On to 2016

November 25, 2015

After a lengthy hiatus the Gladiator Player’s diary returns. The 2015 season ended in defeat, but ultimately will be looked upon as a successful debut in the new BAFANL structure. Not only that, but Curtis Bourke managed to stay largely healthy, Phil Moreton managed to mitigate the effects of his plethora of injuries, Nick Foxley came out of retirement again, and Paul Brunsden threatened his retirement again – very much just another season in that respect.

But as this humble player arrived home earlier this week he was confronted by an unfamiliar site – a large Russian masseuse, gender still somewhat dubious, prepared to lay muscular hands on various members of the family. I was instructed that it was my turn, and having never had a massage before I opted to relax, close my eyes and to reflect on 2015 and most importantly contemplate the future in 2016.

As i lay on the table, my mind raced… what will the 2016 defence look like? Will this table support my ample girth? How many rookies will we have this year? Has this masseuse got really odd shaped feet, or are her socks just too small? Will Brunsden play again? Just how much oil is going onto my back?

So, as I received a Vodka fueled rubbing, i decided that there are three big questions for 2016. The first is Who will the Gladiators be playing in 2016?

A number of factors play into this – does our electing not to participate in the playoffs count against us? Technically forfeiting games should result in relegation, but it’s not clear whether that applies to playoff games or not. We presume the top two teams go up, but how many come down from the Premier? And how many get promoted from Division 2? Is there a chance we might have to travel to Bristol and to South Wales in the same season? We will likely enter the season with some level of confidence, but until the schedules are announced, we never know…

As the masseuse, who i decided resembled Edna from Monster’s Inc, dug her knuckles into my shoulder, the second question sprung to mind – When will training start? Historically this will kick off after Christmas, just in time for us to work off the extra mince pies and second round of Turkey sandwiches on Boxing day. We’ve seen that if you start training too early, people lose interest and get injured, start too late, and players aren’t ready for the season. It’s a delicate balance, but there’s one certainty – at some point someone will try and stage a fight in training to motivate people to work harder. Just waiting for the bookies to announce who they think will instigate that – smart money is on Garry…

And the third and final question, probably the most important of all the questions, What are the rookies going to be like? This can be broken into multiple subcategories – The rookie who talks non stop, is clearly an athlete, but is absolutely hopeless with pads on, the rookie who sends hundreds of emails telling you how excited and dedicated he is, only to drop off the face of the planet after two sessions. the quiet, unassuming rookie who hits like a train, and the one you see every single year – the “Glikofridis”: The first rookie to change their Facebook profile picture to them wearing pads and helmet. Every year it happens, and every year they are tortured for it….

Roll on 2016.


2015 Pre-season comparisons

April 22, 2015

So with the new season upon us and the first game this weekend, I felt it an appropriate time to kick start the player diary again, and perhaps offer a bit of an insight into some of our key players going into the 2015 season.

The first person to talk about is our spiritual leader, the man we entrust with every element of our offensive potency. Ironic, given his well known lack of real life potency. Our quarterback, Curtis Bourke.

Now Curtis has developed over the years from an annoying, cocky Junior player to an annoying, cocky senior player. In amongst this transition he learned to love the extra gravitas and weight involved in being the Senior QB. However, we didn’t expect him to love the extra weight around the waistline…

I was thinking about a celebrity comparison for Curtis, and I’m afraid I got stuck on one particular person, which resonated more and more as we go deeper into the comparison. That person is Justin Bieber.

Now bear with me, this one’s a slow burner…

So, Curtis looks the same now as he did when he was 12, much like Justin Bieber. The youthful looks seem to be popular with his other half, and as we know, Bieber’s pre-teen visage seems to attract other tweens just the same. Our Justin is an unlikely success. Nobody seems to really like what he does, and yet he’s somehow successful. Much like young Curtis, nobody understands what he’s doing, how he looks so bad doing it, and yet is known as a successful player.

Justin Bieber is a little spoilt, and is regularly pictured with expensive cars and accessories which have clearly been given to him by the adoring fans or entourage. Curtis, whilst never likely to be seen with a supercar, is not much of a driver, so is regularly seen being driven around by his own little entourage.

The pop sensation is also known for his petulance and arrogance… I was going to try and say something clever here, but anyone who knows Curtis is already way ahead of me.

And now some quickfire likenesses – they both have awful hair, dreadful dress sense, and love getting drunk and silly for no real reason.

