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.
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