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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New Year

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.

What we hoped it would be like...

What we hoped it would be like…

What it was actually like

What it was actually like

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”.

Against Wind

Dramatization - in case you were wondering

Dramatization – in case you were wondering

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.

Half-Time 1-1

With Wind

No, we didn't have umbrellas

No, we didn’t have umbrellas

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.

Full-time 1-3 to Guiseley AFC

Debut

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.

Demba Ba at Newcastle

Demba Ba at Newcastle

As they say – yes, another cliche – “if it was easy, everyone would do it”

Have a wonderful 2013!

Peace

Seano

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

Video Gems!

Since I am bored of telling you about myself – I know you thought that would never happen – I am going to simply show you some soccer videos that I thought were pretty good. On my end though, football opportunities have picked up and training has been going well, so I have been encouraged and excited about that.

I also realize this is a terribly unoriginal idea for a blog…oh well.

Since everyone has been stuffing their guts the last few days, I thought I would indulge you in a feast for your eyes. Here are some videos that I have come across recently that I really enjoyed. I hope you do too.

We’ll start with an old video, that I just came across recently. If you know I am a Manchester United fan, than I hardly need to explain this one.

Watching that video just puts a smile on my face. Celebrating in the locker room after a big game is one of the most rewarding and memorable things a player will do.

Moving on. When the wild and erratic Swede wreaked havoc on England in a friendly international game a few weeks ago, the football world were all in awe of him. His fourth goal (yes, his 4th in the game) in the 4-2 win was quite remarkable and had everyone ooing, awing and googly eyed…and for very good reason. While we all enjoyed the moment – I think even some English fans found some pleasure in it – someone stepped in and said “what’s new?”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores jaw dropping goals all the time! If you have time you can see 24 of them here (the last one is his wonder goal against England recently).

Despite his wonderful acrobatics and plethora of breathtaking goals, Ibrahimovic isn’t the most appealing character in World football. If he was paid to make friends, he would probably spend most of his time kicking people in the unemployment line. On the other hand, the guy in the next video is one of the most like-able players in world football. Throughout his career, he has also had no shortage of spectacular moments.

Now, of course we all love Ronaldinho because he scores goals like that. But we also love him, because of his joy; he never seems to be without a smile. He plays with an undeniable passion and love for the game. His reaction to this goal is just as phenomenal as the goal itself. He gives honor and respect to the game he loves so much, instead of looking to get honor and respect  from it.

I couldn’t get the next video directly into my post, but its a fun one! The improbability of the situation makes it quite impressive.

brazilian-midfielder-felipe-melo-saves-a-penalty-v-elazigspor

Not many field players at the top level can say they’ve stopped a penalty kick. Saving a PK (I saved one once in high school!) is the equivalent of scoring a spectacular goal for a goalkeeper. Yet, as you can see from this players reaction, the sensation was something completely new and exciting to him!

Now for a bit of humor. This one is straight from the blooper real. This is one of those moments that you would just have to except and try to forget about as soon as possible.

Alright, that’s it from me everyone. Hope that even if you are not a fan of soccer you can at least appreciate some of the more fantastic, and not-so-fantastic, moments it has to offer.

Hope to have some good news to report soon!

Until then, go head first.

Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving!

Seano

Bits and Pieces

Rome was not built in a day. In the same way a tower is not built as one piece and a pie is not made with one ingredient. We all have our own Rome’s to build, and it is important to realize that each one will be made up of bits and pieces; it is not one giant block that falls out of the sky and hits you on the head. So, here are a few of the bits and pieces that have been added to my Rome the last few weeks.

I have been getting more consistent training with a few amateur sides in the area. So, at least a couple times a week I am able to get into a team training environment, which has been beneficial. The training level is of varying quality and in some cases the speed of play, and more particularly the speed of thought, is not as quick as I am used to. However, it is a good fitness boost and it is far more motivating to work at a training session than by yourself.

