Thursday, 30 September 2010

Burridge 1-3 Redbridge

Saturday 25th September, Trophyman Cup, Burridge, Botley Road

"Burridge AFC always flirt around the edge. They might go one further this year."

Quote taken from page 36 of Saturday 18th September's Sports Echo, reporting on Burridge's chances of promotion from the Southampton Senior Division.

Stung in the bushes

I was surrounded by stinging nettles when Lee Fielder got whacked. My involvement in the game had ended after being replaced by Dan Allen after an hour. We were losing three-nil. As I jogged off the pitch, Dyke said: “You were starting to look tired out there, Sandy.” I made myself useful by searching for one of our footballs. A stray pass had embedded it within a tangle of unkempt plants that cover the slope that runs adjacent to our pitch. I tried convincing myself that I was not tired as I shimmied down it's steep bank. My Granddad is 84 and tells me he feels no different to when he was a young man. Last week I sat with him in his lounge eating a chip butty, whilst he urinated into a Tupperware container held close to the open fly of his pyjama bottoms. Neither of us are young men any more.

Once I found the ball I made my way back up the slope with it in my hands. Loose stems clung to my black football socks and the stinging nettles had made no concession for my bare legs. The game had stopped. I noticed one of our players was laid on the grass on the other side of pitch. Players from both sides congregated either side of his body to exchange bad language as Kev Willsher's Dad and I stood side by side trying to identify which of our players was laid out. Whoever it was was wearing the number eleven. Kev Willsher's Dad's initial concern evaporated once he realised that number eleven was Lee Fielder. He'd seen Lee Fielder laying in the grass many times before. The referee hadn't seen Lee getting kicked. Nor had we.

First-half: back on home turf

This was our first game of the season at Burridge. The grass stood tall and thick like an overgrown crew-cut, then the wind picked up and Redbridge threatened to make the game an anti-climax by scoring two quick goals. The first came from a long thrown in from the right flank that flicked off a head and into the far corner of the net. The second was a long range strike that skimmed off Kev Willsher's leg on its way past Ryan Jones. Ben Rowe rolled the ball against Redbridge's goalpost, then Marc Judd surrendered to the stereotype of his shaven head. The referee was happy to oblige him with a yellow card for dissent.

Redbridge had a central defender who I would hesitate to call fat, in case he read this and wanted to kill me. His yellow jersey stretched tight around his gut. He used chunks of the first-half to demonstrate his long range passing abilities. During a stoppage in play I took the opportunity to listen to him complain to one of his team-mates about how lazy their centre forward was. I was stood very close. I looked down at the grass so as not to appear nosy. It seemed too work. I couldn't help noticing that the defender's colleague wore Adidas football boots. One of his boot laces had shed free of its aglet. It's frayed end hung limply on the boot's red leather tongue. The defender's team-mate limited his communication to a nod of the head. Happiness didn't seem to be a mood that suited him.

Linesman etiquette

Redbridge's third goal almost drew my applause. It came from a hard shot from outside the penalty area. It always seems so final when a ball that's travelling so fast is stopped by what is essentially string. I remember telling Ryan Hurst that I thought it was a good goal. Ryan wasn't ready to clap other teams' goals. On my return from the stinging nettles I took over as linesman from Joe Hill. I took my position a yard or so in front of the seven or eight who had come to watch Redbridge. I tried lightening the ugly mood that had taken hold of the game by asking them what I had missed whilst rooting through the undergrowth. Where they came from, they told me, they didn't talk about things like that. I left it at that, feeling fairly certain that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon a group of people who described themselves to me as thugs.

Lee Fielder's perpetrator was then substituted. He pulled off his shirt, complaining bitterly to himself about being kicked all afternoon. Tempting as it was, I decided against questioning him on the thought process behind swinging for Lee. I'm not sure there was one. Joe Hill had a shot that hit the inside of both of Redbridge's goal posts. It rolled toward Sam Schwodler who scored his fifth goal of the season. It looked odd to see Ben Hutton, a Burridge player of four years as recently as two weeks ago, coming on as striker for Redbridge. We hadn't just lost a versatile player - with his wife, Roz, no longer coming to games, we'd lost our photographer too. It was that kind of day.

Burridge (4-4-2): GK: Jones, RB: S.Hewitt, CB: Hurst, CB: Willsher, LB: K.Hewitt, LM: Judd (Fielder), CM: Wilson, CM: Sanderson (Allen), RM: Reeves, CF: Rowe (Hill), CF: Schwodler.