But most of all, the clearest likeness, both Justin Bieber and Curtis Bourke deeply, truly, madly, frantically, wish they were black men.

So clearly Curtis “Biebs” Bourke needs to find another role model…

So who else do we have? Offensively we’ve got Chris Jackson, but the troll comparisons are already well known, much the same as Dave Crane and the Vanilla Gorilla, so I’m not really into such low hanging fruit.

The other deep dive comparison that springs to mind is with Casey Campbell.

Casey Campbell is beloved to many, undoubtedly talented, and humble with it, albeit a hint of modesty about his accomplishments. Marches to the beat of his own drum, largely introverted, but often the centre of attention. Draws the crowds and people look out for him. Most notably though, if you were going to design a football player, you’d basically design Casey. Strong, fast, agile, intelligent. The prototypical running back.

In many ways I see Casey as Samuel L.Jackson. In the same way you look at Casey and see “generic talented black guy” (in a nice way), you look at Jackson as “generic black actor” – have you ever seen any movie, ever? He’s the black guy…

Beyond that, I look to the defense.

Fewer deep personality comparisons here, perhaps more adept at lookalikes on the other side of the ball. Josh Milgate and Mowgli, Sam Gennings and Caspar the Friendly Ghost (actually, I think Sam is paler than Caspar), James Birch and any pirate ever…

The obvious one here is Raul – Mexican, easy going and talks with a silly accent. That can mean only one thing – Raul is effectively Speedy Gonzales. Except for one thing. Raul couldn’t outrun a burrito, let alone Sylvester the cat. Indeed, the way Raul sleeps in the locker room, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a cat.

Still, it takes all sorts, and I’m sure as the season progresses we’ll have more and more comparisons and more stories. Let’s face it, with Bieber around there’s rarely a dull moment…

Rookies, Legends and Others…

May 13, 2014

So, it’s been a while, but i heard somewhere that it’s best to leave them hanging, wanting more…. And that good things come to those who wait… and plenty of other cliches along the same vein. All of which are not terribly clever code for “too busy to write”. But rest assured you now have my full attention. I’m locked in, going nowhere, devoted to… ooh, look a butterfly!

Anyway, the 2013 season is in the books, and by now you’ll have realised that we did it. “Yo Adrian, we did it”… National league champions, promotion to the premier division, and onto the 2014 season. I thought about a detailed recap of the final, a breakdown of the game, or perhaps more appropriately a breakdown of everything that happened in the 12 hours after the final whistle, which included, but was not limited to, vodka, strip clubs, sex, tears, falling over, forced removal from bars, homoerotic dancing and Curtis being rejected. Again. But i think the urban legends of the Gladiators in Leeds are perhaps more powerful than idle gossip noted on some far flung corner of the internet.

So, how do i recap the 2013 season? I could poke fun at Crane, but that’s been done before. Mainly on this blog. I could pick at some of the other familiar faces on the team, but let’s face it, they’re familiar because we all pick at them already. So I had a new idea… A rookie review. Rookies of 2013 – most firmly entrenched as regulars by now – were one of the highlights of the club’s year, some for performances on the field, most for performances off it. So where to start?

We had the awards and the standout rookies were named and received appropriate plaudits. This is by no means the forum for additional praise. This is where they are brought back to Earth with a bump and presented with their “welcome to the mad house” t-shirt. And without further ado….

Most Likely to be removed from a karaoke club

In a standout performance, this award was a no contest, and Oli Ackland-Snow takes this in a unanimous vote. Baby faced assassin Oli has slotted into the Wide Receiver corps, and soon established himself as Curtis’ least favourite receiver for reasons unknown. The only possible logic for this is that every time Oli strays into Curtis’ field of vision, the Bourke eardrums erupt with the dulcet tones of the young soldier, and his rendition of a modern classic. When presented with a list of every song ever created in all of human history, Oli chose to avoid classics by the Beatles, he shunned the Rolling Stones, he avoided Metallica, he shirked Michael Jackson, he opted out of Led Zeppelin, and he rejected Stevie Wonder. Instead, Oli took a deep breath, braced his larynx for the demands that he was about to place upon it, and unleashed the most heavenly falsetto that anyone has ever recited. So was it some Puccini operetta that he sang? Perhaps the Ave Maria? Or even the Aled Jones rendition of “Walking in the Air”? No, it was not to be. It was the seminal Carly Rae Jepsen work – “Call me maybe”. The gusto, the enthusiasm and the intensity he displayed was intimidating, truly lost in the musical genius of a mid-America tween. Unforgettable, and un-repeatable – we hope.



