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The tale of The Bakery – Episode IV: A New Loaf

Some stories are too good to go untold. This isn’t one of them, but I’m going to tell it anyway.

Some might say that this is a ridiculous premise for an article. The haters are going to hate hate hate, but I am going to write write write. My unglamorous tenure as Sports Editor of The Yorker is almost over, and this is the perfectly underwhelming way in which to end it (think/know you can do better? Apply to be Sports Editor of The Yorker now! Sports!) I like to think that this article can provide a potent insight into the intricacies of student life, but then I’m the shmuck who wrote match reports for a five-a-side team so my opinion is not really valid. Anywho, strap yourselves in and let’s get this over with. CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE AND ADULT THEMES.

If only there was such a thing as narrative lube, because this story is a difficult one to get into. Many curious acquaintances have sidled up to me, nudged me in the side and posed that problematic question: ‘Excuse me, what exactly is The Bakery?’ My brain can only provide my mouth with Michael Owen-esque musings, inane phrases that do the truth an injustice. ‘Oh, it’s like a football team, but then again it’s kind of not?’ They trudge away from me in despondence and in the dark. But darkness abounds no more: this is for all you sidlers and nudgers, for all you fabrications that I have devised purely to create an aura of mystery around The Bakery.

Seinfeld is arguably the greatest TV show ever, and incidentally merely two of my friends on Facebook like the official page, and Facebook is of course the most accurate barometer of popular opinion, and I have way more than two friends on Facebook, so what the hell guys? But I digress. Seinfeld receives considerable acclaim despite famously being about nothing, and this is the best comparison I can draw. The Bakery is nothing, yet everything. It has accomplished nothing tangible, yet here I am writing a three-part article about it.

This isn’t really explaining anything, is it? Let us get right down into the nitty and the gritty. Let us go back to the beginning: it is a very good place to start. So here it is, an origin story that falls somewhere in terms of gratification between the underwhelming X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, and finding out who farted.

A long time ago, in the faraway land of Heslington East, there was a five-a-side football tournament. Five first-year misfits from Vanbrugh College decided to participate. George Balmford, he of runner-up fame in this year’s YUSU presidential race, was one such misfit, back before he was a BNOC, back before he was a NOC, back when he was barely an OC. With him were two fellow maths students. There was Robin Newby of Barnsley, the happiest man in the world, and there was Thomas ‘The Leach’ Leach, who would eventually skipper The Bakery to (SPOILER) absolute mediocrity. Then there were two history layabouts; Thomas Phillips, son of Arathorn, whose enthusiasm knew no bounds, and The Gaffer, although he was known by another name at this point. Two wayfarers, friends of Balmford, completed the fellowship that set off to Heslington East on this great quest.

From left to right: Balmford, friend of Balmford #1, friend of Balmford #2, Newby, Leach, Phillips, Gaffer.
From left to right: Balmford, friend of Balmford #1, friend of Balmford #2, Newby, Leach, Phillips, Gaffer.

It was a grey Sunday morning, with Balmford and friends of Balmford beset by alcohol’s lingering effects. After a long and roundabout journey, this fellowship (why did I name the article along a Star Wars theme, I’m such an idiot) finally rocked up to Heslington East about twenty minutes into the tournament. Upon arrival, they were told that teams were supposed to have registered in advance, but fortunately two teams had failed to show up. And so came the defining moment in this saga. These Vanbrugh misfits could take the place of either one of these teams. There was Multiple Scoregasms, a name about as common as a Pidgey, or… The Bakery. No attempt at a crude pun, nothing to do with football. The Bakery.

We will never know why this team that failed to turn up to the tournament adopted the moniker ‘The Bakery’, but the fellowship of Vanbrugh did not care. Thrust immediately into a game, six of the newly-made Bakers took to the field. ‘Don’t roll over!’ shouted The Gaffer from the sidelines. ‘We can dough this!’ shouted, oh I don’t know, for narrative’s sake let’s say Phillips. ‘We knead to win!’ bellowed Balmford. ‘Get bready for action’ yelped Newby. ‘Alright boys, let’s focus on winning the game!’ asserted Leach, showing a serious side that would make him one of the game’s great captains. The whistle blew. Five seconds later, the ball nestled in The Bakery’s net as the opposition breezed past a team who were still too busy trying to think of bread puns. The whistle blew again, and somehow The Bakery giggled their way to an instant equaliser.

