August 2007 to present
Having ended my spell as manager of Welbeck juniors and relinquished a few more of the responsibilities that were taking up the majority of my time and energy, I felt I could still remain actively involved in something but with a lot less responsibility and commitment needed. Having played football at work with a lad called Louca for the past few months, we’d become good friends and he’d recently been asked to play for a Sunday league side and had kinda promoted me to the manager too who had asked me to join also.
I really wanted to so went to train with them and my early prediction that the team would be full of the usual arrogant nobheads that fill most football teams up and down the country, especially the successful ones was blown out of the water straight away. My first training session went really well and I got to know many of the lads, all of whom were really cool.
The thing with the team, named AFC Hucknall, was that the season prior to this they had finished third in the top division and had many more lads wanting to play for them so were forming a reserve team as well. I only expected at this stage to be a bit part player for the reserves until my fitness improved and I had settled and was playing with confidence.
My first game was quite local to me in Langworth where I was asked where I like to play. Having not played properly at 11 a side football, other than with friends I was unsure where my best position would be. I know I liked to run with the ball, taking players on and shooting on my right foot so said I could play either up front or on either wing. Surprisingly enough, me and Louca started the match as strike partners. None of the first team from the previous season played so the team was made up of new players who hadn’t had time to get used to each other yet and a few of which were not good players at all. We lost the match 6-1 but I enjoyed setting up our goal. I didn’t have a bad game, playing all of the first 45 minutes up front, creating a few chances for us that weren’t taken before being subbed at half time as expected.
I watched from the sides for the first 15 minutes of the second half before being put on for the final 20 on the left wing. It was a surprise to me to get so much time but I was also pleased that my fitness wasn’t that bad and I came off feeling like I could play for another hour. I’d got involved in the match and made a good few runs with and without the ball but the team wasn’t that strong so we didn’t have much of the play anyway.
I continued to train and form a good bond with many of the lads including a few of the first teamers and was impressed with the attitudes and personalities of them all as they welcomed all the newcomers into their team with open arms. This worked really well for me as it helped me to settle really quickly and it wasn’t long before my performances and attitude was getting credit from the sidelines.
My second game didn’t go so well as it was against a top side, Linby, who were a few divisions above our first team anyway and the majority of last seasons first team turned up for it as well as the reserves and new boys so we turned up with close to 30 players. We started with our strongest possible side and were 4-0 up at half time before changes were made. We went 5-0 up before the majority of the reserves and newcomers were put on and I was one of the last on. We finished with quite a weak side and I came on with 20 minutes to go as Linby had started to pull it back. It was 5-2 when I came on and was surprisingly played in centre midfield. Not my best position or one I thought I could excel in. I played there for 15 minutes before being switched to right wing. The score finished 5-5 and I hadn’t seen much of the ball, just one run that ended with me being brought down for a free kick near the edge of our box that came to nothing.
Our third game came 2 days before I had a really important job interview so I wanted to take it fairly steady and leave the field in one piece. Unfortunately, that didn’t go quite to plan! We played for the first time on our home pitch against a decent Nott’s Trent team; I started on the right wing with Louca on the left. I would’ve preferred it the other way around but soon found that my opposition left back was quite weak so I spent a good while running him ragged whilst on the other flank Louca was finding it difficult to shrug off his man so we switched positions. I noticed every time our keeper took a kick, he was hitting it quite long towards the strikers and often our striker and there centre backs were misreading the length of the kick and it was going over them and into their keepers grasp. I read this once and as the ball sailed over our striker and their defence I was left with one man to beat to go one on one with the keeper for my first real goal scoring opportunity. I had decided to head the bouncing ball over the oncoming defender and go around him towards the goal, only to beat him to the ball by a matter of a second and as I nodded the ball over him, I then proceeded to be nodded by the defender, right in the temple! I was knocked out cold and after a few seconds came around as the manager and assistant were carrying me off the pitch! It took me a while to even realise where I was as Amelia walked me around the pitch. I was in such a daze I was looking at people and not recognising them. I also had a bit of a headache and quite a large bump had already protruded through. Not ideal to say I had the interview in two days time.
