Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas time

Another December, another weather enforced break to Burridge's season.....

It was Friday evening, shortly before six, when Paul Dyke texted the news. Saturday's game with Cadnam was off – the pitch was waterlogged; so, with Christmas upon us there would be no game now for at least three weeks. I spent the evening at Kristian Hewitt's, drinking his Budweiser and eating his snacks. We did not discuss his decision to stop playing at the end of the season, at the age of 32; that ship had sailed. Perhaps the football boots he bought in the summer - the ones with both metal and rubber studs, to suit all weathers - was the pragmatic choice of a man who knew there wasn't much gas left in the tank.

In recent weeks, the economy has caused several players to spend their Saturday afternoons doing things other than play football. Daniel Esfandiari had been unemployed since coming home from a spell working as a holiday rep in Tenerife. After three months out of work he got a job in a call centre. We were waiting to run laps of the artificial pitch, when Daniel arrived for training a few weeks ago. Avoiding eye contact with manager, Paul Dyke, did nothing to ease the tension: “Oh, I'll pay your five pound, or whatever it is an hour.” Paul would have been happier for Daniel if the job didn't require him to work some Saturdays, as Daniel is everything Paul wasn't as a player: skillful, adroit, although completely useless at heading the football. Along with Sam Hewitt, Ryan Jones, Ryan Hurst, Chris Pye and Dan Allen, Daniel represents the younger group of players at the club, who Dyke hopes can help him realise his goals as a football manager. Not that those goals have been quantified, or shared, but they will not include remaining in mid-table in the senior division of the Southampton Football League.

There is now time to reflect on a season that has yet to capture the imagination of 2010 - by this time last year we had inflicted a rare defeat away to Forest Town, who are now challenging for the Southampton Premier League. Highlights of the season so far include captain, Martyn Barnett, who tripped over his dog and fell down the stairs, breaking his collar bone. He is now back to full fitness. Ryan Jones has continued to impress in goal. I remember when I stepped in as manager, while Paul Dyke was on an all inclusive holiday in Egypt, stood next to White Horse FC's manager, who after seeing Jones' reflexes stubbed out his cigarette and asked me where I'd got him from. Perhaps the moment of the season so far was also from Ryan, who saved the penalty and the resulting rebound during the 4-4 draw with Cadnam. Christmas parties tend to take over at this time of year. Last week there were six players at training; this week's session will be a break from circuit training. Instead, there will be a match between the older and younger players.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Dyke unable to stem tide

Saturday 10 December: Bush Hill 5-1 Burridge AFC 

Burridge took on the reigning Southampton League champions in the cup quarter finals with something of a personnel crisis on their hands.

We sat squeezed together in one of Green Park's dressing rooms. Paul Dyke pulled a shin pad up over his ankle strapping and toward his bandaged knee. Ben Rowe watched him from the other side of the room and said: “What? You're playing today?” Paul gave him a long look, then nodded. “I'm naming myself as second substitute.” We were missing players to injuries and work commitments: Paul Andrews, Kristian Hewitt, Marc Judd, and Dave Williams were unfit to play, Ryan Hurst was painting someones lounge for cash in hand, and Ryan Jones was plumbing somewhere. It's unusual if Paul Dyke doesn't get to the gym three times a week to work on his guns, but he hadn't played competitively for Burridge since focusing on being the first team manager a couple of years ago.

Ryan Jones was a big miss. He's our goalkeeper and goalkeepers are difficult to replace at the best of times. Dyke has lots of contacts, but in these circumstances, when it is cold and wet, that is not enough. Being on friendly terms with Peter Shilton, or having Facebook correspondence with Southampton-based England futsal goalie, Andrew Reading, is useless without the charm to sell a wet afternoon in Millbrook to whoever would provide us with a goalkeeping solution. The solution turned out to be a friend of Dyke's called Steve. It was spelt out in an approachable looking font on the mauve Halifax name tag he wore on the lapel of his suit jacket. He looked the part in Jones' green goalkeeping jersey, and he seemed confident enough, bouncing a ball up and down in the changing rooms. Of course, there was no sense in telling him that the team getting changed next door, Bush Hill - Southampton league champions for the last two years running, had put ten goals past us twelve weeks ago. He'd come to understand soon enough.

Dyke gave us a last minute pep talk: “Look. If I didn't think we could do something in this game I'd have just called it off.” Thankfully, nobody asked why he hadn't done just that. The team performance showed that the players agreed with him. Although the final score would have been more representative of the game had Chris Pye taken his three chances in front of goal. Paul Dyke had come on as substitute earlier than I imagine he would have expected. He was a straight swap for Kev Willsher: an accountant on for a graphic designer. Kev had felt his hamstring go. He tried running it off. If anything it made it worse. Like Kev, Paul takes defending seriously. He still enjoys an ending an opposition attack with a hacked clearance. We all had to make plenty of those. Sam Schwodler scored our consolation goal, but despite our efforts, which were whole hearted, we were well beaten. Dyke recognised our efforts, and did not charge us our usual five pounds match subscription fee. Rarely has a Burridge team given so much for so little.

GK: Steve, LB: Dan Allen, CB: Kev Willsher (Paul Dyke), CB: Sam Hewitt, RB: Mark Reeves, LM: Sam Schwodler, CM: Mark Sanderson, CM: Martyn Barnett, CM: Ali Ingram, (Lee Fielder) RM: Chris Pye, CF: Ben Rowe

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Fifteen years of Burridge

Saturday 26 November 2011

Michelmersh & Timsbury 0-5 Burridge AFC

Back on Tuesday 30 October 2007, the day he scored a memorable goal against Netley, this blog described one Burridge player as overweight with a dodgy back. Four years on and little has changed.

Timsbury, one of the few places left in the Southampton League that still supply the visiting team with a half-time cup of tea. One of our players is sat down on the damp grass with his black socks rolled down to his ankles, taking shallow sips from his white porcelain tea cup; “It's no good,” he says, shaking his head, while rummaging through the medial bag. His name is Kristian Hewitt. After fifteen years spent playing for Burridge he has decided to hang up his boots at the end of the season.

We were winning 2-0 with goals from both strikers: Lee Fielder and Sam Schwodler, who received a cross from the right on his chest, then turned and smashed in; but manager, Paul Dyke, wasn't satisfied yet; “There's still another 45 minutes to go,” he reminded us, keen to ward off any complacency and achieve his objective of a clean sheet, something we hadn't achieved since beating Hedge End Reserves 1-0 in pre-season on 21 August. (Although our last clean sheet in a competitive fixture came in April in a 5-0 home win over Wellow). Dyke called for further effort and diligence. He also wanted to bring on Ben Rowe, who was our one and only substitute.

Kristian raises his arm, “I'm struggling,” he says. Dyke acknowledges it. Kristian is substituted around fifteen into the second-half. He walks towards the touchline, but with Rowe now on the field of play a replacement linesman will be needed. Dyke asks if Kristian won't mind going over to the far side of the pitch to do it. He'd rather not: “I can barely walk,” he protests; but he takes the linesman's flag. On Sunday he will struggle to play with his young son. Not because he is hungover, not because he doesn't want to, but because walking is a struggle. On Monday he'll still be stiff in the shins, knees and back. This can make things tricky at work: wedged into a John Dow shortly after 6am, cutting greens at East Horton Golf Course; or worse still - chopping wood. Tuesday will be a little better and by Wednesday he'll be getting back to normal, but then on Thursday it's circuit training on the artificial pitch in Hamble. His condition made the decision to stop playing easier, although going by what he has said he may decide to do so even sooner than first anticipated. He might not put his boots back on after Christmas.

Over the last fifteen years he has scored a number of goals that stick in the memory. The collection began on a Sunday afternoon in September, 1997 – down in Horndean, away to Lynx Sports. We were  hampered by the late arrival of several players who thought Horndean, Waterlooville could be reached up the M3 towards Winchester. Meanwhile, over ten miles south-east, Lynx's goalkeeper had stepped off of his goal line. Kristian tried his luck successfully from an unreasonable distance. I remember being one of the first to congratulate him on the goal, failing to try and lift him off of the ground. Several other goals spring to mind: a far post volley against a poor Bishops Waltham side at Wicker Rec, Porchester; a 2-2 draw with Warsash Wasps, on a bone dry pitch at Osborne Road - scoring from long range via the underside of the crossbar. Then two against Netley. One at home, evading four players on his way to a tap in; but perhaps the best of them all came during the opening game of the 2007/08 season at Netley, which took place on a week night. Kristian opened the scoring in a 4-1 win with a thirty-yard blockbuster. It even drew a round of applause from the handful of old men at Station Road, who are normallypreoccupied in criticising Netley's players.