One of the opposition players spoke up: ‘wait, guys, this is a five-a-side tournament and there are six of you on the pitch’. Having managed to hold the opposition to a 1-1 score-line thanks to having an extra man, with equal numbers The Bakery crumbled like Ryvita and lost 7-1. Crushing defeats were the dish of the day: 6-0, 8-2, 5-1, these are all scores that may have been imposed on The Bakery. A sympathetic woman, one of the tournament’s organisers, came across to the loveable rogues after every game, bringing Mars bars and a warm smile. ‘Do any better this game?’ she asked, her eyes so full of hope they seemed about to burst. ‘Nah, but we were 2-0 up at least before we conceded 8’, Newby of Barnsley replied with a cheeky grin.

A day of getting butchered should surely have consigned The Bakery to the candlestick maker’s fire, but these plucky Bakers saw more important things than results: bread and friendship. The Bakery’s name kept warm through predominantly unsuccessful appearances in pub quizzes, but in reality the only ambition was to step out on to the green green sand of the astroturf and kick some balls around. Rumours swirled of a six-a-side league that would take place in the university, and The Bakery emboldened itself for the battle. The Bakery’s official Twitter account (I know right) stirred the anticipation.

Despite such lofty ambitions in the transfer market, The Bakery settled for a raft of more low-profile additions. One of the many, many problems with The Bakery’s debut performance was the lack of a goalkeeper who could confidently face up to powerful shots: enter Jem ‘Whitebread’ Whitehead. Jake New added steel to a leaky defence, Michael Dryden arrived to distribute play in a quarterback fashion that would see him snapped up by American suitors, and Kieran Higgins delivered bite to what had been a toothless attack. Richard Layther brought class and covered more ground than he would in the library.

The JLD beckoned, as the tournament commenced. Could the demons of the Heslington East tournament be exorcised by one game a week? The Bakery took to the field for their first game, a new-look team ready to do battle.

bakery line up

The Bakery’s tough pre-season had truly paid dividends, as the players assembled seamlessly into their chosen formation. Let’s take a look at it from a bird’s perspective:



Inarguably quite a conservative formation, with it apparent that The Bakery did not care much for the left, the work-rate of Balmford as the midfield terrier would be crucial. Newby would adopt the ‘Giroud’ role (minus the hair), with limited movement compensated by lethal finishing. Leach would patrol the field, ready to tackle anything that moved.

Things didn’t go too smoothly.

This would not be the only time that Whitehead would save The Bakery from total humiliation.

Another game, another loss. Wonderful effort though! Could have taken all 3 points! This was progress.

For ‘fail late fitness tests’, read ‘had disgusting hangovers’. No matter, for the silver lining arrived in the shape of The Bakery’s first real signing of intent.

Steve ‘Staunton’ Harget, the Alcuin Assister, is owed a fortune for his baking, then. Harget’s incisive passing would change The Bakery’s footballing philosophy, from ‘run around loads after the ball’ to ‘tiki-taka-ish’.

The Bakery’s first ever competitive win was finally snaffled, the incorrigible Newby showing his killer streak in front of goal with the help of New’s cultured left peg. Qualification, hats, it was all coming together.

Alas, it all fell apart. In a hot-tempered affair, with scuffles and shoves, The Bakery secured three points but failed to triumph by sufficient goals. With goal difference the only separation between them and the tournament’s semi-finals, The Bakery had the smell of success deep in the nostrils. It smelt like yeast. Would they forget about football as university’s burdens became greater with passage into second year? Or would they rise to the challenge, as surely as a loaf rises in the oven? Would they lose faith in a name, and become Generic Football Team Feat. Sex Pun (looking at you, Exeter Gently and Crystal Phallus)? Or would they keep faith in the ideals that were born with the name in the mists of Heslington East? Would they dare to shout bread puns again whilst taking the field? You butter believe it.

bakery serious
Back row: Balmford, Whitehead, The Gaffer, Newby. Front row: New, Leach, Dryden, Higgins.

