Saturday 1st August
“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.
1-2 Sam Hewitt
2-2 Greg Baker (penalty)
3-3 Justin Newman