Monday, 31 August 2009

Warsash Wasps 2-2 Burridge

Date: Saturday 29th August
Venue: Osborne Road, Warsash

(All pics by Roz H.) Click to enlarge - Kristian Hewitt gets ready to pull trigger

The queen gazed into the distance with cold eyes. I didn't blame her for having the hump, her head was partially buried in the dry dirt on the face of a twenty pence piece, along with a broken amber bicycle wheel reflector, a warped plastic cherry Coca-Cola bottle top and an endless scattering of small stones that fight for space in the dead yellow grass of Osborne Road, home to Warsash Wasps. The pitch is flat though and with the changing rooms located directly behind the goal there's no need to eye up decent sized bushes in case you need to take an emergency leak, or worse. This ground has happy memories for Burridge. Eight years ago Rich Allan and Jay Schwodler scored the goals that beat Bold Forrester in the Southampton Cup semi-final.

There's forty-five minutes 'til kick off when I arrive, but Warsash are changed and ready in their yellow and black kit, an enthusiasm no doubt drawn from last season's junior one title win in which they lost only a single game. I watch them as they stand in a circle passing a ball around. Everyone of them seems immaculately turned out with short coiffured hair, polished black Adidas boots, with even a degree of care going into the neat binding of electrical tape that wraps around their socks to hold their shin pads in place. Rich Allan attempts to restore the balance by arranging cones for Burridge to run around. Ben Hutton takes a few pot shots at goal. When he misses the target the ball hits a garden fence that makes a cracking noise that sounds like it's about to die.

Chinese Monkey Allan holds off his man.

We return to the dressing room for Pete Lyons to name the team. When the referee put his head around our door two things became very clear. His Scottish accent is so broad it's just a noise I can't quite understand, and his pallid complexion looks as though it's made up entirely of Wensleydale cheese. He wanted to have a quick chat with us about what he wouldn't tolerate during the match, Burridge eyes turn to Greg Baker, because although he's been to Lesotho to help children in poverty, and is due to start a job with an initiative that's sole purpose is to help vulnerable people living in the poorest places in the world, he does need reminding before every single game that if at all possible could he reduce the verbal abuse directed at the referee to a minimum. Baker's dad is a referee. He used to referee our games when we were kids. He's also a keen follower of Gillingham FC and is known to fall into catatonic despair should they lose a game. You have to feel for Greg's mum. At this moment the referee is more preoccupied with the state of the goals, muttering something about needing another peg or two for the net if we're to get underway.

Justin Newman takes another breather while Fielder gives him the magic sponge. Sam Schwodler looks concerned.

Burridge start the game well. Kristian Hewitt collects a squared ball thirty yards out, waddling forward like some blind animal, allowing his bristled jowls to become hundreds of tiny blond antenna, all able to calculate the exact velocity in which to strike the ball that thuds against the underside of the crossbar and bounces back up into the roof of the net. He shuffles away to mark this goal with a raised index finger pointed towards the sky before being mobbed by team mates. Ten minutes later Justin Newman concedes a hotly contested penalty which Warsash score. Mark Judd then heads home unmarked from Hewitt's pinpoint ring wing cross to make it 2-1. During half time Kevin Willsher is unsure which is going to give in first, his back or his football boots. The sole is left clinging to the size ten Umbro boots he bought in the cut price sale at West Quay five weeks ago. He wraps reels of gaffer tape around them and hopes for the best.

Burridge gaffer, Pete Lyons, plots his next move.

It's difficult to tell from Pete Lyons' team talk if he's happy or just surprised at how Burridge are playing. There was little evidence of this kind of performance during the winless seven game pre-season. Wasps equalise in second half, their forwards rousing each other in reassured and earnest tones that the winning goal will come, but Burridge resist the temptation to fall to pieces and play out a draw. Players file off the pitch at the final whistle, asking how Saints were doing and were Liverpool still losing to Bolton. Without a transistor radio nobody could be sure.

Kristian's goal was a combination of this and this.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Burridge 0-4 Hamble Club Reserves

Monday 24th August at Burridge
kick off: 6:30pm

pre season fixture

(Click on pic to enlarge) Kristian Hewitt comes to terms with his existential angst while managing Burridge last Saturday against Bishopstoke. That or he's bored silly.

At last I managed to fight them off. I sat back on the wooden bench as they slipped below my knees, until they finally gave up their struggle and fell limply at my ankles. It was over. My underpants were off. It was at that moment that Greg Baker stormed in. He began slowly pacing around the Burridge changing room with his arms held out ahead of him as though he'd captured the rarest butterfly in the known universe within his cupped hands, but Baker was distressed and with good reason. Without immediate assistance he'd be as good as blind in one eye.