Kristian was close to getting in on the act today, cutting in from the right - but his low shot was held by the goalkeeper. He later admitted that his appetite for a goal was what kept him going. Things did go according to plan in the second-half though, with three further goals. Lee Fielder and Sam Schwodler got their second goals, with Daniel Esfandiari slotting home from just inside the penalty area. The match was notable for our unusual appearance. Although both teams had different coloured shirts – us in blue and black stripes, and Michelmersh in gold and black quarters - the referee was concerned about both teams wearing black shorts. In the end Michelmersh dug out some baggy red shorts for us. By the end of play it was almost dark, with the heavy pitch struggling to come to terms with 22 people trampling all over it. Perhaps for the last time for Kristian Hewitt.

GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Sam Hewitt, CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst (c), RB: Mark Reeves, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Kristian Hewitt, (Ben Rowe) CM: Mark Sanderson, RM: Daniel Esfandiari, CF: Sam Schwodler, CF: Lee Fielder

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Reserving judgement

Burridge seem to wait until they're 3-0 down against BTC Reserves until they get going at Stoneham Lane, Southampton; eventually losing the game narrowly 3-2.

Last Thursday night, at training, Paul Andrews was awarded the yellow jersey for the second week running. The winners of the end of session six-a-side game were joined in a huddle, enjoying the dubious perk of voting for who they considered the worst player of the night. Having won it the week before, Andrews was obliged to wear it at training. Washing it carries a fine, so as you can imagine - it stinks. Andrews wore it over two further layers of clothing. Having scored an unfortunate own goal - the ball hit him square on in front of an open net - he knew he was a leading contender; “Any point in taking this off,” he asked, looking down towards the names of the previous winners written in marker pen on his shirt. It was a close vote between him and Lee Fielder, but no, there was no point in taking it off.

Andrews was named in the the thirteen man squad for the game at BTC on Saturday, where in the away team dressing rooms he pondered over his two pairs of highly buffed football boots. After choosing to wear metal, rather than rubber studs, he went outside to warm-up, dressed in an old Burridge training top – basically a navy fruit of the loom sweater with his initials in white capitals on the chest and Burridge written likewise on the back. It was regulation club wear when former manager, Colin Barfoot, issued them in 2000. One or two players enquire as to what washing detergent he must use to maintain the condition of such an old top. Andrews smiles, nods, but offers no come back – he's busy: tall men like him can't afford to be messing around when there are hamstrings to be stretched.

Daniel Esfandiari - equally tall, with groomed dark stubble and slip in shin-pads the size of tape cassettes - is known as Essy. At 21 he's over ten years younger than Andrews, and the adult era in which the jumper comes from attracts his attention.  He joins Andrews to stretch his leg on the pitch's perimeter fence, then asks Andrews about his misspent youth in the years leading up to the millennium. Andrews takes a long look at Essy and says: “I'm the man now I've always been.” Having long since abandoned the protocol expected with senior players, Essy takes his questioning a step further: “Is it true,” he begins, now laughing uncontrollably, “that digestives are your favourite biscuit, because chocolate ones are too edgy for you?” Andrews gives him another long look. After 14 years on the adult football circuit such banter can wear thin. Andrews is a straight batter, a man in control: he doesn't run up debts, he drinks in moderation, and he's not the type to be caught watching Babestation with his trousers around his ankles. It's an unusual grouping of characteristics within the football world, and to some, it would seem, this is unnerving, which brings us neatly onto BTC reserves, who have recorded some pretty hopeless results this season. The mind boggles at the sequence of events the day they let 23 goals in against Bush Hill. However, with more than one Saturday XI they are able to call upon a large pool of players at any given time. What's more, the first team had their game with the University postponed. Although, that said, the first team are still rock bottom of the Southampton Premier League.

Andrews sat alone in the dug-out and watched BTC go into a two-nil first-half lead. Both goals were followed by inquiries amongst some of our players. Paul listened to them blame each other for the goals, shouting things like: 'Why wasn't he closed down?' and 'That's your job.' Things got worse in the second-half. BTC took advantage of space on their right to make it three-nil, but there were still twenty minutes left, and given the scoreline, perhaps a suitable time to warrant a substitution. Ben Rowe is put on first and makes an instant impact. Sam Schwodler then edone away, after being put through by a long punt from goalkeeper, Ryan Jones. Rowe was then pushed in the penalty area. Kristian Hewitt slotted in the penalty. With around ten minutes left the game was nicely poised.

Dyke's last roll of the dice was to bring Andrews on for myself. Although well over six feet tall, Andrews is not renowned for his heading ability. A high ball came his way on the right wing, and with it a certain level of responsibility: we had committed men forward in numbers, if BTC won this ball they would have had a very decent chance of making it curtains. Andrews quickly surveyed his surroundings, closed his eyes, and became air bound. In hindsight jumping may not have been necessary, as his opponent was the size of a child; although I felt it was petty to allow something as minor as an enormous height advantage overshadow Andrews' commitment to the cause. I shared the fact that Andrews had won a header - a crucial one at that - with Paul Dyke. Dyke is normally quite sociable, although much less so during games. He remained stood with his arms folded and his eyes glued to the action and said: "No he didn't." The following passage of play very nearly led to an equaliser, with Andrews' flick falling into the path of Sam Schwodler, who jinked inside and shot wide. We threw the proverbial kitchen sink at BTC, but they held on manfully for the win. Later, in the West End Brewery, I brought up Andrews' header in the company of both Andrews and Dyke. Dyke stuck to his guns and laughed, while Andrews lamented the fact he never gets any credit, unless it's on a Thursday night.

Burridge: GK:Ryan Jones, LB:Sam Hewitt, CB:Ryan Hurst (c), CB:Kev Willsher, RB:Mark Reves, LM:Chris Pye, CM:Kristian Hewitt, CM:Mark Sanderson (Paul Andrews), RM: Daniel Esfandiari (Ben Rowe), CF:Lee Fielder, CF:Sam Schwodler

Scorers: 1-3 Sam Schwodler, 2-3 Kristian Hewitt (p)

Booked: Mark Sanderson (foul)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Drawing lots

Paul Dyke curses the lottery of decision making as Burridge draw their third game of the season, succumbing to a late goal in a 4-4 draw against ten-man Hythe Aztecs.

I probably deserved to be kicked; after all, I had hit him first – in the face, too. It was purely accidental. We were losing 3-2 after an hour, which I had spent demonstrating exactly why I am thinking about calling an end to my playing days at the end of the season. Only noticeable when I gave the ball away to the opposition - which happened on numerous occasions - I saw an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the game. One that didn't involve being substituted. It came in a tangle of bodies on the halfway-line. Chris Pye and their number three had fallen over the ball. The two of them scurried after the ball on all fours. The scene was ripe for a firm tackle to show my commitment to the cause. I got the ball, but must have followed through with either my boot or knee. Number three got to his feet and kicked me in the legs. He had a good head of thinned out chin length hair and fury in his eyes; “You just fucking kicked me in the head.” He wasn't ready for my explanation. The referee sent him off.

My actions were not premeditated, but number three's absence gave us more than simply a numerical advantage. He had been dropping into the middle from the right all game. It had caused us problems. Without him we'd have extra space to exploit. Ali Ingram equalised with his second of the game, smashing in Lee Fielder's cross. Ben Rowe then gave us the lead, expertly weaving past the goalkeeper. But Hythe weren't done. At times it felt like they, not us, had the numerical advantage. There was perhaps a sense of karma that it was me who conceded the free kick in which they scored. It was another another late and fairly cynical tackle, around twenty-five yards from goal. There was some delay in taking it. Once the referee was satisfied our wall had retreated the sufficient distance, Hythe scored. 

Only Paul Dyke was left in the changing rooms when the referee walked in after the game. His hair was still wet from the shower. He toweled it dry, dabbing his temples, then looked down at the match card. “You're only giving me 51?” He sounded surprised, perhaps even a little upset. Dyke, who was sat down, explained the reasons behind his score. He felt Hythe should have had a man sent-off for denying us a clear goalscoring opportunity. “You're questioning one decision in the entire game?” asked the referee. “I gave you a penalty, which you scored.” The two continued to disagree with one another. The conversation was amiable enough, but both left the gravel car-park at Burridge dissatisfied.

Burridge scorers:

Kristian Hewitt (p)
Ali Ingram 2
Ben Rowe


Lee Fielder - hand bags.
Kev Willsher - dissent. Tut-tut.
Marc Judd - possesion of a firearm. No, just joking - foul with a good slug of dissent thrown in.

Burridge lined up in a 4-4-2 formation: GK: Ryan Jones, RB: Sam Hewitt, CB: Ryan Hurst (c), CB: Kev Willsher, LB: Kristian Hewitt (Dan Allen), CM: Marc Judd, CM: Mark Sanderson, RM: Daniel Esfandiari (Sam Schwodler), CF: Lee Fielder (Ben Rowe), CF: Ali Ingram

Are you unable to distinguish between a miscarriage of justice and the referee's decision to give a throw-in to the opposition on the half-way line? Then help is at hand. I've written for the current issue of Late Tackle Magazine, assessing the task facing the FA's Respect programme in conquering our inner beast. It is available to buy in WH Smith.  

