It’s a little backwards. Joining a team and then playing games immediately, without any team training sessions. Like taking the test before doing the homework. I always hated those classes where the teacher made you take a test at the beginning of the semester/year “to see how knowledgeable you were on the subject” – often read: “to see how much of an ignoramus you were”. Ok, I admit, my analogy is slightly faulty. There is one pretty significant difference here. If you are given a test before a class, you are expected to fail. On the other hand, if you are given a game before a training session and you fail then you may have lost your chance to get into the training session. As a trialist, you are expected to know your stuff. Imagine if classes were like that…I wouldn’t have made it through home-schooling.

Me taking the pre-class test!

Let me be clear here, games are what players love the most. However, training plays a key role in success, which leads to greater enjoyment of games. Preparation is an important factor, both on a team level and a personal level. On a personal level, I have been staying as fit as possible and as sharp as possible on my own. I think I might write an entire post on that subject alone…don’t get too excited. However, nothing I can do by myself can replicate practicing with the team I am playing on.

Let’s use another analogy. I have worked in construction for a number of years. In another life, I could see myself being an architect. Although, I’m sure the things I designed wouldn’t be called infrastructure, but rather infrailstructure. Anyway, you don’t just build a house by ordering loads of wood, piping, electrical supplies, toilets and then start hammering and screwing it all together. No, you follow a blue print that has been designed through hard work, trial and error, and maybe, if the office is a rough place, blood, sweat and tears. The blue print is the unified goal you are working towards. It is beating your biggest rival, it is winning a cup or championship. The blue print represents what you are doing and how you are doing it. The workers on the construction site; the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians, each with different skill set resemble the players; the defenders, the midfielders, and the strikers (note: the defenders are plumbers because it’s their job to clean ***t up at the back). They all come together to build the house or to lift the cup. In construction it is called a blueprint. In a sport you can call it whatever you like, the goal, the objective – the idea is the same.

It would be done, but I had to go to training.

What does all this nonsense have to do with training? Well, training is where the blueprint is laid out, usually by the coach/manager, for everyone to see. Then as the season goes on, like the house being built, the blueprint is formed into something real, not just theoretical, not just a piece of paper. The blueprint can be tweaked from time to time if necessary. There are always unforeseen consequences; like weather, injuries, and even mistakes. We are only human. You adapt at every training session. You go back to the blueprint and see how it can be improved. It’s the search for perfection that I talked about in a previous post. The blueprint is the guide leading to perfection. Training re-aligns your goals with the blueprint. You focus on your task within the design. The less you go back to the design, the less you understand it and know its intricacies. In the end, this leaves you with a shoddy house or a shipwrecked season.

In case you didn’t guess, I had my first training session today with Albion. For an amateur team down in non-league football playing two games a week can be difficult enough for guys with other jobs and often families. It’s tough to fit in practices. However, after our cancellation in the midweek game and a by-weekend for us in the league, we wouldn’t be coming together as a team for 9 days. Alas, a training session today to review the blueprint. Re-align goals. Get everyone on the same page.

Successful? Well, yes and no. Every training session has value.

Seeing a Saturday afternoon off in the schedule at this point in the season is like getting a free trip to the Bahamas…too good to be true! Contrary to prior belief, this was actually the case. So, many of the players had made plans in advance of the day. Needless to say, there was not a full turnout to the last minute training session. We ended up with 10 players and the manager and the coach were appropriately frustrated. As was I, considering I was hoping for a chance to gel a little bit with all my teammates. It is easier to gel with players in training because it is more of a learning environment. You can stop, ask questions, and get a better overall idea of how they are all trying to play the game. As I said at first, the training is the homework. The game is the test – you don’t learn as well in a test.

Having said that, training with 10 people is far better than training with 1 – my M.O. the past few weeks. After all, it’s a team game. We ended up making the best of it, as is best to do in these cases. Most of the session was made up of variations of a possession game focused on moving the ball from one side to the other. We also focused on the defensive side of things, where we focused on staying tight and compact, so that the ball could not be played through us. I won’t bore you with anymore details, but I will say I am in desperate need of practicing my distance game. For me this includes any balls hit over 30 yards, with a special highlight on crossing and shooting (both of which are hard to do on your own!).

As always, the important thing is that I got to play! Blessed.

That’s that!

PS. On further thought, I decided that forwards and midfielders both have qualifications as plumbers. The strikers must create openings in clogged up defenses and midfielders have to keep the game flowing. Who woulda thunk, footballers are all just plumbers in disguise.

