Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Letting yourself go

Keeping fit often feels like a losing battle, especially during Christmas time.

Each step up Lordswood Road's forty-five degree incline made me pay dearly in oxygen for every slice of dripping on toast I'd eaten, along with everything else, during the previous three days. It was a grey Monday afternoon and I had been out running up Hill Lane towards the Sports Centre in Southampton. Other than three kids having a kick about on the grass, and a thin scattering of obligatory dog walkers, it was pretty much empty. When I finally wheezed my way up to Lordswood Road's summit I was forced into realising that I wasn't as fit as I liked to believe.

It seemed like only yesterday when I was winning the Burridge cross country runs; but when I cast my mind back, yesterday was actually a balmy May evening in 2005, when I was forced into stopping in on the Humble Plumb, in Bitterne, and drink heartily from the cold water tap of the gents, during a two hour run, in preparation for the Siberian Marathon. Back then I could beat Kev Willsher, nowadays I'm getting fed up of seeing his back gradually disappear into the horizon.

Theoretically, there will be ample time for all players to keep (or get) fit, and avoid any nasty shock to the nervous system when we play again. No doubt Kev has been pounding the roads, increasing his lung capacity further, which considering his fondness for the smokes is a real two fingers up to the National Health Service. One player to benefit from the weather enforced break is Kristian Hewitt, who's not been able to play since October, after pulling up in training with a dodgy hamstring. As luck would have it, Burridge haven't played since November 6, meaning that Hewitt has only missed a single game.

Hewitt returned to training on the Thursday before Christmas, leaving the training field pretty content with his night's work. Stopping alongside Ryan Hurst, who was playing against Hewitt in a six-a-side game of young versus old, Hewitt's older team had run out 10-6 winners, and Hewitt had smashed in most of the goals. He acknowledged Hurst with a quick glance and said, “Don't worry, on days like this I'm unplayable.” He may have been teasing, but there was truth to what he said.

Thirty-nine minutes and seven seconds of discomfort was brought to an end when I ran within two hundred yards of my flat. I saw a pair of white canvass baseball boots, their laces tied together, that had been slung over a telephone wire that passed over the street, which if what I've heard is led to be believed, is a sign that either drug dealers are in town with a fresh supply, or they're marking their territory. As I regained my breath and walked home, I wondered if they had anything suitable for me. The one that's popular with cyclists, Ephedrine, sprang to mind.

Click here to see how each Burridge player did in the 2010 review.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Snow way to behave

Saturday's game at Hatches Farm with Wellow was postponed due to a frozen pitch, but that didn't stop Burridge enjoying an evening out in Bournemouth.

It is 7pm on Saturday evening and Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, is going through his pockets whilst sat in the driving seat of a hired mini bus. He has volunteered to drive us, the Burridge squad, down the M27 to Bournemouth for our Christmas night out, which he has organised. We are parked in a lay-by outside the West End Brewery, a pub in the eastern suburbs of Southampton, that we have just left, having spent the previous two hours in, stopping from time to time to point at the TV screen showing Ipswich Town play in a snow blizzard against Leicester City, whose manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, with the hood of his jacket pulled up over his head, looked unlikely to find the strength to make it through the night. We talk loudly between ourselves whilst jostling for a seat, and helping ourselves to cans of Fosters from the front seat, waiting for Dykey to set off; there's just one problem, he cannot find the keys to the ignition.

Wearing a green short sleeved shirt, despite the sub zero conditions, Dyke quickly singles out Ben Rowe, who is sat at the back of the bus, as his prime suspect. Rowe strongly denies all knowledge of the whereabouts of the keys, insisting that the bus had been left unlocked. The squabble that follows between us all serves as a cast iron certainty that the 36 mile journey from West End to Bournemouth is going to be an arduous one, if indeed it gets going at all. Missing from the trip is Dan Allen, who is too young to drink, Kristian Hewitt, who is bed ridden with flu, and Paul Andrews, whose frank assessment was he really didn't fancy getting a mini-bus home at three in the morning with us lot. We are one passenger light in Dan Esfandiari, who after much deliberation finally decided on having a dump in the pub before setting off. On his way out he noticed the keys to the mini bus laying alongside the empty pint glasses on the dark pine table that we had stood surrounded around only minutes earlier. He handed them to Dyke through the driver side window. Finally we could get on with a night of reckless excess.

