Wembley & the Green Man

October 30, 2007

So, the weekend that British Football had been waiting for – Giants vs. Dolphins at Wembley, needless to say that for the Gladiators it got of to an inauspicious start…

As I sat in the kitchen, waiting for Mark to pick me up ready to head for the school, and the pre-arranged minibus, the clock ticked on… and on… and on… It was already 7.25, and we were due to meet at 7.30. I ring him… “I’m just having some breakfast, trying to work out what to wear” he says.

“Mark, we need to be there in 5 minutes”.

“Why? What time is it?”

“7.25”

“My clock says 6.25”.

“No, you’re wrong…”

Many expletives followed as he grabbed a coat and rushed out of the door. Turns out dear old Mark had turned his clock back 2 hours, rather than 1, and so was in fact more in tune with the people of the Azores, or of the Cape Verde Islands, than he was with us in jolly olde England.

So, we rush to the school, and to our surprise (well, not really, to be honest we expected some kind of cock up!) there was no minibus. Apparently whoever used it the day before hadn’t returned it. Needless to say, Chairman Dave was less than pleased. So, we crammed into cars, Simon Wilkinson played BA Baracus in the Gladiator van, hauling all the speakers and DJ equipment up to the Green Man. I stayed with Mark and was joined by Paul Brunsden and Steve Pinner. So, we venture down the A12 and on to Wembley.

At least 4, possibly 5 illegal U-turns and a dozen annoyed motorists later we locate the Green Man and park. I say park, what actually happened was that Mark moved his car onto the grass as instructed, got stuck, and in true Gladiator style uttered the immortal words, “Sod it, that’ll do”.

Now, at the Green Man there was work to do. We set up a large outdoor bar, a large stand for SPPSS, a kit supplier run by a very enthusiastic Aussie, all the DJ equipment, the bucking bull, the Gladiators stall, and watched some Germans unload box after box of stuff for their clothing stall. Germans, seem to get everywhere.

tailgate1.jpgAnyway, the party was a big success, and saw players from Sussex, Bedford, Farnham, Hull, Ipswich, Essex, Coventry, Edinburgh, Oxford, Kent, East Kent, Andover, Plymouth and an entire bus load from Shropshire, and that’s just the shirts I recognised! People ate, drank and were merry, (particularly so when the Kukri Allstarzz came on) and the event served as a fantastic warm up to the game itself.tailgate2.jpg

There were a couple of golden moments – Chairman Dave interviewed by Nuts TV, and now apparently we have pre-game entertainment at Broad Lane, including professional singers belting out the national anthem. Hmm… Also, credit to our very own Leo Beckford who took second place in the bull riding competition.

So, on to the game itself. Fairly wet and wild, loads of running, mainly because not a single New York receiver knew how to catch, and it turned into a good old fashioned game of muddy smashmouth football, loads of running between the tackles, and lots of hits going in. Ted Ginn Jr’s TD catch was a definite highlight though, especially as it happened right in front of us (I’m in the picture somewhere, so you can see how close our seats were!).tomincrowd1.jpg

 

So, all in all a good day, rounded off by Brunny and I having to push Mark’s car out of the mud to get it moving again!

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Further Introductions…

October 30, 2007

So, time to introduce a few more of the faces around Colchester…

pinner.jpgWith all the notorious number 81’s around the league, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, et al, Steve Pinner is a breath of fresh air. Our premier tight end, Steve catches pretty much everything thrown in his direction, and despite his wirey exterior can be a ferocious blocker. A coach driver by trade, Steve never failed to explain the rules of the road to Mark on the drive to Wembley, mainly during one of Mark’s many attempted U-turns…

 

nfoxley.jpgAs briefly mentioned, the reason we drove to Wembley was because a minibus had been misplaced. This was the fault on one man (well, not really, but we need to blame someone), Nick Foxley. Nick is our ageless cornerback, whose enthusiasm knows no bounds. Wearing number 87 he’s regularly seen flying across the field to hit some unsuspecting ball carrier, and he is nearing the interception record, currently held by a certain Mr. Hogarth…

 

turner.jpgAnd then there’s Rob Turner. Our fearless leader wearing 17. Veteran QB who constantly strives for perfection. And says “Come on guys” a lot. He has the pleasure of touching me up every play, and I’m sure, even though he won’t admit it, loves every second of it. Lesser spotted these days with baby issues, his status is questionable for next year. No doubt he’ll pop up just before the first game though. After warm ups of course…