I spent the next 20 minutes recovering before looking desperate to return to the pitch in the second half, which surprisingly enough I was, even better still as I was put up front! Unfortunately we were quite outplayed and I saw very little of the ball in the final 20 minutes as we lost 4-0 but the managers had seen enough of me to see I was very committed and was something of a battler on the field. One of the things I had greatly improved in since managing the lads was becoming a very vocal player, constantly barking instructions all over the pitch, encouraging others and keeping our team in check. This had been noticed by the manager of the first team who was very impressed and in a conversation later in the week with him online, he asked me if I wanted to become more involved with the running of the team. I was very flattered to be asked but said I really didn’t need the hassle of any responsibility right now but was always available to give any advice and on match days wouldn’t mind giving my thoughts and opinions but as far as helping with training and setting up on match day, I could really do without it at this time of my life. The manager, Adam, accepted this and said that he was really impressed with how I express myself on and off the pitch and that I set an example that some of the younger lads can follow. He asked if I wouldn’t mind helping to bring the new lads through and helping them to settle and building their confidence by making me reserve team captain. I was thrilled with this offer and jumped at it. I’d only been with the team 3 weeks and was as new as all of them, even more so in fact and here I was being handed the captaincy!
As it happens, my performances on the pitch, combined with the lack of last seasons regulars attending have actually resulted in me being with the first team for every match since then and this doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon as I have been playing really well so am likely to be staying with the first team for the foreseeable future at least. I am still being encouraged to be very vocal on the pitch and give my advice every now and then, even giving a team talk recently, which is pleasing the managers.
After going to a mate of mine’s housewarming party, I bumped into a few old school friends who lived close by, Chris Taylor and Scott Gill and told them about the team. They seemed eager to join so I spoke to the manager about them coming and he said to bring them along. They also had another old mate of ours, Raif Coupe, interested so all of us went to the next match. As that day the first team and reserves had a friendly at the same time, we were separated only by Raif joining the reserves as the first team goalkeeper was present and Raif was to play in goal but Chris and Gilly joined me and Louca in the first team.
We played a tough side but didn’t play too well ourselves but it was to be expected as we’d brought 3 or 4 reserves with us for this game to make up the numbers so we weren’t at any sort of strength. We lost 7-1 but I was pleased to have been asked to play centre midfield, where I lasted the full 90 minutes, as well as having a cracking shot that was arrowing into the top corner before a full stretch keeper tipped it over the bar. I also set our goal up and was pleased for Chris to be on the end of it as we pushed forward, we had a clear penalty shout that wasn’t given but as everyone stopped in expectancy of it, I nipped in to cross for Chris to nod home. He had an excellent game that day and the managers were keen to sign him up. Gilly played well too and did enough to earn himself a recall to the first team the following week. He injured himself and went off after about an hour but he certainly made an impression, especially with his theatrics after he was about to clear a ball with his head but slipped over but still managed to compose himself whilst on the floor to head the ball well over the half way line! The following week we played another tough side, losing 2-1 after taking a quick lead again as Chris poked in a goalmouth scramble in true Alan Shearer style. I started in centre midfield again but although I feel I didn’t play overly bad, didn’t have a fantastic game, with nothing worth remembering from it.