Bournemouth was chosen as our destination to minimise the chances of any Irish good-byes, whereupon those too drunk to continue their evening disappear into the night without so much as any warning or a reply on their mobile. We were bound together for the duration of the evening, for good or ill. Dyke remained adamant that if a single snow flake fell he would be obliged for reasons of safety to drive back. It didn't snow, but the conditions on the roads were still dicey after the dusting of snow we'd had earlier in the day, and at times our vehicle's tyres struggled to maintain any grip onto the road. Driving in these conditions can be a cause for concern for the driver, but with a bus full of drunk passengers on board you don't worry about having an accident, you fantasise about it.

The first place we visited was called the Brass House, a large bar thats lack of any other people inside it minimised the chances of getting into any bother. Kev Willsher fought manfully for the prize of most inappropriate footwear, in a pair of thin white canvass plimsolls, but narrowly lost out to Jason Wilson's black espadrilles, that naturally, he wore without any sock. Whilst they looked sharp with his non pleated cream chinos, they offered little to no grip on the pavements, that due to the weather conditions were closer in resemblance to an ice rink. The rest of the evening rapidly descended into the usual alcohol induced race to oblivion, so regrettably I am unable to divulge any further information. Hopefully, there will be some football to report on in the New Year. Happy Christmas.

Click here to see how each Burridge player faired in 2010.


Friday, 17 December 2010

Burridge in 2010

A change of manager, an injection of youth, and what some players are calling a fairly draconian penalty fine system have re-galvanised Burridge this year. So as 2010 draws to a close 90 Minutes of Burridge takes a look at what exactly each one of the current squad brings to the table.NB Saturday's game with Wellow at Hatches Farm has been postponed because of the snow, which means that our 1-1 draw at home to Forest Town on November 6th was effectively our last game of 2010. Click here to remind yourself of what a match report looked like.

Dan Allen
17 year old midfielder or full-back in the mould of Bayern Munich's Philipp Lahm.

A quiet young man who maintains a strong social media presence on Facebook, with status updates you can rely upon for weighty insight into his inner most thoughts, like just how much Dan is looking forward to football training. It is here online, via the comments section, where he has developed a cutting put-down technique. We look forward to the day he's able to transfer these social skills into real life. Dan joined the club in the summer, and has demonstrated a surprising ability to drop his shoulder in order to beat his man. Rumoured to get a bit lively after one or two WKDs, the end of season night out will coincide nicely with his eighteenth birthday.

Paul Andrews
31 year old centre forward similar in grace to  former German international, Carsten Janker.

Employed with his family plumbing business, Paul has had a good year off the field after recently announcing he is soon to marry his beautiful fiancée, Kate. On the field he has not been so fortunate, with regular ailments to his back and knees limiting the wily old poacher to a handful of appearances. Did manage to make an impact in those games, scoring the winning goal against Warsash Wasps in April, as well as stepping into the breach when we needed a replacement goalkeeper at Hiltingbury. Still remains a dangerous customer in front of goal on the training pitch though, especially if you're a row of birch saplings growing the wrong side of the twenty-odd foot high perimeter fence at Hamble School. It's a little known fact that Andrews scored one of the greatest Burridge goals of all time, when he scored direct from the half-way line at Priory Park against Bishops Waltham during the Meon Valley Sunday League years, back in the days he played as right-back before reinventing himself as centre forward. 2011 will be his fourteenth year with the club.

Paul Dyke
31 year old manager with the hands on style used by the likes of a young non racist Big Ron Atkinson.

