I would never have thought I would be happy to say that I started the New Year with a kickin debut(t)! Sorry, I know that is a stretch 😉
In the last week of 2012, it appeared that the rain gods still weren’t sure if the Mayan’s apocalyptic predictions had actually been called off. Yet, after all the efforts of mother nature to flood the whole of the UK, they rain finally ceased on New Years eve and the ground dried up enough (arguably) for us to play our New Years Day game. “Play mud football in England” has now been added to and checked off my bucket-list.
In reality, the field was playable, albeit quite soft and, in the end, muddy. As the season goes on it is important to get as many games played as possible since the schedule is already very packed, so it was just as well that the game was played (especially considering our Dec 29th game had just been cancelled).
So, on January 1st, 2013 Guiseley AFC made the trip across Bradford to play local rivals Bradford Park Avenue (BPA) for the 2nd time in the space of 6 days. As we had seen on Boxing Day, BPA were a good side who posed a significant challenge, particularly at their home ground: Horsfall Stadium. Add to the mix the poor field and windy conditions and it was clear that earning 3 points to bring in the New Year was no easy task.
If football really is “a game of two halves”, you could call each half in this game “against wind” and “with wind”.
We were against the wind in the first half and it definitely presented a difficult problem for us. However, we held our own for most of the half and actually went up 1-0 after about 25 minutes. Our forward, Josh Wilson, got the ball on the left side of the box before cutting inside and finishing neatly into the bottom right corner. One of the biggest setbacks of the wind was that our goalkeeper’s clearances and delivery, which are normally very good, were below par. This turned out to be our undoing for the tying goal, as a poor clearance led to a BPA corner, which ultimately led to the opposition’s goal just before half-time.
Despite a few scares from the home side, we dominated most of the second half proceedings and were looking more potent than in the first half. It was BPA’s turn to fight the wind, as well as the opposition. In messy games, in poor conditions, it is often free-kicks that decide games (another cliche, I’m sorry). This proved as true in 2013 as it did in 2012, and we pulled ahead in the 74th minute when our captain, midfielder Andy Holdsworth, beat the goalkeeper with a low drive off a free kick from a few yards outside the box. Within 5 minutes he was at it again with a similar free kick from a slightly more difficult angle. All we had left to do was see out the game…and we did.
On a personal note, I was happy to kick off the year with my Guiseley debut! After our 3rd goal, I was put on for the final minutes and essentially needed to make sure I didn’t undo all the hard work my teammates had done in the previous 80 minutes. I thankfully managed that. Overall it was a relatively nondescript debut, I misplaced a few passes and I made a few passes. Now that I have gotten the debut out of the way, I can focus on continuing to work hard so as to benefit the team.
In regards to my debut, it is a bit ironic that I played my first game for Guiseley at Horsfall stadium, since it was the first place that I trained here in England. It was just a few weeks after I got here and after contacting loads of teams I finally got a session with Bradford Park Avenue. It went relatively well on the day as we scrimmaged a lower division side called Albion Sports. I had an assist and we managed to come from behind after I came on. I trained with them one other time after that, but was never asked to come out again.
Of course, at the time, I was a bit disappointed as things weren’t going so well. My continued search for a team was relatively unproductive and I was only playing a few games here and there with some lower division sides. Having come to play football, it was demoralizing not to have the opportunity to be playing or training with a team. It is hard to stay focused and push yourself when you train alone. However, thanks to the wonderful clarity of hindsight, things seem to have worked out for the best. If things had worked out at BPA, I would have been on the end of two losses this past week – and a few angry dressing room rant to be sure – but instead I was celebrating two wins with a side that is pushing hard for promotion.
I thought this was appropriate for the New Year’s theme of resolutions. The tough part is not making the resolution, it’s sticking with it consistently over a long period of time. It’s not trying to meet a goal and then quitting when faced with adversity. It is not meeting a goal and then stopping; it is hitting a plateau and then searching for a new summit. You also need to take all the opportunities you are given and while realizing that not all of them will lead you on, you can learn from each one. In doing so, you will be better equipped when the right chances do arrive.
Along these lines, I found it very timely to read about Demba Ba, just before his big move to Chelsea. Apparently, he was rejected by a number of clubs both in England and France before he made it to where he is today – that is with the Champions of Europe. Not all paths are straight, and none of them are the same so your gonna have to make your own.
As they say – yes, another cliche – “if it was easy, everyone would do it”
Have a wonderful 2013!