Loser

A loser. That’s me. The footballer, Sean O’Reilly, is a loser.

Yea, come on, at least be relaxed!

Yea, come on, at least be relaxed!

This is not me wallowing in self-pity. This is not me trying to create a metaphor for my current status in life. This is me telling you a fact; a truth. When you lose, you are a loser.

My point exactly

My point exactly

This is good, after all, the first step is admitting that you have a problem.

The second reason that this is good is that you have to be playing to lose. So, yes, I’ve played quite a few games in the last month. Since I last touched base, I have played in 6 games with Fleet Town, the team I am currently playing with. 4 of these were regular league games and 2 were cup games.

To make a long story short; we have lost all of them.

To make that short story long; I’ll drag you through the mud, sweat and tears and give you the rundown on each game as honestly as I can manage. The Manager at Fleet Town, Craig, usually writes a few notes on the game, which I will include links to as well.

Fleet vs Bishop’s Cleeve 0-2 Loss

After the first match I played with Fleet, where we tied 0-0, things were looking up. We had stopped the bleeding from the run of losses and things seemed to be looking up. Bishop’s Cleeve is near us at the bottom of the table, so it was a realistic chance for us to get a win, especially since we were playing at home.

This was not to be the case. Things just didn’t click for us and we didn’t play well at all. They scored on either side of half-time to take all of the spoils.

Fleet vs AFC Totton: Cup Game – 3-3 at end of extra time (lost 5-3 on penalty kicks)

This game was in one of the many local cups that we compete in. If I’m honest, I don’t know much about this one, except that we aren’t in it any more. AFC Totton occupies a similar position to us in the league higher above us. This turned out to be quite an exciting game, but we were once again left wanting. I would argue that throughout we were even the better team on the day.

Testwood Stadium - Home of AFC Totton

Testwood Stadium – Home of AFC Totton

We ended up finally scoring midway through the second half with a lovely headed goal. We kept this lead until the dwindling minutes of the game, at which point Totton got a late corner kick and scored from it. The 90 minutes ended 1-1, and this sent the game into extra time, two 15 minute periods.

Totton was the first to score in the first period of extra time. We kept fighting; however, and managed to claw one back to score early in the second period. The game was at 2-2. With minutes left we then received a penalty, from a foul on the edge of box. We duly disposed this and it looked like we were set to win. But when you are down in the dumps, things just don’t go your way. They went straight down and got another corner kick. Yes, they scored it, with essentially the last kick of extra time.

They eventually went on to win 5-3 on the penalty kicks as we missed our 4th (no, thankfully it wasn’t me). A devastating loss, which we threw away twice in the final minutes.

Fleet vs Wimborne Town 1-2 Loss 

The Cuthbury - Home of Wimborne Town

The Cuthbury – Home of Wimborne Town

Despite the long, hard fought loss at Totton a few days before, we were off to a good start away to Wimborne in the league. We had chances in the first half, but came in to the break 0-0. Unfortunately, we started off the 2nd half about as poorly as possible, giving up 2 goals in the first ten minutes. Both their goals were well taken, but could have been avoided with better defending. We fought hard and managed to pull one back, but it was too little too late. We were left to rue our missed chances.

This particular pitch was incredibly slanted from one side to the other. This pic was taken with the camera horizontal.

This particular pitch was incredibly slanted. This pic was taken with the camera horizontal.

Fleet vs Clevedon Town 2-3 Loss

The Hand Stadium - Home of Clevedon Town

The Hand Stadium – Home of Clevedon Town

Once again we were on the road – on a rare Monday night game – for a winnable game against a bottom half side: Clevedon Town. We were very good in the opening minutes but lost the edge and gave up 3 first half goals. All the goals came from our own mistakes and/or lack of focus, which was all the more frustrating.  We did manage to pull one back in the first half and thus came in to the break 3-1. In the second half, we were probably the better side and proved that with another goal. Yet again, we weren’t able to dig ourselves out of the hole we had dug for ourselves.

Fleet vs Tiverton Town 0-3 Loss

I won’t say much about this game except that we were beaten soundly. They were a good side for this level and dominated most of proceedings from the get go. Their second goal, in particular, was very well created. We fought and toiled, but lost this one fair and square. These games happen from time to time, but when you are already in a slump, it’s all the more humiliating and discouraging.

Fleet vs Reading Town 0-1 Loss

After the game against Tiverton, this one was a proper slap in the face. It was in another small tournament and this time we were playing a team in the league below us. We dominated nearly the entire game, but gave up a goal in the first half which we couldn’t overturn. I’ll come right out and take the blame for this goal. I managed to completely miss-time a header, which landed at the feet of an opponent who was then free to send his teammate through on goal for the finish.

