It was a new era for Shanghai Marlins following the departure of long-standing members, which included captain Jon Banks; James Nesbit lookalike Simon Moore; phantom-scooter-12-beers-no-food Dan Griffiths and of course, Manager Steve Fishwick.
Continuing the club’s trend of competing in every competition available and maintaining the Sunday Fundays that persuaded some deluded folk to travel all the way from Suzhou was always a tall order. Thankfully, a small committee was formed that included a tall chap with a deep head not suitable for hats.
Carl Edwards, Jamie Gerrard, Adam Christy and Pete Rosselli sat down at the start of the season and planned their approach. The loss of several key members meant a recruitment drive was needed and thankfully, they benefitted from a few late arrivals from the previous season.
Harry Swain, Jack Sanders and Ash Smith adjusted to the nonsense effortlessly and contributed many a memorable moment during their first season. But the 2017-18 campaign needed more of the same were the Marlins to add to last year’s SPL Cup triumph.
New to the squad at the start of the season were Max ‘Berlin Wall’ Baier, John Trinder, Jameson Waugh, Jon ‘Jukebox’ Heaney, Chris Bonner and Toby Rossiter. Sadly, JT’s season was abruptly ended following a serious knee injury but that didn’t stop him supporting the boys who look forward to seeing him back out on the pitch next season!
Earning a nickname in your first season means you either look like a famous person, have insulted a famous person or have delivered performances related to a profession or famous monument. Baier was the latter as his big frame was accompanied by some big reflexes, making him difficult to beat in goal.
Waugh injected some much-needed pace on the flank and despite his tender age, showed great effort and determination to retrieve possession. Unfortunately, his future took precedence which meant a return to his native America. Boring.
Bonner and Rossiter made it four players from Suzhou, showing great commitment to attend matches whenever possible. Both helped bring down the average-age which was a big boost, particularly for the nonces in the team. Their strength and versatility proved essential in matches, most notably in the final game of the season.
Heaney arrived with a reputation as one of the league’s better defenders. But most Marlins knew him as the idiot who got sent off against them whilst playing for Century Park. Now he’s known as the idiot who spontaneously introduces a song lyric during a conversation and is also the league’s best defender.
With most games taking place after Chinese New Year, the winter transfer window brought along a few extra bodies which is always appreciated, especially when players have work commitments, injuries to nurse, are busy throwing arrows while drinking beers, or leaving boots in umbrella pots.
Karlton Watson – who used to be a pro by the way – brought physicality, speed, game management and some tattoos to the squad. Unluckily for him, his season was interrupted by a shoulder injury sustained whilst playing for the “better drinkers” Shanghai Shooters.
Gary Saunders arrived to bring some ball retention and composure. But aside from his impressive ability to down a beverage, Saunders also possesses a throw-in akin to a certain Rory Delap.
Saunders’ mate Dragos Olaru also joined the ranks and managed to score his first Marlins goal in only his second appearance with a rifled left-foot drive. Not bad for the team’s best barnet!
Heaney’s mate Fafa signed for the Marlins when he heard they could beat the Lions to the title. The Madagascan speedster’s smile brightened up every Sunday he was present and also allowed Heaney to do some squats.
Mitch Matthews played in a quarter of the fixtures and made his most telling contribution in the last game of the season where his flick on led to a vital third goal. Irrespective of his assists, his crowning moment came prior to the penultimate game of the season as he strolled across a cricket pitch oblivious to the match that was taking place.
To expand the North American contingent, Thunderbirds model, Matty McColl, joined with his energetic and intelligent play. Sadly, he and Karlton have their university courses to complete so their presence won’t be enjoyed next season. One was taking his studies more seriously than the other.
Nick Startbrook was the final addition of the latter season signings but his smooth voiceover duties and reputable job limited his Marlins outings. Here’s hoping the defender can bring some more southern sophistication during the next campaign.