Teetotal accountant are not the juxtaposition of words that spring to mind when describing anything remotely exciting. However, Dyke is the exception to the rule. He hung up his size nine boots to concentrate on managing Burridge, a position he volunteered for after Pete Lyons' retirement at the end of last season. With a Facebook message thread between the players proving wholly inadequate in reaching any kind of decision to the club's future, Dyke's commitment in taking the vacant Burridge manager position on his return from holiday in New York was the difference between the side continuing or folding. He quickly arranged a meeting between a handful of core players on a Thursday evening in May at the Shamblehurst Barn, a Hungry Horse chain situated deep within the ever expanding housing estate of Grange Park. It was there over pints of Fosters and bags of Walkers crisps that Dyke successfully convinced those players that Burridge was a club worth staying at with him at the helm. He has since brought in a number of new younger players, and put us through our paces during a punishing, but rewarding pre-season training regime. He has been known to break his abstinence to get on it during stag weekends.

Daniel Esfandiari
 21 year old midfielder who invokes memories of former Portuguese international Rui Costa.

With his neatly combed head of luscious dark hair and well turned out appearance, Essy, as he is known, seems a little too flamboyant to work as a mechanic. Tall, athletic, toned, and completely ill equipped to deal with any physical aspect of game, Essy is living proof that no book should ever be judged by its cover. He prefers to operate in the skillful side of the game, and has a genuine ability to send Beckham-esque deliveries into opponent's penalty areas from either flank, which is a weapon that as a team we really ought to capitalise, (not to mention utilise) far more often.

Lee Fielder
31 year old striker who plays of the defender's shoulder like Italian, Filippo Inzaghi. 

The fact he excels in both the long and short distance running exercises in training only serves to fuel the ridicule from his fellow players for his inability to play for the full ninety minutes of Burridge matches. A series of niggling injuries accumulated over the years being the root cause of this. Full of questions, usually for Ben Rowe, who can often be heard at the West End Brewery explaining his Christian beliefs to Fielder, who for those that don't know him well enough might be led to believe from the series of low cut tight T-shirts he wears, that his own beliefs don't stretch to anything other than his reflection in the mirror. A good finisher.

Kristian Hewitt
31 year old all rounder who strikes the ball like Johnny Metgod but dribbles like Michael Laudrup.

Has scored a fine collection of truly wonderful goals in his thirteen years playing with Burridge. They tend to be hit with power from long range. I remember his first special goal for the club. It came from thirty-five yards in Waterlooville on a sunny Sunday afternoon against Lynx. I was the first to congratulate, and failed miserably to life him from the ground. The South Hants Weekly were moved to call it the goal of the game in their 175 word report. That newspaper is no longer in print.

Sam Hewitt
21 year old like Chris Waddle in his Marseille hay-day if he was a full-back rather than a winger.

It took Sam, the youngest of the four Hewitt brothers, a little time to discover his best position. He was plying his trade as a budding centre forward when 2008 became 2009, during which time he was some distance from reaching his goal target of twenty, that he had set in the presence of his brother, Jamie, during the previous summer. In actual fact, Sam didn't open his account for the season until February at Hatches Farm against Wellow, with a goal that put him level in the scoring charts with Mark Reeves. It was his ability to read the game and weave past opponents that has allowed him to slot very nicely into the right-back position. Has also put in strong performance across the midfield. At 21 Sam finds himself with four years of Burridge playing experience in his locker.

Joe Hill
28 year old striker whose performances remind of Jon Dahl Tomasson, when he was at Newcastle.

A pest, both on and off the field, this painter and decorator by day, but striker come Saturday afternoon, is a friendly sort who is packed to the rafters with an abundance of confidence. To the causal passer by watching us play this level of confidence might seem a bit misplaced. Deceptively quick over ten yards, Joe would have had more goals to his name had it not been for a combination of the woodwork and some fairly wayward finishing. Another of Dyke's summer acquisitions, Joe has been unfortunate enough to see his strikes rebound of the underside of the bar and post three times already this season. 

Ryan Hurst
20 year old centre-half in the mould of Barcelona's Gerard Pique.

