Sunday League Survival Guide

Get through 90 minutes of potholed pitches and brutish centre-backs with our guide to no-holds-barred football 

1 Protect your feet against the perils of a poor pitch
“The key to avoiding potholes, broken beer bottles and used condoms is staying on your feet,” says Ned Ozkasim, a boot guru at Pro Direct Soccer. “A pair of soft ground (SG) boots will give you your best chance. Go for an upper that offers protection around the toe and choose black to avoid the attentions of that 21-stone centre-back.”

2 Make your lower legs reducer-proof
“Shinpads should be comfortable, secure and the appropriate size – sitting a couple of inches below the knee and just above the ankle,” says Dr Zafar Iqbal, a sports-injury specialist with “Use light underwrap tape to secure the shinpads and wear socks over the top.”

More after the break

3 Ignore the trash talk
“Whatever the level, opposition players are going to wind you up,” says former Norwich City midfielder Paul McVeigh, who now works with Premier League clubs through his mental performance company, ThinkPRO. “Don’t play the wind-up merchants at their own game – they’re probably quite good at it. Instead, give as good as you get within the letter of the law and laugh at the verbal stuff.”

4 Bounce straight back from the opposition psycho’s stray elbow
“A nosebleed due to direct trauma can easily be stopped by pinching the softer part of the nose, below the bony ridge, between finger and thumb for a few minutes,” says Dr Iqbal, who also works as Crystal Palace’s head of sports medicine. “Lean forward and resist the urge to blow it!”

5 Don’t let the ball take the wind out of you
“A blow to the lower abdomen can cause spasm of the diaphragm and difficulty in breathing – in layman’s terms, this is what happens when you get winded,” explains Dr Iqbal. “Sit down in a crouched position, which will help the muscles to relax, and take slow, deep breaths.”

6 Deal with dirty tricks
“If you react to the guy who pinches you, flicks your ears, treads on your toes 
or even squeezes your balls, he’s done his job,” says former Swindon Town striker Sam Parkin. “Rise above it, concentrate on getting the better of him with your ability alone.”

7 Alert the ref to the serial shirt-puller
“Shirt-pulling at corners is a minefield for referees,” says former Premier League whistle-blower Mark Halsey. “I’d say eight out of 10 players who go down are trying to deceive the referee. Calmly make the ref aware of it, and he’ll make a note subconsciously.”

8 Work around the dodgy linesman
“Can you control a biased official? Probably not,” says McVeigh. “Can you take through-balls, and therefore offside decisions, out of the equation by putting in 
more crosses? More realistic.”

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