Steve Fishwick’s tenure as the Marlins manager ended in triumph as his side held on for a deserved 2-1 victory over a typically persistent Japanese side.
But there was a build-up to this cup final that only Sky Sports could rival as the majority of the team enjoyed a goodbye party at the gaffer’s gaff.
It all started with the much-anticipated BBQ hosted by Fishwick and his delightfully opinionated wife, Angela. It was an afternoon in Jinqiao’s version of Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives) where the sun was shining and Dave Watson’s progressively ridiculous tan was enjoyed by fellow guests and Irish neighbours alike.
Watson embarked upon an equally ridiculous game with fellow numpties, Dale ‘100%’ Johnson and James ‘Chinny Chin Chin’ Moss. The race to finish a bottle of strong alcohol (whiskey or tutti frutti vodka) would essentially determine who throws up first, thus confirming their position in society as a liability who is compensating for a cocktail sausage of a penis.
Each contestant had his own way of cutting corners in search of success. Watson would regularly forget where he put his drink as he was distracted by like-minded children and Loic’s hand-chopping drone which the man from Geordieland deemed a genuine threat.
Mossy decided his best tactic was to spill and dribble his drink over anyone who foolishly sat within a five-foot radius/his chin plus two-feet.
Johnson, meanwhile, showed his disturbing experience by chucking a load of his vodka into Loic’s sangria which he kindly delivered in a North Korean nuclear missile (according to Watson).
As the three stooges drunk each other silly, the rest enjoyed the lovely food, company and weather.
Jamie Lally finally gave up trying to communicate with everyone and brought along his better half/translator who like all women that day, did very well to evade Loic Chudy’s sex-pest request for what he described as a ‘dance’.
Simon Moore enjoyed a dry Saturday following a heavy Friday night and was justified in his decision as he watched the distinct demise of Watson and Mossy. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Lillian, spent a worrying amount of time with the mothers and their children.
Jamie Gerrard was accompanied by Beverley as England’s North-Eastern version of Romeo and Juliet continued to blossom with hopes of a different ending.
Carl Edwards and his fun-loving family were in attendance. The chilled American saw all of his consistent parenting go to waste as both sons gravitated towards the beaming light that was Watson’s bare chest. Thankfully, Suzanne called time on their ‘bonding’ once Ellis asked, “What’s a Geordie Haka?” Still, it could have been worse. At the age of 10, Rosselli asked his mum and her friend what oral sex was after reading about Mark Bosnich and Dwight Yorke’s escapades during a reported orgy. Still hasn’t got an answer.
Adam Helling-Christy was passing the baton that is his daughter, Benny, with wife, Missy, as they took it in turns to mingle. The Grassmaster of the Season was delighted to have seen that he shared the same fashion sense as Mossy and Jon Banks’ Quentin.
The Banksy family arrived with Pete Rosselli and Kara in the late-afternoon. Greeted by a shirtless Watson holding a water gun sat by the side of the house, they knew they’d missed something but had no regrets. As Q settled in with the other kids, keeping his distance from fashion copycats Adam and Mossy; Rosselli reminded his teammates that his wife isn’t fictitious. Unfortunately, she was then reminded that Johnson isn’t either as he later requested a kiss goodbye. The fact she refused yet likes to eat chicken feet says more about him than it does her.
Chudy and his tremendously patient/tolerant wife, Apple, had the twins and ayi in attendance. Yet Apple seemed to be doing more work than resting, until she eventually had enough of her husband’s constant reminders that Saturday night was his night!
Steve Fong introduced the majority of the team to his girlfriend for the first time. But Wilson Scott’s jealous stares ensured she left within the hour, allowing Fong to fully relax and mistakenly stick his fingers up Watson’s arse instead of Scott’s.
Harry Swain and Jack Sanders arrived fashionably late after being picked up by Fishwick’s driver. But that didn’t stop them from catching up on food and drink as the hosts continued to churn out delicious dishes. It was just a challenge to get them beyond goalkeeper Johnson who for once, was well-positioned.
