Thursday 20th August
Kick off: 6:30pm
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.