Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The meter's always running

Burridge's second pre-season training session takes place tonight........

Kristian Hewitt called me earlier in the week to see if I was going pre-season training on Wednesday evening. He was on holiday in Wales during the first session, which I had also missed due to a touch of tendinitis in the feet and calves, which has led me to decide on taking a further two week's leave. Hewitt was slightly apprehensive about the prospect of running laps around the playing fields of Burridge. He knew it would be a long hard slog. Not just on Wednesday night, but for every week until the season begins in September. 

Kristian Hewitt in action for Burridge, Sept 2010.
Training absentees are still able to contribute to the club. The penalty for missing a session, irrespective of the reasons why, is a fine of fifty pence, payable in cash to manager, Paul Dyke. As an accountant by profession, Dyke is extremely adept at keeping accurate records on who has outstanding fines to pay. Not that Dyke is mean. All the money goes towards the liquid refreshments at our end of season night-out. When taking escalating alcohol prices into consideration, the money is well spent.

Gordon Strachan said he was surprised at the poor level of fitness of the Southampton squad, when he took over as manager in 2001. This wasn't only an indictment on the previous regime of Stuart Gray, but also of the players themselves. Not that simply being able to run all day is necessarily an asset in itself to playing the game, but as Strachan said, the idea behind fitness is to allow players to perform their skills for a longer period of time, whether that be water carrying, decision making, or the seemingly simple task of passing the ball to another player's feet from a distance of five yards. None of which are a straight forward skill to execute if you are tired. Even in the Southampton Football League, a good level of fitness can often be the difference between an indifferent season and a good one. Naturally, there were one or two grumbles in the Burridge camp when Dyke kicked off his tenure as first team manager in the summer of 2010, with two-hour long weekly sessions of interval training; but, when assessing last season there's no doubting the value of the long hours spent on the training ground. There were come backs from two goals down on three separate occasions, most notably against eventual champions - Netley Central Reserves, and a last minute winning goal away to Forest Town, in a cracking game down by Fawley Power Station. 

The Football Association's Full Time website has published the details for the 2011/12 Southampton Football League season. Click here for full details. Casting an eye over the teams whets the appetite further for the coming season. Alongside Burridge in the forthcoming season's senior division are many of the usual suspects, like Southampton BTC, Durley and Netley Central Reserves, who despite winning the double last season remain in the senior division, because the Southampton Premier League don't allow reserve teams to compete in it. (Although, rather tellingly, Netley's starting eleven has been vastly different in each of the past five seasons we have played against them.) The reward for the hard work in training will come in the form of seven pre-season fixtures that Dyke has booked through August.

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NB Any blog text in blue is a hyperlink, which you can click on to be taken to a relevant link elsewhere. For example, those who wanted to get a better idea of how Kristian Hewitt strikes a ball can click on the blue text his name apears in. PS For those of you who've been away on summer holidays during the off season, my thoughts on Diego Maradona's recent  footballing appearance in the Russian region of Chechnya, appear on the website of Britain's finest football magazine, When Saturday Comes. To read it click here.

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Sunday, 5 June 2011

The end of season 'do'

Last night was Burridge's slightly belated end of season awards evening in Southampton.

I woke up this morning with a head full of bad dreams. My night's sleep had been interrupted with images of Burridge top goal scorer, Sam Schwodler and The Beatles, who were banging their fists into my pillows, whilst singing Helter Skelter. Looking at my phone I noticed I had a missed call from Schwodler at 3:11am. I got out of bed and made my way to the lounge, when I heard a faint whimper from my brother's room; it's an unusual arrangement, but we live together. Against my better judgement I opened the door. Many unpleasant smells greeted me along with an out stretched arm that appeared from under the covers.

“Have a good time last night?” I asked.

“Urrggggghhhhhh,” he murmured. “Give me.........water.”

I brought a pint glass of water back from the kitchen and put it on his bedside table. Seeing as he'd not gone to bed until gone 8am, it was highly unlikely he would resurface until Antiques Road show was on.

The source of my dreams became clear when I got to lounge. The floor was covered in Beatles records and empty bottles of Stella. Three fat cigar stumps had been extinguished in our Jesus ashtray. My brother, Schwodler, and no doubt others had enjoyed a night cap, which I had been oblivious to. I opened the door to the balcony to clear the smell of smoke, as I tried to piece the previous evening together. It was our end of season-do, that much I knew; but other questions remained unanswered: did Joe Hill pursue Lee Fielder's sister any further? Had Greg Baker made his early morning flight to Senegal with Arsenal's Johan Djourou? Just what exactly did Sam Schwodler have against sobriety? And, what was that substance daubed across the fly of Ryan Jones' trousers?

The vast majority of the squad had spent the day playing a round of golf at East Horton. I was one of the few who don't play. I have never been able to trust myself with a golf club since that day in 1997. I did what I could with the little money I earned from Currys to contribute in some way to Sergei Gotsmanov's dental bills, but the friendship between us was never the same again. It didn't matter, I would probably struggle to walk around the course at present. A niggling calf injury has prevented me from being able to run. I have compensated for the lack of cardio with a punishing regime, including reps of 50 push-ups, performed in the privacy of my bedroom, without any clothes. A push-up is not constituted unless my knob kisses the carpet, which in my books is a more than adequate press-up.

