Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Wellow 0-6 Burridge AFC

Saturday 26th March, Hatches Farm, Romsey Road, East Wellow

Wellow are marooned at the bottom of the senior division of the Drew Smith Group Southampton Football League table. The only respite from a wretched season, in which they have lost twelve of their previous fourteen league games, came in drawn matches with Durley and Michelmersh. Prior to kick-off we trotted out the usual clich├ęs about there being no easy games, but you can never be completely sure if an element of complacency is lurking beneath the surface of your team's pre-match preparations. Wellow's track record this season suggested they were nothing but relegation fodder, although as Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, was keen to emphasise - this would not be an easy game for us. We were without Jason Wilson, Ben Rowe (who was in Switzerland,) and Mark Reeves, (who had been struck down by a bout of diarrhoea). Chris Pye and Dan Allen were picked in the starting line-up, with the substitute bench bolstered by Joe Hill and Martin Barnett.

The afternoon began with a misunderstanding. Wellow thought the game was kicking-off at 2pm. So did the referee. Paul Dyke on the other hand had been told 2:30pm. I passed Dyke outside the dressing rooms as he showed Wellow's manager, a large bald man, who was short on hair and big in muscle, the text message from our club secretary. Between the two they negotiated a 2:15pm kick-off. There was still time for us to warm-up, although not as much as both Lee Fielder and Kev Willsher would have liked. The referee was stood in the centre-circle getting tetchy. “Come on,” he shouted, “we agreed 2:15, it's 2:20 now”. He was particularly unhappy about the delayed kick-off. His wife would now have to suffer the indignity of catching the bus home from a Women's Institute meeting, rather than getting collected by her husband.

Wellow were not as bad a side as their league position suggests; a little indisciplined perhaps in terms of positional sense, but with several players who knew what to do with a football. One of whom I was marking in central midfield. He rarely failed to bring the ball under close control or scowl at some of his team mates when they were unable to do likewise. Unfortunately for them, their individual talent was unable to knit together in any kind of cohesive unit. This meant the long ball over the top of their defence worked a treat. Marc Judd was involved in our first meaningful attack, albeit from a rather unlikely source. The ball bounced invitingly to his right inside the penalty area. Although predominately left footed, the urge to strike, even on his seldom used right foot, was too strong to ignore. His shot ricocheted off the goalkeeper's left hand-post straight to Lee Fielder, who ballooned the ball high over an open goal. Fielder did not let this unpleasant incident phase him. Moments later he smashed in Sam Schwodler's right-wing cross. Kev Willsher then did what he had been threatening to do for the previous handful of set pieces by heading in a corner-kick. It was then goalkeeper, Ryan Jones' turn to get in on the act. His punted clearance was side footed neatly past Wellow's oncoming goalkeeper by Chris Pye, who was starting his first game for Burridge.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Kev Willsher and Ryan Hurst believed the opening minutes of the second-half had come to be something of an Achilles' heel for us over the last few games. During half-time they spoke of the need for us to approach the second forty-five minutes in the right frame of mind in order to avoid making any careless mistakes. Identifying this problem did nothing to help either Hurst or Willsher to solve it. I do not think it is an enormous exaggeration to suggest we have grown as dependent upon Kev Willsher's performances in the centre of defence as we are on water coming from the kitchen tap. So there was a sense of genuine bewilderment from the rest of us to see him fluff his lines in a series of botched and scuffed clearances, minutes within the restart.  The idea he was cast under the spell of some self fulfilling prophecy seemed more feasible than the reality of him being prone to human error.

Sam Schwodler laid back to Kristian Hewitt, who made it four-nil, with what was by his standards a scuffed shot; although scuffed or not it rolled nicely into the 'keeper's bottom left hand corner. Schwodler was then hacked down by a rather malicious looking tackle, which the referee punished with a penalty-kick. Wellow complained bitterly about diving, with some of their players making rather lazy comparisons with the cynical aspects of Cristiano Ronaldo's play. Hewitt scored his second of the game from the penalty spot with a self assured strike straight from from the Teddy Sheringham manual of finishing. The scoring was complete when Martin Barnett, fresh from the bench, played a ball through to Marc Judd, who had an unusual amount of time and space to find a suitable angle on which to finish with his left foot.