In any title-winning season, there’s always plenty of defining moments. The 4-0 win in the first game against Lions set the standard and gave the Marlins an advantage that they would maintain until the reverse fixture in April. Unfortunately, the occasion got the better of them that day as they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat. But apart from lessons on the pitch for the third and final game against their rivals, it was what happened afterwards that was telling.
A BBQ was organised at Blue Marlin, attended by over 35 people including friends and family. Rather than letting the first and only loss of the season ruin the atmosphere, the Marlins went on to have one of their more memorable Sunday Fundays, fuelled by plenty of beer consumed via a makeshift dentist chair. It worked for England as they bonded over such an act in Hong Kong prior to Euro 96, so why couldn’t it work for Shanghai Marlins?
Obviously, winning the final game when the Marlins had to avoid defeat against the Lions will prove pivotal in any campaign, but the previous fixture – particularly its final 20 minutes – had a huge influence on the successful outcome.
With a squad of 13 (better that way), the Marlins were chasing an eight-goal margin victory against Japan – who notoriously never give up – following the Lions 9-0 win over Shanghai Kickers. Seventy-minutes on the clock, the score was 4-1 to the boys in blue and failing to reach nine without reply would mean they’d have to win the final game of the season to earn the club’s second ever league title.
Persistence, skill and a positive attitude paid off as they reached the magic number to earn that cushion heading into the last match despite the league’s determination to pull a fast one.
The rest is history, history created by a squad of players willing to go that extra yard for one another. A squad of players that would rather suffer together than succeed with strangers. A squad of players that provides more than just friendship in an environment that can at times be testing for the most resolute of people.
Shanghai Marlins isn’t just a team, nor a club, it’s a community and on Friday 15thJune, the metropolis of Shanghai was made acutely aware of this…
Shanghai Marlins Trophy Parade
The levels of anticipation for this event dwarfed the buzz of Christmas. This wasn’t any other Friday evening, this was a trophy parade around Shanghai on an open-top bus with flags, cocktails, tunes and all.
After meeting at The Camel, the 20 Marlins boarded the bus and joined the rush hour traffic. With the ‘SPL Champions’ flag tied to the back, no local passerby was unaware as to who the Marlins were and what they had achieved.
This was particularly true outside IAPM on Huaihai Lu as the traffic lights allowed many a bystander to whip out their phones and start filming. Looking to set the standard, Mossy goaded one curious local to come onto the bus. When she laughed before refusing and continuing her perfectly innocent walk, Mossy told her to “f**k off.” Seemed fair, until moral compass Heaney stepped in to point out his wrongdoing.
Once the bus had made it through the Friday traffic, the driver headed for the highway, inspired by his 12thviewing of Mike Basset England Manager – a figure only matched by the number of times he’s seen Flubber.
There were a lot of windswept barnets as a result of the driver’s determination to make the Uruguay vs Egypt kick-off at Blue Marlin.
‘Campeones’, ‘The Marlins won the League’ and ‘Saag-aloo’ were just a few of the songs that were bellowed from the top of the bus as it crossed the Nanpu Bridge and entered Pudong.
By 7:45 p.m., the bus pulled up outside Blue Marlin where Carol Smillie’s American rival as the happiest person on Earth, Suzanne Edwards, was waiting with her two boys and camera at the ready.
The team headed into a busy Blue Marlin geared for the World Cup, with a private section prepared outside. There, the boys had some more beers, signed a flag as a gift for the restaurant and dragged out the end of season awards ceremony because they’re a noisy bunch of muppets and everyone has to be the funny guy.
Pete Rosselli was voted Clubman of the Season because he turned up to every game and the team want him to continue writing match reports/looking after the money. But there were four other worthy winners nominated, including gaffer Carl Edwards, social secretary Adam Christy, saag obsessed James Moss, and the Tory Bastard Jack Sanders.