Baker parted his hands to reveal a contact lens curling up in its death throes. What was once a supple instrument for his eyes to differentiate between a lamp-post and somebody to mercilessly hunt down on Facebook was now perilously close to being useless. My earlier exertions may have robbed me of my underpants, but a pink sock on each foot spared me from being naked as I bent down to fish around in my kit bag, eventually pulling out Baker's quarry - a bottle of Saline solution. I handed it to him. A few drops into the lens returned it to its normal state and without so much as the reflective reverse side of a CD, Greg popped it back into his eye. Hallelujah, he could see again!

This was Burridge's seventh and final pre-season fixture. The question on everybody's lips was would it provide them with their first win of the campaign? Kristian Hewitt tried answering that question without saying, 'well they do play in the Hampshire combination, so probably not.' With the Hamble goalkeeper running errands outside his penalty area, Hewitt walloped the ball from the kind of distance many people would think twice about walking in the rain in. Once returning from the sky the ball took a single bounce a few feet away from the net, kissed the steel goal post and rolled to safety. It was the nearest Burridge came to scoring all night.

By half time Burridge were 2-0 down. I was partly responsible. When faced with younger faster men bearing down on the goal I'm supposed to be defending my mind is almost always possessed by the elegant pick pocketing of England's Bobby Moore during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Unfortunately the referee wasn't convinced at my rendition and awarded Hamble a penalty kick. Two more Hamble goals followed in the second half as Burridge's midfield and defence drifted further and further apart. At the current rate of tectonic movement it's only a matter of time before the two begin to develop their own seperate dialects.

Tomorrow is the first league game of season against Warsash Wasps, the place where Gary Glitter was spotted one year ago in a wig outside a car room. Low are on the radio. Is this a sign?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Bishopstoke 6-2 Burridge

Saturday 22nd August
Eastleigh Rugby Club

pre-season fixture

(Click pic to enlarge: Burridge in red hope to find ball soon)

Paul Andrews fumbled with the nozzle of one of the club's plastic bottles before taking a swig. 'That was disgusting,' he said, obviously not a fan of the Kia-Ora I'd bought from the 99p shop on Shirley High Street. Kristian Hewitt goes as far to say it's absolute crap. Not the Kio-Ora, but Burridge's first half performance. Burridge were losing 2-1 when Justin Newman made the long walk back to the changing rooms to refill the drinks bottles. When he returned 10 minutes later it was half time. It was also 5-1 to Bishopstoke. Burridge's swag bag lied flat on the long dry grass with the rest of the Burridge team. It contained valuable items that people don't fancy leaving to the chance of the changing room's security. In it are the usual collection of car keys, wallets, and mobile phones, but this week it's supplemented by an exotic brand of Spanish cigarettes that belong to Marc Judd.

When Mark Reeves had arrived earlier there wasn't much of Burridge's changed red kit left. Rather than take to the field in his pants and vest, he borrowed a pair of yellow Arsenal socks, enormous royal blue shorts and a red shirt. He looked like a patchwork quilt. Or the boy at school who's weed his pants. To think I'd been to the trouble of going into March Sports earlier for some Dubbin to clean my football boots with that morning. I'm normally welcomed at the cash register like a long lost son, as customers for sports gear tend to prefer the retail outlets in the city centre. Last time I visited I spent the best part of half an hour listening to the shop owner fully explaining the merits of a Mitre Multiplex to me. 'This ball's 'eavier than them new ones, see?' He said, squeezing the ball's leather panels. 'Guarantee you at least ten extra points a season, cos no bugger wants to head it.' So up I went asking for a tin of dubbin. 'Sold out, mate,' he said barely taking his eyes off whatever catalogue it was he was reading, 'come back next week.' He must have used all his usual sales patter on the other customer he'd had that day.

During the second half Kristian Hewitt successfully auditions for the vacant part of Bernd Schuster by scoring the best goal of the game. Allowing Greg Baker's long range through ball to run ahead of him, Hewitt uses the instep of his right foot to casually chip over the advancing goalkeeper's outstretched clutches. It deserved a bigger audience than the Burridge crowd, which was made up entirely of his pregnant wife who sat cross legged on the grass with the Burridge substitutes. He did not mark the goal with any celebration. There's something about running around with your shirt pulled over your head when you're getting thrashed that makes you look like a right bell end. There was still time for Jonesy to save a penalty, and for Bishopstoke to score on the rebound.