Most likely to become a pirate

Another unanimous choice here. The singular standout was a man whose body offered more hair than the entire Junior programme combined. A man whose beard defied belief, and a man whose chain smoking rivalled Joe Wilson… almost. James Birch is the winner of this prestigious award. The bearded wonder astonished opposition, not through his onfield prowess, but more because he opted out of wearing the eye patch under his helmet. Hanging the parrot on the hook whilst getting changed, and paying his membership fees in pieces of eight because common practice for the leading rookie tackler in 2013. However, in 2014, he is vying for the “most unusual injury” award already, as tales of testicular troubles titillate his teammates.



Most likely to have hippy parents

This was a more difficult award, as it takes into account lifestyle, dress sense, personal grooming and personality traits. Ultimately however the award goes to the man who forced a “yes, that is his real name” at every card check, Sky Bultitude. Let me qualify this by saying that i know nothing about Sky’s parents and i certainly bear them no ill will. In fact, i’d love to shake their hand for having the balls to slap that on a birth certificate. According to the dictionary of baby names, Sky is an abbreviated version of Skye – so are we to believe that we pay homage to a desolate Scottish island, or that we are praising the heavens? Either way, it’s predominantly a girl’s name. Confusingly enough, it was also the code for one of the defensive play calls, which looked peculiar when Sky himself was lined up at Cornerback. Still, despite this perceived disadvantage, Sky performed well during the season and was a worthy addition to the secondary.



Most likely to be mistaken for another player

“Jake, no Josh, no it is Jake…” a common refrain from the sideline this year. Poor Jake Hawkins. Very talented outside linebacker, but so often confused with other players. As a result i suspect his stats may be somewhat undercooked (although, with Nick Foxley collating the stats, perhaps it’s not surprising that they are undercooked – let’s face it, nobody was suspicious when they saw Nick led the team in tackles, despite never suiting up….) . Still, Josh, no Jake, was a welcome addition to the team even if nobody knows who he is, and everyone continuously forgets his name…



The Nick Foxley “Pass the Zimmer Frame” award

The sun sets, the band softly playing “Old Man River”, and there’s a silhouetted figure sat on a porch in a rocking chair. He has a pipe in his mouth, a newspaper in his hand and half moon glasses teetering on the tip of his nose. The grey bushy beard is emblematic of a man who is world weary, and has learned to appreciate every day as if it could be his last. In between cries of “get off my lawn” to the young whippersnappers of the neighbourhood, he murmurs about “the good old days”, or how things were “different when i was your age”. The sun dips lower in the sky, and the light glints off the man’s weathered leathery skin and he is revealed as…. Warren Heather, the delightfully spry receiver who proved to everyone that you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks.



Most likely to be GI Joe

He might as well arrive to training in fatigues and a beret. Tears well up in his eyes when the first bars of the national anthem are played. And he wants to belt out the song that represents the country he’s so proud of. He takes a sharp breath, he prepares himself for that first note, and then summoning every inch of his diaphragm he projects…. and a muffled squeaky voice emerges. That’s right, Military muscle man himself, Lewis Henson. Old Chewy took a leave of absence in 2013 to wander off to some far flung clime for a bit of sun and sand… Problem was, the brochure said Jamiaca, what he got was Jalalabad. Fair play to him, we got a cracking video message from him to round off the season, and it’s great to have him back. The one thing i learned from the process… don’t mess with his girl. One harassing mail, trying to coax him into training was met with a barrage from him better half that i won’t soon forget. Not sure who’s the most militant – Chewy or his woman!



Least reliable

This will have to be deferred for now. Dan Johnson didn’t turn up…again. Still, i’m sure we’ll see him soon. Won’t we?

Most likely to waste money on hair products

This was a hotly contested award, plenty of candidates for this – not sure if that’s a good thing or not? Ultimately however, one man’s luscious locks won through. The man who loves nothing more than to feel the wind in his hair – or so we thought. Apparently, he has a soft spot for Thai women who aren’t as feminine as one might think… but perhaps that’s a story for another day. Josh Milgate just steals this from our next winner…



Most likely to arrive in a tow truck

Chris Palmer – “Leaf” gained some notoriety for arriving in Leeds with an AA entourage after a pretty significant prang on the M1. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but a fair amount of bruised pride ensued, which he took out on Gateshead, as he ran in the final score of the game. Look forward to having him back in Colchester soon. Probably on the back of a flatbed truck…



Most likely to be asked for ID in every bar he ever goes into

Baby faced assassin Alfie Sharman graduated from the juniors in 2013, and followed up his nomination to the all BAFANL Junior team with some sterling performances through the playoffs for the seniors. The problem is, Alfie looks about 12. Those chubby cheeks, the innocent glint in the eyes and the slightly hangdog expression he often has reflects an early stage teenager rather than a University undergraduate. It’s fair to say that Alfie is already odds on favourite for this award in 2014, 2015, and really every year going forward. I don’t know what to say, i just can’t resist those chubby little cheeks and dimples….



