Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas time

Another December, another weather enforced break to Burridge's season.....

It was Friday evening, shortly before six, when Paul Dyke texted the news. Saturday's game with Cadnam was off – the pitch was waterlogged; so, with Christmas upon us there would be no game now for at least three weeks. I spent the evening at Kristian Hewitt's, drinking his Budweiser and eating his snacks. We did not discuss his decision to stop playing at the end of the season, at the age of 32; that ship had sailed. Perhaps the football boots he bought in the summer - the ones with both metal and rubber studs, to suit all weathers - was the pragmatic choice of a man who knew there wasn't much gas left in the tank.

In recent weeks, the economy has caused several players to spend their Saturday afternoons doing things other than play football. Daniel Esfandiari had been unemployed since coming home from a spell working as a holiday rep in Tenerife. After three months out of work he got a job in a call centre. We were waiting to run laps of the artificial pitch, when Daniel arrived for training a few weeks ago. Avoiding eye contact with manager, Paul Dyke, did nothing to ease the tension: “Oh, I'll pay your five pound, or whatever it is an hour.” Paul would have been happier for Daniel if the job didn't require him to work some Saturdays, as Daniel is everything Paul wasn't as a player: skillful, adroit, although completely useless at heading the football. Along with Sam Hewitt, Ryan Jones, Ryan Hurst, Chris Pye and Dan Allen, Daniel represents the younger group of players at the club, who Dyke hopes can help him realise his goals as a football manager. Not that those goals have been quantified, or shared, but they will not include remaining in mid-table in the senior division of the Southampton Football League.

There is now time to reflect on a season that has yet to capture the imagination of 2010 - by this time last year we had inflicted a rare defeat away to Forest Town, who are now challenging for the Southampton Premier League. Highlights of the season so far include captain, Martyn Barnett, who tripped over his dog and fell down the stairs, breaking his collar bone. He is now back to full fitness. Ryan Jones has continued to impress in goal. I remember when I stepped in as manager, while Paul Dyke was on an all inclusive holiday in Egypt, stood next to White Horse FC's manager, who after seeing Jones' reflexes stubbed out his cigarette and asked me where I'd got him from. Perhaps the moment of the season so far was also from Ryan, who saved the penalty and the resulting rebound during the 4-4 draw with Cadnam. Christmas parties tend to take over at this time of year. Last week there were six players at training; this week's session will be a break from circuit training. Instead, there will be a match between the older and younger players.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Dyke unable to stem tide

Saturday 10 December: Bush Hill 5-1 Burridge AFC 

Burridge took on the reigning Southampton League champions in the cup quarter finals with something of a personnel crisis on their hands.

We sat squeezed together in one of Green Park's dressing rooms. Paul Dyke pulled a shin pad up over his ankle strapping and toward his bandaged knee. Ben Rowe watched him from the other side of the room and said: “What? You're playing today?” Paul gave him a long look, then nodded. “I'm naming myself as second substitute.” We were missing players to injuries and work commitments: Paul Andrews, Kristian Hewitt, Marc Judd, and Dave Williams were unfit to play, Ryan Hurst was painting someones lounge for cash in hand, and Ryan Jones was plumbing somewhere. It's unusual if Paul Dyke doesn't get to the gym three times a week to work on his guns, but he hadn't played competitively for Burridge since focusing on being the first team manager a couple of years ago.

Ryan Jones was a big miss. He's our goalkeeper and goalkeepers are difficult to replace at the best of times. Dyke has lots of contacts, but in these circumstances, when it is cold and wet, that is not enough. Being on friendly terms with Peter Shilton, or having Facebook correspondence with Southampton-based England futsal goalie, Andrew Reading, is useless without the charm to sell a wet afternoon in Millbrook to whoever would provide us with a goalkeeping solution. The solution turned out to be a friend of Dyke's called Steve. It was spelt out in an approachable looking font on the mauve Halifax name tag he wore on the lapel of his suit jacket. He looked the part in Jones' green goalkeeping jersey, and he seemed confident enough, bouncing a ball up and down in the changing rooms. Of course, there was no sense in telling him that the team getting changed next door, Bush Hill - Southampton league champions for the last two years running, had put ten goals past us twelve weeks ago. He'd come to understand soon enough.

Dyke gave us a last minute pep talk: “Look. If I didn't think we could do something in this game I'd have just called it off.” Thankfully, nobody asked why he hadn't done just that. The team performance showed that the players agreed with him. Although the final score would have been more representative of the game had Chris Pye taken his three chances in front of goal. Paul Dyke had come on as substitute earlier than I imagine he would have expected. He was a straight swap for Kev Willsher: an accountant on for a graphic designer. Kev had felt his hamstring go. He tried running it off. If anything it made it worse. Like Kev, Paul takes defending seriously. He still enjoys an ending an opposition attack with a hacked clearance. We all had to make plenty of those. Sam Schwodler scored our consolation goal, but despite our efforts, which were whole hearted, we were well beaten. Dyke recognised our efforts, and did not charge us our usual five pounds match subscription fee. Rarely has a Burridge team given so much for so little.

GK: Steve, LB: Dan Allen, CB: Kev Willsher (Paul Dyke), CB: Sam Hewitt, RB: Mark Reeves, LM: Sam Schwodler, CM: Mark Sanderson, CM: Martyn Barnett, CM: Ali Ingram, (Lee Fielder) RM: Chris Pye, CF: Ben Rowe

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...