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Thursday night is football night – 20 years of Old Robsonians

Posted by admin on 19th August 2016

Words by Nick Frith

To borrow an old phrase, there is nothing certain in life except death and taxes. However, in the 5-a-side world there is one addition needed for this phrase to really ring true; Old Robsonians. The team originally formed all the way back in 1996, long before many of their opponents were ever paying taxes, and with their level of dedication it appears that death is the only thing that could stop them from turning out on a Thursday night.

Old Robsonians - Thursday Championship

OR’s celebrate recent success

It was taxes that brought the team together in the first place, when they were all working at accountancy firm Robson Rhodes in 1996. When Jez Vaughan and Martin Eales formed the team to play in the Old Spitalfields Market every Thursday, little did they know what they had started. By 1999 most of the team had moved to new jobs, so team name Old Robsonians was adopted. Strong ties remained with Robson Rhodes, who they played in regular grudge matches, with players graduating to the Old Robsonians side, 4 of whom make up today’s side. The firm ceased to exist in 2007, outlasted by this plucky band of footballers.

The next big moment in Old Robsonians history was in 2002, when they made a seminal move down to Battersea Newton Prep, to join the league they play in until this day. The spacious pitches were obviously suited to the team, who managed to win the league 8 or 9 times in the following 7 years, all under the watchful eye of our head referee Leno. Their last title, back in their 15th season together, even attracted national media coverage in the Independent.  When asked about the team, Leno is full of praise ‘Fantastic team, fantastic players.’ He said. ‘I have known them for 15 years and it’s always a pleasure to referee their games. They are truly a sporting team who love their football. Win or lose, they will give you a competitive game every time.’

Never shy of the limelight, they have also represented on the international stage. After winning a public vote, they had the opportunity to take on a German 5-a-side team in attempt to make amends after England’s loss to Germany in the 2010 World Cup. Managed by Peter Shilton, they got off to a bad start after going 3-0 down early on, and eventually slipped to an 8-4 defeat.

Chief Organiser/Director of Football Martin Eales has been keeping the team in line, and turning up, every week for the last 20 years. According to his stats the team has just finished its 76th season, having played for a total of 779 weeks. It’s a quite incredible achievement, with the team outlasting 10 England managers, 5 prime ministers and 100s of opposition teams.

How do you celebrate a 20 year anniversary? With a tour to America, of course. Original founder, Jez, now lives in Cincinnati, and he invited them across the pond to show the Yanks how to play soccer.

Old Robsonians - USA

OR’s enjoying success on their recent tour to the US

We caught up with Martin after the tour to see how they go on, and to find out just how a team stays together for 20 years…

–          How was the tour?


–          What has ORs finest moment been?

–          And the funniest?

–          What has changed in 5-a-side over the last 20 years?

–          What is it that keeps you playing 5-a-side week after week?

Follow the team on twitter for a taste of Thursday night football – @oldrobsonians