Scorers: Greg Baker and Kristian Hewitt

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Aero Vets 4-0 Burridge AFC

Thursday 20th August
Hamble Aerostructures
Kick off: 6:30pm

pre-season fixture

A man with a grey face raises the barrier and lets me into the place where they make things to kill people. I'm in the grounds of GE Aviation in Hamble-le-Rice, although nobody ever calls it that apart from the road signs that beckon you in off the M27, and men half a mile down the road dressed in deck shoes and pleated shorts who like to ponce about on boats. People round here call it 'amble, and are more likely to smoke Sovereigns rather than drink Campari. This is where Aerostructures play football. The grass backing onto the place where men make their livings designing the vital components for the USA's military aircraft to gun down the enemy with.

The perimeter of Aerostructures' floodlit pitch is surrounded by tall conifers. It is reserved for important games. Burridge will not be playing on it against Aerostructures Veterans tonight. Instead they play on the reserve pitch. In order to play for a veteran's side you must be no younger than 35 years of age. For many of us at Burridge there's still a few years left to play with until we can turn out in vet's football. For me there's still a few years left for me to call my greying hair premature. Aerostructures take to the field in luminous yellow shirts. There's plenty of grey flecks amongst their temples.

For some reason I'm made captain. I'd like to think it's because of my 12 years experience playing football for Burridge, but suspect that it's simply due to Phil Birks, who's taking charge in the absence of Pete Lyons, being able to remember my name. Birks spent an hour and a half getting worked up with Greg Baker for not following his pitch side instructions against Colden Common. Greg's not in the habit of ignoring people, he's not used to being called Mark either. As captain I try to lead by example, encouraging my team mates to keep the ball with short range passing into feet. The next time I receive it I mishit the ball deep into the conifers. My team mates follow my lead, while the referee takes a particular dislike to Justin Newman, giving decisions against him at every opportunity.

By half time we're losing two-nil. Phil Birks points out the areas in which we've been crap in. This takes quite some time. I address the windy conditions by running a large blob of Vaseline through my longish hair as everybody else stares into space. The second half is as bad as the first. The game finishes four-nil to Aerostructures. We refuel in the host's clubhouse. A big old TV sits heavy on two flimsy wall brackets. It seems strange that Rick Stein's cookery programme is on instead of Aston Villa's game with Rapid Vienna. Stranger still that the volume is off. Any post mortem of the evening's game is stalled by the chicken drumsticks served up by the hosts. They're the most succulent I've ever tasted. It's by far the highlight of the evening.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Colden Common reserves 2-2 Burridge

Wednesday 12th August
Venue:Over the road from the Black Horse
Kick off 6:30pm

pre-season fixture

For some reason Colden Common doesn't want the world to know about its tigers. It seems content on the tourism generated from the geraniums at Sandyfields Nursey. They're far more interested in telling me that they're twinned with some place in Normandy, France, called St Vigor Le-Grand, rather than direct me straight to the animals at Marwell Zoo. When I arrive at Colden Common's recreation ground the other players are sat in the away changing room, waiting for Kristian Hewitt to turn up with the kit. Like most changing rooms, it's not big enough for thirteen people to get dressed in without getting a good idea what whoever next to you has had for dinner.

Kristian Hewitt arrives at six and drops the kitbag in the middle of the concrete floor. He finishes cutting the greens at East Horton Golf club at three in the afternoon, whereas I'd spent the afternoon driving around the M25 wearing a tie and wishing I'd had a gun. Nobody bothers to ask him why he hasn't got here earlier. They're all too busy rooting through the bag for kit. Rich Allan is once again unable to find a pair of shorts large enough to circumnavigate his waist. Kev Willsher spends the time waiting to fish out some kit by drowning his thighs in ralgex. By the time I get to a pick up a shirt there are just a few left. To my surprise, number ten is one of them.

Kick off's delayed when Sam Schwodler sees dog shit on the pitch. It's fresh and warm enough to suggest it's come fresh out of the microwave rather than a dog's bottom. This is a shame because Colden Common's pitch is well looked after. So much so that they asked us not to warm up in the goalmouth before the game. The mind boggled at just what damage they anticipated us doing by spending ten minutes taking pot shots at Ryan Jones. Perhaps they were worried we'd take a dump on it. As far as I'm aware that temptation was resisted.