The comfortable scoreline was of little consolation to Sam Schwodler. He had spoken freely of the goals he hoped to score against Wellow. The disappointment in not doing so seemed to sag heavily on his shoulders. He sat half-dressed in the dressing-rooms after the game, weighing up whether or not he could make it back to Burridge for Wednesday evening's mid-week game, from Cardiff, where he is working at present. The prospect of rectifying Saturday's goal drought against Wellow clouded Schwodler's grasp of distance and time. The fixture has since been re-scheduled for 30 April, sparing Schwodler around two-hundred pounds air fare, or the equivalent in speeding fines down the M4.

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Burridge AFC lined up in a 4-4-2 formation
GK: Jones, LB:S.Hewitt, CB:Hurst, CB:Willsher, RB:Allen (Barnett), LM:Pye (Hill), CM:K.Hewitt, CM:Sanderson, RM:Judd, CF:Fielder (Andrews), CF:Schwodler

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A year on from the end

We did not play on Saturday. The vast majority of us were in Brighton for Jay Schwodler's Stag Weekend. It was there that our manager, Paul Dyke, was shoved off balance by a doorman on the concrete steps outside Revolutions. Ryan Jones, along with a handful of others, saw what happened and threatened the doorman. This public show of unity - albeit from a safe distance and aided by a belly full of lager - was in stark contrast to the mood last May, when Pete Lyons decided to step down as manager after four happy seasons. Without a manager the situation begged the question - did the club have a future? The silence that followed from the players, me included, was ominous.

Some were going pre-season training with Hedge-End. In what I now recognise as a fit of pique I decided on a fresh start with BTC. My rationale behind this decision was based almost entirely around the short distance to their ground on Stoneham Lane. I would be able to watch all of Football Focus on a Saturday afternoon then cycle to home games and still have time to spare. I recall sitting in Southampton Common on a warm May afternoon having come to accept that in playing my last game for Burridge, the opportunities to see many of my friends would be reduced by our busy lives to the occasional get-together.

It was on that same afternoon I saw Paul Andrews. The heat had done little to compromise his dress sense. Although he wore shorts, his buttoned shirt made me, with my bare chest, feel somewhat under dressed, even for drinking lager in the park. He was looking for an ice-cream van; I told him I was looking for a new team to play for. When I explained the extent of the situation he was as surprised and disappointed as I could have expected Paul Andrews to be. He wondered off into the horizon looking for ice-cream with a sheepish look on his face.

Within a few weeks Paul Dyke returned from holiday in New York and everything fell into place. He was willing to stop playing in order to concentrate solely on managing the team. There was a brief meeting at the Shamblehurst Barn and off we went. Fast forward nearly twelve months and we have an experienced group of players complemented nicely with a crop of youngsters. With six games to go third place is still within our grasp. If we win our three games in hand it will only be a better goal difference keeping Forest Town ahead of us.

Click here for last week's results and the current league tables.

NB You can join Burridge's Facebook page by clicking here.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Burridge AFC 2-3 Allbrook FC

Saturday 12 March, Burridge, Botley Road - Burridge run league leaders close.

Getting caught short at Burridge can be an undignified experience. Dimly lit cubicles and a lack of toilet paper require an element of improvisation, which in Jason Wilson's case meant using the ample supply of paper towels. He confessed to one or two pre-match nerves, which was not unusual for him, or anybody else; although he blamed the curry from Tescos he had eaten the previous evening for the wretched smell.