Ash Reid brought his darling daughter, Phoebe along, wisely using her as a guilt free excuse for getting more than his fair share of pudding.
Côme Doleac and Fabio Gillue also made appearances with the latter forgetting he was going to head home with the former. Great mate.
Then there was the man who has defied all fertility specialists, Dan Griffiths. The Ryan Gosling lookalike was accompanied by his ever-expanding family which for the time being includes wife Janine and children Louie and Bella-Lily. Proving he’s his father’s son, Louie got into his birthday suit and proudly strolled around the garden with his backpack water gun, soaking any guest who failed to refer to themselves in the third person. And much like his dad, he wished he had a bigger hose.
The emotions of Banksy’s well-written speeches and parting gifts for those who are leaving Shanghai this summer got too much for Mossy who sought solace in the bathroom. The process of pondering on life without friends took so long that the boy from Macclesfield fell asleep on his throne.
Janine rightly pointed out that “boys are such shits”, as a number of Mossy’s teammates had a look at the state of the man voted Players’ Player of the Year. Once a couple of photos were taken, Mossy brought an abrupt end to the viewing party by violently throwing up and eventually retiring to a bedroom where he had a much-needed kip for two and a half hours.
Watson’s girlfriend Kolo came to rescue everyone and child-mind her partner as he rocked back and forth over the fence around the decking, making noises that even Lally failed to interpret.
The nine-hour long party eventually drew to a close once Rosselli, Mossy and the Chudys buggered off. But that wasn’t until DJ Steve Fishwick tried to form a socialist worship with the help of some northern soul by standing in his kitchen, arms stretched wide with a phone in one hand and a speaker in the other. Loic, Mossy and Ange got on board until she rightly pointed out the cult-like appearance made it a bit Scientology-y.
Leaving the compound at nine o’clock, Chudy asked Rosselli if Fishwick had been given the book that the team put together. The fact it had happened three hours earlier confirmed what a state the Frenchman was in.
It was the perfect preparations for a big game, especially as Ange learnt from Tottenham’s mistake and avoided a lasagne-gate fiasco the following day.
Fortunately for the majority of the team, an irregularly early Saturday night meant even more rest ahead of the 2:30 p.m. kick-off.
During the warm-up, Mossy felt weird having had so much sleep before a game, while Pete Roberts – who was absent from the BBQ after overindulging at the staff party on Friday – was just happy to be capable of moving his feet more than two inches at a time.
Shanghai Marlins gathered together under the Jinqiao sunshine for Fishwick’s final game in charge. The pre-match message was simple, “Let’s finish with a win!”
A squad of 16 provided options aplenty as the manager started with a 4-4-2. Every Marlins player was up for the challenge as they went in search of the only trophy that has evaded this magnificent club.
The boys in blue almost got off to a flyer just a couple of minutes in when Ash Smith had an opportunity from the left-channel. His right-footed effort, however, failed to find the target as he checked whether his sister (Kate) and brother-in-law (Ben) were there to see it. They weren’t, but now they know.
It was the Marlins who had the majority of possession during the early exchanges but they didn’t make the most of their openings as the final balls failed to match the build-up play.
Rosselli had a shot from the angle blocked on the line while Mossy wound up the biggest air-kick witnessed on the Dulwich School field. Stick that in next season’s training, fella.
Popping his leg back in place, Mossy tried to dictate things from the middle but grew increasingly frustrated by the fact his chin failed to drag the ball back when well-placed on the edge of the area.
At the other end, Johnson had an early let-off as he went to catch but instead parried a long-range effort out for a corner while Watson showed Mossy how to connect after a big wind-up. Unfortunately, it was with a Japanese winger instead of the ball and an unquestionable yellow card followed.
Due to the heat, the referee allowed for a water break half an hour into each half. At that point, Fishwick adjusted his formation to more of a diamond midfield and it led to the best move of the match just before half-time when Smith, Mossy, Rosselli and Moore combined for the latter to either drag his shot too much or his cross not enough.