James Moss beat-off some strong competition, then he won the Players’ Player award (you lot aren’t the only ones who can tell a smutty joke). His impressive return of 15 goals and 18 assists in 12 games was worthy of such an accolade. But the fact he sacrificed being a Spartan in order to help his Marlins boys out summed him up. He not only attended every game but was always last out of Blue Marlin once he’d done his lengths on the pool table. An admirable winner and well done to the other five players who were nominated: Berlin Wall Baier, Bearded Magician Wilson Scott, the versatile Ash Smith, Jukebox Heaney and two-metre Peter Rosselli.
The fact there were a number of nominations for both awards just highlights what a successful season it has been!
Manager’s Player of the Season went to Jukebox Heaney but not after a wonderful speech shot straight from the hip as Edwards highlighted several players he could have awarded it to such was the competition. The moment he announced he was giving it to Heaney will live long in the memory…of those who weren’t already plastered. Edwards said, “But I’ve given it to this bald guy!” *slight squat and finger pointing* Heaney looked to the skies with a delightful smile before receiving the award and the remainder of Mossy’s beer all over him.
The defender downed a beer to celebrate – because we all know he loves a bit of peer pressure – and upon completion, launched his empty glass behind him into the Jinqiao river without checking where it landed. #coolguysmoothhead
There was still time – just about – for everyone to acknowledge the contributions and effort made by Edwards, Christy and Rosselli over the course of the season. Edwards and Rosselli received a much-desired print of the 25-man squad (better that way) while Christy got his hands on a fanny pack and some virtual cash in acknowledgment of the Xmas party incident.
Rosselli was a particular benefactor of assists during the campaign which allowed him to finish as the league’s top scorer and replace Will Grigg. He therefore got another trophy made to reward the player who provided the Most Buffet Balls which with 18 assists, was James Moss. If we’re going to count the assists, we ought to reward them too.
Everyone was hungry apart from Harry Swain who was making his way through the bus seats. After waiting for some popcorn chicken and chips, Rosselli returned to the bus to find a Chinese couple that decided to join in the fun. They fancied a trip to Puxi and had no shame in not knowing anyone and being the only people on the bus who weren’t wearing a Marlins polo.
Just after 9:00 p.m. the bus headed back to Puxi via the much-anticipated roundabout by the Pearl Tower in Lujiazui.
DJ Mossy was doing a fine job with the music but lost some brownie points with Rosselli when he launched a box of chips into the air because he’s a nonce.
Karlton Watson joined the bus at Blue Marlin and in-keeping with tradition, was drunk and wearing a hat. That hat disappeared on Lujiazui as the wind got the better of him. He’ll probably try to add the wind on tinder and get his 50 RMB back.
The Marlins then blew up WeChat moments as the locals took photos and videos of the boisterous boys from the elevated walkway near the Pearl Tower. It’s a bizarre yet beautiful feeling as you’re paraded in front of the confused public celebrating with your mates but also wishing you could witness it from the outside as well.
After circling the roundabout a few times (should have been FIVE), the bus headed back to the Camel but there was still time for a few branch slaps – none of which came close to matching the hit Mossy suffered last year – and more curiosity from those outside of the bus.
Heaney also gauged the weather with his left nipple because that became a thing.
Just after the scheduled finish of 10:30 p.m., the bus arrived back at The Camel and the Marlins disembarked, desperate for a piss or another singalong.
Swainy and Heaney were on the pavement singing “We’re the downside, we’re the downside, we’re the downside over here!” So Rosselli and Mossy replied with “We’re the upside” from the top of the bus. Despite some encouragement to get off the bus via the nearby tree, Mossy refused and went the conventional route – we all know Heaney would have done it. But Mossy still found time to take a dramatic tumble off the seat he was standing on as the copious amount of spilt alcohol took its toll. The Players’ Player of the Year hobbled off cursing his shin but made a quick recovery by the time he got out of the bus.