 Alongside Kev Willsher, Hursty makes up the fulcrum of central defence. Opened his scoring account with a fine headed equaliser at Gang Warily against Forest Town; a shame then that it was scored in his own net. Thought long and hard about what he would get done for his first tattoo, then after all that he decided to get LUFC, the initials of Leeds United Football Club, inked on his arm. He continues to acquit himself well in his debut season with the club.

Ryan Jones
20 year old goalkeeper whose performances very reminiscent of a young Fabian Barthez

His 2009/10 season came to a premature end on an overcast Wednesday evening in May, at Green Park, Millbrook. Those not there that night need only to remind themselves of the scene in the Empire Strikes Back, when Chewbacca gathers together the broken pieces of C-3P0 on Bespin Cloud city, to get an idea of what happened to Jonesy during that game with Redbridge. He originally decided to pack in the goalkeeping game, but soon turned his back on the advice of the medial profession, coming back to pre-season stacked, after regular visits to the gym. Although his recent tendency to go totally bat shit when team mates don't track back to help defend has caused some to wonder if he washing down those gym visits with a handful of the 'roids. Great reflexes, fond of karaoke, and very popular with the the cougars. 

Marc Judd
30 year old midfielder with the deft touch and mean streak of Hristo Stoichkov.

Burridge's little ray of sunshine is seldom seen without a lit cigarette hanging from his lips. His tremendous left foot was once responsible for a pitch invasion. This after he had scored a free-kick at Whiteley against Durley to tie the score at 4-4 that completed an astonishing Burridge come back in a game that they were losing four goals to nil at the back end of last season. (NB Five drunk men running onto the field of play constitutes a pitch invasion in the Southampton League.) Often on the receiving end of Kristian Hewitt's taunts. Drives a giant yellow DHL van, but unless I hear differently this is not a motivating factor for Hewitt.

Mark Reeves
30-something midfield war horse who reminds me of Steve McMahon.

With his black Adidas Copa Mundial size nines, Reevesy is a tough tackling member of the old school. On a purely personal level I still feel violated from being nutmegged by Reeves down on the left flank in a training game amongst ourselves and Wildern Old Boys during pre-season. Just to prove that this wasn't a fluke Reeves nutmegged again shortly after coming on as a substitute against league leaders Netley, a feat that surprised several teenage spectators, if their audible gasps where anything to go by, as well as Reeves himself. 

Ben Rowe
27 year old striker like Adriano without the unsavoury nightclub incidents.

The former estate agent from Kent hasn't looked back since making his debut at Allotment Road against Priory Rovers in early 2006. The almost five years since have passed by in the blink of an eye. A big, powerful centre forward, once he's built up a head of steam Rowe is very difficult to stop without the use of a tranquillizer dart. Very often forgets to bring his own toiletries with him, leaving him to rely on the kindness of strangers in the post match shower.

Sam Schwodler
28 year old striker plays in the spirit of Stan Bowles and Rodney Marsh.

Facebook status often reads as 'scores goals,' whereby when I log into Facebook I'm told by none other than Sam Schwodler himself, that Sam Schwodler scores goals. This posting tends to draw a fair bit of traffic to his Facebook page, with friends replying with comments like, 'at an appalling ratio of shots.' Bagged his best ever total of goals last season with 15, has 10 already this season. Found a new way to be sent off after getting a red card for simulation, which in old money means diving.

Kev Willsher 
32 year old centre back and club captain in shape of 1990 world cup winner Jurgen Kohler.

Remains quite insistent on not eating beef, but never been known to shirk any kind of challenge on the field of play. His silver Ford Focus still patiently awaits a replacement passenger side wing mirror. Kev likes Nurofen almost as much as likes strong lager, and  I've grown to get sick of the sight of his back as he has continued to beat me comfortably in every single one of 2010's Burridge training runs. This year Kev has bled more than a gangtsa rapper after a drive by; found himself in the wars, with one memorable concussion down at Green Park.

Jason Wilson
30 year old midfielder who plays just like Rino Gattuso.

