Saturday, 30 October 2010

Burridge AFC 2-2 Hythe Aztecs

Saturday 23rd October, The Shed, Burridge

Jason Wilson's toenails glistened like a shoal of tropical fish against the brown backdrop of nylon carpet. He pulled off his Converse All-Stars, looked down at his feet, and lapsed into a momentary bout of self consciousness. To his left was our club medical bag, its plastic zipper broken long ago by the crammed contents of mostly empty cannisters of pharmaceuticals, all manufactured to mask pain, not remove nail polish. He had chosen a subtle blend of light blue and orange shades; the kind that say: I believe in the healing power of crystals.

Wilson stood in front of the showers waiting for an interrogation from his fellow players. It never came. Perhaps for fear of what answers it might dig up. So one man's attempt at injecting a little of the bohemian spirit into the dressing room was ignored. Probably for the best. It could take some time before it catches on with the likes of Sam Hewitt, who is far more at home with an Elizabeth Duke bicycle chain around his neck, than he is raiding his girlfriend's make-up drawers for blusher.

An iPod nano sat in its docking bay on the dressing room's high window sill. Despite singing about sex and drugs, Mick Jagger wasn't getting through to the younger lads, so Kristian Hewitt stuck the Rocky soundtrack on. Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, was forced into shuffling his pack. A dodgy knee sustained against Sholing prevented Ryan Hurst from playing, while Ben Rowe's hamstring tweak was a good week or so from full repair. Aztecs bought with them down the M27 a cavalier and attractive style of play, but whether or not they were worth a first-half 1-0 lead was dubious as we fluffed a slew of reasonably good goal scoring chances. The frustration at not taking any of these opportunities began spilling out in cross words between us. But just where else can you call friends useless fucking wankers at the top of your voice for missing the target? In an ever dwindling list the football pitch remains a reliable outlet for doing so.

Going up from eight to ten quid has done nothing to stop our lot incurring the Hampshire Football Association's fine for getting booked by referees. Marc Judd, Kristian Hewitt ad Sam Schwodler had all been given yellow cards for dissent, when Mark Reeves was given what he later described as the worst booking he's ever received, and a complete waste of £10. He could have given me the money and I would have washed his car, or better still darned his underpants, for the white pair with red piping he chooses to wear for football matches leave very little to the imagination, but do at least provide an ample view of the soft pink wrinkles of his scrotum.

Reeves, who my brother and I have already decided would be played by Matt Damon in Burridge the Movie, (it's all there in the eyes and the cheeks, if not the hair), got involved in a bitchy conversation with the referee. With both parties eager to get in the last word, it went something like this:

Referee: “Why don't you put a lid on it?”
Reeves: “Tell you what, why don't we both stop?”
Referee: “No, why don't you stop?”
Reeves: “Like I said, why don't we both stop?” It ended with the referee asking for Reeves' name and giving him a yellow card. In some countries this technique is called foreplay, and it certainly did Tom Hanks' character no harm in films like You Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle.

It was Reeves who took the photograph of me in this post with his smart phone. Opposition don't tend to like going near blood. The bleeding all came from an innocuous bash to head. Paul Dyke was kind enough to stick two bits of bandage up my hooter and off I went. Bleeding in sport has much the same effect of being naked in public, as my brother was in the early hours on the the rather grotty beach in Kavos seven years ago. Another holiday maker, not as liberal as our intoxicated rabble of anything-goers, was disgusted to the extent he wanted to fight my brother, who, delighted in this proposition, span his todger round and round like a propeller blade, and promptly chased the man down the beach. Nobody wants to fight the naked man.

One Hythe goal became two after a neat volley. I spared Ryan Jones the indignity of picking the ball from his own net. I could see Kristian Hewitt out the corner of my eye about to blow his top. Running around the astroturf at Hamble School on Thursday evenings now means that shooting up the slope against a two-nil deficit with twenty minutes left is not an impossible task. With the finishing line in sight, Hythe capitulated in the autumn sun. Sam Schwodler, who else, who scored his tenth goal of the season. We dashed back to half way line. Both teams asked the referee how long was left. Not long. A Hythe defender, partially blinded by panic made the mistake of hitting the ball towards his own keeper. The ball ricocheted out to Esfandiari, who guided the ball toward goal. It rolled over the unguarded line in slow motion.

