Sunday, 20 February 2011

Harpic 100% limescale remover 1-0 Bathroom limescale

It was midnight when a friend tried tempting me to stay out with a small bindle of MDMA. Accepting his offer would mean no football tomorrow; so, feeling tired from the diligence it takes to restrict a Friday night out with friends to four bottles of lager, I said my goodbyes and walked home. It was cold outside.

I was pleased to not be woken up on Saturday morning by a text message from Paul Dyke. If a game has been postponed he normally texts us between nine and eleven in the morning. This gives us time to make alternative plans for our Saturday afternoons. The BBC five day weather forecast had hedged its bets this week with promises of sunny intervals. The type of clothes I would need between these intervals was left entirely to my discretion. It rained hard on Tuesday. Wednesday was much the same. Thursday and Friday were dry, but it had rained during the early hours of Saturday.

We were scheduled to play Hythe Aztecs at Claypits Lane Sports Ground in Dibden. If ever anybody needs reminding where that is they are told something like, “You go past Staplewood, where Southampton train, then left at the round-about. You know, the one with good drainage,” and that will usually be enough to trigger a response like, “Yes, that's not a bad pitch. It has good drainage.”

The first thing I saw when I stepped out of my car at Claypits Lane Sports Ground was Paul Dyke, walking in the centre-circle of the pitch alongside who I guessed was the referee. Once they'd finished talking Dyke walked towards the car-park and sliced his palm in front of his throat. The game was off. The referee said there was too much surface water on the pitch. I joined the rest of our squad who were stood outside the clubhouse looking out toward the pitch longingly like fisherman looking out to sea.

Sam Schwolder arrived with his kit bag slung over his shoulder. Someone told him the game was off. He quickly identified a grey moustached man from the opposition's management who he could take his frustration out on.
“What the fuck's this all about then?”
“It's not us, it's the referee.” protested the moustached man.
“Wouldn't have taken much to check it this morning, would it?” Said Ryan Jones, who echoed our belief that it is the home side's responsibility to inspect their pitch first thing on a Saturday morning to see if it passes muster for play.

Driving home I wondered how to fill the two and a half hour chasm until Manchester United played Crawley Town on ITV. I decided to clean my bathroom. When I was done it looked as good as any you would see in a Barratt show home. This gave me as much satisfaction as I get from connecting cleanly with a volley, or making an important sliding tackle. It was at this moment I came to realise that middle-age was less of a giant leap and more of a gradual transition.

Click here to see the current Southampton League tables.

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Sunday, 13 February 2011

Paul Andrews' confession

There was no game last week and there was no game this week either; but Burridge can move alongside third placed Forest Town if they win their games in hand.


The smell came from the trunk of Kev's Ford Focus. Sweat had eaten into the nylon yellow bibs we wear in order to tell the difference between teams during our Thursday night training sessions. I had left them there last week, stuffed inside a giant black sack of club footballs, mainly because I was too cold and knackered to face the delay that chucking them into my basement locker would have on taking a long hot shower. Each layer of kit I peeled off was followed by the sound of sand lightly dusting my bedroom carpet. The sand helps drainage to the artificial pitch we train on, that our players can sometimes be heard complaining about how running on it is killing their knees. Having spent over an hour lost in a pair of skin tight cycling shorts my penis looked much like I felt - withered and hopeless.

We didn't play last Saturday. Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, text us all the night before about our scheduled opponents, Sholing Sports, not being able to get a team together. There's really only so many times a side can take the kind of 9-1 beating they got from Hare & Hounds a fortnight ago, without some players going AWOL, dreaming up new injuries that prevent them from playing, or even deciding it's about time they reconsidered their wives or girlfriends' invitation to finish redecorating the downstairs toilet. It's better to waste your time in private than on a public sports field.

First thing Burridge captain, Kev Willsher, will do when receiving a text about a postponed game is shake his head, and give the screen of his iPhone a quizzical look, as though there's an ongoing conspiracy to prevent his body and soul from completely escaping the stuffy office he spends the week doing graphic design in. Although this Saturday he, along with leading scorer Sam Schwodler and goalkeeper, Ryan Jones, was skiing in Andorra. Kev told his flat-mate, Lee Fielder, that he wasn't getting on that plane if we had league-leaders, Netley, this week. He keeps himself in shape by running along the streets of Southampton after work. He is a man who doesn't like missing football, having playing through the discomfort of injuries to his back and knee this season, but when it comes to the crunch he must love snow boarding that little bit more than he hates missing a Burridge game.

Thursday had come around again and the bibs hadn't been washed. They stayed as I had left them in the big black sack of Mitre footballs. I rested them against the fence of the training pitch at Hamble school. Marc Judd was one of the first to arrive. He gave his crotch a quick scratch, blew the last smoke from his cigarette into the night air and handed me his three quid training money. Ben Rowe leant against the fence stretching his ham-strings. “Have we bought some new footballs yet,” he asked. “Or are we still using those ones from the 1970s?” Those ones from the 1970s were a batch of Mitre, what were once considered the finest footballs around, that the club had bought in the summer. Rowe didn't mind anyone knowing that he thought they were no better than kicking rocks, as though he wanted them held partly responsible for his self proclaimed lack of form. I was pleasantly surprised that nobody with a bib asked if I'd been using cat piss for washing detergent. Rowe's excuse was a blocked nose. I couldn't speak for the others.