Water carrier, ankle biter, and midfield anchor man; rumour has it that Jason owes his cardiovascular stamina to running his daily post round with his heavy Royal Mail pack on his back. Daniel Esfandiari caught sight of Wilson on the job last week delivering around Thornhill in his shorts and T-shirt. Unfortunately he wasn't able to able to confirm the rumour, because according to Essy, Wilson had emptied the contents of his sack onto the pavement, and was busy bent over trying to clear up his mess. A problem many gentleman can identify with I'm sure.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Road runner

Whereby training at Hamble School was cancelled for the second consecutive week because of the frozen conditions.....

My penis is the size of a walnut after the cold shower I've just had. It's 8:30pm and probably too late to make another telephone call to Solitaire, the property management company in charge of the maintenance of my block flats, who have already exposed their indifference to geothermal power's failure to run hot water to my shower during any spell of cold weather. Rather than fix the problem Solitaire far prefer writing letters to me about how to dispose refuse correctly, that always begin – Dear Resident.

Hamble school telephoned me out of courtesy this afternoon to say they were cancelling this evening's training session for the second week running because their Astro-Turf pitch was frozen. The caller, who did not give me the benefit of their surname, was quick to duck all responsibility when I enquired about a credit note for the previous two cancelled sessions we have already paid for. He instead referred me to Linda Heaver, whom I have never met, but have reason to believe is reliable, if her regular posted correspondence is anything to go by. Invoices have been sent to me in good time, as have reminders of our contract, stating that the wearing of any kind of studded footwear on the Astro-Turf would result in immediate cancellation of our booking. Whether she studies CCTV footage or relies upon a team of moles to spy upon us from the bushes in order to discover anyone wearing studded footwear remains a mystery. She had signed off by wishing us a Merry Christmas and successful New Year. Linda was now on leave.

Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, text us with alternative training arrangements. We would meet at Botley Recreation Ground at 7:30pm for what he described as a good old fashioned road run. This is a tough sell. Without a football in sight I was intrigued to see who would turn up. Not that this session was optional. We've nicked a number of last minute goals this season – Sam Schwodler's winner at Gang Warily against Forest Town, Sam Hewitt's equaliser at BTC, and Dan Esfandiari's late goal at home to Hythe Aztecs; none of which came as any coincidence to Paul Dyke, who takes pride in our fitness, which has been gained through five months of regular sessions. He wasn't going to allow a spot of bad weather whittle away the team's fitness to nothing.

Dyke knows that fitness is a personal responsibility, and therein often lies the root of the problem. I'm lucky enough to have access to a communal gym, situated in the bowels of my flat complex, but I seldom use it. The experience of running on a treadmill, which is effectively running on the spot in front of a mirror, is something I find extremely unrewarding. One of my neighbours knocked on my door for the code to get into this gym, which is strange as he normally goes to reasonable lengths to avoid all conversation with me. With his usual gym closed due to bad weather he was forced to get his fitness fix queuing up with all the other residents. I prefer to run outdoors, you can go whenever you want and there's no membership fee. Although until the last few days running outside would have been dangerous without a pair of tennis rackets attached to the soles of my shoes.

I went to collect the training gear from Kev Willsher on Monday night. It had been in his car for well over a week. Seeing the yellow training bibs spilling out the football bag in the back seat of his Ford Focus led me to assume that either he'd been cycling to work or he has no sense of smell. Kev was at work. He told me to pop across the street to his flat and get his car keys from his bedroom. They were on a chest of drawers alongside a post-it note, two lighters and a packet of cigarettes. It's no secret that Kev is fond of an occasional puff, much like Zinedine Zidane and Johan Cruyff, but what with it only being a ten pack of Benson and Hedges, and that he hadn't taken them to work confirmed that smoking was merely a recreational pursuit. Not that smoking effected Kev, he still left me for dead in tonight's running.