Once the referee's aware of what's hidden in the grass, he calls out to Colden Common to deal with it. It's left to their manager to use a shovel to sling it out of harms way. Greg Baker walked towards me with a smirk on his face: 'They're going have a busy night if they're shovelling all the shit off this pitch tonight.' Later on he goes fairly ape at the referee for what he'd deemed an incorrect decision on the halfway line. He's been shouting at referees for years. His outburst today is like a middle-class John McEnroe unleashing his inner seven year old after being told he can't have any more Haribo.

Bryn Schwolder was so comfortable at left back he may've dropped off when Colden Common took quite some time taking a short corner kick that put them a goal up. Kev Willsher headed us level from a corner. What followed was open football played in good spirits by both teams. Colden Common may have thought they'd won the game when they scored on the back post from another corner with less than ten minutes to go.

Justin Newman had more reason than most to be relieved when Greg Baker latched onto a Paul Andrews through ball to make it 2-2 five minutes later. By the time we've showered and gone over the road to the Black Horse for a pint, men are shaking their heads at England's Rio Ferdinand on the giant TV screen for a fairly enormous fuck up against Holland, and everybody has seemed to have forgotten how Justin headed the ball over the crossbar from two yards.

Thew Burridge XI versus Colden Common Reserves

GK:Ryan Jones
RB:Sammy Hewitt
CB:Ben Hutton
CB:Kev Willsher
LB:Bryn Schwodler
RM:Sam Schwodler (sub:Mark Sanderson)
CM:Justin Newman
CM:Kristian Hewitt(c)
LM:Greg Baker
CF:Ben Rowe (Sub:Paul Andrews)
CF:Rich Allan

Click here to read Burridge's preview for the 2009/10 season on the Times.

Remaining pre-season games:

Thur 20th v Aero vets k/o 6:30pm at Aerostructures, Hamble
Sat 22nd v Bishopstoke k/o 2:30pm at Eastleigh Rugby Club
Mon 24th v Northend k/o 6:30pm at Concorde Club

First league game:

Sat 29th v Warsash Wasps k/o 2:30pm at Meadowside

Friday, 7 August 2009

Burridge 2-4 Hamble Club
Tuesday 4th August
kick off: 6:30pm
pre-season fixture

Rich 'Chinese Monkey' Allan is not himself tonight. He'd volunteered to play in goal for Burridge in the absence of Ryan Jones, who along with a handful of others, were due to play cricket. For those unaware, cricket is a game played in summer when it's not pissing down with rain, so there's really not a great deal of call for the sport in this country. With the cricket cancelled, Jones and co declared themselves available for Burridge, but gaffer, Pete Lyons, isn't budging. He sticks to the team he'd picked earlier and that means Chinese Monkey in goal. We put up the goal nets ready for the game, while Chinese Monkey examines the pitch markings, muttering something under his breath about the serious need for some decent emulsion.

(Pictured above: Chinese Monkey's don't usually bite. Click pic to enlarge.)

Hamble Club's mood isn't much better. Here they are, a team from the County league, whose season will take them to places like Liphook, Locks Heath and Paulsgrove, forced into lowering themselves into playing against us. They spend the game behaving much like I imagine Posh Spice would were she forced into roughing it for the night at a Novatel, complaining to the referee about anything from the length of the grass to the weight of the football.

Sam Schwodler makes his usual contribution to the game. The only thing stopping him and the Hamble Club skipper exchanging fists is two pints of Stella. Chinese Monkey does a convincing impression of a goalkeeper, but it's not enough to stop Burridge from conceding two first half goals. Ryan Jones replaces him at half time. He looks too young to be an electrician. I resist the urge to ask him how his day at school was. Before long he's let in two and Burridge are four goals down.

Mark Reeves also comes on at half time. Up 'til now he'd scored a single goal in his three years at Burridge. He brings a smile back to Burridge faces by scoring with a dipping twenty yard volley. Less moving scenes have gone onto be nominated for academy awards. He jogs nonchalantly back into position for the restart without saying a word. I reward him by giving him a pat on the bottom.

When Jay Schwodler's released down the right wing with the ball ahead of him, a collective groan can be heard from the Burridge attack. Right on que Jay slices his cross, but for once it remains in play, asking serious questions of the goalkeeper's positioning, who can be forgiven for complacency having witnessed what was presumably a shot on goal by Jay Schwodler during the first half. The sight of Jay about to cross may've alerted him to reassembling a search party to once gain retrieve the ball, but this time it sails over his head into the net. Respectability had been bought to the score line from unlikely sources.