The Marlins headed to Zapatas down the road with a cooler containing 24 beers and some fanta suitable for a packed lunch. Those had to be consumed before going in to watch the football while some Marlins disappeared for questionable reasons and periods of time.
Eventually, they got in and continued the drinking with the litre of beer that accompanied the entrance fee. They hadn’t considered using the voucher later given it was 11:30 p.m. and the Spain vs Portugal game wasn’t until 2:00 a.m. Or they had but that just seemed too logical.
Social Secretary, Adam Christy suddenly found everything hilarious, and I mean, everything. His legs were doing that weird Woody from Toy Story thing again so to ensure there wasn’t another WeChat sticker featuring a clumsy fall, Rosselli put him in a Didi and sent him home just after midnight.
Tory Bastard Jack in his spicy shirt also vanished, last seen enjoying a joke – more likely normal conversation – with Adam.
Most of the Marlins were in the dance area which resembled a university dive where the floor was as sticky as Johnson’s bedside tissues. Dale and Dave snuck off, by the way.
Given you could dance on the bar with strangers – including some pervy men the wrong side of 50 – it only seemed appropriate that the bus wankers went territorial and got up there. Mossy led the way, but it wasn’t long until half the squad were shaking hips and pointing fingers, much to the delight of Rosselli and Edwards who looked on with pride.
Rosselli grew concerned by Heaney’s absence, last seeing him enjoy some free ‘tequila’ from a scantily clothed waitress. As did Bonner who still managed to be a well-mannered, polite young man. Everyone could learn from Chris! It turned out Jon grew hungry and ran off, never to return and still wearing a beer drenched Marlins polo. #mobikeofshame
Pete Roberts seemed determined to befriend anyone willing to dance with him or agree that he’s a great dancer. After some breakdancing – putting his hands and head on the floor and temporarily kicking his feet in the air – the Welsh Caveman decided to drop his shorts to show off some great core, and sadly for him, little else. Zing!
With the Spain game about to start, Rosselli, Edwards and Baier went out to stand amongst some other idiots and enjoy one of the tournament’s more entertaining encounters.
Mossy, meanwhile, missed the match and left. He didn’t discover the result until the following morning, taking a breather on a nearby bench where a dog (“little rat”) decided to take a shit. #hangovercure
JT suddenly appeared having not been seen for a couple of hours, as did Rodo and Karlton. Safe to assume the latter two were up to non-PG activities.
After Diego Costa’s first equaliser, Edwards got all excited and started holding off Rosselli and Baier to replicate what the striker – who had the hardest paper round known to man – had just done. Not expecting to be forearmed away, Baier stumbled back and in doing so, collided with a Chinese woman who had been a bit lurky amongst the Marlins all evening. The boys were told to calm down by some square, apologies were made and the game continued.
Rosselli decided to call it a night at half-time, so he said his goodbyes to the teammates still standing…just, grabbed the cooler and headed home. But before he could get out of the student dive imitating a sombrero, he was confronted by the lurky Chinese woman on account that she was offended by a Marlins player’s attempt at flirting. Having overheard some of the chat, he could relate, but it seemed like she was more insulted by their willingness to want to be with her than anything else. She wanted/expected an apology for the failed attempt but that apparently wasn’t forthcoming by the unconfirmed Marlin. To ensure he could get back for the second half of the game, Rosselli apologised on his teammate’s behalf and advised her to avoid the blue polo wearing delinquents for the remainder of the night.
What happened from that point onwards is probably anyone’s guess given the state they were in. Certainly, don’t ask Mitch as he was gone from the moment the bus parade ended and never looked like getting it back. ‘It’ being a molecule of understanding where he was and what was happening.
You’re a bunch of looney tunes but I wouldn’t change you for any other team. Thank you all for another great season, endless moments of laughter and enough material to knock up a few thousand words when we didn’t even have a game!
Have a great summer lads.
Go on the Marlins!