Oh yeah. They got pink headbands too.

There was a buoyant anticipation for another season, and another crack at glory. Fortunately some bright spark decided to start documenting many of The Bakery’s matches in their immediate aftermath so we have more concrete evidence about STUFF that actually HAPPENED, instead of trying to guess just how many goals The Bakery lost by. Let me take you back to the distant time of February 2014, the month in which the Sochi Winter Olympics took place, the month in which Chinese and Taiwanese officials held their first meeting in 65 years (I remember it well), the month in which The Bakery took to the turf in the name of a new season.

Baker Thomas Phillips conveyed his unbridled excitement on Twitter. It’s always nice when players keep in touch with their fans via social media.

The Gaffer had been active in the close season, managing to snaffle a big-name signing and a name signing to bolster the baking ranks. One new addition was the midfield maestro Chris Osborne, a dynamic player who established himself as one of the finest exponents of the football in the University team. The other addition was Will Sharman. Jem ‘Whitebread’ Whitehead presented Sharman with his headband in a tradition as old as time itself.

The Bakery would take on Making Emile Of It (ludicrous name for a football team) in the first game of the season. Let’s check in with the match reporter to see what happened.

The Bakery 6-0 Making Emile Of It – Match Report as requested by the skipper

The Bakery made their glorious return to the world of 6-a-side football and quite frankly fucked shit up in their usual style. The gods were smiling down on those who bake, with magnificent sunshine that seemed to say, ‘hey us gods like bread too’. It was a majestic performance, on my way home after the game I jokingly said to a random guy ‘hey man The Bakery played terrible today’ and he was like, ‘what the fuck are you talking about?’. He would not take any criticism of The Bakery, and rightly so, for they were really good today. Osborne and Sharman seamlessly slotted into the bread-based fun, and everyone else played pretty good as always. Harget bagged the first goal, looking very much like a cross between Xavi and Steve Staunton in his prime. Osborne provided the filling to a Harget sandwich of goals as The Bakery merrily romped to a three goal lead. Sharman got in on the act with a goal that will echo through the ages… presumably because he’ll never shut up about it. 4-0 at half-time became 6-0 by the close, with Osborne completing his hat-trick, man that kid can play, he should be in the uni team or summat.

Every baker played their part. Whitehead was relatively untested but it takes a man of real character to stand around for 40 minutes doing nothing in such a graceful manner. Leach was a rock, causing one passer-by to exclaim ‘I didn’t realise it was Leachy Thursday!’ Silly passer-by, of course it’s Leachy Thursday. Balmford exploded around the pitch with a bundle of puppy-like energy, but much non-puppy-like footballing ability. Layther, Newby and Sharman exhibited some silky samba skills that will probably make the porn industry obsolete. Seriously, I will be wanking over some of those cheeky flicks. Is that creepy? Yeeeeeah that’s creepy. Osborne and Harget were more clinical than a clinic when it came to their finishing. And Phillips proved to be unmarkable, finding space as if he was sponsored by NASA. I wouldn’t wanna choose a Baker-of-the-Match, but if you put a gun to my head, well I would probably shit myself. A cracking performance, but more tests lie ahead ‪#‎UpTheBakery‬

I don’t like the way he swears so much, but his exuberant message prevails through the profanity: The Bakery won. Robin ‘Goals Galore’ Newby posted this dead cert on The Bakery’s official Twitter account.

Gameday 2 soon came knocking, and The Bakery welcomed it with a smile. Let’s have a look at the match report, shall we.