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Totton & Eling Reserves 4-1 Burridge AFC

Saturday 18th September, Southern Gardens, Totton

Paul Dyke starred down hard at the face of his digital watch. He was stood on the wooden balcony outside Totton & Eling's first floor changing rooms, with his back turned against the view of the well maintained suburban gardens that hug the sports ground's perimeter. Flowering petunias weren't his concern; time was.

Totton's sports ground in distance
We were due to meet at 1:40pm, and it was very nearly so. His eyes darted from his watch to the top of the staircase, and as the seconds ticked he began counting down out loud, “five, four, three, two, one.” Satisfied that time was up he walked out of the sun into the away team dressing room. “Right, anyone who arrives now is late.” Under Dyke's management, arriving late carries a fifty pence penalty fine. Today the club's coffers swelled to £4.

Dyke had given the latecomers a fighting chance, but his texted warning of delays on the motorway didn't stop Dan Allan, Sam Hewitt, Kristian Hewitt, Ryan Hurst, Ryan Jones, Ben Rowe, Sam Schwodler and Jason Wilson, all crawling to Totton along an M275 laden heavy with traffic headed for the Southampton Boat Show.

Standing in our way of a place in the second round of the Southampton Senior Cup were Totton & Eling reserves. Some might classify the term 'reserves' as inferior. This would be incorrect. Being in the Southampton Senior Division, we represent the lowest tier of sides in the competition amongst teams from the Southampton Premier League, the Hampshire Leagues and the Wessex Reserve Leagues, all of which will eventually be whittled down to two teams in the final at Southampton's St Mary's stadium.

Ryan Hurst heads clear another Totton & Eling attack

The topic of conversation within the Burridge changing room is varied, but although far from being a cultural wasteland it does sometimes fall short in content when compared to the likes of the Southbank Show, or even Newsround. Despite this, the Pope's visit to the UK hadn't gone unnoticed to some of the Burridge squad, which exposed one or or two holes in some players' general knowledge.

Once that it was established that the Pope wasn't the head of the Anglican church, further questions were raised, such as: do Catholics believe in the Jesus thing? A moot opening question that was sadly never fully debated. There were more pressing questions to grapple with, like: where have all the kit's black socks gone? Will the changing rooms be locked? And the perennial rhetoric that Burridge players have struggled with since the start of the club as we know it, which is: if indeed we're to leave our belongings in the changing rooms, is there a separate place, perhaps a bag of some sorts, that we can keep are valuables safe in during the game? Answers to all of which were once again provided, but no doubt wiped clean from collective memory banks by next Saturday afternoon.

As is customary, the referee asked to check the soles of our football boots for any sharp studs. Lee Fielder wore white Nike cleats. Black rubber blades jutted from their soles like the blunt teeth of a herbivores mammal. “Blades,” said the ref, raising his scrawny grey eyebrows. “Never tried them. What are they like?” Lee seemed keener to get warmed up than enter into a conversation with a referee about footwear. “Yeah, they're fine.” The referee wore a pair of non gripped black trainers, the make of which I couldn't decipher without sinking down to his feet. He pointed down at his shoes, “these flats are perfect for this time of year.” This strangely friendly attitude showed no evidence of quite how irritable he can and would become during play.

It was clear from kick-off that Totton & Eling wanted to flex their Wessex League muscles. They made quick passes with tidy ball control. In an eagerness to stamp their mark on the game further, one of their defenders mistook technical superiority with incompetence. Defenders aren't there to ponce about, their primary function is to destroy. Their defender's careless pass across his penalty area was seized upon by Ben Rowe who poked us into the lead. Totton & Eling didn't let this mishap stifle their confidence, and at times their quick play tied us in knots. By half-time they were 2-1 up, which was a fair reflection of the half.

We stayed outside at half-time and sat under the shade of a tree. Dyke emptied a carrier bag full of Mars Bar Duos onto the grass in front of us. Several players tucked in. I stuck to water. Our efforts continued to be commendable in the second-half, but getting the run around on a warm September afternoon isn't always conducive to maintaining good relations with one another. Baiting or indeed any other general unpleasantness amongst ourselves was kept to a minimum. By in large it was a good spirited game between the two teams, which is always a bit of a shame.

Totton did not take their foot off the pedal and we were unable to prevent them from scoring two further goals in the second half. It was during a stoppage in play that I offered the referee a swig of water from one of our bottles that lay on the dry grass beyond the touchline. I don't know what came over me, it must have been the heat. As he guzzled from it, low guttural sounds resonated from somewhere deep in his throat. It sounded as though he were trying to sink a particularly stubborn handful of Mandrax.

