Albion Season Review 2006/2007

Victory Grew Through Harmony

by Danny Minj

“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” Cast your mind back to May 2006. Albion FC’s season came to a disappointing climax, with a 3-1 defeat to Sparta Park. Preceding this, a run of three draws and three wins (two of which were granted by the SSFL league committee) saw Albion avoid the ignominy of relegation. They finished 8th in the league having conceded 42 goals in 20 games.

Albion struggled to maintain a level of consistency, losing games cheaply to inferior opposition. In truth, the season was defined by rebuilding after the loss of Mike Rigby and Jim Farrow in August 2005. That rebuilding has continued into this season, which was one of transition – with great effect. Albion finished third in the league, 8 points off the champions, Westminster Wanderers. Six points from the double header against Wanderers would have secured the title. A number of factors led to this improvement – an increased work and team ethic in the camp, new signings adding quality to the squad, instilling of discipline in preparation and on the pitch, and Jade Barker’s inspirational team talks.

The season started solidly with Albion recovering from 4-2 down to draw 4-4 in their opening game against Bath Old Boys. Three consecutive wins then came to a halt with 1-0 defeat away to Wandsworth Borough Town – a game Albion should have won, and will reflect that Town only had one shot on goal. This was followed by a 4-2 league defeat to SJB, who proved to be a bogey team for Albion throughout the season although there was a dogged 1-0 away win at SJB that led to the now infamous ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ speech by Jade Barker – jaw dropping and inspirational in equal measure. This came amidst a run of 5 straight wins in the run-up to Christmas where a disjointed performance led to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Brixton Town. This game was preceded by the also infamous but ultimately unsuccessful text message war cry from Jade Barker: “VICTORY GROWS THROUGH HARMONY!”. However, Albion were playing some dazzling free-scoring football, using the channels to great effect. The new year saw some patchy form culminating in Black February as Albion lost all 4 games, exiting 2 cup competitions and losing a double header to Westminster Wanderers. This effectively ended Albion’s title hopes. With only league placing to play for, Barker demanded a response – and got one. Albion finished the season unbeaten in the last 7 games, winning 4 and drawing 3. This included an astonishing 3-0 away win at Bath Old Boys – a title chasing team, unbeaten all season, having scored in every game. The records were shattered by a depleted Albion squad; more importantly, the Albiones confirmed to themselves that they were now capable of beating anyone in the league (apart from Westminster…) – a platform to build upon next season.

There were also low points in the season. Albion’s official post-match boozer, The Alex, ended their provision of Sunday roasts leading to a series of gastronomical disputes. This has culminated in a cancellation of Albion’s patronage and a search for a new boozer. There was also the ill-tempered Battle of the Common against Pimlico which saw bad boys Guy Blanchard and Dan Roberts red carded. Injuries also plagued the squad with Neale Scott, in Bryan Robson style, battling through a series of ailments. Will Slater missing much of the season due to persistent ankle problems. Slater’s misery was compounded as he was relegated to third in the Albion intellectual pecking order with the signings of Paul Beavis and Paul Stuart. Pseudo lad indeed.

A major factor in this improvement was the goals contributed from throughout the team. Reuben Stanley once again defied the natural order of the world netting 17 times to finish top scorer for a successive season. Dan Roberts, versatile attacker and Mike Phelan lookalike, added a further 13 goals including a magnificent overhead kick and arguably goal of the season away to Bath Old Boys with an ‘eyebrows’ finish on the end of a 60-yard pass by his brother. Vilem Palac, the Albion Baywatch babe, also produced an outstanding 9 goals in a handful of games having re-signed during the winter transfer window. Outside the strikers, Tony Echemuna chipped in a wonderful array of 7 goals, including a cup hat-trick against Golden Lions. Don Bailey notched 7 from right midfield as well as providing several assists. And Dave McPhee produced 6 goals (not 7) from midfield, a panoply of the most comic and bizarre finishing seen on the Common – not many SSFL players can score with their arse and ballbag. There were many other goalscoring highlights including Neale Scott’s freak deflection from his left foot pass, and an Alonso-esque halfway line goal from Jindy Mann.

Most impressive though was the marked improvement in defence. Despite a shaky start conceding over 2 goals a game by Christmas, gradual improvement in communication and organisation saw 25 goals conceded in the 18 league games. This was also aided by the addition of Paul Beavis who has proved a giant in goal and inspiring confidence throughout the defence. The season also saw a record 5 clean sheets beating the previous best of 3 in the previous 2 seasons. Despite losing Pete Bailey mid-way through the season, the defensive stalwarts (Stanley, Roberts, Slater, Hale) were helped by various stand-in defenders including Neale Scott, Paul Stuart, Jindy Mann and the gaffer, Jade Barker. In addition, Jon Stanley broke sartorial barriers for Albion, modelling himself on Eric Young by sporting a dashing headband.

A continuation of the fine attacking form displayed this season would be complemented by a greater emphasis on passing play through the midfield – an area for concentration. Further improvement in defensive organisation will provide support and a foundation for what must be next season’s target – winning the league title. Albion are rising.

Spectemur Agendo,

Danny Minj, May 2007

The season in stats:

League Position: 3rd

Cup best: Quarter-Final of Surrey Cup

Goals scored (all comps): 69

Goals conceded (all comps): 48

Goals scored (league): 40

Goals conceded (league): 25

Goals scored (cups): 29

Goals conceded (cups): 24

Clean sheets: 5

Streak: Unbeaten in last 7 (4 wins, 3 draws), 5 wins during Nov/Dec

Best win: 4-0 vs Rudimental Rovers (league); 5-1 vs Pimlico (league), 5-1 vs Portland (cup)

Worst defeat: 1-4, vs SJB, cup

Player of the Season: Jindy Mann

Clubman of the Year: Don Bailey

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