Sam Schwodler now had the bit between his teeth. He sauntered past the goalkeeper and fell over. The referee ran towards him and pulled out his yellow card, Sam's second of game, followed by his red and sent Sam off. The referee got a good old earful after that. How could be certain that Sam had dived? The final whistle went to sound another spirited Burridge come back. Hythe's linesman had our sympathy, insisting that it was definite a penalty. Hythe's centre half disagreed, promising me that Schwodler had taken a dive. Taking into consideration the referee's fee, and our bookings, it was a good £75 down the swanny, but a vital point gained.

Burridge lined up in a 4-4-2 formation:

GK:Jones, LB:K.Hewitt, CB:S.Hewitt, CB:Willsher, RB: Sanderson (Allen), RM:Reeves (Barnett), CM:Wilson, CM:Esfandiari, LM: Judd, CF:Schwodler, CF:Hill (Fielder)


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Burridge AFC 4-0 Sholing Sports

Saturday 16th October, The Shed, Burridge

Burridge played hosts to Sholing Sports, who much like ourselves, have introduced many new personel since their last meeting on a Monday evening in April.

It was a little after five on Saturday morning when Sam Schwodler decided to call it a night. He chose Marc Judd's bed. It was empty. He'd spent the previous evening drinking with Judd's brother, Kev, at the Dolphin; a Hungry Horse chain pub in Botley High-Street, whose every conceivable surface is currently being used to advertise their Christmas menu, featuring all the traditional dishes, as well as a 10 ounce rump steak, all seasoned with a liberal sprinkling of exclamation marks and terms and conditions.

Schwodler woke up at around seven. He went home, packed his size eleven Adidas football boots into his kit bag, along with a vague sense of hope, rather than expectation, that October might give Burridge's football pitch its blessing and allow his metal studs to sink into its clay based earth, sparing the soles of his feet yet more blisters. Paul Dyke named him in his starting line-up to play up-front with Ben Rowe. Schwodler went out and stretched like the rest of us, tested the strength of our goal nets with one or two pre-game strikes, then proceeded to score three of our four goals that afternoon. On the evidence presented on this bright Autumn Saturday afternoon, one would have to concede that Sam Schwodler's desire for sleep is secondary in his pursuit of goals.

One of the first things he does after the game, if he has scored, is momentarily lose himself in the deep concentration of thumbing out a text message to his older brother Bryn. Bryn was our top goalscorer last season. He now lives high on the hog, playing for Hedge-End Rangers in the Hampshire League, where at half-time he'll be served a cup of tea, a wholly useless liquid for re-hydrating after 45 minutes haring around a football pitch, but confirmation, if needed, that he is playing at a higher echelon, where the hosts consider the needs of visiting teams. Bryn's enjoying his football at Hedge-End, and by all accounts he's playing well, but he's not scoring as many as Sam. Few are.

Sam has begun this season in much the same way he finished the last, carrying out his duties in a hurry, but with a clear sense of purpose - like a man laden with his wife's shopping bags and desperate to get back to his car. His long sleeved Burridge jersey hangs untucked outside of his shorts and short wisps of fair hair dance in the breeze, demanding the ball in a grunt coming from somewhere deep within his gut. Ben Rowe scored the first. It was a trade-mark wallop with his right foot. Sadly, he was unable to complete the game after aggravating a hamstring injury. By half-time Schwodler had two goals to his name, as Sholing demonstrated a refusal to acknowledge that their defensive offside trap strategy was as about as effective as European immigration control. Our game was all the better for it.