He only stopped mouthing the bottle's yellow plastic teat after noticing a far younger blond women sat on a bench beyond the perimeter's fence; one he seemed to know. "What are you up to," he asked in an all to familiar tone of voice. The women took her eyes off her mobile phone screen to look up towards him for the briefest of moments. "Sudoku," she replied. Obviously. There are some things that aren't meant to be understood by man.

Click here to see full results from the first round of the Southampton Senior Cup

Burridge line up: GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Sam Hewitt, CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Dan Allen (Greg Baker), RM: Sam Schwodler, CM: Mark Sanderson (Joe Hill), CM: Jason Wilson, CM: Kristian Hewitt, LM: Marc Judd, CF: Ben Rowe (Lee Fielder) 

Burridge goalkeeper Ryan Jones, shortly before making an athletic save from a Totton free-kick
Annual predictions

The annual Southampton League prediction were on page 36 of Saturday's edition of The Sports Pink. There it was, one page after a voucher for Tosca's Italian restaurant on Commercial Road, predictions for the top three in each of the eight divisions.

This season Burridge have been given the wild-card, and I quote:

“Burridge AFC always flirt around the edge and might go one better this time around.”

Netley Central Reserves are predicted to win the title
with Forest Town in second,
and Allbrook in third.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Netley Central Reserves 3-1 Burridge AFC

Saturday 11th September, Station Road, Netley

My brother was strangled in his car. He heard shouting as he parked next to a grass verge alongside a block of terraced houses, so he wound down his window to get a better listen. It was coming from an old man, who was coming closer. He looked about sixty. He looked angry too; then he reached in and tightened his cold hands around my brother's throat. My brother pulled himself free and got out of the car, slamming the door behind him.

What the fuck are you doing?” He shouted.
 The old man kept telling my brother to move his bloody car.
"You can't just go doing things like that,” said my brother. “You're an old man.”
The old man took this as an invitation to fight. “Come on then,” he said, raising his fists. My brother shook his head and moved his car, as the old man stormed off back inside his house.

Fear of the old man conking out with a heart attack weakened my brother's desire to retaliate; but noticing the old man had left his front door open, my brother walked toward it. “Hey you,” he shouted. “I'm calling the police.”

The old man appeared looking startled. “I've already done it,” he insisted, and with that he shut his front door behind him. My brother had come to watch us play. Little did he know that this would be the only funny thing to happen all afternoon.

Jason Wilson
 I hadn't even had a kick by the time Netley scored their first goal. Exactly the same thing happened last season. The deja-vu was appalling. It wasn't long before Netley went two-nil up. A right wing cross skipped up in the dirt onto Dan Allen's arm. The referee took a second to assess the situation, which seemed to involve a brief study of Dan Allen's face, and with injustice missing from his facial expression the referee sounded his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, wasn't impressed. “He's not going to appeal, ref,” shouted Dyke, from his position stood on the touchline. “I've only just got him to say a word in training.” The referee didn't see fit to give Dyke a similar examination.

Burridge goalkeeper Ryan Jones likes to follow a routine before a penalty is taken against him. As the taker picks up ball, Jones fetches his water bottle from behind his goal line and takes it with him for a twelve yard stroll to the penalty spot. He likes to delay the taking of the kick with a quick swig, then he spits a mouthful out into the mud near the taker's feet, has a long hard look into their eyes, then slowly walk backs to his goal-line. On this occasion it didn't seem to do the trick. Later that evening Jones was stood by the bar, sipping another rum and coke, complaining that he never was quite ready for that penalty. Dan Esfandiari provided us with the greatest goalscoring threat by hitting a beautiful ball across Netley's penalty area. It deserved better far better than ending up in a bush. Essy held his arms out by his side to vent his frustration at none of us being able to get on end of his delivery. Sam Schwodler benefited from another whipped in cross from Essy by scoring with his head. We were back in the game, or so it seemed.

I was on the left with the ball at my feet when it happened. All I had to do was smash it up field; instead I chose to dilly-dally. This pleased the opposition no end, who having taken the ball from me, broke away to score a third goal, and with it perhaps momentarily puncturing any genuine belief we had in coming back into the game. Cock ups like this were a serious threat to my position as a self proclaimed pillar of the Burridge fraternity. At half-time we retreated to the quiet of the away team dressing room. Rather then send us out with a flea in our ear, Dyke reminded us that we still had 45 minutes to play and that was a long time in football. He was right.