The ten to arrive at Botley were, Dan Allen, Paul Dyke, Lee Fielder, Kristian Hewitt, Marc Judd, Mark Reeves, Ben Rowe, Kev Willsher, Jason Wilson and myself. A pretty reasonable showing. Marc Judd rubbished me for wearing tracksters beneath my shorts, which to the uninitiated are skin tight Lycra running trousers. There's safety in numbers, so I was pleased to see both Jason Wilson and Mark Reeves wear similar items.We ran a brisk pace of two laps around the village, which came to just under three miles, the second lap of which felt considerably tougher on my calf muscles than the first when trying to keep up with the chasing pack of Jason Wilson, Kev Willsher, Lee Fielder and Dan Allen. This was followed by a flat out kilometre dash to Texaco, on the Maypole round-about and back again. Jason Wilson led from the front in both races. On completion, Dyke fed us all with Haribo sweets, (apparently they release sugar that's good for recovery. They taste nice too). We're due to host Durley on Saturday, but with frosty conditions forecast it's unclear if play will go ahead.

Verdict: 17/20

Scores: 1-9 time to take a long hard look at yourself, 10-11 get Paul Andrews back in the squad, pronto, 12 ok, 13 respectable, 14 worked hard, 15 good - Dejan Savicevic, 16 touch of class - Socrates, 17 capable of greatness - Michael Laudrup, 18 wonderful - Marco Van Basten , memorable - Johan Cruyff, 20 as good as it gets

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Anyone have any toilet paper?

Whereupon I review the facilities on offer at a football ground.

This week: Green Park, Millbrook

No football playing experience in Southampton is truly complete without a visit to Millbrook's Green Park. As well as playing for Burridge on Saturday afternoons, I also ply my trade turning out on Sunday Mornings for CFC Hillyfields, who just so happened to be playing at Green Park a few days ago, which encouraged me to review the council owned ground with some degree of objectivity it never seems to get from so many other local footballers who choose to vilify the place as nothing but pikey. Situated off the A33 flyover in Millbrook, the ground has four pitches that are home to all number of teams, who have no real ground of their own to speak of. So, let's take a look at what Green Park has to offer:


First thing I like to do when I get to Green Park is have a crap. Like the vast majority of Sunday morning players, I had got out of bed only minutes before driving to the ground. The previous night's consumption of wood pigeon (starter), steak (cooked rare), and goats cheese (dessert), washed down with Guinness and red wine, made this particular morning's visit absolutely imperative.

Plaudits must be given to the council for including a disabled toilet in their changing room designs, which is one of two toilet cubicles on offer. It certainly gets well used if the pebble dashed stains all over the basins are anything to go by. The locks work too, which is by no means a given at all local football grounds.

Toilet paper is scarce in these parts, so you would do well to bring your own. I hadn't. In the past I've been fortunate. A good friend of mine, Andrew Jopling, once sacrificed one of his Donnay socks, the left if memory serves, that he passed underneath the partition wall in order for me to carry out my necessary duties. This kind of generosity is unusual and should not be relied upon. Socks were unnecessary on this occasion.

Changing rooms

The high barred windows give off a vibe of mock 70's prison chic, which is set off against the delicious irony of the premise's relaxed security. It's worth reminding yourself that it's best to take any valuables with you if you wish to ever set eyes on them again.

The five by five foot shower tray gives you ample opportunity to mix with players from all eight teams. Wash the mud off to your heart's content whilst listening to local raconteurs discussing various criminal activity from petty violence to full blown GBH. It's strongly recommended you don't leave your shower gel bottles on the floor if you're at all squeamish about having a stranger's penis flapping around in your face.

Eating out and entertainment

If you have been drinking you may feel peckish, in which case you're in luck, as there are a two very well known restaurants within easy walking distance, both of which offer the local delicacy; they are McDonald's, (feeling a bit ropey you can always get a sausage and egg mcmuffin down you before kick-off), and for the more adventurous amongst you - KFC. If you're very lucky you may even catch a glimpse of one of the many locals. Sunday's game was momentarily halted in the second half as two masked men charged across the pitch on motorbikes, pulling wheelies. Sadly, no one was killed.


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...