His third goal came in the second-half, after collecting a side-footed pass down the slope from Sam Hewitt and toe poking the ball past the oncoming goalkeeper. The handful of spectators, with their push chairs and winter coats, dotting the touchline, did nothing to dampen Schwodler's celebrations. His pleasure at completing his hat-trick, perhaps emancipated by a lack of any real sleep, brought new life into the swagger of a bygone era of Charlie George and Stan Bowles.

Later, in changing rooms, I spoke to Sam. “Well done, Schwods,” I said, drying myself with a towel marketing the positive aspects of holidaying in Majorca. Threadbare and ridiculous, it is now better fit for the rubbish bin rather than drying the lonely crevices of my skinny body. “That's eight now isn't it?”
“Nine,” replied Sam proudly. He pulled a crumpled five pound note from his pocket and gave it to me. I didn't let my lack of clothes stand in the way of collecting his match subscription. There was a time when getting it was like getting blood out of stone. Not anymore. I spoke to his Dad, Pete, about Sam's hat-trick at the West End Brewery. He leant over the dark wooden banister slats with a pint in his hand, dressed in trendy knitwear, smelling nice and drawing guffaws from the rest of the lads sat behind me when he told us that he'd played full-back earlier that afternoon. Fifty-odd years of age and still playing for Wildern Old Boys in a six-nil win.

After a difficult start in the intermediate cups, we are beginning to justify the Sports Echo's faith in predicting that we would be there or there abouts in this season's Southampton Senior Division title race. Currently nestled behind Forest Town and Netley Central Sports in third place it is still early days, but the foundations are being laid for a solid season.


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Forest Town 2-3 Burridge AFC

Saturday 9th October, Gang Warily, Blackfield

"Forest Town suffered a shock defeat to Burridge AFC." Southampton Sports Echo, Saturday 16th October.

The concrete chimneys of Fawley Power Station climb high above the deciduous trees that separate it from Gang Warily. We stood far below the fumes disappearing into a deep blue sky, listening to Paul Dyke's pep talk. The referee blew hard on his whistle and waved both teams toward him. He was ready to get the game started.
“In a minute ref,” Dyke shouted back to him. Then he began speaking to us again. “Right fellas, we've been playing okay for eighty minutes, but I.....”
“Phweeeeeeeeppp...,” the referee blew Dyke's sentence dead with another whistle blast. He wanted to make one thing crystal clear; he was the star of the show. If you didn't like it, he put that plastic red whistle to his lips and blew.
“Go on then,” Dyke told us, looking at the face of his watch and shaking his head. There were five minutes until kick-off, but the chance to finish what he had to say to us was gone. Not a single hair sprouted from the referee's scalp. He got us to stand in a line facing him, then he gave us his spiel. “I won't accept any bad language, nor the wearing of any jewellery,” he told us, speaking with his hands as much as his mouth. Then he got both teams to shake hands. It was clear from the start that a beige streak of Graham Poll coursed deep through his veins.

Earlier, Marc Judd was laying back on the black leather dressing-room treatment table. He fished around his jean pockets for a cigarette. “I'm giving them up,” he said, starring into space, “once this packet's done.” His son wants him to stop smoking. His son's name is stitched into the blue tongue of his Adidas football boots, the boots that referees tend to show concern about during the pre-match stud check, worried that the length of the blue blades might have a sharp edge that could open up a leg like a tin of sardines. It was Judd's left boot that did the damage. He hit a diagonal pass right into the path of Ben Rowe. Forest Town's goalkeeper came rushing out of his penalty area for a handful of leather. All he got was fresh air. Rowe side footed the ball over his head. Forest Town's manager watched his goalkeeper bend down and pick up the ball from out of his own net. Somebody next to him asked if it had been too easy for Rowe to muscle his way through their defence. “Yep,” he nodded, bringing his hand down through his strawberry blond whiskers, “but, they're a big physical side.”