Don’t be afraid to dive in head first (unless its into the sewage)



Getting Some Games

What’s more English than a spot of football? Well, from what I’ve seen its rain and tea.

Stereotypical, I know!

Only the football for me please.

I came to England to play, simple as. Well, I am playing. I recently started playing with an amateur team called Albion Sports in Bradford. They play somewhere down in the large pyramid that is English non-league football. The league is officially called the Northeast Counties Eastern League. I have played 2 games with the team so far and it has been great to get back out on the field again.

For those of you interested, here is a link to the team’s website: you can check results and see when our upcoming games are to be played. Also here is a link to the league website where you will find the standings we are currently sitting in 4th place.

The first game that I played in was at home at Horsfall stadium. We played a team called Cleethorpes Town, from the East Coast. The final result was 4-0, and to be honest it may have been a little harsh of a scoreline for the opposition. Having said that, we deserved to win. We were far more clinical in the final third and limited them to few opportunities. Throughout the game, however, there were periods where they pressured high and we struggled to retain the ball. For about 20 minutes in the beginning of the 2nd half, we didn’t get the ball out of our half for any sustained period of time. We scored 2 goals in the first half and 2 in the last 20 mins when they began to tire. The first goal came off of a long ball and our center forward got hold of it on the right side of the box before cutting back and smashing it home with his left foot. The 2nd and 4th goals were scored off of thumping headers from corner kicks and the 3rd was scored off a well taken 1 time strike from a cross on the left. Overall, we played smart, absorbed pressure when we needed to and scored at critical times. We were not able to necessarily play pretty football, due to Cleethorpes’high pressure, but we adapted and made them pay for their mistakes – particularly marking on set pieces.

I played on the right wing of a 4-3-3 in this game. I have not played in a competitive game in a few months and it showed, I lacked a bit of sharpness from the start. It was also my first time playing with the team and I struggled at times to read some of my new teammates. These are all things that will come once I get a few more games in me and I am confident I can have more of an impact in future games. I came out after 65 minutes.

A few notes on the game from the team website:

Here is a picture of the home stadium:

Horsfall stadium – Also home to Bradford Park Avenue of the Blue Square Premier Conference North.

The second game I played was away to Dinnington Town. Dinnington is about 1 hour south of Bradford just near Sheffield. We won the game 3-2. It was one of those games were you don’t focus on the performance and just leave with the three points. I started again at right-wing and played another 60 minutes roughly. My performance was slightly improved, but I still didn’t have the cutting edge I am looking for.

After dominating the first half, we only had 1 goal to show for it. We should have been up by more. We then let Dinnington get back into the game a little bit in the second half. Even after we scored our second, through a wonderful 1 time volley from the right back, we didn’t have control of the game. They scored 2 quick goals around the 80th minute to tie the game up, one off of a PK and one from a series of poor clearances. It was our right-back who came to the rescue again as he capitalized off of a good run and cross from one of our subs. We walked away with the W, but knew that we needed improvement. Here is some more info on the game:

Dinnington Town’s Home Ground – bumpier than it looks.

Our next game was supposed to be played at home versus Pontefract Colleries (To me this sounds like a type of exotic dog breed) on the Wednesday the 26th; but after a three day downpour throughout most of England, it was decided that we weren’t a water polo team and the game was cancelled. Cancellations can be very frustrating for a player, you prepare mentally and physically for a game and then it doesn’t happen and it throws you off a little bit. Then you have to change momentum and get some good training in instead. However, its terribly un-motivating to have to put in hard work behind the scenes when you were excited and mentally prepped for a game day. It’s like having to go to the office, when you had been planning to take a client to the golf course. It becomes very hard to get work done and it takes twice as much energy to be productive. So, instead I’m writing this post…

I will keep you updated on games in the future. I am confident that this team can keep winning, there are some good players and the level is competitive. While we keep to our winning ways, I am focused on improving my game individually.

We may be playing the postponed game this weekend, but if not our next scheduled fixture is a WRCC Cup game against Farsley AFC on Tuesday the 2nd of October. Farsley is another local team, located between Bradford and Leeds. They are a few leagues ahead of us and it will be a good challenge for all of us. I am looking forward to the experience of my first Cup game and see it also as a good chance for exposure.

The WRCC is the West Riding County Cup. It is a regional competition for local clubs. Farsley is a semi-finalist from last year and will surely be itching to go a step further this year. It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen. Albion was knocked out in the 2nd round last year after losing to penalties. You can find more information about the Cup here

Until the next kick about, God Bless you all and don’t be afraid to dive in head first!