The first team I have been involved with is called Thackley AFC. Thackley is just north of Bradford and about 8 miles from where I am staying. They are one division (I think it’s 9th overall) above the side I was playing with a little while ago: Albion Sports. So, it is an improvement in that sense. However, at the training sessions, not too many of the first team players come, since they often play twice a week. The sessions are thus typically filled with reserve/youth players and so they do lack a bit of quality. It is also difficult to judge the level of the first team from this point of view. However, the management staff have been friendly and have offered for me the opportunity to play some games. Once my paperwork goes through I look forward to be playing more competitively again – something I have sorely missed.

Dennyfield – Home of the Dennyboys (Thackley)

I also trained with a team in the same division as Albion Sports called Yorkshire Amateur. They are based in the north suburb of Leeds. One of my relatives works with someone at the club and kindly got me in touch with him. He has been generous enough to let me come out to training. It is a similar situation to Thackley’s training with many of the first team players too busy to come, so many youth/reserve players make up the numbers, which in turn lowers the quality.

Bracken Edge – Home of Yorkshire Amateur

Lastly, I was supposed to train with Guiseley AFC this week. The team down the road that I have watched and written about a few times. Their training session on Thursday evening; however, was called off. They ended up losing their FA Cup replay game to Barrow Town on Tuesday and the manager decided to rest the team before the weekend game, after the tough loss. Fortunately, I intend to train with them this Thursday instead, so God willing something will come of that opportunity as well. From all the accounts I’ve heard they are a well respected, well run club that would be a great, albeit difficult, place to get my foot in the door.

I admit I have been to yet another Guiseley game. It was a cup game that they ended up winning 7-0 versus a lower division club, so it wasn’t much to write about. More of a slaughter-fest, although the visiting side did show some signs of a fight at first and could have made it interesting if they had scored one of their (few) early chances. Noteworthy; however, is the fact that it was after this game that I was finally able to speak with the manager and get invited to training (he must have just been very happy about his recent demolition job).

My tour of non-league football (considered 5th division and below) continued and broadened this weekend as I went to a game about an hour away at the home of FC Halifax Town. If you were only to visit the stadium you would assume they were higher than the 6th tier of football, but that is the nature of the promotion/relegation system over here; where you can drop or rise consecutive leagues in consecutive seasons as fast as the temperature in Loretto, PA, where I went to school.

FC Halifax Town, formerly Halifax Town AFC before entering administration in recent years, has a long history. They spent many decades in the football league, which partly answers the question of why they have a nice 13,000 capacity stadium. On the day, they handed the visitors, Droylsden FC, a solid 4-1 defeat. Although Droylsden are among the bottom dwellers, the “Shaymen” of FC Halifax made hard work of it and came into the half 0-0.

Droylsden tried to keep the ball, but didn’t have the quality to do it effectively. Despite some average spells of possession, they were relatively harmless all game. FC Halifax ground out 2 goals in the first 30 minutes of the 2nd half before Droylsden answered with their only goal off of a well rehearsed free kick play. While Droylsden pushed on for the equalizer, FC Halifax duly killed the game with 2 goals in the last 10 minutes. The crowd, numbering around 1300, was not afraid to show it’s disapproval at it’s own players and were probably the least forgiving crowd I’ve seen. Although, to be fair to them, it wasn’t a pretty spectacle for much of the game.

Here are some pictures of my visit to “The Shay”

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All these situations are good building blocks for me and I am sure they will be integral in helping me to the next step in the process for a couple of reasons. The most obvious benefit is fitness. At any training session, no matter what the level, you can be sure that there is one constant where fitness is involved: you get in what you put out. So, I always put in a good shift on that front. Also, it is a great chance to network and continue to learn about the sports environment I am in, which is very interesting and unique to anything we see in the US.

The more I get acquainted with English football, the more impressed I am with the sheer number of football grounds there are here. Even at the lower levels, like Thackley and Yorskshire, clubs have their own dedicated ground. Sometimes it’s not huge and barely has a stand, but it is still impressive and just goes to show how integral football is to the culture here. It is also interesting that many of the clubs here, small and large, have a long and storied history, often even from before the world wars.

Stay posted on the future developments of my Rome and keep on building yours, we’ll get there.

Build with your headfirst! Ok maybe that’s not a good idea

God Bless,

Seano