Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Fifteen years of Burridge

Saturday 26 November 2011

Michelmersh & Timsbury 0-5 Burridge AFC

Back on Tuesday 30 October 2007, the day he scored a memorable goal against Netley, this blog described one Burridge player as overweight with a dodgy back. Four years on and little has changed.

Timsbury, one of the few places left in the Southampton League that still supply the visiting team with a half-time cup of tea. One of our players is sat down on the damp grass with his black socks rolled down to his ankles, taking shallow sips from his white porcelain tea cup; “It's no good,” he says, shaking his head, while rummaging through the medial bag. His name is Kristian Hewitt. After fifteen years spent playing for Burridge he has decided to hang up his boots at the end of the season.

We were winning 2-0 with goals from both strikers: Lee Fielder and Sam Schwodler, who received a cross from the right on his chest, then turned and smashed in; but manager, Paul Dyke, wasn't satisfied yet; “There's still another 45 minutes to go,” he reminded us, keen to ward off any complacency and achieve his objective of a clean sheet, something we hadn't achieved since beating Hedge End Reserves 1-0 in pre-season on 21 August. (Although our last clean sheet in a competitive fixture came in April in a 5-0 home win over Wellow). Dyke called for further effort and diligence. He also wanted to bring on Ben Rowe, who was our one and only substitute.

Kristian raises his arm, “I'm struggling,” he says. Dyke acknowledges it. Kristian is substituted around fifteen into the second-half. He walks towards the touchline, but with Rowe now on the field of play a replacement linesman will be needed. Dyke asks if Kristian won't mind going over to the far side of the pitch to do it. He'd rather not: “I can barely walk,” he protests; but he takes the linesman's flag. On Sunday he will struggle to play with his young son. Not because he is hungover, not because he doesn't want to, but because walking is a struggle. On Monday he'll still be stiff in the shins, knees and back. This can make things tricky at work: wedged into a John Dow shortly after 6am, cutting greens at East Horton Golf Course; or worse still - chopping wood. Tuesday will be a little better and by Wednesday he'll be getting back to normal, but then on Thursday it's circuit training on the artificial pitch in Hamble. His condition made the decision to stop playing easier, although going by what he has said he may decide to do so even sooner than first anticipated. He might not put his boots back on after Christmas.

Over the last fifteen years he has scored a number of goals that stick in the memory. The collection began on a Sunday afternoon in September, 1997 – down in Horndean, away to Lynx Sports. We were  hampered by the late arrival of several players who thought Horndean, Waterlooville could be reached up the M3 towards Winchester. Meanwhile, over ten miles south-east, Lynx's goalkeeper had stepped off of his goal line. Kristian tried his luck successfully from an unreasonable distance. I remember being one of the first to congratulate him on the goal, failing to try and lift him off of the ground. Several other goals spring to mind: a far post volley against a poor Bishops Waltham side at Wicker Rec, Porchester; a 2-2 draw with Warsash Wasps, on a bone dry pitch at Osborne Road - scoring from long range via the underside of the crossbar. Then two against Netley. One at home, evading four players on his way to a tap in; but perhaps the best of them all came during the opening game of the 2007/08 season at Netley, which took place on a week night. Kristian opened the scoring in a 4-1 win with a thirty-yard blockbuster. It even drew a round of applause from the handful of old men at Station Road, who are normallypreoccupied in criticising Netley's players.

Kristian was close to getting in on the act today, cutting in from the right - but his low shot was held by the goalkeeper. He later admitted that his appetite for a goal was what kept him going. Things did go according to plan in the second-half though, with three further goals. Lee Fielder and Sam Schwodler got their second goals, with Daniel Esfandiari slotting home from just inside the penalty area. The match was notable for our unusual appearance. Although both teams had different coloured shirts – us in blue and black stripes, and Michelmersh in gold and black quarters - the referee was concerned about both teams wearing black shorts. In the end Michelmersh dug out some baggy red shorts for us. By the end of play it was almost dark, with the heavy pitch struggling to come to terms with 22 people trampling all over it. Perhaps for the last time for Kristian Hewitt.

GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Sam Hewitt, CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst (c), RB: Mark Reeves, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Kristian Hewitt, (Ben Rowe) CM: Mark Sanderson, RM: Daniel Esfandiari, CF: Sam Schwodler, CF: Lee Fielder

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Reserving judgement

Burridge seem to wait until they're 3-0 down against BTC Reserves until they get going at Stoneham Lane, Southampton; eventually losing the game narrowly 3-2.

Last Thursday night, at training, Paul Andrews was awarded the yellow jersey for the second week running. The winners of the end of session six-a-side game were joined in a huddle, enjoying the dubious perk of voting for who they considered the worst player of the night. Having won it the week before, Andrews was obliged to wear it at training. Washing it carries a fine, so as you can imagine - it stinks. Andrews wore it over two further layers of clothing. Having scored an unfortunate own goal - the ball hit him square on in front of an open net - he knew he was a leading contender; “Any point in taking this off,” he asked, looking down towards the names of the previous winners written in marker pen on his shirt. It was a close vote between him and Lee Fielder, but no, there was no point in taking it off.

Andrews was named in the the thirteen man squad for the game at BTC on Saturday, where in the away team dressing rooms he pondered over his two pairs of highly buffed football boots. After choosing to wear metal, rather than rubber studs, he went outside to warm-up, dressed in an old Burridge training top – basically a navy fruit of the loom sweater with his initials in white capitals on the chest and Burridge written likewise on the back. It was regulation club wear when former manager, Colin Barfoot, issued them in 2000. One or two players enquire as to what washing detergent he must use to maintain the condition of such an old top. Andrews smiles, nods, but offers no come back – he's busy: tall men like him can't afford to be messing around when there are hamstrings to be stretched.

Daniel Esfandiari - equally tall, with groomed dark stubble and slip in shin-pads the size of tape cassettes - is known as Essy. At 21 he's over ten years younger than Andrews, and the adult era in which the jumper comes from attracts his attention.  He joins Andrews to stretch his leg on the pitch's perimeter fence, then asks Andrews about his misspent youth in the years leading up to the millennium. Andrews takes a long look at Essy and says: “I'm the man now I've always been.” Having long since abandoned the protocol expected with senior players, Essy takes his questioning a step further: “Is it true,” he begins, now laughing uncontrollably, “that digestives are your favourite biscuit, because chocolate ones are too edgy for you?” Andrews gives him another long look. After 14 years on the adult football circuit such banter can wear thin. Andrews is a straight batter, a man in control: he doesn't run up debts, he drinks in moderation, and he's not the type to be caught watching Babestation with his trousers around his ankles. It's an unusual grouping of characteristics within the football world, and to some, it would seem, this is unnerving, which brings us neatly onto BTC reserves, who have recorded some pretty hopeless results this season. The mind boggles at the sequence of events the day they let 23 goals in against Bush Hill. However, with more than one Saturday XI they are able to call upon a large pool of players at any given time. What's more, the first team had their game with the University postponed. Although, that said, the first team are still rock bottom of the Southampton Premier League.

Andrews sat alone in the dug-out and watched BTC go into a two-nil first-half lead. Both goals were followed by inquiries amongst some of our players. Paul listened to them blame each other for the goals, shouting things like: 'Why wasn't he closed down?' and 'That's your job.' Things got worse in the second-half. BTC took advantage of space on their right to make it three-nil, but there were still twenty minutes left, and given the scoreline, perhaps a suitable time to warrant a substitution. Ben Rowe is put on first and makes an instant impact. Sam Schwodler then edone away, after being put through by a long punt from goalkeeper, Ryan Jones. Rowe was then pushed in the penalty area. Kristian Hewitt slotted in the penalty. With around ten minutes left the game was nicely poised.

Dyke's last roll of the dice was to bring Andrews on for myself. Although well over six feet tall, Andrews is not renowned for his heading ability. A high ball came his way on the right wing, and with it a certain level of responsibility: we had committed men forward in numbers, if BTC won this ball they would have had a very decent chance of making it curtains. Andrews quickly surveyed his surroundings, closed his eyes, and became air bound. In hindsight jumping may not have been necessary, as his opponent was the size of a child; although I felt it was petty to allow something as minor as an enormous height advantage overshadow Andrews' commitment to the cause. I shared the fact that Andrews had won a header - a crucial one at that - with Paul Dyke. Dyke is normally quite sociable, although much less so during games. He remained stood with his arms folded and his eyes glued to the action and said: "No he didn't." The following passage of play very nearly led to an equaliser, with Andrews' flick falling into the path of Sam Schwodler, who jinked inside and shot wide. We threw the proverbial kitchen sink at BTC, but they held on manfully for the win. Later, in the West End Brewery, I brought up Andrews' header in the company of both Andrews and Dyke. Dyke stuck to his guns and laughed, while Andrews lamented the fact he never gets any credit, unless it's on a Thursday night.

