocked himself for missplaced pass or outstanding own goal. He usually said much more, but I didn’t understand that, just like I didnt understand Neale’s pre match talks (ball, kick, no sink, score…), just like I don’t get Jade’s pre match talks today…

    I remember that was a guy with polish sounding surname, first name Skeith possibly….? He was a defender or a goalie.

    I was introduced to Albion by guy called Paul Angeli or something like that. He possibly played for Albion or knew someone in the Albion, no idea. Never heard from him since I joined… don’t blame him…

    Anyone remembers anyone else? I guess I forgot few.

  3. #3 by The Gaffer on 20 November 2010 - 7:51 pm

    Vilem, Dave was still the manager when you first played, as I remember having a chat with him about you when you first came on board. Dave left the summer that his boy George was born
    I first played for the Albion around 1997/8 same time as Dan, the chap inbetween Mike & Neale is a Dave’s mate Rob who also used to play for the vets. There was also martin Lamb, Kevin (cant remember surname) Steve Moran, Spizz, Tony,Nick, Nick Beveney (big guy) & Ryan who played the season before.Dave often had to make a pair of boots for Ryan and save him from a kidulthood upbringing in order to get him to games, we used to call him Son of Dave.

    There was also Trig, whose name was Jon & worked on the sites but played left back really well. He was an intelligent guy but due to the stoned nature & slow speed of speech he was nicknamed after the Only fools and Horses character.

    Indeed the quality of teams back then is not comparative to what we have or face now.

    Jimmy was a class player who had literally everything,heart, strength, great leap, strong tackler & great eye for goal from midfield. His mate Ian I would probably compare to a Sunday league Robert Pires, very deceptive feet with a cracking eye for goal. Another name worth noting was Kiran Gowda the leagues best goalie. He used to play for Man City youths and after being Nicolas Anelka’s agent left to teach kids football in the USA. He had an absolute monster of a kick & was unbeatable for a while in goal.
    Pat, who can still be seen around Balham was also a quality character who could often be found in goal with his mates Benson & Hedges, a Tenants Super & a hat. Both he & Kiran would attend games in suits with Pat often paying his subs from a wad of cash.

    Throughout the years the spirit has always been a harmonious one with little ego & I only recall one instance in my 12/13 yrs where an argument ensued. Ironically it was the game where both Neale & Matt got sent off down in croydon but it had nothing to do with them.
    Teams like Venn St, Westminster celtic, Southwark Rangers (dirty side), Mitcham Cricketers (Dirty), Athletico,Golden Eagles, Sierra Stars, no longer in the SSL, but the latter 2 teams played some of the best football you will see on a sunday.
    To play for this team you have to be of a certain character & not necessarily exceptional football ability. It has always been the spirit, the dressing room & of course the game that has kept this together. From Dave to Neale & presently, most of us have been lucky to play & enjoy as much without any significant injury. We’ve seen many teams come and go but one remains above all the others….The Albion.
    Ironically this photograph confirms you could not get the ball off Matt even in a team photo.

  4. #4 by Ginger Prince on 20 November 2010 - 9:43 pm

    Jade – can you reveal the substance of your conversation with Dave about Vilem joining the team? I am guessing that Dave ignored your wise council and signed him anyway?

  5. #5 by Ginger Prince on 20 November 2010 - 10:16 pm

    This photo was taken the season before I joined. I was introduced to Albion through a mate of Matt’s I used to work with called Ski.

    Neale was the gaffer then. I remember Irish Pat. As has already been observed he didn’t see any problem in having a drink and fag whilst a game was actually taking place. He also had a bad habit of getting involved in a conversation with anyone standing next to the goal. This meant that as the opposition striker was moving in on goal, you’d not only be chasing them down, but shouting at Pat to get his attention as he’d generally be oblivious to the fact an attack was on.

    In addition to Jade’s account of the infamous double sending off involving Matt and Neale, I can only remember one other moment of bother. This involved Mark Wheeler who’s pictured. Can’t remember what provoked it, but he had a massive blow up after a game with John Stanley. For whatever reason, Mark referred to John as “boy” to which John – who’s very slow to anger – exploded, shouting, “Don’t call me boy”. It was like something out of In The Heat of the Night.

    Albion today is a very different beast. Xmas and end of season do’s invariably involved heading to a *ahem* gentleman’s club. A particularly raucous one ended up with Irish Pat serenading the top deck of a night bus to the full version of Rapper’s Delight.

    In those days every game seemed to finish 7-6 or 5-4. People used to turn up absolutely wrecked from the night before, and might – in the case of the Jon Roberts – have to make a tatical chunder during a game in order to continue.

    Particular memories of Kingsley were a famous occasion when he failed to turn up at the Common for our match. Neale called him on his mobile only to find he’d travelled out to Surrey informing Neale, “But I am in Croydon.” He also half-inched one of our strips. At this pointed he’d left the club. Neale was walking home across the common one evening to spot Kingsley in a kickaround on the Common in full Albion get up. Ever the authoritarian, Neale ordered Kingsley to strip. In a moment of charity he let him keep the shorts.

    Playing for Albion in those days was much like I imagine playing professional football was like in the 1970s. All birds, boobs and booze. Very different from the professional set we have today where we have a warm-up and a kit washing spreadsheet. I can’t help thinking all the soul has gone out of the game.

    As Jade says Albion have outlasted a lot of teams. In fact pretty much every team. That’s a tribute to everyone who’s played for the club. I’ve many, many, happy Albion memories. Some of them even involve playing football.

  6. #6 by Gordon on 3 January 2011 - 10:50 pm

    Some cracking memories,
    I started playing for Albion in 1999 after leaving the RAF & settling in London. Dave C had put an ad in Time-Out looking for players. I remember turning up & Dave asked what position I played & I said “on the left” so I was put in at left-back, even though I’m not & have never been a defender!
    I remember the midfield at the time was quite strong, with Jimmy running the show most weeks. Ian storming up the wing, apart from one day during a match where I looked up to pass up the line to him & he’d disappeared for a much needed dump! (He returned 15 mins later).
    Some other great memories of our pinball-like defending with me, John S & Mark Wheeler all contributing, then Luis would come along & save Pat the Cat from getting lobbed by a grasscutter.
    I played my last game for Albion – in the UK, anyway – in 2005, in (the sadly lost) cup final & I’m proud to say I was part of a team who’s whole ethos was & still is the pursuit of enjoyment through football. Even if that enjoyment sometimes segue’s into deviancy & drunken debauchery 🙂
    Great page lads!

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