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)