Paul Dyke touches up Jason Wilson's make-up
I was replaced by Mark Reeves early in the second half. Reeves lasting contribution to the game was duly noted by several teenage spectators sat behind me, when seemingly trapped by the touchline, Reeves nutmegged his opponent - which is the skill of pushing the ball between another player's legs and collecting it on the other side – shouting 'nuts' as he jogged away with the ball. This is the ultimate indignity, and rather like being slapped around the chops with a wet trout.

One of the teenagers lit a cigarette and pointed at Reeves. “He don't look like the sort to do skill,” his friends nodded in agreement. “He looks like the kind of bloke who would go through you.” Reeves' shaven head and cold blue eyes were enough to convince a handful of young lads that he was a hard-case. Burridge's first half mistakes were enough to make Netley believe they were better than us. Whether Burridge believe that is unclear.

GK: Ryan Jones
RB: Dan Allen (Jo Hill)
CB: Kev Willsher
CB: Ryan Hurst
LB: Mark Sanderson (Mark Reeves)
RM: Sam Hewitt
CM: Jason Wilson
CM: Daniel Esfandiari
LM: Kristian Hewitt
CF: Ben Rowe (Lee Fielder)
CF: Sam Schwodler

Marc Judd was there too.

Click here for other Southampton league results.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Andover Reserves 1-0 Burridge AFC

Saturday 4th September
Hampshire Intermediate Cup Round One

Charlton Athletic Track, Andover
On me head son

Kev Willsher lay still on the grass in the D of the penalty area. The referee blew his whistle to stop the game and allow Paul Dyke onto the field with the medical bag, while I wondered just how an ambulance planned on finding a way through the wire mesh fence and across the six lane running track that surrounded the pitch, so that they could rush Kev to hospital and put his face back together.

Dyke knelt down beside Kev and after rooting through the jumbled contents of our medical bag, decided on a combination of reassuring words and the wet sponge to treat our captain with. The sponge has seen better days, with one side of it deeply absorbed with blood of seasons' past.

Dyke used it firstly to wipe away the white spittle congealed into a thin paste in each corner of Kev's lips, then his eye socket, that had swollen in the brief moments since he had been struck in the temple by an Andover elbow. Groggy, but in need of no further medical assistance, Kev got back to his feet.

Rabbit holes

We were at Charlton Athletic Track to play Andover Reserves in the first round of the Hampshire Intermediate Cup, having had the opportunity to play at their Portway stadium taken from us by rabbits; who have become non paying tenants of Andover's premises, since digging a series of trenches across the pitch.

The infestation was first reported in June, leading the Southern League into scheduling the Andover first team to play their first four league games away from home, no doubt hoping the rabbits would have moved on by early September; but, despite Andover ground staff's efforts, officials from the Southern League failed a Tuesday morning pitch inspection.

Seven games away from Old Trafford

Having beaten Sittingbourne, Andover will play Chertsey Town for a purse of £3,000 in their forthcoming home FA Cup first round qualifying tie, in nearby Whitchurch. Nonsensical Southern League rules do not permit the reversal of fixtures, forcing Andover to postpone last Friday's home league game with North Leigh.

Nevertheless, Andover's first eleven are a mere seven cup ties away from reaching the draw for the FA Cup third round, and with it the possibility of facing perhaps even Manchester United; a mouth watering possibility that five of Andover's players had to put to one side, because without a first team fixture, they were drafted into the reserves to face up to the altogether different prospect of plying their trade against Burridge AFC.

Although failing to meet several of the criteria for category E of the Football Association's ground grading that Southern League football demands, the facilities at Charlton Athletic track were pleasant enough. Floodlit, surrounded by a running track and flanked by a grassy bank for spectators to sit upon on one side, it also had a seldom seen hammer throw cage at one end behind the goal.

Dyke drove majority of us up the M3 in the club mini-bus, a former Royal Mail truck LDV pilot, that has been sprayed black and bears the club name on its side. He put its grunt to the test by pulling off daring manoeuvre on the fast lane of the M3, by overtaking a Wiseman Fresh Milk Dairies truck that was hogging the middle lane at a conservative 70 miles per hour.

Clinical match analysis

Andover's right-winger, who as Burridge left-back, it was my job to stop, looked considerably younger than myself, although as time passes this has become less an observation and more a weekly occurrence. What I first took for an enormous shirt collar label, was in fact a peroxide blond rat's tail, about an inch in length, protruding from the nape of his otherwise scissor short brown hair, which gave him the appearance of a member of the eighteenth century French aristocracy.

