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Fleet Life with Ed Miller: Fleet survive their University Challenge

PUBLISHED: 12:17 04 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:04 23 August 2010

FLEET survived their University Challenge against Oxford and Cambridge with honours even, but not before the man in black on Tuesday night - amusingly called John Hopkins after the university in Baltimore - saw fit to produce the most inept display of ref

FLEET survived their University Challenge against Oxford and Cambridge with honours even, but not before the man in black on Tuesday night - amusingly called John Hopkins after the university in Baltimore - saw fit to produce the most inept display of refereeing witnessed at Stonebridge Road in some time.

Quite what they teach them at the Academy of Refereeing and School of Excellence (work out the acronym for yourselves) in between preparing them for lives as traffic wardens I don't know, but presumably Mr Hopkins is the class swot and underwent extra tuition in the Preening, Strutting and How To Look Officious But Useless modules.

When counting out distances at free-kicks, he goose-stepped backwards and forwards like John Cleese in Fawlty Towers, his whistle held aloft by an arm at a perfect angle of 90 degrees.

He dished out yellow cards like confetti (chalking up the 94th of his Conference career) and even the normally partisan Fleet fans did the unheard-of and joined the opposition's supporters in berating him for cautioning two Cambridge players.

For the Fleet, three points in three games signifies a disappointing run, but that would be to gloss over some of the attractive football and golden chances that are being created. But the frustration of trying to walk the ball into the net is made more agonising by those last-minute goals we have given away.

To see Oxford's fans rush down the terracing at the Swanscombe End in the dying seconds was an all-too-familiar scene. If we're going to make a habit of this, can we please either do it when the opposition have brought only two men and a dog or else leave a load of banana skins in the corner so at least there's some pleasure in seeing us surrender three points?

All of which just about leaves me room to comment on John Akinde's departure. The striker's somewhat surprise move to dark horses Bristol City was perhaps fitting in the same week that former Fleet starlet Jimmy Bullard was elevated to the England squad. For here is another local player who could possibly go the distance and really make a name for himself.

The move was the right one, for both player and club. You can bang on all you like about being a "selling club" and not showing enough ambition to keep your best players, but at this level the kind of income generated by Akinde's move could potentially have more impact than one player who was always going to be destined for greater things.

Liam Daish's reluctance to part with him until the right offer came along avoids repeating the bargain deal that saw Bullard move to West Ham in 1999 and is one in the eye for Barry Fry whose petulant Bob Hoskins-style public hissy fits had most Fleet fans hoping that Peterborough wouldn't get their man. So there we go - everyone's a winner.

Well, except for Barry.

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