I've only heard Ben Rowe swear once. It was two summer's ago after he had twisted his knee in training. He stands over six feet tall, with three days stubble matching the length of his shaved head. We call him, Ox. On Sunday morning he goes to church, but Saturday afternoons are for scoring goals. Seldom has he lived up to his nickname so effectively when he bulldozed past two Forest Town defenders on his way to burying his second goal. When Forest Town pulled a goal back, one voice could be heard over everything else. I could hear its Southampton twang hang from every vowel. Marc Judd could hear it too. It belonged to Paul Dyke. Judd gritted his teeth and looked at me. He didn't want to face Dyke, who was cursing him for not getting back into the defensive position in time to stop Forest Town scoring. Then things got worse. Ryan Hurst has played well this season. Blond, fresh-faced and getting better with each game - these days, he can even beat Kev Willsher to the ball in the air, something I would need a step ladder and a large blotter loaded with chloroform to do. What a shame then, that the sheen was taken from Hurst's feat when his header finished in our net. It was now 2-2.

The collage of photographs that make up the mast head of this blog have been interpreted, by some, as a homo-erotic monument to Jason Wilson; with his hobo beard and jail-house tattoos, it his picture, to the left, with his arms outstretched in a red Burridge jersey, that features most prominently. In actual fact, the collage is the result of several hours spent hunched over my laptop, failing to grasp the finer points of Photoshop. When Wilson was hacked down by a mistimed and high Forest Town tackle it gave us the opportunity to get to know our opposition better, much better; at the kind of point blank range you wouldn't normally expect until a third or fourth date, as opposed to eighty or so minutes of football. Once the heavy-petting was over it was back to football. Hurst placed the ball, ready to hit the free-kick. Kev Willsher told him to aim for Essy. Twelve long years separate the two men, and as a result, Hurst respects Kev, taking on board most of what he has to say, but on this occasion he frowned back at Kev as if the old warhorse had taken one too many bludgeons to the head. Essy has many qualities - good dentistry and nice hair being some of them, but attacking the football with his head is not something he's renowned for. Hursty did it regardless. Essy closed his eyes and let his dark brown fringe do the rest. The ball reached Sam Schwodler who made it 3-2.

There wasn't long left. Three minutes to be precise. It may as well have been 3 days. We'd been chewing the referee's ear off all afternoon. As with everything else, he got the wrong end of the stick, thinking we wanted an encore, rather than his head. The resulting 7 minutes of injury-time passed slower than the time I had to do the night shift at a printing factory with an older, bigger, stronger man whose marriage did little to prevent word getting out that he had previous when it came to cottaging. Dan Allen is 17, which is not far off the same number of words he's said since joining the club in the summer. The closing minutes of this game were almost a rite of passage for him. I say almost because I sense his true rite of passage will come on his forthcoming eighteenth birthday. As a 32 year old, I am very much looking forward to the party. Sam Schwodler and myself were faffing over who of the opposition to mark. Dan put us straight, pointing his index finger and giving us, what was by Sam Schwodler's standards, nothing more than asking strangers for directions, but by his, there were no two ways about it, it was a bollocking. The final whistle was a relief. It was the day after Kev Willsher's birthday, so we went out into the bars of Southampton and drank what we could. Which turned out to be, with the help of a golf ball, enough to make everyone pretty far gone.

The Burridge line up:

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


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Southampton BTC 2-2 Burridge AFC

Saturday 3rd October, BTC Sports Ground, Stoneham Lane, Southampton

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way - it does not exist.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher, writer, and as far as I'm aware not at all interested in football.

No dogs; that's what the sign-post at BTC sports ground said. Fallen brown leaves drowned in deep puddles on the road outside the steel blue gated entrance of a football club who are very particular about their three pitches. They forbid anyone to use them prior to kick-off, not even those who are due to be playing in those matches; so, we did our pre-match warm-up down by the ground's disused tennis courts. The rules that had kept the dogs away had done nothing to deter the foxes. What looked like a couple of sun baked liquorice toffees were what Kristian Hewitt identified to us as fox turds. With twelve years behind him spent keeping greens at East Horton Golf Club, time has taught Hewitt the difference between the faeces of a badger and a fox, or anything else with four, or even two legs.

