Burridge's second pre-season training session was carried out at the Recreation Ground alongside the empty two lanes of the A3051. Once again, both Kev Willsher and Lee Fielder left me for dead in a sprint finish during the last of ten laps of the cricket pitch.
Stood by the water bottle carrier and short of breath, I tried to act in a dignified manner that suggested losing to them in such a way had neither bruised my ego or tired me out, despite it doing both. The pair are now both in their thirties, but beat the entire squad, some of whom are more than a decade younger, a fact to which I am still clinging to.
During the following forty-five minutes I heard a number of people speak with cheerful regret about what and when they had dinner. Shepherds Pie or any kind of dish involving meat and two veg is never a sensible choice an hour before two hours of strenuous exercise, which ended finally under an overcast and muggy sky.
Sam Hewitt's polyester training shirt was damp from toiling around on the sun baked grass. It was time for a practise match. Sam's team would differentiate themselves from his opponents by wearing the yellow Nike bibs that were slung in a Tesco's carrier bag on the sidelines.
They'd been there in the boot of my car since being used in last week's sweaty training session. They stank. Wearing them was out of the question. Sam's team would instead go skins. He peeled off his training shirt. “Look at that,” he said proudly, thumping his pale toned chest. At this moment I did not have the foresight that a forty degree wash was insufficient in making those bibs smell tolerable.
Temperatures rose further when it was leaked that Burridge manager Paul Dyke had arranged a pre-season friendly with Hedge-End, the team who Bryn Schwodler, his brother Jay, and Rich Allan, have left Burridge to join.