A while ago, our Doc Martened editor was interviewing JON RITMAN, the man behind Batman. During the interview, CHRIS CLARKE called round to see Jon, and the conversation turned to their classic football game Match Day.
Clearly, Jon and Chris rather fancied themselves as Match Day players — they while away hours playing the game, and are often joined by BERNIE DRUMMOND, the graphics genius who works with Jon.
Calling their bluff, the Ed proposed a MATCH DAY CHALLENGE, where the programmers would meet the best on-screen footballers CRASH could provide. They agreed. An appeal for top-notch players appeared in the magazine, entries were sifted and a shortlist drawn up. The date was set, and one rainy day last year the programmers and challengers travelled to Ludlow from the four corners of England.
This is their story...
An impressive array of footballing talent gathered in the function room of the Starline Club. Adam Harrison had travelled all the way from Dewsbury to take part in the day’s events, chauffeured by his father. Paul Johns had made the trip from Wokingham in deepest Berkshire with Mark Gillard, his self-appointed coach and trainer. Steven Bayliss was accompanied by a team of supporters — his family had decided to make a day of it, and chartered a minibus to get them from Porth in Mid Glamorgan. Cheshire, or more precisely Malpas, was represented by Mike Sutton, and Birmingham’s contender, Steve Cartlidge brought his parents and sister for moral support.
Nervous glances were exchanged by these five contestants as they tried to ascertain each other’s footballing prowess. The buffet wasn’t given a second glance — the rigours of travel combined with pre-match nerves meant no-one was hungry. The sixth man, Joe Waldron — founder of a short-lived magazine called MDAS (short for Match Day Appreciation Society) wasn’t there — had he been overcome by last-minute nerves or was he deliberately winding up his opponents? The tension mounted.
Three tables against a wall each groaned under the weight of a monitor, computer, and cassette deck. Match Day’s loading screen appeared on three monitors and a pair of empty chairs was in front of each table. Cameron Pound could be heard setting up his studio flash gear in the adjoining room, and flashes of blue light illuminated the playing area as he made the final adjustments. The coffee percolator in the midst of the buffet burbled its annoyance at being ignored — or was it the rumblings of a nervous challenger’s stomach?
Then the programmers made their entrance. Jon Ritman had driven Bernie Drummond and Chris Clarke up from London that morning and arrived clutching a cushion “for the back trouble” and a carrier bag containing favourite joysticks. Still no sign of Joe Waldron — was he pushing gamesmanship too far?
First panic of the day was caused amongst the assembled CRASH Minions when Jon spotted that only one Spectrum sported an Interface 2. The trio of programmers are all confirmed joystick wielders — “what if we have to play someone who doesn’t like using keys” Jon asks. A hurried audit of the CRASH peripherals cupboard begins and then someone decides to ask the contestants an obvious question: fortunately it is only the programmers who prefer joysticks — everyone else is happiest using keys. First organisational panic over.
No sign of Joe Waldron though.
With or without Mr Waldron, it was time to explain the ground rules and start the contest. It had been ordained that the challenge was to take place on a league basis, with contestants playing each programmer in a match of ten minutes each-way. Three points would be earned for a win, one point for a draw and nothing for losing. If there was a tie on points after all the CRASH challengers had played their three games, a playoff would decide the overall CRASH champion. The champion would then play each programmer once more in a game lasting five minutes each-way and a final league table drawn up to rank the three programmers and the CRASH champion.
Everyone understood. Except Joe Waldron — perhaps he wasn’t coming after all. The draw was made and the fixture list for five rounds of challenger/programmer games drawn up.
As the players took station in front of the Spectrums, with Steve Cartlidge playing Ritman, Mike Sutton challenging Drummond and Paul Johns taking on Clarke, the audience settled into the stands. A hushed, reverential air pervaded the room. The coffee percolator gurgled petulantly again. Still, no-one had dared approach the refreshments. Families and supporters looked on, taking their opportunity to size up the playing skills of the programmers and the other CRASH readers.
As the first three games came to a close, tension mounted and then subsided quickly when the results were announced. The players were able to stand down from the eagle-eyed gaze of an intense audience and relax for a while. Ritman and Drummond had got off to a cracking start, striking fear into the hearts of all contestants with a 5-1 and 7-0 victory respectively. Clarke, who went 2-5 down to Paul, proved that programmers were not superhuman beings after all. Clarke muttered gently about Drummond having pinched his favourite joystick for the Challenge...
Steve Cartlidge was able to sit the next round out, leaving Mike Sutton and Paul Johns to take on Ritman and Drummond respectively. Steve Bayliss stepped up to play Clarke. During this second match the tension in the room began to disappear. The percolator was relieved of several cups of coffee and settled down to a contented hissing, while one or two brave souls picked at the buffet — it was well past lunchtime after all!
At the end of the second round Ritman remained unbeaten, inflicting a near walkover on the nervous Mike Sutton, but the tide had changed for the programmers. Clarke suffered his second defeat and Drummond went down 6-3 to his opponent.
Paul Johns appeared to have the makings of a useful player: played two, won two. Could he complete the hat-trick against the programming trio? He was drawn against Ritman in the next round, with Steve Bayliss matched against Drummond and Adam Harrison stepping in for his first game of the contest against twice-defeated Clarke. Hunger had set in seriously amongst the audience, and the programmers declared a short rest break while they took refreshment. Still no sign or word about Mr Waldron’s whereabouts.
