On a wet Wednesday post-matches and pre-Sinners, I caught up with Alastair Robinson, President of the Football Club.
Alastair is in his fourth and final year and has been playing football since he joined the university in 2018. He currently plays as centre back for the men’s fours. Centre-back has always been his preferred position, but felt more confident playing the ball in the air or “having it as far away from me as possible.” One of the first things football team training here taught him was that “the ball is not my enemy, and playing defensively you can be controlled and calm; my game has grown so that I’m more confident on the ball.” He’s been captain since his second year, and president of the club since September. “I love talking on a football pitch, I love shouting and encouraging people – in a positive way of course! The previous captain noticed that as well as the coach which really boosted my confidence.”
The club philosophy is to play “nice” football – or rather, “tactically neat play.” They prefer to have a structured style, keeping the ball on the ground rather than “hoofing it up the pitch” – but “having fun is at the centre of it all, really.” The first team’s schedule is packed, playing and training almost every day, but how much you train varies based on the team you are a part of.
The club aim for the season was to win as many of the BUCS leagues as possible; for the men’s fours they fell just short – “did we finish second or third? I’d need to check the league... let’s say second, it sounds better” – but he’s confident for next year ’s cohort. “We’re going for as many titles as we can, 100%. We do a two-week pre-season training camp, and the main aim will be to get everyone in from the start, training hard, preparing for the start of the league in September."
The men’s fives however came out on top in their BUCS league and “they’re a great advert for our club." We spoke on the last day of their season after “a real grudge match, but it was still a brilliant game." The men’s fours, fives and sixes all compete in the same BUCS league and there are three BUCS for the women’s teams.
Socially, the club is tight knit. They operate out of Sandy’s every Wednesday, and The Union provides catering after home games. Alastair was keen to improve team unity, not only between teammates but between the men’s and women’s sides, too.” The gap that was there is now gone thanks to mixed socials, there’s a much better one-club feel to everything.” There’s a different theme every week, too. Last Wednesday, it was a joint social with the tennis club. “They’re dressing up as football players and we’re dressing up as tennis players.”
There are rivalries between different clubs within Saints Sports, but “all teams want St Andrews to win above anyone else.”
The three-day team trials during fresher ’s week always bring in new blood from across all year groups, but the club tries not to make it too formal. “We’ll start with passing drills to see what their abilities are like, and then just get them into games to see how they play with each other.”
Given both the recreational and competitive team options, often people will specify which they are keen to join, but Alastair stresses that movement between the two is common as people get more involved. “After trials, you can really go anywhere – if you want to play competitively we will push you up. It’s also just a great way to keep fit, keep healthy and meet new people.”
“Last season we didn’t play any BUCS games due to Covid-19. It was all internal; even then we only played two or three. This year has been a real opposite to adjust to, and we have had problems; a lot of the time we couldn’t field a consistent team, but it’s been great getting back to playing again.”
Alastair’s advice for those in all years with an interest in football?“ Embrace it and enjoy it as it’s never too late to play football. I’m a fourth year now and the past four years have flown by. Take every opportunity to get involved, whatever year and whatever your ability, there’s always a space for you, even if you’ve never played in your life. Joining the club was the best decision I ever made – it’s not only improved my footballing abilities but off the pitch, I’ve made some of my greatest memories and my best friends.”
And what does the future hold for him? “I will absolutely play football until I can no longer play football!”
Image: University of St. Andrews