Image Credit: Luke Snell
Were you ever picked last in PE? Imagine a sports team compiled entirely of people who were. Every Sunday on the JLD football pitch behind the now-absent tennis dome, a group of young men meet to play football their way. The football they produce is often good enough to win them matches in the bottom tier of University of York college football. But the football is always sufficiently gung-ho that it would make Pep Guardiola very ill indeed if he ever caught a glimpse.
Luckily the Manchester City manager is yet to attend a match involving Derwent college’s seventh-best men’s football team. Someone who experiences the soap opera every week is Liam Rooney, Derwent 7s’ captain.
One reason why there are seven Derwent teams and only five or fewer at other colleges is that so many Derwenters want to get involved in college football. “I think it’s just a good boozy society,” Rooney jokes. Speaking to Nouse, he adds: “I don’t know how many people are in Derwent, but it seems about half of them are in Derwent football — even people who can’t play football, which is the majority of our team. Just there for a good time, and it is a good time.”
Rooney does not have an easy job — much like Wayne Rooney. “It is quite stressful trying to chase people up. People turn up two minutes before the game or, as we had last weekend, ten minutes after kick-off.” But the fourth-year has no regrets about taking the role on this year. “It’s good, it’s a fun thing to do.”
And why did he decide to become Derwent 7s captain in the first place? “Just to give myself a game really!” Fair play.
Rooney is proud of the culture at DCFC. He suspects it is more open to members with slightly less footballing acumen that other colleges might be. “I feel a lot of societies might not be as welcoming to new members. We try and get as many people involved as possible, regardless of ability. We try and facilitate everyone.”
“Lot’s of people are very competitive about it, but I think it’s about getting everyone involved. I try and get as many people as I can down every week and try and play everyone. I think a lot of people do take it extremely seriously when in reality it’s not that serious. People seem to expect me to be devastated when we lose and over the moon when we win. In reality, it’s just something to do.”
Do they ever win? One would assume a 7s team is destined to lose when it comes up against 3s, 4s and 5s from rival colleges. You’d be surprised. “Last term we beat Vanbrugh 3s, Alcuin 3s, and finished third in our league out of eight. We’re really not the worst team, which is quite shocking to be honest. We manage to find a way.
“We won our first game 7–2. Sunday we lost 8–0. It’s taken a sharp decrease every week so far. We’ll have to see how it goes next week. I think we can get promoted this term.”
Whether they win, draw or lose, Rooney has a sort of tragic fondness to the style of play his 7s muster. “I always say that it’s not actually the same sport as playing for the 1s or 2s or any higher team. The bottom tier of college football just doesn’t look the same. It’s a mixture between rugby and a bit of football. I don’t find it demeaning — I don’t think anyone else who plays for the 7s does. I think they just think of it as a good laugh really.
“The size of Derwent football, we’ve got so many people. There’s a lot of people that I don’t even have room to pick. There are 25 people who we don’t even have space for with seven teams. So I think the quality is getting a bit better just through sheer volume of people. People who wouldn’t have been in the 7s in previous teams now are, when they would have been in a higher team in previous years.”
And there the 7s is now gaining a team bond that would be more expected from a 1s or 2s side. “With the introduction of the set squads, you can’t be jumping between. I’ve had basically everyone say to me: ‘I’m not moving up a team. I want to stay here. This is way here.’ So we have community spirit,” says Rooney.
“Once you’ve played a few games, you have got that camaraderie between you all. We’re all in this together with objectives for the season. We’re trying to go for promotion this season, and people don’t want to move up a team and move away from that common objective.”
The huge numbers of spectators who turn up each weekend and will the Derwent 7s on really is a spectacle. Rooney is still amazed at how much support his quirky side get each game.
“I think we’ve got the second-highest attendance for Derwent sport, behind Derwent rugby. I think we have the highest attendance for any college football team. I have done my bit to try and promote them by emailing the whole of Derwent a few times. But nobody’s turned up from any of those emails. All I’ve got back is people telling me to stop emailing them. Nobody turns up to any [games of] other games, but normally we have 20-to-30 people at ours.
“When we scored the other week in the last kick of the game to make it 2-2, it was everyone, tops off, running round the pitch swinging their tops around your head. Everyone piling on and winding the other teams up, but not going over the edge. That’s where the fun comes from I think.
Asked how big a part of his York experience Derwent 7s has been, Rooney’s response is as expected.
“I would say way too much. It’s obviously a social every Wednesday, a game at the weekend, training, and all the other little things in between. The majority of people in Derwent football have their good mates in Derwent football. So they made their mates and then they all go along to everything together. You’re kind of constantly in a Derwent Football cycle.”
Oh, I forgot to mention: there are plans for a Derwent 8s team. Trust Derwent.