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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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Burridge AFC 1-3 Hedge-End Rangers

Pre-season fixture 3 of 6: Wednesday 10 August, Botley Road, Burridge

Hedge-End's goalkeeper, Phil Kinally, stood defiantly in his six yard box. Martyn Barnett had given our penalty kick a good wallop, but Kinally dived low to save it. Any chance to make something of the rebound disappeared when the ball - a slightly worn Mitre, was cleared high behind the goal by a defender, who joined his team mates in whooping it up in a quickly assembled huddle around their goalkeeper, while members of our team began hopelessly searching for the ball amongst a tall patch of stinging nettles.

The penalty save maintained Hedge-End's 2-1 lead with around fifteen minutes left to play. It was vindication for Kinally, who had a spot of bother during the first-half, when he swung his fists like a drunk at Kristian Hewitt's thirty yard free kick. It was an element of good fortune, as opposed to judgement, which diverted the ball against the crossbar; although any rest bite was short lived, as Marc Judd followed in to acrobatically score an equalising goal. Hedge-End regained the lead in the second-half, leaving the game nicely poised for the final thirty minutes.

The penalty kick was awarded for hand ball against Hedge-End's left-back – a decision he was strongly opposed to. He appeared to lean into the ball with his upper arm. Four letter protests may have warranted further punishment, but referee, Marcus Hewitt, found himself in a fairly hopeless position. Not only is he related to two of our players, he was also referred to on several occasions by some of our players by his first name, which certainly didn't make his task any easier. Marcus recalled his telephone conversation earlier in the week, when he told the Southampton Refereeing Association that he was refereeing Burridge's friendly games. He was told, in no uncertain terms that: "There is no such thing as a friendly – only FA sanctioned matches."

This had been a much anticipated fixture, for many of us at least. Hedge-End are fresh from winning last season's Hampshire League. Although there is only three miles between our grounds, any rivalry between the two of us seems to exist mainly within our camp, and has been largely manufactured since former top scorer, Bryn Schwodler, left to join Hedge-End in 2010. Other than Ross Bryant, another former Burridge player, (who was turned out in a lovingly polished pair of Copa Mondials), and Kinally, Hedge-End's squad of twenty was made up of what was to me, a group of complete strangers, most of whom I imagine would have had no emotional connection to this fixture.

Regrettably, I have to accept a certain amount of responsibility for Hedge-End's third goal. Having made a meal of bringing a throw in under control, I then sold Dan Allen hopelessly short with a return pass, in what was the proverbial 'hospital' ball; which Hedge-End intercepted on their left wing. Our goalkeeper, Ryan Jones, exceeded expectations by making a reflex save from their attack, but he was still on the floor when the rebound was tucked away by Bryn Schwodler, who had the grace not to ruffle my hair on his return to the half-way line. By now, time, and the game as a contest, was all but over.

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Sunday, 7 August 2011

Locks Heath Reserves 5-2 Burridge AFC

 Pre-season fixture 2 of 7: Saturday 6 August, Stoneham Park, Eastleigh

A prior engagement kept me away from Saturday's game; so, I have relied on the first hand accounts of those present at Stoneham Park, on Saturday morning, to piece this report together. Ryan Hurst was first to reply to my text message. He too was unable to play, although his absence, rather unfortunately, was due to an ankle injury he sustained in Wednesday's game with Sporting Bishops Waltham. This meant we were without our first choice centre halve pairing against Wessex League opponents, as Kev Willsher was also missing, having torn a shoulder muscle on Wednesday. Although Hurst's text didn't confirm the final score, it did heavily imply that we had lost: "We battled well, but so many playing out of position." 'But' was very much the operative word, and after some coaxing, Hurst did confirm that we had lost the game 5-2. Although what was rather more telling was that we were three goals down in the opening three minutes.

We are notoriously slow starters to games, a characteristic which may have been exemplified by the 10am kick-off. Lee Fielder tucked away nicely to make the half-time score far more respectable than many may have feared after the opening minutes. It was agreed that we were up against a good side. The reshuffled centre back pairing of Kristian Hewitt and his younger brother, Sam, was further tweaked when Sam went off at half-time with a knock. Marc Judd came into central defence from left back.