He would have been far better off walking further up the corridor to the ladies, as I did. There you will find a bright and roomy space with a reassuring snow white porcelain bowl and several rolls of quilted toilet tissue. On this occasion my churning stomach had given me a false alarm, but one can never be too sure during the hour or so of limbo otherwise known as pre-match preparation. I am still haunted by the memory of former Burridge captain, Scott Burnet, who in deepest darkest Portsmouth, once had to rely on a modest handful of scrunched up receipts to wipe with. It is testament to the man's character that he got on stoically with the task in hand.

It felt good to be back amongst familiar surroundings. Cold and wet weather had prevented us playing at Burridge since early November. I urinated freely on a knot of tangled grass twenty yards away from the pitch. A rabbit scurried out from some nearby bushes, as all number of birds, none of which I could identify, sang their songs. The air was cool and the sky was overcast - it was a fine day for football.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Come Sunday morning I was slightly miffed with the Southampton Sports Echo's summary of last week's 1-1 draw with today's opposition, in which they reported Allbrook were held by Burridge. I read on hoping to find further details about the spirited part we played in the game. When this was not forthcoming I decided to leave the paper in toiletry aisle of Tesco Express rather than part with 50 pence. Last week's game against Allbrook had become heated. So, when a strange quirk in the fixture list pitted us against them for the second week running, nobody would have been surprised at the spirit this game would be played out in.

The bad feeling was brought to the surface, in my opinion at least, by just two players. Firstly, by one of Allbrook's defenders, who I think wore the number five shirt. He only ever seemed to open his mouth to seek conflict, irrespective of whether or not it was with us, the referee, or one of his own team mates. The Chinese symbols tattooed on his arm had the dated look of a pair of Ellesse shoes, once all the rage, but now resigned to a place in the past. It was curious that somebody with a fairly basic grasp of English would choose such an incomprehensible language to have inked permanently into his arm. Of course, he could well have been, for all I knew, a multi-linguist, but every time he opened his mouth he gave me further reason to doubt that.

Allbrook's number seven was their other guilty party. Tall, talented and almost entirely pre-occupied with complaining, mostly to the referee about not being protected from the tackling of Mark Reeves and Jason Wilson, his defence mechanism was to broadcast several threats of violence, none of which he got around to carrying out. He demanded respect from everyone whilst giving none to anyone. In truth it wasn't our midfield, the referee, or his team mates he had a problem with - it was the entire world. Both players ended up in the referee's notebook. Number five could count himself lucky to still be on the field after wrestling Sam Schwodler to the ground and denying him a run through on goal.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

I had left the dressing room in rubber studs, which was perhaps no less optimistic than arriving to Burridge, as I had, dressed in shorts. The boots were made by Puma; the instep of which had been worn away to a thin under layer of non-descript material. They would not last to see next season, but at £24.99 from Sport Direct, inclusive of delivery charge, I wasn't going to quibble. Adidas, in my experience, always last longer than Puma. The pitch was still a little soft underfoot in places, so I fetched my metal studded Adidas, which I would go on to change into at half-time.

Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, was in his day an uncomplicated defender who held organisational skills in higher esteem than anything else. Therefore he would not have been pleased in the manner which we conceded our first goal. It came direct from a corner-kick at the near post. A spot of bickering between us followed and we did well to pick ourselves up and equalise when Lee Fielder overcame the frustration of an earlier disallowed goal to tuck away nicely.

So, it was a real shame to concede once more so close to half-time. Some voiced their disappointment at goalkeeper, Ryan Jones, for not coming off his goal line to narrow down the angle of the striker. Dyke, perhaps still sore from the first goal, picked up on this at half-time. “I don't know who did it,” he said, “but you don't call for your goalkeeper.” If Sam Schwodler believed he was defusing the mood by owning up he was sorely mistaken. He tried to explain his rationale, but it was drowned out by the sound of Dyke, who was now fast approaching Sir Ben Kingsley Sexy Beast mode. (Those not familiar with that reference need only click here.)