After training we walked to our cars with that rubber legged feeling I have become used to under Paul Dyke's management. Paul Andrews drove me home in his white van that has his name painted in a friendly red font on the slide door. “Don't know about you,” he said, "but Friday's are a write off for me after training." We stopped at a red light and he looked dead ahead in silence before saying, "gotta to go to church on Sunday." The words fell out of his mouth like he was 'fessing up to some dark secret that weighed heavy on his conscious, which in many ways he was. He is getting married next year and his girlfriend wants the wedding at a church in the sticks, so it has been necessary for Paul to grease the wheels into motion by getting up far earlier than he is accustomed to on a Sunday morning to fold his six foot plus frame into a creaking wooden pew and listen to words from the good book.

It was around 7pm on Friday and I was putting my groceries away when the I received the text from Paul Dyke. Saturday's game was off. All three pitches we had lined up to play on were waterlogged. He signed off his text with a sad face symbol and a kiss. For once Kev Willsher would be pleased.

Click here to see the current Southampton League tables.

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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Burridge AFC 3-1 Hare & Hounds

Saturday 29th January - Burridge win in the mud again

I could hear Lee Fielder working a pellet of Airwaves around his jaw. He sat in the back seat of my car as we headed east on the M27 towards Whiteley, to play against Hare & Hounds, a pub on a council estate in Harefield, in the eastern fringe of Southampton. Despite having driven past it many times, I have never stopped there for a drink. 

Hare & Hounds' red and white shirts matched the colours of the large flag of St George that is flown from a thin metal mast outside their premises. The colours were arranged like Arsenal's, red bodied with white arms. Ben Rowe, a Burridge striker and Tottenham Hotspur supporter, looked at the opposition as they warmed up for the game, jogging from one side of the pitch to the other. He said, “I hate everything about that kit.” He spoke softly, but the word 'that' was spat from his lips.

Fellow Burridge striker, Lee Fielder, who seldom ignores the opportunity to dismiss Rowe, usually about his Christian beliefs, said that under Arsene Wenger's leadership the shirt has become a symbol for an attractive style of football. Rowe cut him short. “What? Pass the ball around outside the box without ever scoring a goal?” He shook his head, as Paul Dyke divvied out bibs before our pre-match warm up routine.

The playing surface at Whiteley wasn't suitable for Hare & Hounds to emulate Arsenal's passing game. The conditions were very similar to last Saturday, with the centre of the pitch similar in texture, if not taste, to a bowl of treacle pudding, as I discovered when closing down an opponent, who in swinging his boot to clear the ball up field, dislodged a fresh clump of the pitch from the sole of his boot that found its way into my mouth.


During the first-half I bungled two good goalscoring opportunities. The first of which when the opposing goalkeeper committed himself to blocking Lee Fielder, which resulted in the ball rolling towards me outside the penalty area. Although my shot was on target, it was hit weakly. A Hare & Hounds defender, who in preparing for the worst case scenario by getting back onto the goal line, had no difficulty booting the ball to safety. 

My second chance came after some slick interplay ending when Marc Judd, whose run had taken a defender away from me, back heeled the ball into my path. On receiving the ball, imaginary commentary from David Coleman buzzed in my ears as I became acutely aware of the stunning goal that I was no doubt about to score. A collective sigh of anti-climax could be heard shortly after I hit the ball harmlessly over the crossbar. Lee Fielder was having a better afternoon. He scored his first after breaking free from the Hare & Hounds defence and stroking home. Within ten minutes he had his second, volleying in Schwodler's cross from close range.


Hare & Hounds began the second-half with purpose, scoring pretty much straight away. One or two of us appealed for a free-kick against goalkeeper, Ryan Jones, but the referee was having none of it, shaking his head. Their bearded centre-back left his defensive duties behind to play a more attacking role, meeting a bouncing ball forty-yards from goal with a dipping volley you couldn't help but admire. I entirely expected to see the ball stopped by our royal blue goal netting. It flashed narrowly over the crossbar.

Sam Hewitt had already had it in the ear from his older brother for not getting rid of the ball quickly enough. Now it was his turn to let off some steam. “Sandy, Jase,” he shouted, to me and my midfield partner, Jason Wilson. “You're just standing there." Sam didn't think that we were pulling our weight. His voice was not quite as high as Paul Andrews when he loses his rag, but slightly higher than usual, all the seem. I turned around and looked at him stood twenty or so yards away. The fact I did not bite back had as much to do with me being preoccupied with getting my breath back, as much as any new found zen-ness. 

Hare & Hounds' gung-ho strategy left them exposed to our counter attacks, led by Sam Schwodler, who kept himself busy by sniffing after a goal his performance deserved. His left wing cross was hit on the volley by Mark Reeves, who stood marginally inside the penalty area. When the ball crossed the line it was met with relief tinged with a touch of surprise that such a delicate finish was supplied by Reeves, a player normally associated with the rough house aspects of the game. It was a goal that effectively sealed our win.   

Victory was marked by an unfortunate but timely block by Sam Hewitt, whose testicles took the full brunt of a cleanly hit goal bound shot. The referee stopped play as Hewitt lay on touchline to the right of Ryan Jones' goal, with one arm covering his eyes, the other reaching down inside his black shorts. Our manager, Paul Dyke, ran onto pitch, lifted Hewitt's legs by the ankles and slowly drew them in toward his body in a repeated motion in an effort to relieve him off the sting. There were twenty seconds left.

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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...