Jim Stacey: Intramural Insight

Proper football: the Panthers epitomise what we all love about intramural football. Image: Jim Stacey

Intramural legend Jim Stacey gives us the inside track on the history and the future of Panthers FC

As I sit here at my desk, a cup of warm tea in my right hand and a dark chocolate digestive biscuit in my left, preparing to delve into the history of Panthers FC, I find myself returning to that old adage that many Panthers refer to when contemplating life changing events: what would Jonny Ryan do?

For those of you that don’t know Jonny, he was, quite simply, the finest left back ever to have graced intramural football, and a purveyor of homespun wisdom through the idiom of Yorkshire-ness. If I close my eyes now I still hear his voice: “Keep it simple, Jim. And remember, keep playing until the final whistle”.

The story of Panthers FC is best told through a tale of five captains. The first I knew was one Andy Steval: medical professional, TV star and below average centre half. For a number of years Panthers floundered in the wilderness of the intramural third division, nobly refusing to recruit anyone who was half good at football.

It was Jonathan Barnes, however, who ushered in a new era of professionalism and maverick tactical decisions. Spurred on by insightful advice, such as ‘I want you to play like Marcus Bent crossed with Sergio Aguero’, it was little surprise that we were promoted, despite only finishing fourth, through the traditional intramural method of administrative error.

“Clucking like mother hens over their newest brood of combative midfielders”

Tom Pritchard, who just had that predatory knack unique to a number of great strikers of being six foot seven, then took up the reins. Pioneering a style of football revolving around deadly accurate long throws by Stevie Gold, of which Tony Pulis would have been proud, Panthers avoided immediate relegation and began to consolidate our position. So effective was this approach that we even put up with Stevie on socials.

Ben Tyas, blessed with a gorgeous left foot and the physique of a 40-year-old Geordie man who’s let himself go a bit over the last few years, was the man to take Panthers to the edge of glory with a run to the cup final last season and promotion, at long last, to intramural football’s top tier: Saturday 11s Football League Division 1.

Yet, many thought that this season may be a bridge too far. Many players left, with only the towering figure of Pete Hewitt, who I’m convinced will play for Panthers until his firstborn son becomes old enough to replace him, remaining.

Yet, under the nurturing gaze of Fergal and Adam, clucking like mother hens over their newest brood of combative midfielders, the future for Panthers has begun to look rosy once more. Currently we are fourth in the top division and surely, having occupied every other position in Saturday’s intramural divisions, getting to those final three is just a matter of time.

Intramural football teams are created and fold at the drop of a hat. Yet, for us the final whistle is still some time away, and until then we intend to follow Jonny’s advice and just keep playing.

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