Most likely to invent a new dance craze

The Dougy, the worm, the Hogarth shuffle… all dance trends which have captured the nation. In 2013 we were able to add another name to the list. No, not Psy and his crazy Korean horse dance, but Garry and the Shuttleworth Shake. A revelation on the dance floors of Colchester, Garry was able to transport the dance move to the football field, taking his crazy moves to the end zone. The defensive end racked up the Sacks this year, but nobody remembers that. We only care about his mesmeric hips… Shakira has nothing on Shuttleworth.



Most likely to turn down a sure thing

A phrase for the ages was coined in 2013. It had a hashtag, and it very nearly had a t-shirt. #DoingAVenables had Twitter all abuzz, so much so that i believe it registered as trending in one particular postcode for 30 seconds between 0315 and 0320 one night… So practically world domination. Young Linebacker David Venables was the runaway winner here – and whilst he’ll tell you that he was being respectful to women, and responsible, considering his highly paid high powered job, the truth is perhaps somewhat different. This is another one to file under the “buy him a beer and ask him about it”, if you want the full tale, but it’s well worth the effort.



So, a worthy crop of award winners here, and some high benchmarks for the new class to aspire to. The 2014 group are doing well though, between the Andre diary entry and the Mitch Freeman Freak show we’re off to a strong start!

Wins, Wallies and Weary travelers…

June 14, 2013

So the season is underway, and after a first game triumph we move on to our first away game, a lengthy 2 hour coach trawl from motorway to ring road and back, which results in a depleted roster of players turning out in the middle of a field to impress two men and a dog. I jest… somewhat…

These away trips are filled with both excitement and dread in equal measure from the team, who loathe the cramped journey the seemingly below par changing facilities, the sloping fields, the unkempt grass, the wonky posts and the cold showers. But these are accepted without question, and with a tacit nod to the opposition who will have five such journeys of their own over the course of the season.

So we migrate from far and wide to the bus, as if a beacon attracting the dregs of society. Students, still wrestling with the vodka on their breath from the night before, the twenty-something gym rats who stroll through the rain in their flip flops, carrying bags of fresh fruit and protein shakes, and the weekend warriors who trundle up to the bus just delighted to have a day away from the wives and girlfriends, delegating childcare to the rest of the family. It’s a disparate group of individuals, who come together as a team every couple of weeks. And, as glamorous as this may sound, it’s only the start of the saga…

So what I’ve described so far is pretty uniform for many teams around the UK i suggest, but now, let’s look more specifically at the Gladiators. Peeling back the curtain on one of the more disfunctional group of misfits you’ll ever see.

Now, we’re on the bus, inevitably there’s a latecomer, someone we’ll either chose to wait for or leave behind depending on their relative significance on the field. Often there’ll be frantic phone calls to someone who was under the impression that they’d told a friend of a friend’s brother in law to leave a message for the gameday manager’s wife that they’re not going to be there on the day. So the bus pulls away, 20 minutes after the time we advertised we’d leave, with a grumpy driver.

At this point we have the usual exercise, the head coach stands up surveys his men, like a military leader readying the troops for combat. His head soon drops and plants squarely into his hand in true Charlie Brown fashion as he sees the bunch of reprobates that turn up. The starting running back is injured – in truth, Casey’s milking it for all it’s worth, but that’s ok, we’ve got Chris Pa…. No, we haven’t. Last week’s breakout superstar is absent as well. Exams. The perils of being a student. Why couldn’t he be like the rest of them and just not care about his grades!

Still, we’ve got a couple of runners, so we should be ok. The Quarterback, the now legendary Curtis Bourke, sits in the corner trying to decide who to hurl abuse at this journey. His first target is the returning Phill Pearson. For the uninitiated, Phill is a law unto himself. The self proclaimed walking STI, Phill’s past is chequered to say the least. Whilst his past is worthy of an entire website of its own, there is the one story that continues to be indelibly linked with Phill wherever he goes. Most will be well aware of this by now, but let me precursor the story by saying that Phill is a lot more grown up now, far more mature, and he’d never let anything like this happen again…we hope.