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Goal-Dan touch

Burridge live up to this blog's name once more, with Dan Esfandiari scoring in the 90th minute to earn a 4-4 home draw with a decent Cadnam side.

Ten minutes before kick-off at Burridge. Having completed our warm-up exercises we congregate around the water bottles, fretting over whether or not the referee will turn up. Ryan Hurst looks towards the changing rooms and asks if anyone has seen him.

Manager, Paul Dyke, tells Ryan not to worry, saying, "Concentrate on your job."

Ryan looks a bit put out; "I'm not worried - just asking, that's all."

The referee does arrive moments later, looking like a podgy version of Chris Tarrant. Any anticipation surrounding his arrival is quickly replaced with loud criticism of his refereeing style. So, for the third successive week a referee is held responsible for the outcome of the game. This time by Cadnam, who later mark him 20 out of 100. Like Bishopstoke a fortnight ago, Cadnam will be required to file a report of explanation to the FA. On the basis of this refereeing performance they are going to get used to filing reports. While it could be argued that the referee seemed reluctant to venture too far out of the centre-circle, he had shown leniency to one of his biggest critics, who played in Cadnam's midfield.  His tackle on Ryan Hurst was late and above the ankle, and could have easily resulted in a red card, as opposed to the yellow he was given.

We went two-nil up in a hurry. Martyn Barnett scored a cracker from outside the penalty area - the ball was destined for the top corner as soon as it left his boot. Like Kristian Hewitt, he does tend to score good ones. His contribution to the team will be missed during the coming weeks, having fell awkwardly on the stairs on Sunday and breaking his collar bone. We wish him a speedy recovery. Cadnam had the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot. Although well hit, Ryan Jones managed to block it; which seemed a pointless exercise, as the ball rolled kindly back into the stride of the penalty taker. If anything the rebound was struck better than the penalty, but Jones regained his footing and blocked again. It was a save that crowned his performances in goal so far this season. In terms of reflexes there can be few better goalkeepers in the Southampton League. We're certainly giving him plenty of practise

Lee Fielder doubled the lead. Sadly, I missed the goal. As substitute, I was spending significant amounts of time up to my waist in the stinging nettles growing from the sloped bank behind Jones' goal, trying to retrieve footballs. I was at least fortunate enough to have a running commentary of sorts, from Kev Willsher's Dad, Alan - who stood at the top of the bank shouting goal. By half-time Cadnam had drawn level, with some good progressive passing football that contributed largely to an exciting game. Cadnam assumed control in the second-half, going ahead with a neat lob over Jones.  

Paul Dyke did what any manager would do with twenty minutes left and the game slipping out of reach -  he brought on Dan Allen, with instant results. Dan made a nuisance of himself on the wing, winning a penalty. Regular taker Kristian Hewitt had already been substituted, and Martyn Barnett, normally so confident, was not up for it, having missed one in pre-season. Up stepped Daniel Esfandiari. It is baffling that someone so tall and muscular can be so terribly ineffective in the air. Not that his game is built on physique, he regularly uses the outside of his right boot for God's sake. Composed and full of neat touches, he was having arguably his best performance so far in a Burridge shirt.

Cadnam's right-back decided to play mind games with Esfandiari; "You'll feel stupid if you miss."
Esfandiari took a moment to consider this, "But what if I score?" Who needs Albert Camus when you have this kind of gripping philosophical narrative? Esfandiari scored, but about five minutes later, so did Cadnam - hitting a long pass over our defence. The striker lobbed neatly over Jones. That appeared to be that for the afternoon. You know the game's up when Ryan Hurst is being deployed as an emergency centre forward. To his credit he went about his business with plenty of hustle and bustle - winning umpteen flicked on headers with his mane of blond hair, but still.

By now Cadnam were keen to establish exactly how much time was left. The referee wasn't all that forthcoming; “Plenty,” he said. This didn't go down well with Cadnam. “I don't actually have to tell you,” said the referee, therefore cementing his lowly score. With the ball at his feet outside box, Esfandiari had little choice but to shoot. A quick shuffle of the hips and a right-footed strike created merry hell in Cadnam's penalty area. Ironically their commitment in closing the shot down became their undoing. The ball took the slightest nick of a defender's slice and slid into the one place the goalkeeper could not reach. There was time only for Cadnam to restart the game.

Are you unable to distinguish between a miscarriage of justice and the referee's decision to give a throw-in to the opposition on the half-way line? Then help is at hand.

I've written for the current issue of Late Tackle Magazine, assessing the task facing the FA's Respect programme in conquering our inner beast. It is available to buy in WH Smith.  

Burridge goalscorers:

Martyn Barnett 1-0
Lee Fielder 2-0
Daniel Esfandiari (pen) 3-3
Daniel Esfandiari 4-4

4-4-2: GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Kristian Hewitt (Mark Sanderson), CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Sam Hewitt, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Marc Judd, CM: Martyn Barnett, RM: Daniel Esfandiari, CF: Lee Fielder (Dan Allen), CF: Ali Ingram.

Click here for the current Southampton League tables.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Referee Assess-ination

Burridge's 5-2 home win over Comrades reserves on Saturday afternoon was watched by a referee assessor.

Burridge on a sunny afternoon in mid-October and not a cloud in the sky. Comrades reserves are today's opponents – a side we beat 2-1 after extra-time in a Trophyman Cup tie earlier this season. One man chooses to watch the game alone, walking slowly around the perimeter of the pitch, stopping occasionally to whisper into his microphone headset. Somewhat conspicuous in a baseball cap, tinted glasses, and despite the heat, a black mac, he fills out various forms attached to his clipboard. He is here to assess the performance of today's referee. Assessors are usually identifiable by a clipboard, a flask of hot drink, and an aloof demeanour. This one hadn't brought a flask of hot drink.

As one of our three substitutes I decided to take the opportunity to ask him about his role. Sadly, he wasn't keen on conversation, which on reflection is probably an occupational hazard, what with the headset. For all I know he could have been in on a conference call with a host of delegates from FIFA's head office in Zurich. This is unlikely though. I would expect an organisation as spendthrift as FIFA to be more generous with the quality of employee trousers. By all accounts Sepp Blatter is a tolerant man, but badly pressed black trousers would not reflect well on FIFA. No, a far more plausible explanation was that his headset was plugged into a cassette player. The assessor would spend his evening listening to the recording in order to write his report on the referee's performance. Let it be said, the role of referee's assessor isn't all glamour.

The first-half was notable for two seemingly clear cut penalties for either team. Sam Schwodler was tackled from behind, then Burridge goalkeeper Ryan Jones brought down an opponent with his arms. Neither side were awarded spot kicks. A busy night of paper work no doubt beckoned for the assessor – had he been anywhere near either of the incidents. One Comrades follower was outraged that his side weren't given a penalty. Burridge manager, Paul Dyke told him that this tied the bad decisions at one-each. The Comrades supporter didn't agree, and the two of them began debating at twenty paces. It was a bit of a stalemate given that the Comrades supporter was similar to Dyke, in being gruffly spoken and forthright with his opinions. Although by the sounds of it the one thing missing from Dyke's opponent was any form of secondary education. So, on reflection, a spilt decision win for Dyke.

We went into half-time leading 3-1, with goals from our younger contingent of twenty-one year olds, Chris Pye and Ryan Hurst, and twenty-year old Ali Ingram. There was further room for refereeing analysis in the second-half, when Chris Pye had a goal disallowed for offside. Chris was extremely cheesed off. Having already accepted the congratulations of his team mates, and back in his own half for the re-start, he could only assume he'd made the score 6-2. Comrades' linesman had other ideas. Dressed in deck shoes, jeans, shirt and a grey Ralph Lauren tank top – naturally, he was quite adamant that the goal was offside, leaving his flag raised until the referee saw it. A long discussion between the referee and linesman followed, presumably one about a brand new ruling meaning two men and a goalkeeper between you and the goal can play you offside. If the assessor really was on the FIFA hotline, this was surely the perfect opportunity to check the rule book and pull rank. He didn't. The disallowed goal had no bearing on the outcome of the game either. Chris Pye later hit the post, then Ryan Hurst, up from a corner, came within whiskers of completing his hat-trick. This is our first league win of the season, and having now scored ten goals in the previous two games, we look to have found some momentum.

Burridge played a 4-4-2:

GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Kristian Hewitt, CB: Marc Judd, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Sam Hewitt, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Martyn Barnett, CM: Ali Ingram (Mark Sanderson), RM: Daniel Esfandiari, CF: Ben Rowe (Lee Fielder), CF: Sam Schwodler (Paul Andrews)

Burridge scorers:

1-0 Chris Pye, (tapped in from a right-wing Daniel Esfandiari cross).
2-1 Ryan Hurst, (smashed in the loose ball from a corner).
3-1 Ali Ingram, (low accurate shot from twenty-five yards into goalie's bottom right-hand corner).
4-1 Ryan Hurst, (another corner, another goal – this time arriving on the back post to steer in).
5-2 Sam Schwodler, (walloped the ball against the underside of crossbar and in).