Our first league fixture followed and again we were all called up to the first team, including Raif as our first team keeper, Tom was injured. We played a very strong and physical team from the centre of Nott’s and lost 4-1, having taken the lead early in the first half. I played the full match at left wing but didn’t have the greatest of games. I wasn’t quite prepared that day as I didn’t have breakfast and could feel a severe lack of energy from early in the match. I also pulled my left thigh muscle midway through the first half too so played a large part of the game with a bit of discomfort. I again got the assist as I won the ball in the wide left position and played a through ball in between our two strikers that at one point looked like they were going to leave to each other but Chris took charge and hammered the ball in from the edge of the box for his 3rd goal in 3 games. The game got quite physical and we were unlucky to go in at half time 2-1 down as there left winger cut inside the box and hit the ball into the far bottom corner but Gilly was in line to cut it out before being shoved into the post by the opposition striker. The referee didn’t see it and gave the goal, much to our protests and Gilly’s cry of “Ref, you need fuckin specs!” We failed to recover from this and lost 4-1 to find ourselves in 10th position by the end of play. We needed to drastically improve our game if we are to have a successful season. It does feel good to be a part of the first team though as the reserves were really struggling, losing heavily in most matches, but it is to be expected as a lot of the lads aren’t cut out for it.
Our second league game came away to Sporting Wheelbarrow, interesting name! Having spoken to the manager in the week, I had expected to start in centre midfield again as the previous week I’d ended the match really up for a challenge of the centre midfield slot but when the team sheet was read out, I was surprised to hear that I’d been selected to play at right back! What the…!! Chris was named as striker, unsurprisingly after his excellent start to his Hucknall career and Louca started on the left wing. Gilly was injured from last week’s collision with the post but came for support anyway, as did Amelia . Raif went in goal for the reserves. We started really well and seemed to be in control all over the pitch. Our centre midfield was getting stuck in and the centre backs kept a good solid line. I felt I did really well at right back, making many tackles, winning the ball and often retaining possession well as well as linking up with our right winger Jimmy to offer an extra option going forward. I also got a few good crosses in as well as finding out I could take a long throw in, which gave us another option of getting the ball into the box.
Unfortunately, we lacked something getting the ball to the strikers and I could see Chris was working really hard but was getting frustrated with the scraps he was receiving. The only shot he managed in the first half was a tame effort from outside the box when it would probably have been better getting the ball out wide but I don’t blame him for trying to get his shot off. With just 2 minutes left in the first half, we were hit on the break for the first time and both centre backs misjudged the bounce of the ball and left me alone at the back with a pacey striker who nipped in and made it 1-0 to them. It was disappointing to go in 1-0 down after playing so well but we were all confident we could turn it around in the second half. We kept our heads up and got at them from the start. It wasn’t long before we were level as Jimmy floated a corner in from the right and Deano rose highest and powered in a header. We stayed on top for the remainder of the game but still looked like the points would be shared, it felt as though it would take something special to win this game and that is exactly what we got. Deano had came out of his centre back slot to win the ball in the heart of midfield where he took one touch before hitting a shot from all of 35 yards that flew into the corner. It was a fantastic goal and an early taker for goal of the season. We held on for 2-1 and it probably should have been 3 as one of our centre midfielders was fouled before shooting from 20 yards into the bottom corner but the referee brought it back for the free kick. A great team performance, our first 3 points that lifted us into 7th and we have a few fixtures coming up that we should try and build on this result, including a cup game against these in 3 weeks time. It’s been a great start though and I hope I can put in a similar performance personally like this every week as I was given a 9 out of 10 rating by the manager and was told I may have found a regular position for myself, at right back! Who would’ve believed that, having never played in that role or anywhere along the back four in my life? Will be disappointing not to score all season as I’m itching too but I’d rather not score and contribute to more of the same. The good thing with me playing at right back is I still have an attacking nature about me so I can get forward and help the midfield, I get more time on the ball and have a good eye for the right pass and I’m still quick and fit enough to get back in defence when necessary. I even got a shot off this weekend as a corner was cleared to the edge of the box and I was in a 50-50 race to the ball with an onrushing defender but beat him to it by a split second only to hammer the ball high, wide and handsomely into the car park! I’m sure I’ll stick one in this season. I just hope I keep my head to celebrate it without squealing!
The Day Before Tomorrow!
6 years ago