So, let’s paint the picture, it’s a night out in Colchester, the beer is flowing, the shots are flying, and the dancefloor is packed. Phill’s beloved girlfriend is away, in Australia no less, and is due back in a day or two, so he’s taking advantage of a last night of freedom. He stumbles out of the Hippodrome (that’s Liquid, for those under the age of 28…) and having exchanged some flirtatious messages with a girl earlier, he thinks that it’s got to be worth a look, so he fumbles in his pocket for his keys and manages to unlock his car. Clearly well over the limit he realises that driving isn’t the most sensible option, but rather than call a taxi, he has a better idea… I’ll drive on the back roads instead. You know, the single carriageway roads, with very little space for cars to pass, with steep drops off the edge of the road, or trees skirting the tarmac… Genius. So, pretending he’s James Bond, he swerves around tight corners and speeds along the road. Soon, somewhat predictably, a chain of events unfolds whereby car and tarmac are no longer adjacent. In fact, some might say that the car and the road were separated… by a ditch. Now, it’s not as bad as you might think, he didn’t get seriously hurt or anything like that. The car had found its way into a field, separated from the road by a small ditch, and a slight incline, which made it pretty difficult to get back onto the established thoroughfare. So what do you do? You’re in a field, in your car, and you need to get back onto the road. Well, logic dictates that somewhere in the field will be a gate or an entrance, after all the farmer needs to get his tractors onto the field somehow… So what does Phill do? Well, he certainly doesn’t go looking for a gate…

Still riding the James Bond wave of adrenaline, with a mixture of vodka, Red Bull, gin, lager and Jaegermeister coursing through his veins Phill reverses the car 50 yards into the field, he mashes it into gear, slams his foot down, and he hears the triumphant Smokey and the Bandit theme song in his head. He accelerates quickly and the car leaps into the air, soars over the ditch, landing comfortably back on the road, to tumultuous applause from the spectators… or not. No, the car landed squarely in the ditch, and young Pearson couldn’t get it out. So what do you do now? Panic? Phone someone? No, apparently you stay in the car and you fall asleep. Of course, silly me.

Knock, knock, knock

Phill stirs, but is convinced that he’s imagining things, so he goes back to sleep.

Knock, knock, knock

Hmm, that’s a noise that needs investigating. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he can’t see anything but a massive blur, gradually the world comes into focus and he sees a car, a white car he thinks, but it could be blue, it’s still too early to see. There are two men at the window, they’re wearing black… For a minute Phill contemplates whether his time is up, and the Grim Reaper had come to claim him… But the Grim Reaper is one man, not two, and he rides a fiery white horse, not a white car. But, this is the 21st century…

And then the world snaps into focus, it’s not a white car, it’s a white police car. The two men are policemen. And they’re still knocking on his window.

It’s fair to say that this part of the story doesn’t need too much explaining. It ran along the lines of “Who’s a naughty boy then?”, however, as the car wasn’t moving, he couldn’t be arrested for drink driving. Talk about legal loopholes…

So, Phill goes home, sleeps off the hangover, having promised to retrieve the car from the ditch later in the day.

Later in the day… Phill recruits a friendly driver to help him tow the car out of the ditch, and they return to the scene of the crime (“not a crime, just a misdemeanour. I wasn’t actually driving at the time…”). And then, to cap the whole saga, what do they arrive to find? No, the car hadn’t been stolen. Some young ASBO clad youth had decided to toast some marshmellows, and so lobbed a match into the car and burnt the whole thing out. It was a smoking shell of a car, good for nothing but rubbish.

Serves him right you say? Well, did I mention that it wasn’t his car? You remember that girlfriend that’s in Australia? Well it’s her car…

And she’s due to land tomorrow. And is expecting Phill to pick her up from the airport in that very car.

Still, Phill’s far more grown up now. So he says…

Anyway, we come away from Milton Keynes on this occasion with the win, and soon we head to Watford for game 3 – another away trip, another dodgy changing room, crooked field, and goalposts fixed to the top of the soccer goal. Despite this, another win before returning home to take on the unbeaten Bedfordshire Blue Raiders.