Another Wednesday…

October 25, 2007

So, another Wednesday, another quiz night. Or, more appropriately, another chance for Mark Gilbranch to display his exceptional grasp of general knowledge. Needless to say, he didn’t disappoint…So, Mark got the team off to a flying start, which, as we all know, is vital for a successful quiz team. “Question 2, how long is the Channel Tunnel?”. Mark chirps up immediately… “It’s about 35 minutes”. You couldn’t make it up, and that’s why we love him so. Dave and i burst into fits of giggles, before trying to come up with a more meaningful answer. We discuss this – we think the Channel is about 22 miles, and there’ll be a bit of tunnel either end. So, i say “I think around 26 miles”. Dave’s reply, “Yeah, i was thinking around 26 too”. Mark’s contribution, “Well, let’s split the difference”, and with that he writes down 27.At this point i should just point out that Mark is an excellent teacher, organised, prepared and confident around his students (especially when asked to go into more detail about sex education), but sometime his common sense just seems to escape him.

Despite all this, Mark did redeem himself by knowing that there were 206 bones in the human body. How did he know that? He’d been doing the body with his class this week. Congratulations Mark, you know one fact on the syllabus that you teach. That certainly raises you in my estimations…

Mark’s comment of the night, however, came later in the quiz. “Following an inquiry, which hospital had to admit to stealing body parts in the year 2000?” George Meighan, resident expert on all things medical (he does work in a hospital, but seems to spend more time ogling the nurses than actually doing anything) grabs the paper and correctly writes Alder Hay hospital. the surprise on Mark’s face is evident. “Wow, how did they get away with that?” Erm, they didn’t, hence the question…

So, all in all we came second. By one point. And only because we had one of our answers turned down for not being specific enough. Pretty much sums up our evening!

Actually, this is a bit unfair on Mark, as Dave dropped a bit of clanger last night. “Which is the southernmost state of the USA?” Instantly i said Florida, but wondered aloud where Hawaii was. Dave, in a cool, calm, studied manner, said “Puerto Rico’s quite far south”. Yes Dave, thanks for that nugget of information. “Definitely further south than Florida”. Yes Dave, again, i can’t fault you there, superb knowledge. “One problem with that, Dave. Puerto Rico’s not a state”. Hogarth’s expression never changed. His brow never once trembled. “Not affiliated or associated to the US in any way?” he said almost rhetorically. “No Dave, it’s an independent country”. “Oh right, maybe i’m thinking of Costa Rica”. “No Dave, that’s not a state either”.*

As yet, i don’t think George or I have really dropped any clangers on this sort of scale, but i’m sure it’s just a matter of time…

Now, i’ve had a few messages complaining that some people haven’t been mentioned, or, and i quote, “aren’t cool enough for the blog gang” – yes Matt Roberts, i’m talking about you – so, i thought it might be time to introduce a few more of the Gladiator family.

So, i’ll start with the aforementioned Coach Roberts…

roberts.jpgA former Gladiator, Matt Roberts is currently defensive co-ordinator with the Essex Blades, and head coach of the fledgling Gladiator youth team. He has an opinion on everything you can think of, and is never shy of expressing it. Nobody’s really sure what he does for a living, but judging by his regular daily contributions to discussion threads on every football website under the sun i think he’s best described as a “Profession Forum Surfer”. He also is the lead commentator for all Gladiator home games, and never fails to amuse. “What’s that Lassie?”

george.jpgThere’s also George Meighan, another quiz night regular. He’s a Gladiator veteran on the Offensive line who’s toyed with retirement, but “could be persuaded back”. He wears 74. Last year he was able to double as a student and represented the Essex Blades in BCAFL. George is a gentle giant who seems to be a bit of a hit with the ladies in and around Colchester General Hospital. I was quite impressed until i realised he worked on geriatrics…

ant.jpgAnthony Sweetman is a former Gladiator, and now professional supporter (in that he doesn’t seem to do much work!). A professional cameraman-cum-runner-cum-studio hand-cum-well, we’re not really sure what it is he does. He just swans off to various locations, and returns claiming to have got some great film. So far we’re all jealous of his dancing in an Australian comedy sketch show, but we all sympathise with him for being the housemate of Tommy Clarke and Mark.