Kristian Hewitt, (ran thirty yards to speak his mind to the referee, who duly showed him a yellow card).


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Burridge AFC 5-4 Bishopstoke (Aet)

Burridge progress in the Trophyman League Cup by taking a tie to extra-time for the third match already this season, leaving defender Dave Williams to suggest this blog should be re-named 120 minutes of Burridge. 

Just five minutes have been played when Kev Willsher gets back to his feet and waits for the referee to send him off. He pleads innocence by putting his arms out by his side; body language that does more to confirm rather than admonish his guilt for bringing down Bishi's centre forward with a late tackle in the penalty area, denying him what would have been a clear goalscoring opportunity in the process. The referee assesses the scene of the crime. With his coiffured hair and full moustache he is similar in appearance to Des Lynam - if Des Lynam was Maltese, with a taste for Black Sabbath records. The handful of Bishi followers have already made their minds up. One jumps out of the wooden farmhouse chair we use as a makeshift step ladder to put up the goal nets with; “Fucking dirty bastard,” he shouts. To his amazement the referee waves play on. Bishi don't forgive the referee, marking him a lowly 25 out of 100 in the match card. As a result, they will have to file a report of explanation to the FA.

Burridge centre-back Kev Willsher wonders what else he can get away with

Bishopstoke play division higher than us in the Southampton Premier; where, if the current league table is anything to go by, they are having a hard time. Without a win in either of their league games, they were also been beaten 7-0 by Queens Keep in the opening round of the Southampton Senior Cup. This after being spared relegation for last season's bottom of the table finish by a league reshuffle, which saw Premier League sides AFC Redbridge, Northend United and Solent WTL pulling out entirely this year. Despite all this, Bishopstoke have talent. Particularly going forward, which they showcased in their 5-3 pre-season victory over us in August. Shame then that they're a bit susceptible to pretty much any ball plonked over their defence.

Bishi do make the brighter start and take the lead. Ryan Hurst is unable to keep pace with their particularly quick centre forward, who makes it one-nil. Marc Judd then equalises with a finely executed left-footed free-kick. It's made all the sweeter by one Bishi follower's ill-conceived habit of shouting 'spoon' almost every time we shoot at their goal. The moment he finishes the syllable the ball is in the net. However, it is Bishopstoke who go into the break leading, reacting first to the scraps of a corner kick and walloping past Jones. Having spent the best part of twenty minutes practising set-pieces during Thursday night's training session, manager Paul Dyke begins showing early signs of a stomach ulcer.

 During half-time I hear Bishi's midfield discussing the merits of our back four; “They're slow as fuck,” says one, before going on to be even less complimentary about the state of his own defence. In the second half they continue where they left of from in the first, perhaps with the goal of the game, from a good twenty-five yards out. When goals of this calibre are conceded on days like this it tends to stifle both the mind's belief and the belly's appetite for meaningful competition. Although not yet inevitable, defeat seemed heavily pencilled in when Ali Ingram was booked, somewhat unfortunately. He retreats from a Bishopstoke free-kick with his back to the ball, which is soon kicked at him. The referee books him for holding up play. Perhaps it was the bewilderment in Ali's eyes that cast doubt over the referee's own judgement, or perhaps he, like many on the field, was prone to making the odd mistake, because minutes later he's giving us a penalty kick. There is an unnecessary and clumsy push on Ali in the penalty area. One Bishi follower can be heard above the silence - “It's a man's game,” he reminds the referee. Although if the true measure of a man's strength is by pushing other men in back, it certainly wasn't featured in Rudyard Kipling's poem on the matter.

With regular penalty taker Kristian Hewitt off with shin splints, Sam Schwodler side foots the kick past the 'keeper's right. Any hopes of a grandstand finish are then seemingly dashed after a mishap in our goalmouth. Several opportunities to clear ball are bungled. Jones then calls the resulting shot on his goal safe and watches the ball nestle in the top corner - 4-2, but still time. Moments later, Chris Pye is almost apologetic for getting one back direct from a left wing cross, to make it 4-3. Then with two minutes left, Lee Fielder arrives on the end of a speculative clearance from Ryan Jones, and goes past Bishi's goalkeeper. With a clear and open goal in front of him it appears Lee is here to save the day; a view which is somewhat compromised the moment he's called upon to kick the football, which he slices wide of the post. But there is still ample time for Dyke to learn more about his players - Lee is obviously far happier when there are lots of things between him and the goal.

With time running out, Kev Willsher plays a long ball behind Bishi's defence. Lee runs onto it, steering a shot past the goalie's right. This means extra-time, in which the winning goal comes late on. Martyn Barnett splits Bishi's defence with a through-ball to Lee, who scores again. Whether or not he's mentally tough when it comes to getting over missing sitters, or he just tends to blow a little hot and cold in front of goal is not abundantly clear. However, it is his two goals that knock Bishi out. They trudge off, disappointed at a missed opportunity to progress in the cup; while Burridge move onto the uncharted waters of the third round.

 Burridge line-up: GK:Ryan Jones, LB:Marc Judd, CB:Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB:Dave Williams, LM:Chris Pye, CM: Kristian Hewitt (Sam Hewitt), CM:Martyn Barnett, RM:Daniel Esfandiari, CF:Ali Ingram (Mark Sanderson), CF: Sam Schwodler (Lee Fielder)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Christchurch reserves 4-3 Burridge AFC (Aet)

Having conceded 13 goals in their previous two games, Burridge come within five minutes of knocking Wessex League opposition out of the Hampshire Intermediate Cup on Saturday afternoon, which begs the question: why can't they perform to this level every week?

It's pushing thirty degrees in the car. So, what would normally be a half-hour drive down the M27 and A338 to Christchurch, becomes a slog through traffic bound for Bournemouth beach. My ankle is still stiff, so I am here to watch. On arrival I cool off in the shade of the stand, where two men in their fifties are sat a few rows behind me, watching us warm-up. “That them?” asks one, taking a large bite from his hot-dog. The other man nods, then makes an observation; “One or two of them look a bit chunky.” Both men seem to be under the impression we play several leagues higher than we do. “So, if we don't win today?” Asks the first man. The other looks a little irritated he's not focusing on anything other than a comfortable victory, and says; “Lock 'em in the bloody changing rooms, that's what.”

The main stand and far goal at Hurn Bridge Sport Club back onto rows of tall pine trees. It's a picturesque setting. I share this with a man with a northern accent who people in the ground seem to know. He's the club chairman, who tells me they are one of the few Wessex League teams who don't have a budget for players. To put this into context, fellow Wessex Premier league side, Winchester City are rumoured to have £3k a week to pay players with. He asks me how much I think it costs to run the club a season, and imagine I look surprised when he tells me it's £45k. They don't own the ground, making them council tenants in much the same way both Milan and Internazionale are at San Siro. Their focus this season is on developing players their players in the Wessex League - a level that Burnley's Charlie Austin was playing at only a few years ago. So essentially, Christchurch are widely expected to win today, irrespective of our recent form. Our 10-1 defeat to Southampton Premier League champions, Bush Hill may have been a blip, but the arguments during the second-half of last week's 3-1 loss to White Horse suggest today's task could be made even more difficult. I secretly worry that we might take a pasting.

Christchurch take the lead after 15 minutes from a back-post header. Kristian Hewitt leads the appeals for a foul on Ryan Hurst, but the goal stands, confirming my worst fears. Despite this setback there is no downing of tools on our part. Up front, Ben Rowe is willingly mobile, covering stretches of forty yards at a time in both directions. Like the majority of the team, he is unrecognisable from last week. Rowe then picks up possession on the half-way line, wriggles free of a chasing pack of opposition, and slices Christchurch's defence in two with a measured through ball into the path of Chris Pye, who scores. Manager, Paul Dyke goes berserk in the away dug-out.

Christchurch now realise that stroking the ball amongst their back four is no longer a winning strategy, especially as they are now giving the ball away - sometimes under very little pressure. After slicing the ball off for a throw-in, their right-back looks down accusingly at the grass beneath his feet. They are clearly rattled. Their manager, too; who calls Kristian Hewitt a 'fatty' - accusing him of having a hamburger hidden in his shorts. Dyke doesn't appreciate this, and when Hewitt skips free of one or two younger opponents, Dyke makes a point, seemingly for the benefit of Christchurch's manager, by giving Hewitt the thumbs-up and telling him his hamburger will be ready at half-time. I protect myself against disappointment with a dose of half-time realism. Surely we would run out of steam in the second-half. Christchurch choose to take advantage of the heat and have their half-time team talk in the shade of the pine trees behind the far goal. I cannot hear what is being said, but their manager is using his hands to get his point across.