On this muddy, dreary, and wet Tuesday evening, we managed to hit the post 3 times and miss a penalty kick. We were, once again, the losers.

I don’t even have a cheeky joke or clever metaphor to help explain the situation I, and the team, are in at the moment. We are loser’s.

We’ve all heard about the “winning mentality” in sports. It’s hard to put a finger on what causes this. There is no certain set of ingredients that you can write out and put into practice that will make it magically develop. In a similar way – and it’s hard to admit – losing can also become a mentality. Not in the sense that a team or a person wants to lose, or enjoys it. It just creeps up on you and before you know it you are in a hole and at a disadvantage to all of your opponents. Again, there is no simple ingredient to fix this dilemma; you can work harder, think longer, or get angrier, but it won’t guarantee a turn around. Getting out of this hole is one of the most difficult things to do in sport and in life.

Christmas gift ideas...

Christmas gift ideas…

What I will say is that you start to learn quite a bit about yourself in such times. What you learn is not always pleasant, but it’s always worth knowing.

To put a positive spin on all this, it has been nice to play consistently. I have played every minute of every game in midfield. I finally feel like I am fully game fit and my decision making and effectiveness is getting better every game. This is, surprisingly, the longest run of games that I have played since I came over to England. It would be much better to be winning, but it’s much better to be playing than not.

After all, action begets action.

I am confident the winning will come.

On another positive note, it’s almost Christmas, which is full of joy and excitement! I will be heading up to Yorkshire for a few days to enjoy the holiday with the Inglehearn cousins, before I get right back to playing and winning – God willing!

Peace and love to you all this Christmas season!

Celebrate head first.

Until next time,

Peace,

Seano

PS: Hope to get a Christmas post out next week so stay posted.

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The Missing Ball

Before anyone asks it, or even thinks it, this has nothing to do with the recent Mo-vember movement or any form of male cancer. Not that it isn’t a good cause, its a great cause – even if I can’t participate, well wait, does whisker count? Whisker-vember just doesn’t go well, so I humbly cheer on other mustaches from the sideline.

Hmm, this post is slowly becoming about Mo-vember even though I said it wasn’t.

Story time!

When I was back at St. Francis University, I think it was my Junior year, most of the guys on the soccer team decided to do the whole No-Shave-November thing. Come to think of it, I think we were rebelling and decided to do No-Shave-till-November, so it was actually October.

I went along with it. It was a sad effort on all our parts and I think overall only 2-3 people made it the whole month. It definitely wasn’t as big of a deal that year as it has become now. As a matter of fact, it was the first time I had heard of it. This year it was wild, I felt like everyone had some kind of facial growth going. I know in the football world it was all over the place: players, coaches, pundits alike were all slowly turning into cave men. Loved It!

Georgie Best! Sports a handsome beard back in his day.

Georgie Best! Sports a handsome beard back in his day.

You almost miss the stache, with the classic Valderrama hair!

You almost miss the stache, with the classic Valderrama hair!

As it turned out, I was one of those two or three people on my team who didn’t shave for a month. As it also turned out, no one knew.

A night or two after the month was over, I walked over to the sink in my room and casually mentioned “I guess I can shave now”. My roommate, Benny, who could grow a carpet on his face in just a few days, sat straight up and said something along the lines of “WHAAAAA? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”, “You haven’t…HAHAHA”, “Sean…BAHAHAHHA”, “You haven’t shaved? HAHAHAHA!!!!”, “FOR A MONTH! BAHAHAHA”. Before I could answer he had run down the hall and told everyone. My No-Shave-Till-November campaign had, in truth, become a disgraceful Mo-ck-tober campaign.

Alexi Lalas, famous for his goatie in his playing days, sporting a very full stache

Alexi Lalas, famous for his goatie in his playing days, sporting a very full stache

That one will surely live through many a team reunion.

Back to the main point of post: the missing ball. Today I went to the local park, as I often do, to get some work in. One of the more recent challenges I have made for myself, when I am training alone, involves working on my longer, aerial passes. For this, I use a wall (about 6-6.5 ft high). I will typically back up 30-40 yards and try to hit the wall while the ball is still in the air. If I hit the ball too hard, it goes over the wall and I have to jump over and go get it. If I hit it too soft and it bounces before it hits the wall, it doesn’t come back all the way and I have run and get it. When I hit it right, the ball will typically role all the way back to me easy-peasy!

This is a great way to practice something. There are direct negative consequences for mistakes and if you do it right it is easier for you, but its not easy to do it right – sounds kinda like life doesn’t it.