So, we’re hosting the top of table Blue Raiders. Expectations are high. Tension amongst the team, as everyone understands what needs to be done. And, despite flags for any word uttered on the field, or any inkling of a hold, the Gladiators remained unbeaten, routing the previously undefeated Bedford side, and taking both divisional top spot, but also the number 1 ranking nationally. 3 weeks until taking on local rivals Essex Spartans on a Saturday night in Billericay with county pride on the line!

The Future of Fantasy?

May 13, 2013

So, it’s not often that i’ll wax lyrical about something, but for the many fantasy football enthusiasts out there, it’s well worth checking out this little fantasy football gem. A twist on the usual Fantasy concept, you can compete against other devotees every week, just by picking your favourite players. Definitely something different, and a nice little companion to any other league you might be in. Particularly 16 team standard leagues where certain individuals get robbed on a routine basis… No, stop, take a breath, you’re over that now. Let it go… Next year Campbell, next year…

Mock Draft time!

April 24, 2013

With the 2013 NFL draft looming large, the Colchester Gladiators hosted an event steeped in history, a gathering of minds that is the envy of the ages. Not since Plato guided Aristotle through the maze of philosophical thought, have intellects and opinions clashed in such epic fashion. This event, one which has a rich history of both genius and insanity, of inspiration and desecration, of lauding and blaspheming, and of tears and joy. An event, rivalled only by Moses being bestowed with the holy tablets containing the 10 commandments. It was the second annual Colchester Gladiators mock draft.

So, the gathering was impressive, not least because one person turned up at the agreed time – kudos to Nick Foxley for managing to read a clock. Eventually, the gathering became impressive, a collection of laptops, iPads, ring binders, note pads and backs of fag packets surrounded the kitchen table at Chez Burridge as the tension mounted. Looking around the room, the football intellect was startling, and that was just me. Burridge, Burrows, Clarke, Foxleys x 2, Crane, Moreton and Brunsden – experience went hand in hand with ineptitude at that table. We had been promised a special guest – who would it be? We look nervously at Tommy Clarke, expecting a big reveal. There was a vacant chair in the room, and the debate raged – would Dave Hogarth actually turn up? Would Curtis arrive uninvited? Was the chair already being occupied by the spirit of Manti Te’o’s girlfriend… Tommy rose, cleared his throat and commanded attention – a hushed atmosphere descended on the jovial gathering. The only sound was the rumble of anticipation, although this was later to be revealed as Brunny’s stomach. A grin came across Tommy’s face and he announced, “Welcome to the second annual mock draft, this year taking in 2 rounds of guesswork. I’d like to welcome tonight’s special guest…” cue dramatic pause. It went on for a while. A bit too long. There was yawning…

“Adam Burrows”

The deflation was felt across Essex, and the disgust was prevalent through the room. Burrows looked confused. Tommy felt the need to justify this – “the man who never turns up for training, but can find his way to a mock draft”. In fairness, he lives in Oxford. The trip to Colchester is a fair effort, and so it is special to see him, but he’d been allocated picks, we all knew he was coming. Not exactly earth shattering.

Talking of which, it wasn’t exactly earth shattering to see that the man who had been given the honour of the #1 overall pick had not turned up, so this privilege went to our de facto special guest.

Pick number one set the tone for the night in many ways. Firstly, the confusion, even at this stage, was impressive. I mean, it’s the first choice, nobody is off the board. He could literally choose himself and not be wrong… But after some consultation, offensive tackle Luke Joeckel went first overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. When quizzed on the logic, Burrows stumbled and referred to his iPad, reading word for word the player pen picture. He then qualified the statement with “of course, we’ll have to see what happens after camp…” That too was a recurring theme as the night wore on.

With the draft now underway a quick glimpse around the room revealed the devotion – Clarke was perusing a Domino’s menu, the Foxley twins were sat side by side in matching Redskins paraphernalia, already thinking ahead to the Washington pick at number 51. Crane was cracking his second beer of the night, only 5 minutes in, Moreton was doodling pictures of what Geno Smith might look like in an Eagles uniform, and Brunny was gazing wistfully at the sausage rolls he brought, wondering if it was too early to get stuck in.

So, things unfolded comfortably until we hit pick number 8. Dave Crane was the acting GM of the Buffalo Bills, and he had only a couple of minutes to consider his options. He smiled, and his body language screamed confidence. “I’ve given this plenty of thought” – he’s clearly very happy with his selection – “and i think there’s one player that fits this pick perfectly”. This sounds promising… “I’ve looked at game tape for this, and i’ve put in plenty of study” – finally someone speaking with authority! “I think the Bills need a quarterback”, erm, didn’t they just sign Kevin Kolb in free agency? Never mind, maybe he’s looking for competition for the spot. “And so with this pick i take…. E.J. Manuel.”

