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.