Today, in my infinite imperfection, I kicked the ball over not 1, but 4 times (most of the others didn’t make it to the wall in the air either). Let me add that there is a relatively busy road just behind the wall, only protected by a few rows of trees (many of which are very thorny trees).

The first time I kicked it over was easy, as it sat just on the other side of the wall. The second and third time I happened to be practicing striking 1-time volleys out of the air, which is a classic high-risk vs. high-reward situation. If you manage to score a one touch volley, you feel like the man, you look like the man, and people will treat you like the man (at least for a bit)! If you shank it, you feel stupid, you look stupid and people treat you like your stupid (for a while). So, when I shanked these two over the wall they also cleared the trees. So, I had to push my way through the thorny trees and out on to the busy road, looking and feeling stupid, to retrieve my ball.

The last time I kicked it over, it only just cleared the wall, hit some branches right behind the wall, and appeared to drop straight down. I ran over immediately to scale the wall AGAIN. I got to the top of the wall and looked over…the ball was nowhere to be seen. I jumped down into the thorny trees and began crawl-walking around looking for it. Nothing. I went out to the road. Nothing. I crossed the busy road looking stupid to see if it had somehow gotten across (highly unlikely considered the pace I kicked it at). Nothing. The road was gradually sloping downhill and the ball could have gotten caught in the culvert and started rolling away so I walked down a little ways…looking stupid. Nothing. I went back and looking up into the trees in case it was stuck in them somewhere. Nothing!

Note: this was a bright neon yellow ball – on my receipt it is classified “Hi-Vis.”!

Seriously, how do you miss this!!!!!

Seriously, how do you miss this!!!!!

NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING!!!!!!!!

I sat there scratching my head for a bit and came to the only rational conclusion I could. It grew legs and ran off.

Now, if you remember, I wrote about losing another ball a while back at the same place. It’s bizarre. However, this isn’t just my second ball since I’ve been here. It’s my fourth (4TH). Two have mysteriously disappeared and two have been victims of death by puncture from the above described thorny trees. Moral of the story…don’t kick a ball over the wall into the thorny trees. Sigh! The Sports Direct store in Leeds is loving it.

In other news, my soccer life has continued to improve, while my love life has continued nowhere. I continue to train, here and there, with about as many teams as balls I’ve lost. Funnily enough, I have gotten to play a little in a few games with Albion Sports yet again. They have been doing well and sit 2nd in their league. In any case, they needed players for a few games again this week and I was happy to oblige.

We lost one of the games and won the other. I only played briefly in both and I was essentially given permission to run around as much as I wanted as long as I made sure they didn’t score. They didn’t! This leads to today’s seanostat: My team has never been scored on while I’m on the field in England! Boom! I hear Man Utd is having defensive difficulties…SIR ALEX!?!?

The Home of Rossington Main.

The Home of Rossington Main.

Overall, training has been good and it was nice to get into games, even if just for a few moments. I continue to work hard and wait for a breakthrough.

Special shout out to my youngest brother Desmond who turns a whopping 2 tomorrow. He’s always got bruises on his face from falling down head first…what an inspiration! Love him.

I wish you all a blessed and reflective advent!

Until next time Peace out.

Seano

Lunch Date

I’m not really sure what inspired that last post? I wanted to write something and that’s what came out. I think I was trying to be reflective in some way. Not really informative in any way, so sorry. More like I spewed some random thoughts out of the blue, just to have an excuse for a post.

However, it also acted to precede this post. The promised lunch date.

As lunch dates go they usually are not long, but they are informative and a good excuse to leave work (Ok, I don’t work per se). Anyway, I miss Chipotle, so that’s going to be where we eat. Not romantic, I know. There is a serious lack of good Mexican food here, or at least I just haven’t looked hard enough. Lot’s of Indian food and Curry though, if that interests you.

Drool!

So, aside from my lack of eating Mexican food, what have I been doing? Much of the same; football (soccer), training, searching, learning and some touristing (I know that’s not a word). Because this is a short lunch date, I won’t tell you about the learning and touristing today…which is good, because that means we’ll have to have another date soon.

FOOTBALL

Obviously I want to be playing in games, but since I haven’t been doing much of that, I have been going to quite a few. I’ve gone to a game at Huddersfield Town and 2 games at the local side Guiseley AFC. Spending time, and money, going to games is like homework…well, maybe more like a field trip. Either way its fun and educational on a number of levels. I personally enjoy going to games to experience all the different flavors that English football has to offer. This entails the crowd (cheering and jeering), the stadium, the town, and even the walk from the train to the field. It is also good for me to see the different levels of play between different divisions, as well as varying styles.