BTC were dressed in their familiar royal blue and white striped shirts. One of their midfield players, perhaps wanting to gauge their first-half performance, asked me how we had got on last week. His blond fringe owed much to current teen heart throb Justin Bieber. It wasn't enough for me to tell him we had lost to Redbridge. I felt the need to put that defeat into context by adding that Redbridge play in the Southampton Premier League. Context was on Bieber's mind, too. The published results on the back pages of last week's Sports Echo had printed the score: Netley Central 8-2 BTC. They had neglected to make any mention of BTC playing the duration of the game with only eight men. I didn't ask why three players hadn't shown up. Maybe Bieber thought I might have given his boys a round of applause for their bravery. Whilst their shortfall went some way to explaining the score, I remained unmoved. Bravery is one thing, but stupidity is quite another. Our first-half performance against BTC amounted to what Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, described as the worst he'd seen us play this season. Disappointment could be heard in his voice, which was slightly hoarse, from forty-five minutes spent shouting out instructions to us.

Joe Hill's contribution to the second half came in three parts. Firstly, he pulled rank on Marc Judd's left foot. The ball had sat up nicely for Judd to test BTC goalkeeper's reflexes. At the moment Judd was about to strike, Hill got in his way. Judd was furious. Whether or not Hill meant to shoot for goal from the right-wing shortly afterwards, did not detract from our frustration at the ball not ending up in the net. Instead, BTC watched it bounce away having struck the underside of their cross-bar. Hill's reward came when he reached the ball a fraction before his opponent, taking the full impact of an opponent's swinging boot. By my estimations it was a size ten, with the clear objective of hoofing the ball sixty yards up field. It made do with Hill, who writhed on the floor with his face buried flat in the grass. Say what you like about Hill, and people normally do, but things are never straightforward when he's around. He was unable to continue.

When the ball dropped to Daniel Esfandiari from a corner kick it seemed certain that he was about to score with a controlled, powerful and well struck strike. BTC's goalkeeper was on the floor having fallen over his own feet, and knew nothing about how he'd saved the ball with his back. He was a large man who looked to be 240 pounds heavy, who by wearing a yellow flecked pink goalkeeping jersey was like some dirty great blancmange standing between us and a certain goal. BTC's second goal brought a look of resignation on our faces. With five minutes left to play I would have forgiven anyone in Burridge colours wishing the referee had put us out of our misery and blown his final whistle early.

BTC had opportunities at both ends of the pitch to finish the game off, each of which they squandered with the careless abandon of a newly discovered complacency. BTC's goalkeeper dropped Sam Schwodler's header. Marc Judd got to the loose ball first, knocking it over the goal line. BTC's linesman waved his flag out of desperation on the far side of the pitch. The referee had a long conversation with him, but ignored his subjective advice. The goal stood. With a minute left to play and the ball at his feet, BTC's left-back had a world of possibilities in front of him, but with freedom comes responsibility and more tellingly, consequence. Sam Hewitt was breathing down his neck. His poked and hesitant back pass inadvertently became the perfectly weighted through ball that had eluded us for the entirety of the game.

Sam Hewitt now had a clear run through on goal. His legs felt dead, but he had time; time to think back to the last goal he had scored for Burridge. It was over a year ago. A brief silence was perfectly observed as the ball left Hewitt's foot. Then the ball was in BTC's net. Paul Dyke ran onto the pitch, shouting and pumping his fists. BTC's manager let out a falsetto howl. His plastic bottle of mineral water bore the brunt of his anger, sending it crashing against the painted white brick wall of his dug-out. BTC's left-back stood with his hands on his hips and a blank expression on his face. Whilst there may not be a definitive right way to do things, there is always a wrong way.

Burridge lined up in a 4-4-2 formation.

GK: Jones, RB: S.Hewitt, CB: Willsher, CB: Hurst, LB: K.Hewitt, RM: Sanderson (Allen), CM: Esfandiari, CM: Wilson, LM: Judd, CF:Hill (Reeves), CF:Schwodler


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...