Allbrook went further ahead in the second half from another corner, this time via a near post header. Sam Hewitt seemed to be shouldering most of the responsibility. Later, in the West End Brewery, he called his performance a bad day at the office. What seemed to cheese him off most was not being able to replicate the shooting drills we had carried out during Thursday night's training session. He, along with everyone else, showed good character by digging in to create several good goal scoring chances. One of which fell to Chris Pye, who was finally making his debut after recovering from a long standing ankle injury. His close range header got stuck in the sandy goalmouth. He did, however, lay on another well taken goal for Sam Schwodler, which set up a good old fashioned grand stand finale, but unfortunately, on this occasion there was to be no last minute Burridge come-back. As Paul Dyke later remarked in the Burridge dressing room - it's difficult to win a game when you gift the opposition sloppy goals.

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

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Allbrook 1-1 Burridge AFC

In which Ben Rowe's last minute goal puts a spanner in the works of the league leader's title winning campaign.

I was not prepared to invest the energy required in daring to hope for any other outcome than a scored Allbrook penalty. Time was running out and we were already losing 1-0 when the referee blew his whistle and pointed to our penalty spot. Sam Hewitt was preparing to defend a corner-kick as a consequence of stopping an Allbrook attack by heading the football safely over our crossbar. Once he realised the referee thought he had done so illegally, with his hands, the circus began.

Prior to this match, Allbrook led the league table over second placed Netley Central Reserves by means of superior goal difference. Click here to see the league tables going into this game. To my recollection, not a single Allbrook player appealed for a penalty. There were no shouts of handball from the touchline either, which spoke volumes to whether or not Sam Hewitt had used his hands, because as the game reached its climax and with only a single goal separating us, both teams demonstrated an eagerness to show off their sopranos, with loud cries of our ball, for something as seemingly inconsequential as a throw-in on the half-way line, let alone a penalty.

Sam Hewitt remonstrated with the referee, which is a mostly pointless exercise. It is inevitable that referees, much like players, are going to make mistakes, but they are not in the business of changing their minds, even if they do on occasions come to some rather baffling conclusions.

By now the referee was surrounded by a pack of my team mates. Whether or not it was the earnestness of their complaints, or that the referee just wanted to put a stop to their whining, he caved in and consulted the linesman, who in this case was the recently substituted Mark Reeves, who gave the referee his own, fairly subjective recollection of events. Although there was no question it should not have been a penalty, once one has been awarded the idea of going back on a decision is a shady practise. When the referee did so Allbrook were furious.

The only thing clear to me at this point was I had seriously underestimated our team's powers of negotiation. In terms of authority the referee had now effectively tendered his resignation; and without a strong presence to enforce the law the atmosphere turned sour.


I was relieved to hear the whistle for the end of the first-half. What little contribution I had made amounted to nothing more than a series of scuffed clearances, careless passes and most notably, a slip in our penalty area whilst defending a corner-kick which led to Allbrook taking the lead. We were fortunate not to be a goal down as early as the opening minute, when Allbrook tore through us in a quick passing motion ending with a clipped shot grazing our crossbar. As our net bulged it dawned on me just what a long afternoon we could have been in store for.

Allbrook's number five was far from complementary about our brand of football, which he described as long ball. “It's all they got,” he repeated. I took an almost immediate dislike to him, mainly, I think, because he thought he had the measure of us. What he failed to recognise was this so called only tactic of ours was causing him respiratory problems. The sight of him breathing heavily with his hands on his knees after trying to keep pace with our striking duo of Sam Schwodler and Lee Fielder was a real shot in the arm to the rest of us. They both walked off the pitch at half-time believing they could have done better with the few chances they had.


One of the opposition, a tall man with a black receding hairline and pink laces zigzagged in his white Adidas boots complained about the lack of protection the referee was giving his ankles from what he considered our continuous fouling. “What happens when we can't go to work on Monday,” he said. The seven or eight making up Allbrook's spectating contingent began laughing. “Where you working Monday, then?” The referee did eventually take his yellow card from his pocket. Sam Schwodler the guilty party after one late tackle too many.