We continue to play progressive football in the second-half. Ryan Hurst steps out of defence, makes a strong tackle on the half-way line, and plays an early ball up to Rowe, who having completed a remarkable seven day transformation from Emile Heskey with a tranquilliser habit, to something approaching Duncan Ferguson, takes the ball in his stride, side steps a defender and drills the ball low past the goalkeeper's left. A man with an enormous camera lens takes lots of pictures. Dyke goes berserk again. (NB You can see photos of the game at Christchurch's website, by clicking here.) The rest of the second-half is end to end stuff. Chris Pye brings the best out of Christchurch's keeper from an eighteen yard shot. Christchurch have their moments too - the ball squirming out of Jones' hands from a corner and fortuitously past the post; Dan Allen then chases and clears a loose ball off line.

There are five minutes left when Christchurch equalise. We're slightly over run at the back and a cross from the right is volleyed past Jones. Their tails are up now and we do well to take it to extra time. Christchurch then take the lead in the opening minute of extra time – getting a run on our defence and shooting low across Jones. Spectators behind the dug-out choose this moment to tell Dyke his team talk did a fat lot of good. Dyke is keyed up, and therefore unable to detach himself from any derogatory comments. He's not quite foaming at the mouth, but every bit the budding Joe Pesci circa Goodfellas, as he gives them a piece of his mind, reminding them of the gulf in divisions between the two teams. His detractors know better than to offer him any more grief, even when it becomes 4-2; an attack is cleared only as far as the edge of the box, the resulting shot is hit powerfully past Jones. Christchurch pay us an unintentional compliment by celebrating the goal greatly. There's now a danger of the score running away from us. Kristian Hewitt pulls the trigger from outside the penalty area. It's not one of his best strikes – hitting a tangle of legs around the penalty spot, but Christchurch fail to clear their lines, and Ali Ingram is quick to tuck the ball away for 4-3. Jones continues to makes it interesting, with a fine reflex save from a corner which draws a round of applause. But there are no further goals.

Christchurch described their win as unconvincing, (click here to read their thoughts on the game). So where exactly did our resolute and enterprising performance come from? Martyn Barnett claimed that large and well maintained pitches, like Christchurch's, suit our playing style better say than Green Park in Millbrook. There is an element of truth to this, but to isolate the quality of the pitch would be to discount a significant part of our performance, namely the team's re-acquired desire for tireless running without the ball. This is a quality that theoretically, could be replicated to any playing surface. Of course, we may have been seduced by the rare sight of rows of plastic seats – some of them occupied, the floodlights, and all the other trappings that come with a higher standard of football. However, having responded well to two different, but equally painful defeats, Paul Dyke will be demanding that today's musketeer spirit of guts and determination will be repeated on Saturday, in a sequence of four consecutive home games.

  4-4-2: GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Marc Judd (Paul Andrews), CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Sam Hewitt (Dan Allen), LM: Daniel Esfandiari, CM: Martyn Barnett (c), CM: Kristian Hewitt, RM: Ali Ingram, CF: Chris Pye, CF: Ben Rowe (Lee Fielder)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Burridge AFC 1-3 White Horse FC

Burridge went down fighting at home to White Horse on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, it was done amongst themselves.

Somewhere, beneath the twisted wreckage that is currently team morale at Burridge AFC, is a desire to do well for the football club. At present that desire is only able to express itself as it did during the second-half on Saturday afternoon – all too often by bickering with one another. Sadly, this new trait spilled over into the post-match chores of taking down the goal nets, and continued in the changing rooms. This behaviour doesn't reflect well on either the club or the players. Quite frankly, it's a bit of a mess. 

Burridge substitute Dan Allen scores a late consolation goal.
White Horse had travelled in convoy from Totton. They are talkative and boisterous. The majority of their squad are soon kitted up and ready before most of us have even arrived at Burridge. I fill our club bottles up with water from the cold tap of the disabled toilets, trying to make sense of their conversations in the away team dressing rooms. It's not so much what they were saying,  but the enthusiasm in which they are saying it. They are having fun. Yes, it would be later proved they have one or two odious characters within their ranks, the kind you wouldn't be too upset about if they were to suffer some small misfortune, but this is men's football, not the operatic society.

Speaking in the West-End Brewery, Kristian Hewitt recalled a bad spell he had whilst playing for Compton. After another defeat the manager went around each player in turn, asking them to give their opinion on why things were going wrong. A selection of fairly glib answers followed until it was Kristian's older brother, Jamie's turn. Not one to be described as a shrinking violet, Jamie said that the problem stemmed with the manager himself. That manager didn't last much longer. If we were to apply the same logic then I would be out on my ear after only one game in charge.

With Paul Dyke on holiday in Egypt, I am manager. I decide to freshen things up by introducing one or two slight variations to our pre-match warm-up. However, by the looks of some of our players this has the opposite effect. The first-half is fairly equal, with several opportunities for both sides. Ryan Jones makes one save, diving to his left to push a header wide of the post, that draws White Horse's manager to throw his cigarette down in disgust. “Where did you get him from?” He asks me on several occasions throughout the afternoon. White Horse's goalkeeper, although somewhat taller than Jones, looks nervous. Three times he comes to collect a cross and fails to do so on each occasion. Kristian Hewitt is unfortunate to firstly see his lofted free-kick tipped unconvincingly onto the cross-bar, and then not get a corner kick. It was a weakness we failed to capitalise on.

The players come in at half-time disappointed not to be winning. However, such is the level of confidence at present, the game as a meaningful contest is effectively over once White Horse open the scoring from a header in the second-half. One goal soon becomes two, as White Horse begin to enjoy themselves, rattling the crossbar in the process. I decide to play my hand with a double substitution. These plans are slightly jeopardised when right-back, Sam Hewitt signals that he had a knock. I revert to a 3-5-2 formation, but in doing so I hesitate with exactly how I am going to reshuffle the midfield. White Horse's left-back seems to take pleasure in this. “Do you know what you're doing?” He asks. I didn't give him the satisfaction of a reply. One or two other players join in, as I quickly became the butt of their jokes. I had endured a brief glimpse into the daily life of Arsene Wenger, and I didn't care for it.

Jones blots his copy book slightly when he concedes a penalty. A two goal lead has done nothing to White Horse's bedside manner, as they insist Jones should be sent off. He gets a yellow. White Horse then score from the spot. At this stage I'm just hoping we can keep the score down. I give Dan Allen a ten minute run out. He has spent the second-half marooned in the one place substitutes fear above all else - stranded on the far side of the pitch as linesman. His reward is a late consolation goal - following in to hook high into the net. This makes him an unlikely joint top scorer with two. However, the goal brings the mutest of celebrations. This Saturday Burridge travel to Christchurch in the Hampshire Cup.

4-4-2: GK:Jones, LB:Judd, CB:Brown, CB:Hurst, RB:S.Hewitt (Esfandiari), RM:Ingram (Allen), CM:Barnett, CM:K.Hewitt, LM:Pye, CF:Schwodler (Fielder), CF:Rowe

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bush Hill 10-1 Burridge AFC

Victory against reigning Southampton Premier Division champions, Bush Hill, may not have been widely anticipated, but nor was conceding ten goals in the space of one afternoon, as Burridge go crashing out of the Southampton Senior Cup at Green Park , Millbrook.

My game was over after the first ten minutes of play. Rather embarrassingly, I had twisted my ankle in the pre-match warm up. There were neither any opponents, nor divots in the pitch, on which to blame the injury on. I had simply changed the direction in which I was running in, when my full weight fell upon my left ankle, which I then felt slowly inflate inside my boot like the cheeks of a tuba player. It was what Marc Judd had rather philosophically described as just one of those things. He too had aggravated an injury prior to the game, although Kristian Hewitt was adamant that his hamstring strain was being used to mask the hangover he believed him to be suffering from, having spent the previous evening at a wedding reception at Ford's social club. Despite being picked in the starting line-up he would play no part in the game.

Ali Ingram is generous in his estimations of just how far away my pass to him was.
Five minutes earlier, I had been tipped off about starting the game in the centre of midfield, with strict instructions to try and break up the play of Bush Hill - the winners of the Southampton Premier League for the last three year's running. With equal measures of optimism and enthusiasm getting the better of me, I convinced myself that the problem could be run off. Although just to be sure I peeled down my sock and covered my ankle in repeated blasts of heat spray. It was now cast beneath a lilac shadow. As I recall, my one and only touch of the ball in the game came straight from kick-off, when I decided to make our attacking intentions known by spraying the ball wide to the left. So much so that the ball went out of touch, about twenty-five yards ahead of Ali Ingram. 

None of my team mates seemed to find anything unusual in either my inability to get within five yards of my opposite number, or the awkward running gait that the swelling had left me with. I soon came to realise I was nothing more than a vocal passenger in the game, with no choice but to wave the white flag. Mark Reeves replaced me, with the game nicely poised at one goal each. Ben Rowe had equalised by dribbling around the goalkeeper. Although Bush Hill went into a 3-1 lead by half-time, there was little evidence of what was to come, as we had made frequent visits into the penalty area, getting behind Bush's defence and creating chances on several occasions.

