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Sunday League player gains access to 'secret' 10-a-side game played by ex-Premier League stars

Sunday League player gains access to 'secret' 10-a-side game played by ex-Premier League stars

SPORTbible gained access to the kickabout featuring several former Premier League players.

"He's scored two OGs and they're on camera!"

I want the ground to swallow me up. Two huge errors, the latest an unfortunate own goal after the ball bounces off my right foot and into the wrong net as I try to clear a cross.

It's a pair of howlers that evoke memories of Jamie Carragher against Manchester United back in 1999. A second head in the hands moment and I suddenly have the humble realisation of the insane level required to be a professional footballer.

In the latest sporting experiment gone wrong, an average Sunday League player - yours truly - has decided to test my abilities in a star-studded game against ex-Premier League players, having somehow gained access to the secret 10-a-side match on the outskirts of Manchester.

My teammates are Stephen Ireland and Papiss Cisse and I'm being given the runaround by Ravel Morrison and Oumar Niasse while attempting to challenge Joleon Lescott in the air. And it's all being captured through a chest camera. Check out the footage below.

There are 732 Premier League appearances on the pitch in Cheadle, and that's without Emile Heskey and Danny Simpson, who have both dropped out.

But have no fear, Oldham Villa's 'Most Improved' player from the 2021/22 season has got a call-up to the greatest weekly kickabout in world football.

A week prior and I was playing in work's 'Sh** at Football' Powerleague run-out but here I am rubbing shoulders with some big hitters. The contrast in standard is quite remarkable and it's no surprise they occasionally play friendly games against semi-professional clubs.

Image: SPORTbible
Image: SPORTbible

Since it was set up two years ago, every Tuesday at 7pm several former players get together and roll back the years.

It's all done on a WhatsApp chat with 70 participants, with a call being put out on Sunday afternoon and the first 20 names taking a slot. Antonio Valencia, Wes Morgan, Dale Stephens and Nedum Onuoha are some of the notable omissions.

High-level goalkeepers are outsourced. One team wears black, the other white, and the losers must pay for the pitch.

My access as a ringer has come about through former United player Aaron Burns. I'm on his team wearing a white Nike top I've bought from Sports Direct.

He had told me beforehand that the game is "tight, technical and competitive" and advised me to simply pass to players better than me. Serious "final pick at PE" vibes.

Getting tight with Oumar Niasse. Image: SPORTbible
Getting tight with Oumar Niasse. Image: SPORTbible

My confidence was high after scoring a last-gasp winner for Oldham Hulmeians in the Hyde and Oldham District League Division Two on Sunday but days later and I feel like I'm playing a completely different sport.

Morrison, still only 31 and a Jamaica international, scores an early worldie by smashing one into the top corner.

But then Ireland starts getting on the ball and running the show. He is comfortably the best and most complete player on the pitch. His touch, awareness, vision and fitness levels are incredible and he could definitely still play at 37.

Above all though, his love for the game is unmatched. He went and played another game straight after this one-hour kickabout and usually plays six times a week. Ridiculous.

Image: SPORTbible
Image: SPORTbible

He's an extremely vocal presence but so too are the rest. The competitiveness is through the roof and with no referee present, every single decision is contested.

I'm well aware that I'm out of my depth and so I make a conscious decision to not go venturing forward and keep it nice and simple. I'm trying to play a sensible game sitting at the back and listening to the encouraging wisdom of those around me.

It's easier said than done though. You get no time on the ball and every touch has to be perfect. The slightest lapse of concentration gets punished, as I experience when Morrison keeps the ball in play down the left from a cross-field pass and I end up scoring past my own 'keeper. The first of my two own goals on the night. Ireland gives me a look of sheer disgust.

However, I feel a sense of revenge not long after when I knock one past him and jump over his frustrated sliding tackle.

Cisse, scorer of one of the greatest goals in Premier League history for Newcastle against Chelsea, bags a few but also spurns many great chances. His xG will have been through the roof.

I'm often marking ex-Everton and Hull City man Niasse, who was only recently at Macclesfield after impressing Alex Bruce and Phil Bardsley - coaches at the time - in the same fixture I'm playing in.

There was never any way I was getting snapped up but as the game goes on, I feel like I'm holding my own. Every tackle, block and header won is a moral victory for me and I'm enjoying the challenge.

I used Playermaker to track my stats from the game. Image: SPORTbible
I used Playermaker to track my stats from the game. Image: SPORTbible

The floodlights go out at one point and cause a brief delay to proceedings. I see it as an opportunity to grab a drink of water and then notice that I am genuinely the only one who has done so.

The action continues and goals fly in an evenly-matched affair. But as time ticks over, former England defender Lescott charges up front and displays his aerial prowess with two headers.

The team wearing black then score a crushing winner at the very death to take the victory. It feels like a loss in the Champions League final, such is the will to win and that's partially because losers have to pay a tenner.

Everyone shakes hands at the end of the game and I ask a few of the players for some feedback on how I've fared.

"Honestly, I didn't recognise you in the game!" Morrison says, completely violating me.

He then claims that I "did well" but clearly doesn't want me to return as he adds: "You coming back? I thought it was a one-off!"

Joleon Lescott analysed my debut diasterclass. Image: SPORTbible
Joleon Lescott analysed my debut diasterclass. Image: SPORTbible

Lescott also gives quite the put-down. "Miles off it," he comments.

"He must have thought he would come down and it would be easy but it weren't so easy!"

Cisse did at least describe me as a "good player", so I'll be telling everyone about that for years to come.

But for any average Joe who thinks they could do better than a Premier League player, my humbling experience should be enough to tell you that you're talking nonsense.

Featured Image Credit: SPORTbible

Topics: Football, Manchester City, Manchester United, Premier League, Spotlight