Huddersfield Town vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

The Huddersfield game was a few weeks ago. It was about an hours train ride to see the Championship (2nd division) side play. On the day, the home side were the better team and the result reflected that as they came out 2-1 winners over the recently relegated premier league side Wolverhampton Wanderers. The crowd at the Burrito Bowl…that is the John Smith Stadium (aka Galpharm Stadium) was rowdy, the traveling fans, who I ended up quite near, were also in full voice, and 2 great first half goals from Huddersfield made for an enjoyable afternoon.

Coming in from behind the away stand

To the far stand (My side was a bit bigger and had 2 tiers)

Both of Huddersfield’s goals came off of well executed crosses from the right hand side (right in front of me). The first was headed in and the 2nd was a lovely one-time side volley from Jermaine Beckford (famous for scoring this lone goal against Man Utd while playing with Leeds a few years ago to knock the Red Devils out of the FA Cup). A late bit of pressure from Wolves saw them nick a goal towards the end, but overall I thought Huddersfield were deserved victors.

One of the newer looking stadiums I’ve been too.

The atmosphere was great. It started with the walk in, where a few hundred Wolves fans were being ushered in by local police; complete with horses and all. The away fans were just to my right throughout the game and were fantastic. A few of them; however, seemed more set on instigating the fans around me and had some success. They were plenty of taunts and obscene gestures being thrown back and forth and more than 1 person from both parties would have been happy to “take it outside” so to speak. Due to the large presence of police, I doubt this occurred, but in a slightly twisted, testosterone induced sort of way hope it did.

The away stand filling up with Wolves fans in their orange kits.

Guiseley AFC vs Bradford Park Avenue

I have now been to 3 games at Guiseley AFC. The first one I already wrote about in a previous post and I will briefly tell you about the other two.

The 2nd one was a Tuesday night game vs local Bradford rival Bradford Park Avenue (BPA) in none other than the West Riding County Cup (If you don’t remember, the WRCC was the cup that I was involved in and wrote about a while back). Also, coincidentally – or not considering it is why I went to the game – BPA is the team that I have trained with a few times. Unfortunately, BPA, who I was obliged to root for, got…well there’s not a nice way to say it. The final score was 4-1 to Guiseley. The game was essentially decided in the first 10 minutes, when Guiseley scored 3 quick goals – and it could have been more. They added one more at half before BPA got a consolation goal late on. From what I have observed of both teams, it appeared both of them started “weak” teams, which shows this cup is not a big focus for them. After making a few changes though, BPA settled in and had a presentable second half. However, after the initial burst of goals from Guiseley, the final result was never in question.

Guiseley AFC vs Burrito…I mean Barrow Town

The second game was an FA CUP 1st round game vs Barrow Town (1 division above Guiseley-5th division overall). Guiseley is a favorite for promotion up to this league and will have to face this kind of competition on a weekly basis if they can make the jump this year. As opposed to the WRCC, the FA Cup is a big, BIG deal for smaller sides. Not only are their huge financial benefits for the teams (from what I hear making the 1st round alone = 60,000-80,000 pounds), it also provides an avenue (if they progress) for smaller teams to play the big premiership teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool.

The game ended in a 2-2 tie. This means that there will be a replay next week at Barrow Town. If their is no winner in this game, they will go to overtime and penalties if needed. Guiseley will be frustrated having to travel to Barrow after dropping an early 2-0 lead. As they say, I know it’s cliche, the 2 goal lead is the most dangerous. It doesn’t really make sense, but they say it anyway, and it has an uncanny aspect of truth to it (It’s dangerous because of the mentality it can provoke – for both sides). Anyway, it was a very good game overall, with much more intensity than the WRCC game. The small ground, Nethermoor Park, was packed – standing room only – and the away fans were in full force.

TRAINING

Yes, I continue to train on my own. The details are boring, but I feel good about my fitness, though it is hard to judge.

SEARCHING

I continue to search for opportunities. I have been adopting a more direct strategy than before, trying to go and intercept managers at training instead of going through phone calls and offices, where they seem to have a endless supply of lines to feed me when I ask to speak with the manager for a trial. The trouble of course is finding out where training is.

I watched Bradford City train last week and spoke with their manager after, asking to train with them. He said “no” in more words, essentially saying that I need to be playing somewhere and  they can scout me. Frustrating, but fair considering they get these requests daily. The day after that, Bradford City beat Wigan (a Premier League side) in the League Cup and will play Arsenal (BIG DEAL) in the next round…I’m taking some credit as a good luck charm at least.

I spent a day in the Manchester area as well, doing my thing – with some 5th and 6th tier sides – and am waiting to see if that bears any fruit.