I am in no position to give thorough an assessment on the second-half, as I was I sat in a heap on the floor with an ice pack tied around my ankle with a football sock. Sam Schwodler told me that he was quite happy for me to gloss over details of this game. He stood at the bar shaking his head and whispering ten-one to himself. It is not unusual for players to have angry exchanges after defeats of this magnitude. However, with the severity of this ten goal loss being uncharted territory for the vast majority of the team, it is probably yet to sink in. As a result, the post-match mood in the changing rooms was one of relative calm, although perhaps a more accurate diagnosis would be shell shock. Sam Hewitt text me later in the evening, saying he felt marginally better having watched Osasuna get trounced 8-0 by Barcelona. With manager, Paul Dyke away on holiday next week, I will be making a guest appearance in the managerial hot seat. However, my role will be restricted as a conduit for Dyke's implicit instructions and team selection. Next Saturday's home game against White Horse will provide us all with a much needed opportunity to bounce back.

3-4-3: GK: Ryan Jones, DF: Kristian Hewitt, Ryan Hurst, Sam Hewitt, RM: Dan Allen, CM: Mark Sanderson (Mark Reeves), Martyn Barnett (c), LM: Ali Ingram, CF: Ben Rowe (Paul Andrews), Chris Pye, Sam Schwodler 

NB I have written about my experiences of living on the residential site of what was The Dell - Southampton FC's former home - in October's issue of When Saturday Comes Magazine, which is available in all good newsagents.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Comrades reserves 1-2 Burridge (after extra time)

Burridge needed extra time to reach the second round of the Trophyman Senior League Cup at Wide Lane on Saturday afternoon. This blog was written while getting word that Burridge's Mark Reeves, who played yesterday, had completed his 83 mile bike ride from London to Southampton in six hours.

Paul Dyke has plenty to say at half-time. Dave Williams who is watching, condenses his description of the first-half to one word - gash. We sit on the wet grass, drinking tap water, as Dyke dissects our performance. He has no qualms betraying a confidence in order to get his point across to team captain, Martyn Barnett; who he thinks is having a quiet game. "It's no good texting me saying: skip's up for it today," says Dyke, "I want to see a captain's performance." By this point, Kristian Hewitt is sniggering. That Martyn had been texting his manager, not only in the third person, but in a shortened version of his new title, was the green light for what will surely be a prolonged spell of teasing.

We'd still had our moments during the first-half. Ryan Hurst won just about everything in the air from our corner kicks, and on another day Marc Judd would have almost certainly given us the lead. In the absence of both Lee Fielder and Ben Rowe, Judd was pushed up-front, alongside Sam Schwodler. Judd found himself through on Comrades' goal with only time and space for company. The amount of which at his disposal allowed him to consider the full raft of methods in which to score. Unfortunately, he was unable to reach a decision. What resulted was a combination of lob and strike which went some way over the crossbar. From there on in the service toward him dried up.

The second-half brings few obvious signs of improvement. Comrades then bring on a beanpole midfielder, who opens the scoring with fifteen minutes left. Various opportunities to clear our lines are missed, and the Comrades substitute, who had run from deep, hooks the ball well over Jones' head. By this time, we too had made both of our substitutions - bringing on Paul Andrews and Daniel Esfandiari - and reverting to a back three of Kristian Hewitt, Ryan Hurst and Dan Allen. Despite the change of both personnel and formation, an equaliser seems unlikely. The game is stretched, we looked tired and defeat seems inevitable.

Dan Allen has no shortage of suitors when he cuts in from the left with a little over five minutes remaining. Quite what he's doing outside Comrades' penalty area from his position in the back three is anyone's guess. He then evades the best efforts of two defenders; and, against the general consensus of his team mates, strikes a twenty-five yard right-footed strike that Comrade's goalkeeper doesn't see until it is in his net. Later, over two huge dinner plate of barbecue chicken wings at the West-End Brewery, there would be some debate on whether the 'keeper should have done better in stopping Dan's shot go in. On reflection, it was the speed in which he decided to shoot and the pace on the ball itself that probably beat the goalkeeper, who'd already demonstrated he wasn't clueless by somehow denying Chris Pye what looked certain to be a headed equaliser. Debates and discussions are the last thing on Dan's mind. He runs off, chased by the entire team, including either Mark Reeves or Sam Hewitt, who have abandoned their post as linesman to enjoy this moment.

There's a collective sense throughout our team that Comrades have blown their stack. Finally we have the much needed impetus to go on and win the game. During extra-time Paul Andrews plays a useful cameo up front, making himself a focal point in linking up play between midfield and attack. Barnett then repays his manger's faith, threading a thirty yards pass through to Sam Schwodler, who still has his work cut out when running through on goal. He gives the ball a good thump and sees it nestles in Comrades net. The relief is tangible.

To their credit, Comrades have one last throw of the dice, but much of their energy is put into cod psychology, specifically in their insistence that Kristian Hewitt doesn't want the ball ' back there,' despite various dips of shoulders and side stepping that seem to clearly demonstrate to the contrary in his new position of last line of our defence. There's still time for more goalscoring chances. Chris Pye, who proved a constant threat, is unfortunate to see his lob return into play from the underside of the crossbar. Once again, we hadn't played particularly well. Hard work and a moment of inspiration had got us over the line.

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Other Trophyman cup results can be seen by clicking here. Also, anyone wishing to pass some time during their lunch hour can go to WH Smith, and most other newsagents, to read an article of mine about The Dell, which is published in the pages of this month's When Saturday Comes Magazine.

4-4-2: GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Dan Allen, CB: Sam Hewitt (Daniel Esfandiari) CB:Ryan Hurst, RB: Mark Reeves (Paul Andrews), LM: Kristian Hewitt, CM: Mark Sanderson, CM: Martyn Barnett (capt), RM; Chris Pye, CF: Marc Judd, CF: Sam Schwodler.

This changed to 3-4-3: GK: Ryan Jones, DF: Dan Allen, DF: Ryan Hurst, DF: Kristian Hewitt, RM:Daniel Esfandiari, CM: Mark Sanderson, CM: Martyn Barnett (capt), LM: Marc Judd, CF: Sam Schwodler, CF: Paul Andrews, CF: Chris Pye.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Burridge AFC 1-1 Netley Central Reserves

Burridge kicked off the 2011/12 Southampton Football League season on Saturday 3 September, against Netley Central Reserves, at the Shed, Botley Road, Burridge. This blog was written on the electric daisy wheel of a Canon S200 typewriter, whilst listening to the soundtrack to the film, Inception, by Hans Zimmer.

During the first-half, one of Netley's centre-backs - who had quickly established himself as the game's voice, gave his own unique assessment on our defensive line: "They're awful at the back." His verdict of our defensive capabilities chose to omit any of his own shortcomings, which were later showcased in the sequence of play leading up to our equalising goal. By describing us as awful, I assumed he meant to gee up his attacking players, who looked frustrated at having to make, what they deemed, unscheduled runs deep into their own half to chase after Chris Pye and Dan Jackson. "Keep working," he reassured his players, "we're not going to win ten-nil today." This statement would prove to be the height of his powers of perception.

Our opponents were defending Southampton senior division champions, Netley Central Reserves, who hit something of a glass ceiling by winning last season's championship. This is because the Southampton League does not allow reserves teams in the premier division - its highest level. One of the reasons being that if such a reserve side was seriously challenging for the title, they would be able to field players from its first team, who play at higher standards of football, which would serve only to undermine and compromise the integrity of the competition. Although there's nothing stopping Netley pulling in first teamers this year. So, here we were, a little under five months since we last played each other in a match in which we had snatched a two-all draw.
We were wearing our brand new kit. Manufactured by Nike, and sponsored by the West-End Brewery, the blue and black stripes have been the team's colours since 2003. (Prior to that we wore a very loose fitting red and white hooped outfit.) The blue stripes are a slightly lighter shade than previous incarnations, more in keeping with the Internazionale jersey worn by both Jurgen Klinsmann and Nicola Berti during the early 1990s. I'm happy to report that the thin and lightweight black stockings are a far cry from the thick Norwegian fishing socks that former manager, Colin Barfoot, provided us with back in the club's Meon-Valley League days at the turn of the century.

One of the many clear distinctions between playing for Burridge, in the fourteenth tier of the English pyramid structure, and the higher echelons of football, is how games are officiated. Southampton League games are allocated a referee, but his assistants - which tend to still be called linesmen at this level of football, are volunteers from each team. Usually one of the team's substitutes, and in this case the duty of responsibility fell on me. Once you get over the fact that both of the assistants have hugely vested interests in the game everyone can get on with giving them plenty of grief for making bad decisions, which ironically enough is exactly what seems to happen in professional football.