Adam Harrison had drawn his first game in the third round — against Clarke who was still muttering about Drummond having stolen his favourite joystick. Paul Johns was about to get his chance to prove his worth by taking on Ritman, and Steve Bayliss went forward against Drummond. And then, shortly after the kick-off... the mysterious Joe Waldron arrived! Consultation began with the organisers, and a sixth round was added to the league so that Joe could join in. The audience was tucking into the buffet with a vengeance (and was mysteriously swelled by the greater part of the Art Department who descended en masse from their garret in the Towers after hearing rumours of a free lunch.)
Sadly, Paul Johns succumbed to Ritman’s onslaught and failed to make the hat-trick, but at the end of the third round he was still in the lead having played two games and lost one. Adam started out by beating Clarke (hadn’t everyone?) and Drummond used the stolen joystick to good effect, notching up another victory.
|RITMAN 5||STEVEN CARTLIDGE 1|
|DRUMMOND 7||MIKE SUTTON 0|
|CLARKE 2||PAUL JOHNS 5|
|RITMAN 10||MIKE SUTTON 1|
|DRUMMOND 3||PAUL JOHNS 6|
|CLARKE 2||STEVEN BAYLISS 3|
|RITMAN 3||PAUL JOHNS 1|
|DRUMMOND 4||STEVEN BAYLISS 3|
|CLARKE 3||ADAM HARRISON 5|
|RITMAN 4||STEVEN BAYLISS 3|
|DRUMMOND 6||ADAM HARRISON 4|
|CLARKE 3||STEVEN CARTLIDGE 6|
|RITMAN 6||ADAM HARRISON 2|
|DRUMMOND 4||STEVEN CARTLIDGE 5|
|CLARKE 5||MIKE SUTTON 6|
|SUPPLEMENTARY WALDRON ROUND|
|RITMAN 4||JOE WALDRON 3|
|DRUMMOND 2||JOE WALDRON 3|
|CLARKE 6||JOE WALDRON 3|
Round Four saw Steve up against the demon Ritman, Adam playing his second game, this time against Drummond, and Steve Cartlidge returning to the arena hoping to collect a win against Clarke. Everyone else had, after all... And true to form, Ritman inflicted yet another defeat and Clarke managed to avoid winning.
As the final round in the main non-Waldron League began, Paul Johns remained in the lead. Although Mike Sutton had drawn Clarke and looked set to win the match, he had already lost two games and was out of the running, as was Steve Bayliss. Adam Harrison was still in with a chance — if he could beat the demon Ritman. Steve Cartlidge needed a victory over Drummond to go forward to a playoff with Paul.
Once again, Ritman and Clarke kept to their form, and so Mike and Adam dropped out of the running. Steve Cartlidge fought a close battle with Drummond, finally securing a 5-4 victory and setting himself up for a playoff with Paul Johns.
The challenge was far from over, however. The Waldron Round remained to be played — could this late arrival, playing firmly in extra time, manage to pull off two victories against the three programmers and earn himself a place in the playoff? Nobody was surprised when Ritman strolled to victory against Joe. Drummond, however conceded a 3-2 defeat, and if Clarke kept to his form it looked like Joe would be joining Steve and Paul in a three-way playoff.
Disaster struck for Joe, however. Clarke managed to win his first game of the day, 6-3 no less, so the latecomer’s bid for glory was ended. It was time to stage the playoff between Steve and Paul — a single game of fifteen minutes each way...
The Challenge Final between Steve Cartlidge and Paul Johns was indeed a marathon game — half an hour of serious keyboard pounding would be enough to test the stamina of any Match Day player, especially after the tension and effort of competing in a league. Gradually Steve began to edge into the lead, and then Paul’s game seemed to collapse for a while allowing Steve to hammer a handful of goals into the net.
By the end of the Final, Steve had built up an eight goal lead, clearly setting himself up as THE CRASH MATCH DAY CHAMPION with a 13-5 victory.
But before the presentation of a bottle of bubbly and the official photosession, the new CRASH Champion had to play the three programmers once more to provide a definitive analysis of his performance against the byte merchants.
No doubt Steve was exhausted, coming straight from a marathon playoff into a trio of consecutive games, so he may well have lost his peak form. Nevertheless he gave a good account of himself, scoring three goals against Ritman but conceding six and losing 4-1 to Drummond before pasting Clarke (traditional, by this stage of the day) 5-3.
The programmers and the CRASH MATCH DAY Champion had played seven games each by the end of the afternoon. Here’s how they shaped up in the Super League:
As the Super League table shows, Jon Ritman truly plays a formidable game: he finished with a goal average of +24 and seven wins to his credit. Worthy of promotion for the next season.
Steve Cartlidge and Bernie Drummond both played consistently well, level-pegging on points. Bernie’s slight advantage in terms of Goal Average sneaks him into second place above Steve.
But Chris Clarke, deprived of his favourite joystick or not, turned in a very poor showing on the day, losing six of his games and ending up with a measly three points and a goal average of -9 to his credit. Relegated.