Nagging, nagging, nagging, and if they want it to stop, I can recommend a remedy.

I won’t go away, I’ll go head-first.

Peace all,

Seano

Cup Game

I’ve just been involved in a Cup game in England last night. Albeit it was only a small cup known as the West Riding County Cup. As is the best part of cups, it was a chance for us, the statistical underdogs, to come out and prove our worth against a team that plays higher up in the Egyptianesque sized pyramid of English non-league football. The game was played away at Farsley AFC’s ground “The Throstle’s Nest”. It really wasn’t much of an away game since it is sandwiched in between Leeds and Bradford and thus was probably just as easy for me, and some of the other players, to get to as our home ground.

The Throstle Nest: Home of Farsley AFC

It was our first game in 9 days. This long of a break from games can be an advantage, but also a setback.

It’s great because it means that you are more rested than usual. If the other team has played over the weekend and midweek, it means this will be their 3rd game in 6 days. Despite games being a footballers primary enjoyment, playing this often can take a significant amount of sharpness and stamina out of you pretty fast, especially if you are not taking care of yourself. Of course, teams like Man United, Man City, Real Madrid, and particularly AC Milan have top notch facilities where there are staff whose primary job is to make sure your body runs in top gear, year after year. Even then, we hear about players who are being rested because of fatigue. The truth is, playing a full 90 minutes takes quite a bit out of you. Doing it every few days can be even rougher. If you don’t have someone to massage you down and make you personally designed smoothies, it can be even more difficult.  So, when you get more than a week-long break in the season this can be quite helpful.

At the same time, having too long of a break can also be damaging because you can lose momentum – which we were beginning to build before this break – and you can lose game sharpness. This can be especially true if you don’t train often, as is the case with Albion. The one training session we did have, as I mentioned, did not have full participation and so it lacked a game-like feel overall. Even when you are training consistently, it can be easy to lose that cutting edge that so often separates teams of similar quality.

Soooo…..was the break a blessing or a curse?

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It was a great game for the team! We won 4-1 against a side that plays two divisions ahead of us and on paper were favorites. However, our confidence from the last few games carried through and we were able to get the big win. The break turned out to be a big benefit for us. At the beginning we absorbed pressure and managed to get the first goal against the run of play. Farsley equalized within minutes and remained the more dominant team. Yet we continued to keep the game in front of us and limited the home teams significant chances. This allowed us to again score on the counter. The 1st half ended 2-1.

In the second half, we didn’t dominate possession, but were more comfortable as Farsley was unable to sustain the high pressure they put on us at the beginning of the game. We continued to be dangerous when we got the chances going forward. We had many close opportunities including one off of the post. We were finally rewarded when the keeper misread a long ball into the box, which floated over his head, caught the post and went in for the 3rd. The last goal came late in the game when our striker pressured a long ball and forced the keeper to make a mistake and essentially walked the ball into the net. At this point, the game was all but over and we just had to stay tight in the back, which we did. Overall it was a gutsy performance from the team and we showed both our solid defensive work and how dangerous we can be in attack.

Farsley suffered from what I like to call “the Barca syndrome”. It’s a problem that many teams have at lower levels of football. I’ve seen it in college, PDL, and even sometimes at the professional level. These teams try to play inverted wingers and high fullbacks, in an effort to play possession based attacking soccer that is modeled after Barcelona  As this happens they get too comfortable going forward and lose focus on their defensive shape and responsibilities. Also, they don’t have the work rate off the ball to win it back quickly; which is an integral part of the Barca system. Therefore, when they lose the ball there is less cover and less pressure, which makes these teams susceptible to counter-attack. Albion did a great job of exposing this tonight against Farsley, as three of the goals came off of counter-attacks. While on the other hand, Farsley did not get behind the Albion defense more than once or twice.

Even the possession kings, Barcelona, are susceptible to the counter attack, especially with a threat like Ronaldo!

Unfortunately, I did not play at all tonight. As disappointed as I was and as ready as I was to play tonight after the cancellation in midweek, I am focusing on the positive result for the team and looking forward to the next game. We do not know who our next opponent will be in the WRCC, but I will be sure to update you when we find out. I believe the next round will take place at the beginning of November.

Our next league game is away to a team named Knaresborough Town on Saturday. There is no reason that we should not continue our winning streak against them! Let’s hope I can play a bigger part in that game. To find out, check back here!

A special shout out and thanks to my Uncle Walter who brought me to the game and sat through the rainy evening…at least he got to see a good game and a number of goals.

God Bless and don’t be afraid to dive in Head First!

Seano