Wow, not something we expected, but certainly not completely out of the question. Some time passed, the draft moved on. Someone quizzes Crane – “why did you choose E. J. Manuel for the Bills? I’d have thought you’d go Ryan Nassib there. After all, Buffalo now have his former College head coach, and offensive coordinator”. Dave’s face falls… “Erm, that might have been who i meant…” Apparently preparation doesn’t necessary prevent failure.

At every possible moment, Tommy Clarke urges trades, he encourages teams to consider trading for picks to keep things interesting. Nobody really listens to him. When it gets around to pick number 9 with the New York Jets, Clarke unleashes his master plan! In a masterfully pre-arranged move, the Jets trade with the St. Louis Rams, exchanging the 9th and 16th picks, with the Rams also giving the Jets their second round pick at number 46. The Rams had two first round picks, so this wasn’t as crazy as it seemed. The Rams want to grab Tavon Austin, and the Jets just need picks – they are awful, so more high picks means more good players (N.B. This all took place prior to the Revis trade to Tampa Bay). There were no further trades….

The night continued with the usual “oohs” and “aahs”, followed by the odd “Great pick”, and littered with “well, let’s see what happens after camp”. The beer flowed, the pizza was abundant, the laughs were plenty and the football talk was highly entertaining.

Full draft is below:

1 Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, OT
2 Jacksonville Jaguars – Eric Fisher, OT
3 Oakland Raiders – Shariff Floyd, DT
4 Philadelphia Eagles – Dion Jordan, DE/OLB
5 Detroit Lions – Lane Johnson, OT
6 Cleveland Browns – Dee Milliner, CB
7 Arizona Cardinals – Geno Smith, QB
8 Buffalo Bills – E. J. Manuel, QB
9 St. Louis Rams (From NY Jets) – Tavon Austin, wR
10 Tennessee Titans – Chance Warmack, OG
11 San Diego Chargers – Jarvis Jones, OLB
12 Miami Dolphins – Xavier Rhodes, CB
13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DJ Hayden, CB
14 Carolina Panthers – Star Lotulelei, DT
15 New Orleans Saints – Barkevious Mingo, DE
16 NYJ (from St. Louis) – Ziggy Ansah, DE
17 Pittsburgh Steelers – Cordarelle Patterson, WR
18 Dallas Cowboys – Kenny Vaccaro, SS
19 New York Giants – Arthur Brown, ILB
20 Chicago Bears – Alec Ogletree, ILB
21 Cincinnati Bengals – Eddie Lacy, RB
22 St. Louis Rams – Jonathan Cooper, OG
23 Minnesota Vikings – Sheldon Richardson, DT
24 Indianapolis Colts – Bjoern Werner, DE
25 Minnesota Vikings – Keenan Allen, WR
26 Green Bay Packers – Tyler Eifert, TE
27 Houston Texans – Deandre Hopkins, WR
28 Denver Broncos – Tank Carradine, DT
29 New England Patriots – DJ Fluker, OT
30 Atlanta Falcons – Damontre Moore, DE
31 San Francisco 49ers – Jonathan Cyprien, SS
32 Baltimore Ravens – Manti T’eo, ILB

Round 2
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Tyrann Mathieu, CB
2. San Francisco 49ers – Datone Jones, DE
3. Philadelphia Eagles – Matt Elam, S
4. Detroit Lions – Alex Okafor, DE
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Eric Reid, FS
6. Arizona Cardinals – Menelik Watson, OT
7. Cleveland Browns – Josh Gordon (2012 Supplementary draft choice)
8. New York Jets – Zach Ertz, TE
9. Tennessee Titans – Desmond Trufant, CB
10. Buffalo Bills – Justin Hunter, WR
11. Miami Dolphins – Teron Armstead, OT
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Justin Pugh, OT
13. Carolina Panthers DJ Swearinger, S
14. New Orleans (forefeited)
15. San Diego Chargers – Kyle Long, OT
16. New York Jets (from St. Louis) – Matt Barkley, QB
17. Dallas Cowboys – Larry Warford, OG
18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kevin Minter, ILB
19. New York Giants – Brandon Williams, DT
20. Chicago Bears – Barrett Jones, C/OG
21. Washington Redskins – Jonathan Banks, CB
22. Minnesota Vikings – Mike Glennon, QB
23. Cincinnati Bengals – Terrance Williams, WR
24. Miami Dolphins – Robert Woods, WR
25. Green Bay Packers – Jonathan Franklin, RB
26. Seattle Seahawks – Sylvester Williams, DT
27. Houston Texans – Jamar Taylor, CB
28. Denver Broncos – Jesse Williams, DT
29. New England Patriots – Margus Hunt, DE
30. Atlanta Falcons – Darius Slay, CB
31. San Francisco 49ers – Marcus Wheaton, WR
32. Baltimore Ravens – Quinton Patton, WR


