Pamela Anderson stops locals coming in their droves to see Burridge AFC, probably.
It was on a Wednesday evening after work, in the shopping outlet community of Whiteley, which is off junction 9 of the M27, when I discovered that size really does matter. Whiteley has a Tesco, a Jaeger, a Clinton Cards and a Starbucks. It also has a Chapelle, a discount jewellery store that entices passers by through their door by selling wedding rings for under a hundred quid. But what it didn't have this evening was its usual allocation of football pitches.
Click on pic to enlarge: Essy (number 8) notices the Barratt show homes closing in on him.
The only pitch marked out at Meadowside Leisure Centre was narrow in width and short in length, therefore not conducive to finding space and playing anything resembling an attractive passing game like you see on the telly, sometimes. This resulted in Ben Hutton's defensive clearances having no trouble reaching the arms of Whitenap's goalkeeper. When Whitenap defender's followed suit, their midfield got cross with them, pointing out that they wanted passes into feet, as opposed to the dense hedge rows that flanked one side of the pitch.
I, on the other hand, couldn't help but feel that there was something mildly disconcerting about playing in such close quarters to what looked like a series of Barratt show homes. Why had none of their owners come out to watch us struggle to deal with Whitenap's long throw-ins? How was I to know that they may well have been prevented from doing so by Pamela Anderson, who was talking on the One Show about starring in pantomime later this year with Les Dennis in Liverpool.
Burridge manager Paul Dyke directs from the sideline.
Work commitments and summer holidays had shrunk the size of Paul Dyke's Burridge squad down to thirteen players, a number which included himself amongst the substitutes. Stuart Channell made his Burridge debut in goal, making several good saves, despite the lack of any peaked cap and in full glare of the low evening sun of the first half.
Ben Rowe, Sam Hewitt and Joe Hill were all left disappointed that they didn't score from the chances we created in the first-half. Hill could later be heard reflecting on his missed opportunity whilst stood outside the changing rooms after the game. “I was waiting for the net to rustle,” he said, puffing away on a cigarette, “Then he just came out of nowhere.” He, being a Whitenap defender, who having refused to give up his hopes of keeping the game scoreless, somehow dragged himself into a position to deflect Hill's firm side-footed shot over the crossbar. This drew applause from both sets of players.
During a stoppage in play I enjoyed a friendly conversation with a Whitenap striker on the half-way line. He had a stocky build and fair hair. “Not a bad little side, your lot,” he said. This was his first game back after eighteen months out injured. He left me in no doubt to what he'd been doing in that time. “I've been eating too many cheeseburgers,” he told me as he peered down towards his not particularly big stomach and laughed. Anyone who gives Kev Willsher a run for his money in terms of brute strength, cannot be as infatuated with cheeseburgers as much as they would have you believe. Later, frankly unnecessary research of Whitenap's website, suggested that it was Scott Ferguson, formerly of Totton & Eling, whom I spoke with.
Dyke gets his message over during half-time.
To put this match into some sort context, Whitenap play in the premier division of the City of Southampton Sunday League, which is mainly occupied with players who turn out for Saturday teams with proper grounds, whose floodlit pitches are surrounded by advertisement hoardings for things like tiles and ceramics, building firms and aggregate suppliers; players who still have the enthusiasm to wake up on a Sunday morning, put their boots back on and do it all over again.
One of the Whitenap contingent insisted that the only thing stopping them from putting the game to bed was stringing four passes together. Their real weapon, on this narrow pitch at least, was as I have already mentioned, a long throw-in. Combine that asset with a tall busy forward line, and well, you do the math. It was from one of these throw-ins that led to Whitenap scoring the only goal of the game. We continued to put our back into it, but from there on in we didn't trouble Whitenap's goalkeeper into anything more pressing than a goal-kick. Perhaps it was this lack of action that caused him to continue kicking them off the pitch. His midfielders were not impressed.
Burridge on the attack during the second half.
The 4-4-2 Burridge line-up versus Whitenap was:
GK: Channell (Jones)
LB: Jones (Willsher - on at CB after arriving late from work)
RM: S.Hewitt (Dyke)
NB All pics by Roz Hutton and Luke Sanderson. Thanks!