So tomorrow night Doncaster fans will face the arduous journey south to the Valley once again following the abandoned game back in late August. It was a pretty rotten bit of luck on their part to see their side leading 3-1 before the ref finally worked out the pitch was unplayable.
All things considered, I'm slightly surprised Doncaster fans and football do-gooder generally haven't been building up the game with calls for us to give them a two goal head start, which, particularly where the Doncaster fans are concerned, is to their credit given the fact Charlton are blameless for the events of that day. Actually, I'm convinced the result of that game was not set in stone when the ref halted proceedings. Church had pulled a goal back for us, we was looking threatening going forward and Doncaster had a man sent off. I've watched football long enough to know how quickly things could have changed. In fact, it would have been Charlton's luck if we'd gone 4-3 up and then the ref called time on the game!
But thinking about the ethical ramifications of that lost game made me think of a memorable game from my old footballing days...
In my last season as a player I found myself in the unfortunate position of handling the ball on the goal line, which ultimately prevented a certain goal. Now at the time my team was playing terribly, already 3-0 down in a cup QF just 30mins into the game! Glancing over at the ref I could see him reaching for his top pocket and so I began the long walk for an early shower. As I'm walking off I had a cunning brainwave. Turning back to the ref I cheekily said "what if I told you the ball had already crossed the line when I handled it?" The confused ref thought about it long and hard and all the while I continued to argue my case (I've no idea what the rules are on this, by the way). Surprisingly, even the opposition gave me classic sympathy vote and said they'd happily take the goal and I could stay on. Eventually the ref buckled, announced the goal would stand, and significantly for me, I got to stay on the pitch!
Our opposition may have been dreaming of a rugby score, but the moment clearly shook us up and soon enough 4-0 turned into 4-1...then 4-2...4-3...and with moments of the game left we equalised!
Now, here's the unbelievable twist. In the first half of extra time our 'keeper gets a straight red for a horrible challenge and, yes, yours truly is the recognised back-up 'keeper. The irony that I can now use my hands not lost on the opposition who are now all over the place with rage at how the game has turned. Their act of sportsmanship backfired! I had thick enough skin to deal with it, but the poor old ref was in a world of hate. I had a brief moment of feeling sorry for him, but that soon passed.
Now, I'm not bad in the onion bag, if I do say so myself, and on that day I played a blinder. Tipping shots over the bar, claiming crosses and all sorts.
We went on to win 6-4.
Did I feel guilty? I'm genuinely not proud of it, but I'd do the same again to win a game of football. Sometimes you have to accept circumstances and take advantage of them.