Paul Dyke had organised the the whole day. The evening began at Revolutions at 7:30pm. We had the first floor booked to ourselves. The fines Dyke had accrued from us all during the season had resulted in a decent sized kitty; some of which had funded the initial refreshments. Having to cough up fifty pence for arriving to games, even a minute late; or, a quid for clearing the perimeter fence at training during shooting practise, had now borne fruit. The tables were lined with ice buckets filled with bottles of beer and trays of shots. Dyke read from a sheet of paper, thanking us for our efforts during his inaugural season as Burridge manager, before handing out the end of season awards, which began with an arrangement of words I never thought I'd live to hear in the same sentence. They were: club man of the year, Sam Schwodler. Dyke has decided to give the award to the top goal scorer. Sam was the clear winner having scored nineteen this season.

Player's player of the year went to Ryan Hurst. He has built a solid partnership with Kev Willsher in the heart of our defence during his first season with the club. He accepted the applause of his team mates and received the club shield from Paul Dyke.

Kristian Hewitt turned to me and frowned, “Well, I didn't vote for him.”
“You don't have to necessarily be the best player to win it,” I said.
“I know that. Other wise your name wouldn't be on that shield,” is what I think he said,
"What was that?" I asked.
"Nothing. I just said I voted for Sam Schwodler."

Sam Hewitt was awarded manager's player of the year, having been narrowly pipped to the player's player award by one vote. Our evening continued at Reflex, a nightclub with a fixation with the 1980s. Dyke had arranged for us to jump the substantial queue, by putting our names of the guest list. Dyke plied us with more free alcohol, visiting the bar intermittently to return with armfuls of drink. This began to have an effect on Sam Hewitt. I knew he was in trouble when I saw him trying to dispense soap from the toilet attendant's crotch. He was still, somehow able to maintain a certain level of poise as he left the cubicle, that has come to be expected from his performances at right-back. Yes, he had a vacant expression on his face, but that was perfectly normal. However, to the sharper eye there was a tell-tale give away to his state, the main one being his shoes, which I could have sworn were were showered in flecks of vomit. I suspected most of it to be his.

“Well done,” I said, trying hard not to stare at his shoes.
“What?,” He jabbered, throwing his arms in wild directions in an effort to keep time with Kajagogoo.
“Err...well done on getting the award,” I repeated.
beens and how they better start pulling their weight next season. I smiled whilst simultaneously eyeing up the nearest fire exist. Fortunately, Sam ran off, climbing up the steel railings onto the dancing stage. It was the last I saw of him.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

The only man at Burridge with a Linked In profile

Burridge manager, Paul Dyke visited me last week. He said no to my offer of either hot or cold drink; this was not a social call – he was here to talk football. There he was, sat on my sofa, a mostly teetotal accountant, and the only person at the club with a Linked-In profile. Google helped me to discover that Greg Baker also has one, but he no longer plays for Burridge. The daily commute from Southampton to London in his job as football partnership manager at Comic Relief, convinced him to move to Islington.

In losing Greg, the club lost a clinical penalty taker. All in all, Greg converted seventeen consecutive penalties. In his absence, Justin Newman, Kristian Hewitt and Marc Judd all failed too score from the spot, which managed to convince me that Greg wasn't a complete waste of space, with a tortoise necked style heading technique completley ill suited to playing anywhere on the pitch, as I have heard people say.

In his Linked In profile, Baker, unlike Dyke, had chosen to use a picture of himself not only without a tie, but wearing a t-shirt; that's the charity sector for you. Most players in the squad are blue collar workers, and as such have little need for an online professional networking site. Yes, I am a pen-pusher, but my CV isn't really worthy of Linked-In; and, although Kev Willsher is a graphic designer, he doesn't strike me as the business networking type.

This time last year Dyke stepped into the breach to become Burridge manager, but now, a good month after the dust has settled on a satisfactory season, in which Burridge finished in fourth place of the Drew Smith Southampton League senior division, it was his chance to perform an audit on the club's performance. I wondered how he felt about ageing central midfield players who scored no goals last season.

I would have to do plenty of water carrying to justify my position in the starting eleven next season. I knew about his special little book. I've seen him use it in the West End Brewery after games, making a note of not just the goalscorers, but the arrangement of the back four if and when we had kept a clean sheet, as well as a tally of who had provided the goal assists. I didn't get many of those either. They were all marked off neatly in a tally chart in black pen in that book.

Although, curiously enough, Dyke did pick me to start in all but one game last season. I remember that one game well. It was Forest Town away. Dyke had his own way of breaking the news to me. We all remember Glen Hoddle's method of letting Paul Gascoigne know he hadn't made the twenty-two man England squad for the 1998 World Cup in France. Glenn had Kenny Gee playing the background when he called Gascoigne into his office to break the bad news. Gazza then smashed it up.

Dyke chose to take me to one side, away from the other players. He knew I had it in me to make a terrible scene - and the sight of me sobbing uncontrollably might unsettle some of the younger lads. By taking me away from the crowd he knew I would be able to dry my eyes and gather myself in the toilet cubicle, before preparing to take the linesman flag for the first-half.

It was just as well we were discussing off the field matters. Unless, of course, he was easing me into take a more active role in my other position as club bursar. He was keen to stress the importance of keeping a close eye on the books. As a grass roots football club we are not a money making organisation. All the money we bring in goes on outgoings – referee and pitch costs, training hire, medical equipment, league registration fees, and despite popular opinion, not on my utility bills.


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...