January 5, 2013

So, let me just start this by saying… I was robbed. Completely and utterly robbed.


I love my team mates, I’ve made friends for life in this sport, I’ve made enemies, i’ve been involved in politics, I’ve had very happy memories, and I’ve taken many downs alongside many ups. I love football, and I love my team mates.


Most of the time. I was robbed.


Now, we train hard, we work hard, the core of the team have an amazing bond, and there’s a group of a dozen or so of us who dedicate ourselves to football above just about anything else. I have a connection and a relationship with them like nobody else.


But there’s one time when I loathe them. I loathe them and everything they stand for. I was robbed.


This time comes just around Christmas every year. A time when peace and goodwill resonates around 99% of the world’s population. A time when people rejoice in giving and receiving gifts, a time when smiles prevail and all is right with the world, when robins sit atop every snow covered post box, every child wears mittens to build wonky snowmen, and a time when a jolly fat man visits every child in the world.


It’s fair to say there was no jolly fat man in my house this year. I was robbed.


Fantasy football is not a game, it’s a life experience, and on Christmas eve, as I had the NFL offices on speed dial to insist that the games were replayed, and the Police on the other line as I tried to register the rape, pillage and general destruction I’d fallen victim to, I held my head in my hands and I sobbed.


Why? Two words – Arian. Foster. The guy who had taken me all the way, the guy who I’d taken in the First round of the draft, and the guy who had been healthy all year long. That guy. That guy who was predicted to net me 25+ points, and brought home… 2. Now, had he been injured I’d be sympathetic. Had he been performing poorly and was pulled, I could have lived with that. But he wasn’t. He was taken out of the game for… wait for it… an irregular heartbeat. Yes, you heard me right. His heart wasn’t beating the same as everyone else’s. Now listen up you Texan trainers, did it not occur to you that this is a guy with virtually zero body fat, a guy with more muscle than the average prize bull, a guy honed to athletic perfection, and in the top 1% of sports athletes in the world? Take that under consideration and is it any wonder that his heartbeat wasn’t the same as your average American couch potato? I mean, come on! Seriously! The guy’s black, that means his heartbeat just has rythym – the pasty college interns probably don’t know a funky beat when they hear it! Hang on, is that racist? Let me clarify that I know plenty of white guys with rythym, like…. well… like…erm…


And equally, I know black guys with no rythym like Joe Stickings. I mean, that guy dances more like a white guy than any black fella I know. He got a chance to prove me wrong on TV, but failed miserably, waving his arms around and relying on his “peachy bum” to do the talking.


So, Arian Foster let me down, but so did just about everyone else on my team! Colin Kaepernick was unspectacular, Stevan Ridley didn’t deliver. And in fact I could go on about my team, but let’s be honest, in the cold light of day you need to take a deep breath and admit… Casey just got lucky. That bum didn’t deserve it, it’s my title, I was top of the table, I was the number 1 seed, I should have won it. I was robbed!


Breathe…. Breathe… 1…2…3…4…


Ok, i’m calm. For now. Congratulations Casey – I had to type it because I couldn’t physically say it between my firmly gritted teeth. There’s always next year. I said that last year too, when I finished second…again. So depressing.


Still, the end of the fantasy season does bring one reward, the Gladiators Pre-season is soon to be upon us. It’s the time of year when I realise how unfit I’ve got over the winter, as I tried desperately to rehab an ankle injury from the last game of the 2012 season. So, new year, new me – back running as I try to prepare for the season. Not far, but little and often… Running a mile a day for the first couple of weeks, and then i’ll start ratcheting up the pace and the distance. As I’ve said to some, I’m aiming for a 5K by March. I know others have been working hard through the off season, in the gym and losing weight. Kudos to them, I’m late to the party, but I’m working to get better. What are you doing to get ready?