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.