Isolated and on occasions alone on Andover's right-wing, I could often hear him muttering to himself in frustration. He did however get the better of me, in terms of speed down their right in what turned out to be the only goal of a closely fought game. His cross was met by a strike that Ryan Jones did well to palm away, but the rebound was side-footed comfortably into an unguarded net.

Andover's two centre forwards kept Hurst and Willsher fully occupied during the first-half. One, a giant of a man, in the Efan Ekoku mould, was accidentally responsible for Kev Willsher's makeover. The giant was later taken off and given linesman duties; a responsibility he acted out with little relish. On the occasions he was called upon to point or move his flag, he did so slowly and gently, as though handling explosives rather than a plastic tube with a fluorescent flag attached to its end.

Daniel Esfandiari, or Essy as he is more commonly known was put on by Dyke at half-time. Essy's shin pads have been subject of much debate during his first few months at the club. Small, an on initial inspection, looking as though they offer no more protection from a late tackle than a pair of credit cards slipped down each sock, they are what Essy feels comfortable in. And that is the most important thing.

Well contested

The game, in the most parts, was conducted in good spirits and the referee had very little cause to intervene, although a few Andover players did betray an attitude not uncommon from players of the Hampshire, Wessex and Southern League, when facing so called 'lesser' opponents, reacting to some of our physical tactics with a wave of the hand and a quick dismissal of our abilities.

This can only breed contempt in the heart of the opposition, and with the score remaining close, most of the Andover side did well to avoid trying to rub our noses in it. Although, in hindsight we did give them a kicking at times; it was afterall a game of commitment if perhaps not skill, with Burridge, in the second half at least, at full tilt in terms of effort. It was not enough to get a result at Andover, but similar efforts will stand us in good stead in the coming weeks with games against unforgiving opponents.

Much later on I was sprawled out on the sofa of my flat, exhausted and contemplating bed some way shy of 9pm. The words of Murtaugh, Danny Glover's character in Lethal Weapon, rang loudly in my ears. Click here for what is fast becoming my new catchphrase.

Paul Dyke picked a 4-4-2 formation:

GK: Ryan Jones
RB:  Dan Allen (Daniel Esfandiari)
CB: Kev Willsher (c )
CB:  Ryan Hurst
LB:  Mark Sanderson
RM: Sam Hewitt
CM: Jason Wilson
CM: Kristian Hewitt
LM: Mark Reeves (Ben Hutton)
CF: Joe Hill (Ben Rowe)
CF: Sam Schwodler

Loyal lonely spectator: Marc Judd

Click here for results from the 1st round of the Hampshire Cup.


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Hampshire Cup/ Jersey of No Mercy

The Hampshire Cup can throw up the opportunity to indulge oneself into delusions of grandeur. Among the 110 teams in the draw for the first round are AFC Totton, who have what I consider to be a proper football ground - one with a corrugated roof terrace and a set of floodlights, so that they can play games during winter evenings to their heart's content.

Being drawn to play Andover Reserves of the Magnata Care Hampshire League would at first seem to combine the best of both worlds, seeing as they lost 4-1 to Paul King's Winchester Crusaders they are opposition that we feel we can compete equally against; but rather more crucially, their Portway Stadium is rumoured by none other than Wikipedia to have a capacity of 3,000. Not that I imagine the promise of seeing the likes of Mark Reeves and Sam Schwodler will be enough to attract even a fraction of that amount of people.

So, with all things considered it is a shame that Andover's first team are scheduled to play a home game on Saturday afternoon, (although other sources say Friday evening). Assuming that the club's website is to be relied upon as a valid source for news, our fixture is pencilled in for Charlton Leisure Centre. While the exact details of this venue remain to be seen, the term 'leisure centre', conjures up images of poorly maintained council pitches, much like the dog-mess littered Fleming Park. We will just have to wait and see what facilities will await us.

Click here to see the full draw for the 2010/11 Hampshire Saturday Intermediate Cup.

The 2010/11 Jersey of No Mercy: It is never to be washed.

Paul Dyke took us training at Burridge this evening, during which he introduced a new initiative, derived to encourage both competition and team spirit. The initiative is by no means a new one, with many professional teams having done likewise in the past, but Dyke's is called the 'Jersey of No Mercy,' whereby the winning team from the end of session game will vote for the worst trainer of that session. The winner is destined to wear the 'Jersey of No Mercy' during the entirety of the following week's training. It is never to be washed. This week's winner was me, taking over from the shirt's inaugural champion, Marc Judd, who swung the vote by missing every pre-season game due to holidays.


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...