The Bakery 5-3 Physsoc
Roses are red,
But they’re lame and you know it,
We’d rather have bread
Cos we’re bakers, not poets
Yep, it’s Valentine Day, that day where f*ck all is any different for most people really. And f*ck all was different for The Bakery, who dazzled their way to a 5-3 victory over Physsoc. The Bakery defied the laws of physics with some stunning opening play that saw them race into a 2-0 lead. The opposition’s defending was as desperate as a slut. And The Bakery eat sluts for breakfast. Sluts on toast. Ain’t that a disturbing image. Newby bagged with an audacious flick from within the area (“my lord, is that… legal?” – Viceroy Nute Gunray in The Phantom Menace), and Osborne scored a goal too, very nice it was. Credit to Physsoc, a quickfire double levelling tings up. But The Bakery responded with a quickfire trio, Newby notching another and Osborne completing a hat-trick that will go down in the history books as being comprised of three goals. A late consolation for Physsoc was barely even consoling, and three more points are in the bread bin for the bakers.
Whitehead’s distribution was pulling all sorts of strings, and when it comes to picking the ball out of the net he really showed that he is up there with the very best in the game. Leach, Balmford, Sharman and Layther threw off all sorts of hangovers to intercept, energise, create and improvise respectively. Forget chunder, for the performance today was sick of the good variety. Harget put in a typically classy shift, threading the ball through the metaphorical hole of the bagel with ease. Newby put in his best performance of the season so far. Osborne was a bit disappointing, is scoring three goals and generally bossing the game really enough? Yeah actually, that’ll do. But my Baker-of-the-Match goes to Phillips, who showed the initiative to bring actual bread to the game. I don’t wanna say that his inspired move was the reason that The Bakery won today, because it clearly wasn’t. But it was a nice touch. The whole game was full of nice touches. Nice. Onwards and even further upwards ‪#‎UpTheBakery‬

The Bakery took to the Twittersphere with glee.

Imagine a crowd of tens unified in majestic harmony, belting out these poetic choruses. Stirring stuff, isn’t it. Now imagine Robin Newby sat at his laptop, in his boxers, scratching his arse while trying to make up football chants. Slightly less stirring.

The Bakery 9-5 50 Shades O’Shea
Another Friday, another win for The Bakery, simples. An enforced goalkeeping change before the match was the talk of the terraces, or should I say astroturf, or should I say let’s be honest nobody was talking about it. Veteran Bakery gloves dude Jem ‘White bread’ Whitehead was out of action, replaced by Tom ‘Can’t think of a bread pun here’ Phillips. Phillips stepped up admirably, proving his qualities for the ladies, cos ya know, he’s a keeper HAHA. Ahem. Layther was also sidelined with a case of essayitis. The Magnificent 7 became a Super 6 once Sharman was snapped up by another team on an emergency loan. And things started off more grim than the south, with the opposition taking a 2-1 lead, with Newby’s naughty turn and finish and even naughtier curling-themed celebration all in vain. But an Osborne goal and a Newby goal turned things around nicely for a 3-2 lead at half-time. The start of the second half was spectacular – it was like the opposition’s goal was the Chamber of Secrets, and all of The Bakery spoke parseltongue. And you know what the secrets are? A shitload of goals that’s what. Newby sealed his hat-trick, and Captain Leach found a finish that was even more scorching than Scarlett Johansson wearing leather. Or anything really. Or nothing ideally. Damn she fine. Anyway another goal for the opposition was hard to find, like Nemo. But it was eventually bagged, like Nemo. But their hopes eventually went down the toilet… like Nemo. Harget scrumptiously delivered a brace of goals that sealed the game, with the captain and Osborne bagging again to make their consolation finishes all for nuthin.
Phillips displayed cat-like reflexes, his cat-like vision made for some good passes, and his cat-like licking of himself is probably bullshit that I’ve just made up. Probably. Leach showed his striking prowess, as did Newby and Harget as per usual. George Balmford, baby he was booooorn to ruuuuuuuun! But seriously, he runs a lot, but he’s good with ball stuff too. Osborne took his tally to 8 goals in 3 games, that statistically makes him better than Ronaldo at the moment. Fact. My Baker-of-the-Match goes to Sharman, whose loan spell will have given him match fitness and the hunger to fight his way into a proper team’s line-up. Great stuff from the ones who bake ‪#‎UpTheBakery‬

Everything seems to be going swimmingly, doesn’t it? But then everything seemed to be going swimmingly at the end of Star Wars Episode IV. I mean, they’ve only gone and destroyed the bloody Death Star haven’t they. However, need I remind you what happens in Episode V?



Who can forget that memorable scene? Oh, and also this happens. Be afraid for The Bakery, and see you in Episode V.