Burridge: GK:Ryan Jones, LB:Sam Hewitt, CB:Ryan Hurst (c), CB:Kev Willsher, RB:Mark Reves, LM:Chris Pye, CM:Kristian Hewitt, CM:Mark Sanderson (Paul Andrews), RM: Daniel Esfandiari (Ben Rowe), CF:Lee Fielder, CF:Sam Schwodler

Scorers: 1-3 Sam Schwodler, 2-3 Kristian Hewitt (p)

Booked: Mark Sanderson (foul)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Drawing lots

Paul Dyke curses the lottery of decision making as Burridge draw their third game of the season, succumbing to a late goal in a 4-4 draw against ten-man Hythe Aztecs.

I probably deserved to be kicked; after all, I had hit him first – in the face, too. It was purely accidental. We were losing 3-2 after an hour, which I had spent demonstrating exactly why I am thinking about calling an end to my playing days at the end of the season. Only noticeable when I gave the ball away to the opposition - which happened on numerous occasions - I saw an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the game. One that didn't involve being substituted. It came in a tangle of bodies on the halfway-line. Chris Pye and their number three had fallen over the ball. The two of them scurried after the ball on all fours. The scene was ripe for a firm tackle to show my commitment to the cause. I got the ball, but must have followed through with either my boot or knee. Number three got to his feet and kicked me in the legs. He had a good head of thinned out chin length hair and fury in his eyes; “You just fucking kicked me in the head.” He wasn't ready for my explanation. The referee sent him off.

My actions were not premeditated, but number three's absence gave us more than simply a numerical advantage. He had been dropping into the middle from the right all game. It had caused us problems. Without him we'd have extra space to exploit. Ali Ingram equalised with his second of the game, smashing in Lee Fielder's cross. Ben Rowe then gave us the lead, expertly weaving past the goalkeeper. But Hythe weren't done. At times it felt like they, not us, had the numerical advantage. There was perhaps a sense of karma that it was me who conceded the free kick in which they scored. It was another another late and fairly cynical tackle, around twenty-five yards from goal. There was some delay in taking it. Once the referee was satisfied our wall had retreated the sufficient distance, Hythe scored. 

Only Paul Dyke was left in the changing rooms when the referee walked in after the game. His hair was still wet from the shower. He toweled it dry, dabbing his temples, then looked down at the match card. “You're only giving me 51?” He sounded surprised, perhaps even a little upset. Dyke, who was sat down, explained the reasons behind his score. He felt Hythe should have had a man sent-off for denying us a clear goalscoring opportunity. “You're questioning one decision in the entire game?” asked the referee. “I gave you a penalty, which you scored.” The two continued to disagree with one another. The conversation was amiable enough, but both left the gravel car-park at Burridge dissatisfied.

Burridge scorers:

Kristian Hewitt (p)
Ali Ingram 2
Ben Rowe


Lee Fielder - hand bags.
Kev Willsher - dissent. Tut-tut.
Marc Judd - possesion of a firearm. No, just joking - foul with a good slug of dissent thrown in.

Burridge lined up in a 4-4-2 formation: GK: Ryan Jones, RB: Sam Hewitt, CB: Ryan Hurst (c), CB: Kev Willsher, LB: Kristian Hewitt (Dan Allen), CM: Marc Judd, CM: Mark Sanderson, RM: Daniel Esfandiari (Sam Schwodler), CF: Lee Fielder (Ben Rowe), CF: Ali Ingram

Are you unable to distinguish between a miscarriage of justice and the referee's decision to give a throw-in to the opposition on the half-way line? Then help is at hand. I've written for the current issue of Late Tackle Magazine, assessing the task facing the FA's Respect programme in conquering our inner beast. It is available to buy in WH Smith.  

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...