Our goalkeeper, Ryan Jones, was unhappy about Netley's goal. It came mid-way through the first-half, after an aerial challenge between himself and a Netley striker, who got to the ball fractionally earlier than Jones, who was left in heap, watching in vain as the ball trickled beyond his reach and over the goal line. Jones then made a memorable save as Netley pushed hard to increase their lead. A cross from their left was met by the head of an opposing striker, who as the coaching manuals suggest, headed the ball back towards the side of the goal it had arrived from. It is within these fleeting moments that Jones is in his element. In what looked as smooth as a choreographed stunt, he flung himself to his right, scooping the ball wide with the fingers of his right hand, when it seemed destined for the bottom corner of our net. It was of Netley's opinion that the game should have been dead and buried as we approached the final few minutes.

Dan Allen was partly responsible for our equalising goal. He replaced Dan Jackson at half-time, after the latter's strength had been sapped by the hot afternoon sun. This led Dyke to question if the nineteen year old had spent the previous evening out drinking. Eighty-eight minutes of the game had passed when Allen found himself with the ball on the edge of the penalty area, looking to create space for shot on goal. His attempt was only partially blocked by Netley's centre-back, and Sam Schwodler, who seconds earlier was cursing his luck at Dan's decision to shoot rather than pass, pounced onto the loose ball to score. It was vindication for Schwodler, who left the field during the first-half clutching his ear in pain after getting clattered. A rather drawn out verbal rally of fuck-off had followed between Schwodler and one or two of the opposition, who doubted the severity of his injury.

With the captain's armband pulled up around his bicep, Martyn Barnett, drove us on for a winner, in what was another confidant display in the centre of our midfield, which was dovetailed nicely by Kristian Hewitt, who played alongside him. Running on the fumes of his healthy appetite for goals, Barnett nearly won the game for us, surging beyond Netley's last defender at an angle that still favoured the goalkeeper's hands. His left foot shot looked set for the bottom corner, but sailed narrowly past the far post. A draw wasn't a bad start to the season. We hadn't set the world alight, but showed grit and resilience in the face of defeat with another late goal.

Those who left the West-End Brewery before 6pm missed out on a eye catching spread of food, including two large dinner large plates stacked high with fries and sausages, as well as an intimidating heap of buttered and thickly sliced white bread, which was all served with the best wishes of the pub landlord, who apologised for not getting down to catch the game. Next week we should have a photographer, so it will no longer be necessary to trawl through the club's extensive photographic archive in order to add some much needed colour to these match reports.

Burridge line-up: 4-4-2 -  GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Marc Judd, CB: Sam Hewitt (Mark Sanderson), CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Mark Reeves, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Martyn Barnett (captain), CM: Kristian Hewitt, RM: Dan Jackson (Dan Allen), CF: Ben Rowe, CF: Sam Schwodler.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Burridge AFC 7-1 Southampton BTC Vets

Burridge finished their pre-season fixtures by scoring all eight goals in a 7-1 win over Southampton BTC Veterans at Botley Road on Wednesday night. This report was written shortly after blaming some inconsistent performances solely on the Adidas Adinovas I have worn seven times, and making an impulse buy of a pair of Adidas Kaiser Ligas from You can get the very latest Burridge news by joining the club's Facebook page, here, and Twitter feed, which is here.

My two piece navy blue shell suit

I was met at Burridge by Martyn Barnett, who along with several other of our players, had finished putting up the goal nets. He had something to tell me.

“Chris Pye was on his backside,” he said, “it was me who laid on the goal.”

It took me a second to work out what Martyn meant. Then the penny dropped. He was referring to my previous match report, where I'd credited Chris Pye, and not himself for setting up our winning goal against Hedge-End Rangers reserves. Clearly someone was paying attention.

Once again, injuries had trimmed our eighteen man squad down to twelve fit players. Many of us arrived in the new Burridge tracksuits which club manager, Paul Dyke, had bought for just over a £100. I too had worn mine. It's a navy blue two piece shell suit made by Jani, which no doubt alerted the suspicion of the security guard inside Tesco on Burgess Road, when I stopped in for a Lucozade. Back in my car I heard a nasty ripping sound coming from the stitching in the garment's shoulder when I reached over to my glove compartment. Fortunately, no damage appears to have been done.

It's all referee's fault, says referee

I recognised our referee as he arrived in the club car-park and asked him how his pre-season has been going.

“You know what?" He said, “players just don't want to button it. The season hasn't started yet and I've already given four yellow cards and sent a player off.”

There was a slight delay when I asked if he was still enjoying refereeing.

“I dunno,” he said, working a mint around his jaw, “there's too much lip from players these days."

Just when I was ready for him to blame the dissent on a copy-cat culture of the Premier League teams, the conversation took an unexpected development, when he said:

"The thing is, most of it is the fault of referees.”

He was casting a portion of blame in regards to dissent at the door of the refereeing establishment.

“Too many referees don't take charge. Standards have dropped - they really have. If I ever do give up and become an assessor, that's the one question I'll be asking myself: does this referee take charge?”

There was no chance of the referee not taking charge tonight. From my experience, this referee didn't tolerate any dissent whatsoever. I'm always amazed when players chose to ignore this. BTC went down to ten men mid-way through the second-half, when one of their centre-halves talked himself into a red card. As he continued to argue over a penalty decision, I heard him say: “Well fucking send me off then.” The referee obliged, but the centre-half wasn't finished yet. "Know what, Gra? You used to be a good ref."

Given that this player was over the age of thirty-five, (that's the minimum age requirement to play veteran's football), and on first name terms with the referee, it seemed inconceivable he would get himself sent off. Surely he knew what was coming next when he effed and jeffed it out with the man in black. But that's the game sometimes. It doesn't matter how old you are, or how many games you've played - not many of us can look at ourselves in the mirror and say we haven't succumbed to our base instincts at some time or another during play. Kristian Hewitt then scored the first of two second-half penalties. This after Dan Jackson and then Chris Pye had given us a two-nil lead at half-time.

Friendly fire

At 2-0, nobody batted an eyelid when Sam Hewitt finished a sequence of possession amongst the back four with a pass back to goalkeeper, Ryan Jones. It was just another day at the office for the stand in centre-back, with an assured and composed performance. But then something freaky happened. His back pass skipped up high off the longish grass and arced over Jones' head. Now Jones had himself a problem. He was under attack from friendly fire and there wasn't a thing he could do about it. He chased after the ball, but ended up with it caught in the net like a prime catch of mackerel. We all stood there in a state of shock. Sam Schwodler broke the silence.

"I'd have been bollocked for doing something like that," he shouted.

He'd taken some fairly loud criticism during the game for getting caught offside, which he seemed to have taken personally. Sam Hewitt stood there trying to detach himself from events of the previous thirty seconds. After the lord mayor's show of the derby games with Hedge-End we had a pretty underwhelming attendance of what I estimated at two: the injured Kev Willsher and Martyn Barnett's girlfriend. So, Sam can count himself lucky that nobody was present to capture the moment on camera and stick it on YouTube. Not all footballers are as lucky as Sam. Remember Wayne Hatswell? He got himself into a real mess here. Match of the Day pundit and former Arsenal full-back, Lee Dixon, didn't cover himself in glory here.

Sam Hewitt, (in stripes), reflects on his 'friendly fire' on Burridge goalkeeper, Ryan Jones

Sam's own goal didn't effect the outcome of the game. By time we had a 4-1 lead, BTC were down to ten men. Space and further goals came from Sam Schwodler and Marc Judd, whose cameo appearance up-front resulted in two goals.

Burridge line-up (4-4-2): GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Mark Sanderson, CB: Dave Williams, CB: Sam Hewitt, RB: Mark Reeves, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Martyn Barnett(c), CM: Kristian Hewitt, RM: Dan Jackson, CF: Lee Fielder (Marc Judd), CF: Sam Schwodler.

Burridge kick-off their Southampton League season next Saturday at home to Netley Central.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Burridge AFC 1-0 Hedge-End Rangers Reserves

The majority of this blog was written between 7:52 and 8:42am with a Holiday Inn ballpoint pen on a wet Thursday morning in McDonald's car-park, Hedge-End; the morning after Burridge's narrow 1-0 pre-season win over Hedge-End Rangers reserves. You can get the very latest Burridge news by joining the club's Facebook page, which you can find by clicking here, and Twitter feed, which is here.

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"What's wrong with playing left-back?” I asked Marc Judd and Kristian Hewitt. Both have featured there at some time or another during pre-season; and as we sat in the pub, assessing our latest performance over a bowl of chips, I wanted to know why neither of them enjoy playing there.

It's boring,” shrugged Kristian. “Name me a left-back?”

Ashley Cole?” I said, as Kristian looked down into his pint. “What about Paolo Maldini?”

Kristian didn't look convinced. His oldest brother, Marcus – who had once again refereed us, offered an explanation.

They both know,” he said. Know what? I thought, as he moved forward and said, “that after left-back there's nowhere else to go.”

And there it was. Getting gradually withdrawn into a more and more defensive position was, in some people's opinion, nature's way of telling you that you were finished as a footballer.