Ben Rowe was put on as substitute. Free from the shackles of the fluorescent lime shirt, worn to each training session by the previous week's worst trainer, and fairly often by Rowe of late, he seemed to take pride in successfully winding up the man with pink laces. He did so by channelling the Kent of his teenage years; which I'm led to believe was spent dressed in tracksuit trousers tucked into white socks, whilst MCing over two-step beats in dingy nightclubs. All of which proved to be a useful grounding for a game of this sort. There was little Allbrook's goalkeeper could do about Ben Rowe's goal. Having already made two promising visits into Allbrook's penalty area, Rowe produced some eagerly awaited end product. A defender tried stopping his shot from reaching its destination with a wild swing, which sliced the ball behind him, and rather unfortunately, in the opposite direction in which his goalkeeper had already dived.

The defender stood glued to the spot with his head in his hands, reflecting on the significant contribution he had made to our equalising goal. As if this wasn't embarrassment enough, he had also shown scant regard to the dress code of royal blue shorts his team mates had adhered to so fastidiously. A yellow jersey flapped outside his pair of black baggy shorts, which served as a further, but unnecessary means of his identification. In all the commotion I hadn't noticed Dan Allen come on as substitute. He looked so vulnerable stood there trying to keep his hands warm by burying them deep within his pockets. Women of a certain age would no doubt melt at the sight of his angelic face, gather him up in a blanket and wean him back to health on a diet of warm milk. As the final whistle blew, I walked towards the changing rooms, noticing the referee behind me surrounded by yellow shirts.

The Burridge team facing Allbrook at Cutbush Lane on Saturday 5th March were:
GK:Jones, RB:S.Hewitt, CB:Hurst, CB:Willsher, LB:K.Hewitt, RM:Reeves, CM:Sanderson, CM:Wilson, LM:Judd, CF:Fielder, CF:Schwodler. (Subs: Allen, Andrews, Rowe)

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

BTC Reserves 1-3 Burridge AFC

Saturday 26th February at Stoneham Lane: Burridge play their third game in seventeen weeks

It had been another wet week in Southampton. Although the sun had shown its face on Thursday afternoon, the streets were still dotted with puddles. This did not bode well for the chances of our home game with BTC Reserves going ahead as scheduled. My weekend began shortly after 10am with the muffled ring tone of my mobile coming from beneath my pillow. It was Burridge chairman, Barrie Becheley. Our pitches were still waterlogged so he arranged for our game to be switched to BTC's ground. BTC's pitch fairs better than most. They have not only the machinery to maintain it, but also, more crucially, the volunteers prepared to give up their spare time to operate that machinery.

I arrived five minutes earlier than our manager had requested. Some BTC players were already limbering up on the grass, fully kitted up in their blue and white stripped kit. Many of ours might have been doing likewise had I not had our kit in the boot of my car. They sat crammed in the small away team changing room, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the kit bag, in which they would dive into and try and fish out the best pairs of shorts, and not the discounted silky ones Paul Dyke had ordered at the beginning of the season.

BTC's toilets surpassed my low expectations. During previous years I have been left to make do with rinsing my hands under the cold tap before drying them on the back of my shorts. On this occasion I was pleasantly surprised after pressing the soap dispenser to see a dollop of pink gel squirt into the palm of my hand. There was also a full complement of green paper towels. When I returned to the dressing room most people had changed and gone outside to warm up. Of the few shirts left on the floor, one was the number ten, which is synonymous with some of the creative greats of world football, the names of Maradona and Pele springing to mind as the most obvious examples. Wearing it comes with a weight of expectation to be able to give a competent and skillful display. I, however, decided to go against tradition and wear it myself.

BTC joined together in a huddle before kick-off. This was in stark contrast to how we stood alone in our separate positions. BTC's public show of unity was put to the test in the first ten minutes of play, as we managed to keep them penned in their own half through a combination of neat passing, hard work, and in my case, dirty play.

