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

POTM (Oct 2012): Big heads USA

The second installment of pic of the month (POTM) is here! Calm down, calm down, I know it’s exciting.

Contrary to what you may all be thinking (and some even hoping), it’s a PICTURE of the month and not some priceless emerald from deep down in the cavernous netherworld of a nostril!

Now that that’s clear and we can breathe easy(er), we can move on to this months image!

The image is relevant for this month because the USA recently qualified for the final round of World Cup Qualifying off of a two goal performance by the man featured here.

Also, it’s an image that fully exemplifies the “head first” motto that we got going on this blog.

Lastly, it’s fitting because it’s an image of a man considered to be one of the best Americans to ever play the game in England, which is of course the current environment for my football endeavors.

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Dempsey: two goals two heads…makes sense

You have just scored two goals against Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying to ensure that the USA move on to the next stage, one step closer to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. What do you do?

Well, of course, grab the nearest giant head of yourself making an angry face and parade around the field for all to see! Pretty sweet. Props to the guy who made this sign.

I would say that you have probably made it on the big stage when random people make giant signs of your ugly mug because they love you. Let’s face it, if you’re an American soccer fan, you love Clint Dempsey. I do.

Now, I’m sure some people have plenty of not so nice things to say about him. Yet, when his haters taunt him and tell him he’s too arrogant, too cocky and won’t be able to fit his big-head through the door, he can smile and say: “you’re absolutely right!”.

Go USA – Don’t tread on me.

Till the next pic,

Take care and don’t be afraid to dive-in head first (cause if you mess one up now you’ve got another one).

God Bless,

Seano

PS: If you missed the last Pic of the month (POTM), see it here!

Book Review: The Damned United

“I’ve got too much time on my hands, It’s hard to believe such a calamity” – The Styx

The fact of the matter is that I have had large amounts of free time since I’ve been over here in England. It’s amazing how much time hits you in the face when you don’t have a social life. If my train of thought paralleled The Styx song above, I would next be thinking…

“Is it any wonder I’m not crazy?
Is it any wonder I’m sane at all?…”

Not that you really need to see this

I won’t elaborate on whether or not that’s the case. I will say, though, that I have been trying to be somewhat productive with my free time. This blog is one of those things that I do to avoid wasting time (Yes, that’s up for debate). I have also been reading quite a bit. To be honest, I have probably read more books in the last 2 months than I did my last 2 years of college…so like 3. Anyway, I was thinking that it would be fun to write a review of a book or two every once in a while.

This first book I am going to review is fitting for a couple of reasons; it’s about footie and it’s based near where I am staying in Yorkshire.

The book is called “The Damned United” and is written by David Peace. It chronicles, day-by-day, Brian Clough’s short and tempestuous stay as manager of the then very successful Leeds United; while, simultaneously, re-tracing the steps of Clough’s climb to success with Derby County. At times, this can make the story somewhat difficult to follow, which makes it read like the story line of a Quentin Tarantino film. It was also graphic, like a Tarantino film, with a liberal use of language and copious amounts of booze.

In essence, it is a dramatized, somewhat poetic, version of a 44 day marriage between Leeds United Football Club and Clough. It was a marriage that was never going to last and it wasn’t going to be pretty, like a regrettable Vegas wedding. Prior to his appointment as Manager of Leeds, Clough despised their previous manager, constantly denounced their style of play and generally hated everything that Leeds stood for. He thought he could change Leeds, but never truly had a chance.

I think this is a good reflection of the importance of unity within a team. Even with a great manager and great players, Leeds struggled to find success because there wasn’t unity and mutual respect within the group. This is true of any team.

The historic Elland Road: Home to Leeds United!

The story is written from inside the mind of the legendary manager which reveals him as a tumultuous, tough, cutthroat, and yet vulnerable man. He is a man obsessed by football and he can hardly escape it in his own mind. He’s always thinking about the next game, who to buy or why things went wrong. He is also a very stubborn man, not one to take no for an answer. Multiple times he would go behind people’s backs to get his way. His charisma and passion, however, united some people as much as it divided others. This meant that he was wildly successful where he was loved, and a failure where he was not fully accepted.

As a man, he appeared to have few friends among his many acquaintances. If there was one thing he didn’t lack it was confidence. Clough’s attitude about himself is summed up when he – talking about Frank Sinatra – says “He met me, you know”.

As a manager, he had many admirers.  His management philosophies were summed up in the following excerpt:

“This is good bloody management. This is you and Pete at your best –
spotting the talent, buying the talent and then handling that ****** talent –
Insulting that talent. Humiliating that talent. Threatening that talent –
Hurting that talent and then kissing it ****** better again –
Again and again, bringing out the bloody best in folk –
In that ****** talent, that’s you and that’s Pete”
 

Pete was Clough’s right-hand man at Derby, and did most of his scouting and coaching for him. The book portrays Peter Taylor as one of Clough’s few friends, although Clough was not always the kindest of friends. Pete did not follow Clough to Leeds, which may have been just another reason why it didn’t work out.

Clough’s passion, drive, intensity, and success in his managerial career, before and after Leeds, were undeniable. From my experience, he was the quintessential British manager. He demanded the respect of his players and when he had it, he knew when to give them a good rollicking, but he also knew when it was time to build them up. If he got on with a player, he would treat them like a son, but when he did not, he had no need for them and dispatched of them as soon as possible.

I found myself attracted to Clough like girls can sometimes be attracted to the “bad boys” at school. If I step back and ask what is there to like about him? The answer is: “not much”. Yet, despite all of his obvious flaws there is something somewhat attractive about his personality.

I would rate the book a 3.5 out of 5. It really gave the reader a good glimpse of Clough’s raw character, while revealing the nuances of the strange and short-lived relationship between Leeds and Clough. However, it is not a book that would appeal to a large audience. It captures a good image of English football at the time and so I would recommend it to anyone who is passionate about soccer and has a general knowledge of the history of the game in England (ie: most people I’ve played with in the past). For most others, however, it may seem vaguely repulsive and remind them why they don’t pay attention to the sport in the first place.

You can buy it here if interested The Damned United
There was also a movie made based on the book. I haven’t seen it, but you can buy it here too: The Damned United on Blue-Ray