Scorers: 1-4 Mark Reeves, 2-4 Jay Schwodler

Burridge 1-3 Blues
Wednesday 5th August 2009
kick off: 6:30pm

Paul Dyke's not playing for Burridge tonight. Instead, he's on the touchline managing Blues. They wear yellow. They also play in the Sunday league, so normally their path would never cross with Burridge. With ten minutes of the game left I catch the referee yawning. I ask him if this game's really been that bad. He says it'd been a long day, but I know he's being polite.

Lee Fielder is playing as a deep lying third centre forward. He spends the game looking confused. Wearing a furrowed brow as though he's still coming to terms with turning thirty the day before. Burridge's evening was epitomised by Blues' third goal. Bryn Schwodler was relieved of the ball by a Blues attacker who quickly chipped the ball over Sam Schwodler's head and into the net. Kristian Hewitt had spent the previous 70 minutes giving Bryn the kind of looks that if I didn't know better meant he planned to kill him, but he now chooses to lie flat on the floor. For a moment it's not clear if he's ever going to get up.

There's still time for Mike Reed to strike the crossbar and Paul Andrews to miss from close range. Before his stabed effort has stopped rolling he's quick to point out that it wasn't as clear cut a chance as it might have appeared. If there was anybody who agreed with him they're conspicuous by their total silence. Next up is Colden Common reserves on Wednesday night.

Scorer: 1-2 Bryn Schwodler

Burridge gaffer, Pete Lyons, looks pleased that Ice man, Kev Willsher, has put pen to paper for another year with the club.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Burridge 3-3 VTFC youth

Saturday 1st August
pre-season fixture

“The problem with Cyprus is,” said Ben Hutton (pictured). “Is that there's no clouds and no wind.” I was driving him home up the M27 in the pouring rain. He'd already been away on two holidays this year, and couldn't see where the money was coming from to pay for a third, just so his wife could be bridesmaid at her friend's wedding. When he told me that his mother-in-law had given them the money to go I was expecting a bit more excitement from him. “We're flying back early Saturday morning,” he said. “So hopefully I'll only miss one game.”

I took my eye off the road to look at him sat in the passenger seat. There have always been questions I've wanted to ask Ben. How did he get that four inch scar on his forehead, and what was the crossed out inscription tatooed in green ink against a red rose on his neck? But right now I was more preoccupied with whether his seat belt was depriving the flow of oxygen, vital for cohesive thought, to his brain. Why else would he suggest that he'd prefer to play football for Burridge than enjoy a free holiday of wall to wall sunshine in Cyprus?

There was only one conceivable answer, and that was hunger. He, along with the rest of the Burridge squad shared a new sense of drive to play football. Sharing six goals with VTFC youth earlier that day had only made that stronger.

VTFC have long been able to syphon the young players of Southampton who weren't quite good enough to turn professional. So the prospect of a Saturday morning kick off against a side of 16 to 19 year olds was met by Burridge with the stoic realism. Most Burridge players freely admitted later in the pub that they expected to lose about 5-0, with only Bryn Schwodler protesting bitterly against this. He believed Burridge would score, although he admitted that they'd probably let loads in as well.

When this thrashing didn't happen it's unclear who was more surprised – Burridge or VTFC. It wasn't all good news though. Luke Sanderson stuck two fingers up at the doctors who told him he'd never play again, by pulling his boots on for the first time since January. Their professional opinion decided to give him two fingers back, as he crawled off the soaking wet pitch like some wounded U.S marine in the Vietnam War, dragging the torn cruciate ligaments in his left knee behind him. He did not get up. Forty minutes of the game had gone, and so it seems his hopes of playing football again, this season at least.

With no shelter on offer at Burridge, the number of people coming to watch is normally decided by the weather. It was raining again on Saturday morning, so nobody came to watch.

Greg Baker is unable to clean his flat, himself, and shopping at the supermarket offers him a world of challenges he's yet to overcome, but the collection of crosses he was putting in from the right wing were of a high enough standard to have been put forward for the Turner Prize. Strange that one of his lesser accurate efforts provided the chance for Burridge to equalise. With twenty minutes left to play Burridge were losing 3-2. Baker's cross was within the VTFC's keeper's grasp, but it squirmed out of his gloves like a wet trout. Justin Newman collected the loose ball, sauntered past the keeper and chipped into the net to make it 3 goals each. The oldest player on the pitch had come to the rescue.

Burridge goalscorers:
1-2 Sam Hewitt
2-2 Greg Baker (penalty)
3-3 Justin Newman

Looking back (bringing back the blog)

I haven't posted here since 2012 – that’s five years of not blogging. The blog is/was about Burridge AFC, the football team I played f...