Chasing an opponent down our left wing seemed like the perfect opportunity for a sliding tackle. The referee wasn't impressed and gave me a good ticking off. “You have left the ground with your studs raised,” he said, describing events in some form of the present perfect tense footballers like to use when discussing their goals in post-match interviews. “Keep on and you'll be having an early bath.” Confidence in keeping my nose clean for the remaining eighty minutes of the game was dented when the referee beat me in a five yard race to retrieve the ball for a free-kick. This wouldn't have been quite so crushingly disappointing had he not been at least 70 years old. His a trimmed white moustache and friendly face made him a Werthers Original advert casting director's wet dream. (Anyone not familiar with those adverts can click here.)

If, for the sake of argument, the referee was 70, he could well have been refereeing since 1970. It beggars belief just how many times a man could be told to fuck-off during the course of those forty-one years. If, for example, he's been told to fuck off on average ten times per game, which is I'm sure you'll agree is a fairly conservative estimate, and refereed around twenty-five games per season, he is on course to be told to fuck off a total of 250 times per season. Multiply that by 41 years would mean he's been told to fuck off ten-thousand two-hundred and fifty times, throughout the decades by people in a variety of different hair cuts and fashions and trends.

Our front two of Lee Fielder and Sam Schwodler provided a valuable outlet for our midfield of myself, Jason Wilson, Marc Judd and Mark Reeves, whose accumulative age is something in the region of 120 plus. Sam Schwodler's tenacity turned my speculative hoofed clearance into a half decent through ball. Schwodler was barged off the ball in the penalty area. Nobody on our side appealed, but the referee gave us a penalty kick anyway. Kristian Hewitt trotted up field from his position of left-back and casually side footed the penalty into the goalkeeper's bottom right corner. As always, it is considered something of a faux-pas to concede a goal so soon after scoring one of your own. So when we gave away a disputed free-kick on the edge of our penalty area, naturally, we became rattled. This demonstrated itself in the curious sight of a throng of our players haranguing a 70 year old referee. Even more curious was the sight of Marc Judd, who is normally more than capable of getting a yellow card when doing something as innocuous as taking a throw-in, advising players to bite their tongue. Almost inevitably BTC scored from the free-kick with a well executed shot over our wall and into Ryan Jones' top left hand corner.

It was a great relief when Lee Fielder scored our second. Sam Schwodler was involved again, laying the ball onto Lee, who still had plenty to do before he rounded the goalkeeper and rolled the ball into an empty net. He is in his elemenet in these situations; and while on occassions he does miss, like he did in the second half when he shanked a shot high over the cross bar, he does not shy away from the responsibility of trying to score, which is something he does not get credit for. Many of his colleagues tend to focus on other aspects of his character; particularly his dress sense, which has drawn some to make comparisons with teenage boybands.

Thirty-something Mark Reeves is currently Burridge's oldest player. He threatened to score our third goal by killing a cross field ball dead with his right foot and jinking inside to his left with the poise and elegance of an Olympic skier. This alone was enough for myself and Kristian Hewitt to show our appreciation for Reeves' skill with the kind of involuntary groans not becoming of grown men outside of the bedroom. Reeves has shed the pounds and reinvented himself as a wide midfielder this season. Last Sunday he beat his personal best 10k time in Winchester's annual race with 43:54, but had his thunder rather stolen from him by Jason Wilson, who broke the 40 minute barrier. Scuffing his volley took nothing away from the split second Reeves threatened to step out of Jason Wilson's shadow. Wilson's midfield performance epitomised Dyke's footballing philosophy . He didn't so much play the game, but spoil it for BTC. Rather like a small dog who has decided to intrude on a kick-about at the park, as an opponent you admire his tenacity for getting to the ball, but you really wish he would go away. Sam Schwodler scored the third with a goal his performance merited to seal a hard fought win, which nestles us nicely into fourth place.

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

Click here for the latest Southampton League tables. 

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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...