Ball boys: a noble breed. Very much the unsung heroes of football, our weekend entertainment would be null and void without them. How could the sport, the art of football go on, were it not for the ungainly scampering of an overgrown teenager in a gilet and trackies, running after a scuffed clearance that someone's just put out for a corner late on? Ball boys do this job without complaint, freezing their arses off each and every weekend so that their local team can retrieve their match ball slightly faster than they would otherwise be able to.
This is the ball boy's sacrifice, and he makes it willingly, such is his love of the beautiful game. But does he receive any thanks for it? Does he fuck – especially not when Leyton Orient captain Liam Kelly is about.
During Orient's away win at Plymouth earlier this month, Kelly was involved in a needless altercation with a ball boy at Home Park, namely 17-year-old Jake McLean. Ahead of an Orient corner, Kelly shoved the lad over as he was collecting up the ball, albeit while holding it behind his back for some reason.
Regardless of any scampish ball boy delaying tactics that may or may not have been at play, Kelly's reaction was ultimately a minor assault in relation to another human, and an unforgivable attack on the collective fraternity of ball boys more generally. Kelly has now been banned for six matches, which we can all agree is a fair punishment.
Speaking to The Plymouth Herald, an aggrieved McLean has defended his honour as a ball boy, while subtly inferring that Kelly is a bit of a prat. "I didn't feel as if I was going slow or having any impact on the game... it's really when I was knocked to ground that I properly knew he was there and after the ball.
"For that to happen, I just feel as if I didn't have any respect from the player for doing my job." McLean added. "What's disappointed me even more is that after the game he didn't even try and find me to apologise or anything."
Thankfully, justice is now done, and ball boys can once again sleep soundly at night. Go forth, noble ball boys, and know that the powers that be shall protect thee, and strike down thy aggressors – this so the wonderful game of football can go on, and match balls can continue to be collected at a marginally speedier rate than otherwise.