Locks Heath's quality was further highlighted when they scored a fourth from the edge of the box shortly after the restart. Four goals soon became five. This would be a result, that given the context of the game - missing players and quality of opposition - that most players will be able to shrug off. This couldn't be said for Martin Barnett. Not only is he based in Locks Heath, he is also one of their former players; so he would have been able to draw on these feelings to motivate himself for the match and score a goal I'm sad to have missed. Paul Dyke described it as Maradona-esque-  an opinion endorsed by Ryan Hurst, who said Martin was full of nice touches in our midfield. I anticipate that we will have a larger squad for Wednesday's game with Hedge-End.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sporting Bishops Waltham Reserves 1-0 Burridge AFC

Pre-season fixture 1 of 7: Wednesday 3 August, Priory Park, Bishops Waltham, south-east Hampshire

Wednesday evening marked the first of seven pre-season games for us during August. Opened windows did little to cool the away team dressing rooms at Priory Park; where, inside, thirteen of us jostled for adequate space in which to get changed. Kristian Hewitt had a look of concentration on his face as he searched the kit bag for a pair of extra large shorts. These days he is quick to dismiss his level of fitness; but judging on his performance in this fixture his words are merely a smokescreen. During the first-half, alongside Martin Barnett in the centre of our midfield, Hewitt showed large reserves of energy, demonstrated by several immaculately timed sweep tackles, where he slid in to dispossess his opponent before getting back to his feet with the ball in one rapid movement.

It was difficult to ascertain the exact stature of the opposition, who play in the Hampshire Premier League's Combination, which is somewhat of an anomaly, as it is made up of the Hampshire Premier League's reserve sides. However, by measuring that level on its own merits, Sporting's reserves had a good, if not ultimately frustrating season last term - losing the title on goal difference and the league cup final, after extra time to Liphook. Sporting had the better of the first fifteen minutes. Their passing was pleasing on the eye, without ever finding a clear route through to Ryan Jones' goal; mainly due to Ryan Hurst and Sam Hewitt - paired together in the centre of our defence, who consistently snuffed out their attacks, with a combination of poise and composure. This resulted in one or two cross words being exchanged between Sporting's midfield and attack, who seemed to have a distinct difference in opinion in how they should go about their business.

Sporting dominance faltered when we noticed they were playing a very high defensive line, which we exposed five or six times. Sam Schwodler and Lee Fielder both had several clear runs through on goal. Fielder reacted angrily when he missed the target, kicking the air in frustration. Debutant, Dan Jackson, went closest to breaking our duck, when his right footed strike cannoned powerfully back into play off of what seemed to be the underside of the metal crossbar. At this point it seemed an impending Burridge goal was inevitable. At half-time I heard several Sporting players discussing the first-half. They chose to ignore their defensive frailties, deciding instead to put the negative focus on our tactics, which they considered long ball. Far from being the kind of prehistoric anti-football, written about extensively in the pages of Charles Hughes' book, The Winning Formula, (which claims that the majority of goals are scored in under five passes), our approach was a calculated response to what we considered a weakness. Our passes were long, but they were also, mainly, accurate. This approach was highly effective in producing goalscoring chances - but unfortunately, no goals.

The frustration caused from not capitalising on our previous goalscoring opportunities seemed to accumulate in our collective consciousness; weighing heavy on the shoulders of whoever happened to have one of the many more chances we created in the second-half. Sam Schwodler was openly self critical, cursing himself with all the names under the sun. It was particularly odd that his goalscoring touch should desert him the day he finally wore suitable footwear, in the form of his new Adidas blades, specifically designed for these conditions. In the past Sam has worn metal studded boots all year round, irrespective of how hard the pitch is. Marc Judd then conceded a penalty. He was furious, and directed his anger towards the referee, whose decision appeared vindicated by the distinct lack of appeal against his judgement. Sporting scored from the resulting spot kick, which proved to be the decisive goal of the game.

Later, Lee Fielder sat in the corner of the changing room, saying that his missed chance would haunt his night's sleep. "Which one?" Replied Marc Judd. In truth, the only real negative aspect of the evening's play was an injury to captain, Kev Willsher - who was substituted after shepherding the ball over the byline from an opposing forward. He was somewhat distant after the game - perhaps lost in negative thoughts about the length of time he will be unable to play. It turned out he had torn a muscle in his shoulder, and as a consequence will be sidelined for four to six weeks. He did not join the majority of the squad to evaluate our performance in the garden of the nearby Priory pub. It was agreed that it had been an enjoyable game- with a great flat and expansive surface on which to play on, where everyone saw plenty of the ball; all that was missing was the result.

Burridge squad: Ryan Jones, Mark Reeves, Ryan Hurst, Sam Hewitt, Mark Sanderson, Marc Judd, Kristian Hewitt, Martin Barnett, Dan Jackson, Lee Fielder, Sam Schwodler, Kev Willsher, Paul Andrews 

Burridge's next fixture is a 10am kick-off on Saturday 6 August, versus Locks Heath Reserves, at Stoneham Park Sports & Social Club, Stoneham Lane, Eastleigh, Southampton, SO50 9HT.

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...