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I had stopped off at Texaco on the way to Burridge for two packets of Airwaves gum, where I made a pact with myself to actually enjoy tonight's game. Two-and-half hours later, as Marcus Hewitt blew the final whistle, I remembered that a player's enjoyment of a game is measured by how well he plays in it. No amount of pacts in petrol station car parks was going to determine how much I enjoyed a game if I couldn't take a satisfactory throw-in.

Why? Or more importantly what was the chain of events that led this to happen?

During the game the ball soon came to symbolise a wayward stepson – few wanted it, fewer still were able to bring it under control, and pretty much everyone despised it. One of the great things about playing football is that once you're lost in a game you forget all of life's problems. Mainly because they are quickly replaced with a whole set of new ones. These problems are, admittedly, fairly superficial in comparison to paying the bills; but you try telling that to Kristian Hewitt when you've lost possession on the half-way line. In the first-half he carried on like a sales manager with a raging stomach ulcer - blaming his health on what he considered to be incompetent staff. Mark Reeves got an earful once or twice. As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I could empathise with Reeves. 

(Pictured above) Hedge-End reserves manager, Rich Allan, during his days in the Burridge engine room. NB Mike's is a long-standing men's barbers in Hedge-End, Southampton.

Hedge-End's reserves play a couple of rungs down the Southampton League than us, (click here to see who they're up against this year), and judging by this performance it's clear they've bolstered their squad this season.  They are managed by former Burridge midfielder, Rich Allan - who very nearly opened the scoring with a half volley from the edge of the box. As he made his way back into position I saw a big smile on his face - there's life in the old dog yet, especially if there's a chance of a goal.
We were without both our first choice centre-backs - Kev Willsher and Ryan Hurst, who were replaced by Sam Hewitt and Dave Williams, who brought a 'take no prisoners approach' to his work. Also missing due to injury were Lee Fielder, Ben Rowe, Paul Andrews and Dan Jackson. Not that Hedge-End had it all their own way so far as team selection go. They too were smarting from the loss of former Burridge full-back, Jay Schwodler, who is on holiday in Australia.

Hedge-End will wonder how they didn't score. They created a number of chances, most notably through Kev Judd, who created three opportunities for himself; so, perhaps the sight of his older brother lining up a free-kick with his left-foot may have got under his skin. He, along with his team mates, hotly disputed the referee's decision to give us a free-kick on edge of box. 

 "It's like the referee wants them to win," said Kev, realising that his older brother, and opponent - Marc, was capable of floating the ball into the net with his left foot. The free-kick didn't get past Hedge-End's defensive wall, and it was they who had further clear chances to score. It was Dan Allen who in provided the defining moment of the game. Under the quiet demeanour and mousy fringe lurks a young man who is only ever one drink away from breaking the law.  

With Burridge goalkeeper -Jones, off his line, Dan had taken up a position on the goal line, which was crucial as a Hedge-End shot cleared Jones' reach, and would have ended up in our top corner had Dan not headed it off the line. It's highly unlikely he will be credited for any diligence or positional sense. People write the history they choose to believe in. The reasoning behind Dan's position will be many: people would rather believe he was dawdling there from Hedge-End's previous corner kick, or he was looking at the sky for clouds that looked like Cheryl Cole, or even he'd just found a good spot to eat worms.

It was Chris Pye, who was having a quiet game by his standards, who set up our winning goal ten minutes from time. He left his marker standing on the right and squared the ball for Ali Ingram to side foot the ball neatly past the goalkeeper's right. I received a text from Hedge-End's Bryn Schwodler later that evening, asking how we had got on. The final score surprised him, as he believed we would have enjoyed a more comfortable win. The win was far from comfortable, but maybe all the more beneficial as a pre-season exercise because of that.


Friday, 19 August 2011

Talking sheet

This is the reaction from Mark Reeves having read the the last blog post. If you need any sheet metal work done,whether it be a bespoke stainless steel handrail, an industrial security grill, or maybe a marine bow roller, then Reeves is your man.  

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Help the aged

I am still coming to terms with Marcus Hewitt being a referee.

*I imagine President Nixon had similar feelings when he caught his first glimpse of FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, wearing negligee. It would no doubt have been an unexpected development for the President; one that would have caused him to draw in a sharp intake of breath.

It's not that I don't support Marcus' decision to become a referee, it's just that I'm far more used to seeing him chase full-backs as a striker, a position he played in with distinction for AC Delco, Compton, Hedge-End and Ordnance Survey, over a period of fifteen years. I spoke with him after our 5-3 defeat at the West-End Brewery, which as well as being our post match watering hole, is also now our new sponsor. His gaze was fixed on the TV screen. 

"Did I see a look of pity in your eyes when you saw me towards the end of the game?" I asked, offering him a dry roasted peanut.

Marcus nodded. Yes, he did think I looked laboured during the final fifteen minutes – no, he didn't want a peanut. 

"Maybe I need to get out and start running?"

"God, no!"  He said, making short work of his pint of lager. “Don't do that.” 

He looked back toward the vidiprinter – Craig Makail-Smith had just scored for Brighton at Fratton Park. I didn't ask him exactly what he meant. Did he not think my body could handle a jog in between our sequence of games?

"Some of you lot looked a bit leggy today. You don't want to over do it.” 

I am very close to turning 33, an age that Marcus believes firmly dictates whereabouts you can and cannot play. Holding midfield is okay, but playing on the wing is most certainly not. Up until recently I've always thought that being a slow runner was a blessing in disguise, under the assumption that when I got older I would notice no significant loss of pace. This theory has been proved wrong to me during each of the three pre-season games I have played in.

I had a further handicap to contend with whilst trying to keep up with Hedge-End's left-winger last Wednesday evening. This time instead of my legs it was my eyes which were causing me problems. Temporary blindness is not conducive to playing sport. I've now taken to lining my eyebrows with a smear of Vaseline to prevent sweat from washing the contact lenses out of my eyes.

In times of self pity it does well to remember that it could always be worse - I could be Mark Reeves. Despite being 35 he regularly gets chosen to play wide in midfield, which has always seemed a little cruel to me. You wouldn't send him out swimming for clams in shark infested waters. That wouldn't just be inhumane, it would be slaughter. And so it came to be last season on the April 23 against Hare & Hounds, with Reeves' performance being a clear argument in favour of euthanasia. I could empathise, because I knew in my bones that it could just have easily been me getting taken to the cleaners on that hot day at Cutbush Lane.

Reeves tried one or two tricks to slow that winger down, but in the end the only reason he wasn't sent off was because of time. He ran out of it having been substituted at half-time. (Incidentally, we did come back to draw that game 2-2.) Of course, Reeves took it like a man.

It's not that Reeves isn't fit. He regularly turns out very impressive times in 10k runs up and down Hampshire; however, it's not stamina that is lost to age, it's speed, and more specifically the ability to be able to accelerate away from an opponent over the distance of a yard or two. If Reeves reads this he may feel I'm pinning my own insecurities on him, after what was a good season for him in 2010/11. He'd probably be right. 

Of course, there are always new things to look forward to. In this case it is a new Burridge home strip for the 2011/12 season, which will be our traditional blue and black striped shirts, black shorts and socks. Not sure when we will be first wearing it.

*It's alleged that J.Edgar Hoover, one of the founding fathers of the FBI, wore women's clothes.

Burridge's next game is this evening versus Hedge-End Rangers reserves.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Bishopstoke 5-3 Burridge AFC

Pre-season fixture 4 of 6: Saturday 13 August, Bishopstoke Rec

Paul Dyke let us have it at half-time. He wasn't convinced we were putting enough effort into the game, and if there is one thing guaranteed to push his buttons it's a dubious work ethic. He cited our full-backs as an example.

"At times we're just going through the motions," he said, standing up as we sat down on the grass drinking tap water. "When we're defending throws, then yeah, I want you stood in front of whoever our centre-back is marking, but if the ball goes back to the thrower then you run, and I mean run your bollocks off to close him down."

Although I can testify to there being greater effort in the second half, it was not reflected in the scoreline, with a further four goals being conceded. Kristian Hewitt had given us the lead from the spot. This was cancelled out by a Bishopstoke equaliser. Martyn Barnett and Ryan Hurst both scored to level the game at 2-2 and then 3-3, but as the game went on the pitch appeared to gradually increase in size, as we began to look more and more tired; a factor that was not helped by having to use both of our substitutes in the first-half, due to injuries to both Ben Rowe and Marc Judd.

Dyke was far more diplomatic in his post-match autopsy. He reminded us that Bishopstoke did contest last season in the Southampton Premier Division, which is one level higher than us - albeit that their season culminated in a last place finish. It's not entirely clear why they haven't been relegated, although that was besides the point. Next Saturday's pre-season fixture has been cancelled, which may well be a blessing in disguise - although before that we have a game with Hedge-End Rangers Reserves on Wednesday evening.

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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...