Half-time came as Lally cursed every bone in his body before having a little timeout. Fishwick readjusted the midfield and attack to a 3-1-2 and emphasised that we knew it would be hard. The start was strong but too often, the lads were guilty of trying to force it in the final third.
At the beginning of the second period, the Marlins had better balance across the pitch and it only seemed a matter of time until they would find the breakthrough. Dangerous from corners with the wind to their advantage, the Japanese keeper had to make a couple of saves at full-stretch but could do nothing about the opener which arrived 10 minutes in.
Roberts clipped a well-weighted ball down the left channel for Lally to run onto. As the defenders tracked back and keeper came out, the happy Scouser showed great composure to slot home, wheeling away in celebration before the ball had hit the net. It was great combination play between the Suzhou boys.
Like buses or the Chudy’s children, you wait for one then two come at once, as Lally doubled his and the Marlins tally to give them a two-goal cushion.
Moore provided an outlet on the right and pulled the ball back for Lally who turned inside the defender, opened up his body and caressed a lovely shot into the far corner. Suddenly the “Fucking hell, Lally!” was more out of surprise than frustration.
Two nearly became three as first Rosselli then Mossy hit the target. The latter of the two required a more acrobatic save from the agile stopper.
But just before the last water break, Japan were handed a lifeline when the referee wrongly adjudged Banksy had handled the ball in the area. The defender was tracking back as the cross, which was struck from five-yards away, went behind him. If it did hit any part of his arm then it was in a natural position and even the Japanese players didn’t think it was a penalty. Unfortunately, the man with the whistle did and the striker converted from 12-yards, finding the side-netting and sending Johnson the wrong way.
Now the game was on a knife-edge and with less than 10 minutes of the match remaining, Johnson pulled off the save of his life. A cross into a crowded box found the Japanese striker six-yards from goal. As he reeled back his head and made a clean connection, everyone associated with the Marlins feared the worst and sure enough it materialised. Johnson dived to his left despite the momentum taking him to the right, and clawed the ball away from his goal with one hand meaning we will never hear the end of it!
Former England International and Premier League keeper, Ben Foster, was on his feet in awe of what he just saw. Johnson gave a wave to his adoring fans while Foster frantically made notes on his phone.
The game was nearly killed off as Smith crossed for Rosselli but the beanpole forward was deceived by the defender’s miskick and was unable to get a shot away.
Despite a couple of late set-pieces, the Marlins dug deep and held on for the win to cap a fine season and an even better tenure for Fishwick and the departing trio of players (Griffiths, Moore and Reid).
The three-point turn loving Bus driver drove both sides back to Blue Marlins as the end of season party commenced on the Marlins’ turf.
Once the awards were dished out, the SPL Cup winners were left to enjoy a night full of fun, laughter, food and drink as they toasted the end of another campaign.
Johnson continued to give on and off field advice to a worryingly receptive Foster who along with wife, Kate, became honourary Marlins as they immediately embraced the club culture which separates this side from any other.
Swain crumbled under peer pressure as Lally started the chant, “You can stick your fucking headers up your arse” while Sanders had an hour-long kip as the night took its toll.
DJ Fishwick and deserved winner of the Clubman award, happily sat by the stereo while wife Angela decided it was time to cry and use up the tissues Rosselli had saved for some ‘me time’ later on.
Before the night had finished, Johnson did take one last punt at Ash’s sister, asking Kate if she’d like to upgrade to the best keeper in Shanghai? But like Mossy in the first half, it was a big swing and an even bigger miss.
True to form and worthy of their recently acquired status, Moore and Griffiths stayed until the end (2:00 a.m.) confirming their places as the first entrants into the Sunday Funday Hall of Fame!
A great effort by all this season, but especially Steve and Ange who everyone associated with the Marlins will miss dearly. Losing the club’s manager and mother in one go won’t be easy but those remaining are determined to ensure the hard work they both put in over the years doesn’t go to waste.
Thank you again and best wishes to all those embarking on new adventures. Your family in Shanghai will always be happy to welcome you back!