Thank you everyone. From the organisers (Robert and Andy), the oversees attendees (Gianni, Sandro, Alessandro and Chris), technical support (Steve C) and everyone else who brought equipment. And all the attendees who made the journey, short and long. Congratulations to Gianni, of course, for winning the tournament. Also to Robert and Sandro for winning the doubles event at the end.
For me, I was not sure what to expect. So many years have passed since I touched the CMS stick - I have occasionally played on the Amiga with my five year old, but shooters and beat-em-ups with the zipsticks. I am not even sure where my KO2 disks are and what version we are on these days. When I saw all the new functions, it was a real eye opener. The post-game schematics looked like something from missile command with all the lines, and where PBD was you now have APT, whatever that was (please no need to revisit those discussions for my benefit!).
I had already met some of the guys at the dinner the night before, which was very enjoyable. Met Ian and Chris for the first time, saw Ely again for the first time since Rickmansworth 2006 - still looking the same. He must be swigging from the elixir of eternal youth to keep looking so young!
So there I was on Saturday, catching up with Noodles and looking at the league table before it all kicked off. Even at the onset, I was bottom of the table and I was wondering where my points that day were going to come from. Between Noodles, Ian and myself, we deduced that the UKCs was like two leagues in the league. You had the elite guys from 1-8, and then five not-so-hot guys who would take points off each other. I guess I was probably a bit ambitious in hoping I could be the best of the rest and finish 9th. Oh why did I not practice? And then a voice in my head told me to close the hell above and just enjoy myself. No practice = no expectations = more fun. And watching a few friendlies, I realised I could be in for a long afternoon. I knew I needed to shake off the rust and it was probably best to do so against some of the better players and then, once I had remembered how to play, unleash my best against the ones in my mini-league at the bottom of the table. Stop it, I am analysing the league. Stop it, I told myself. Talk to somebody. Enjoy yourself. The kids are sorted for the day, hang out with the lads. So I did. It really was good to see everyone again and meet the new faces. The Vella brothers are hilarious, a real double act of deadpan one-liners. I overheard them calling out to each other during the tournament, "Have you played Giovanni yet? He's really good!"
Onto the games then, and first up was Gianni AKA Giovanni. Strategically, it was possibly the best first game I could hope for. I was going to get spanked about the pitch anyway, but it would be a good way to re-familiarise myself with the game mechanics and players mobility. Ten minutes of chasing Gianni's shadow gave me a good feel of how my players were moving and where to position them to disrupt attacks. Playing Gianni reminded me that the game offered so many ways to score and appreciate the skill required to execute them. I was a bit of a train wreck when it came to having the ball in front of goal, which wasn’t very often, but having no expectations and living in UK for so long meant it was difficult not to laugh at oneself. It was 8 v 0 in the end and possibly one of my better scores against the four-time world champion.
Next up, it was Alessandro. Much better account of myself and I kept the score down to 4 v 2. A bit of relief when I scored my first goal - at some point in the morning I had wondered if I would score at all during the day.
I then played Andy for the first time, the reigning world champion, and my defence had to be on form. It was probably the best defence I played on the day and gave Andy the false impression that I was half-decent. Still, 6 v 3 on paper looked respectable.
It all went wrong against Steve Camber, however! I cruised into a 3 v 1 lead only to fall to pieces. I have beaten Steve before and was thinking that I could get some points on the table and lift myself out of the bottom, but that sort of thinking is dangerous and Steve reminded me how lobs should be performed as he ran out a comfortable 10 v 3 winner.
So, four defeats out of four and bottom on goal difference. I finally took my first points of the day off Mark V. I saw Ian put nine past Mark in his previous game and knew he would be hurting and this could be a bad time to play him. I had to play my best KO2 to get a narrow lead at half-time and then some functional turtle/lob tactics to finishe 5 v 0. It wasn’t a pretty to win at all.
Onto Robert next and, whilst I have no regrets about how I played with 5-3-2 and the eventual 2 v 5 result, in hindsight I probably should have used Lockout. The result probably would not have changed, but at least I would have got more table bashing and colourful language out of him.
Steve E next and this was a nightmare for me. A 6 v 2 defeat in the end but it could and should have been heavier. Steve is so good now - I remember he once put Lockout on to defend a penalty in the early days, but within a couple years he was winning a UKC. In Saturday’s game, he gave me nothing in the headers, so goal kicks just came straight back at me. Such was his air supremacy that I had to resort to playing it on the deck and he is better at that than me. Again, in hindsight, I should have used Lockout, but more for damage limitation than anything else.
A 4 v 1 defeat against Chris followed. I knew that Chris was good but later found out that he reached the semis in a WC so I should be satisfied with keeping him down to four goals.
At that point, I started to feel like I was back to my best. With most of the elite players out of the way, I subsequently won three out of my last four games, against Noodles, John and Ely, and closed out a Lockout-assisted draw against Sandro. Those three victories were all tough and I came out of each one really feeling that I had worked hard for them. With Ely in particular, I knew he had late goals in him. He had also beaten Robert earlier in the day and I remember he beat Nikos at the Rickmansworth WC. He also nearly lost to a girl once, so you never know what you are going to get with Ely. A narrow victory is certainly what I would have settled for at the outset. With Sandro, I really felt I robbed him. He did score a couple of KO lobs but he also hit the woodwork several times. If we played the game again, he would definitely have comfortably won.
In conclusion, I beat the five below me and lost to seven of the eight above me. Ninth sounds about right. The Ely-Robert upset and my lucky point against Sandro meant I was closer to the “good” portion of the league than I should have been, but yes, I would have taken ninth all day long.
Thank you again for having me, UKCs.