slider.jpgAnd finally, Slider. Or Alex Robinson, as he’s less commonly known. Slider (so called for sliding to stop the clock on his first play as a QB) is another of the “Friday night brigade”, and can often be sighted in and around the pubs and clubs of Colchester. Slider is known for two real things, firstly his exceptional speed on the field, and secondly, his exceptionally fit mother…

So, the next entry will be post-Wembley, and we expect loads of stories from that – what nuggets of information will Mark give us? Just how stressed can Dave get? How many people will turn up? Watch this space…

* Dave has asked me to point out that (according to “Ben’s Guide to US Government for Kids”):

  • American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands are all territories of the United States. Washington, D.C. and the Northern Mariana Islands are commonwealths. Puerto Rico was once a territory, but is now a commonwealth.

  • Territories and commonwealths are partially self-governing areas that have not been granted statehood. The indigenous peoples of these areas are citizens of the United States.

  •  Dave, point made. You’re still wrong though…


    Building up to Wembley…

    October 23, 2007

    Two big stories this week, firstly, despite claiming to have been there, Mark Gilbranch is adamant that Nepal and Pakistan are linked by the Khyber Pass. Needless to say the quizmaster thought different (it’s actually Afghanistan and Pakistan), and when he had a chance to redeem himself he only managed to shoot himself in the foot, adamant that “argus” and “golden” are types of eagle. Again the quizmaster responded in his usual dour manner, gently explaining that they are in fact breeds of pheasant. Cue much hilarity from the rest of the quiz team. I should just say that Mark’s finest hour came when i was able to convince him that Long John Silver’s parrot (from Treasure Island) was in fact called Polly. Sleep easy knowing that your child’s education is in the hands of people like Mark Gilbranch.

    But the second piece of news is really the build up to Wembley. So, it’s finally upon us, this Sunday, 28th October, the New York Giants “visit” the Miami Dolphins in a sell-out Wembley stadium. 89,999 people will join me in the stands, many not really supporting either side, but just elated to see the NFL back in England. Many people have been saying that this being a regular season game means that it’s much more high profile than in years gone by, when two sides would come to Wembley for a pre-season fixture, and you’d only get to see back up players. Well, seeing as Miami are led by the mighty Cleo Lemon at QB, and the pounding running of Jesse Chatman, i’m not sure it’ll feature as many of the star names as predicted. Interestingly, NFLUK still promote three “star players” on the Miami roster who won’t be taking any part in the game. Chris Chambers (traded to the Chargers), Trent Green (on IR following serious concussion), and Ronnie Brown (torn ACL) will not be on the field at Wembley, but are still classed as “ones to watch”. Perhaps they need to update the website…

     From the Gladiators point of view, the talk surrounds the Great British Tailgate Party which will kick off at 12 noon on Gameday. We’re expecting big crowds, and hopefully lots of publicity for the event.

     So, with 5 days to go, all eyes are on the Wembley arch, and hopefully something really special. Roll on Sunday…


    Introductions

    October 17, 2007

    Welcome to the very first instalment of the Touchdown News player diary, where I’ll be chronicling the highs and lows of the Colchester Gladiators in 2008.

     

    Now, as many of you will know, the Gladiators are looking to bounce back from a poor 2007, where we finished without winning a single game in Division 1 of the British American Football League. Following the season, the Club parted ways with head coach Karl Bourke, and set out to find someone to lead us into the next stage of the Club’s development. Anyone who has been around Britball for any number of years may be familiar with the history surrounding the Gladiators, and what a prominent and successful Club it has been. The new generation of Gladiators are seeking to restore the glory days back to Colchester, and this season we expect to be competing hard in Division 2.

     

    So, who are we? Well through the season many of the guys will be mentioned in this column, so it might be worth introducing some of the key members now…

     

    Author - Tom BurridgeI’m Tom Burridge, #67, Centre. I’ve been with the team since it’s reformation 4 years ago, and I like to think I’m the lynchpin on the offensive line (but many in the team would disagree!).

    Dave Hogarth - Club Chairman, Running Back, and 10th string QB…Dave Hogarth is our veteran chairman, he wears 28 and has been spotted at linebacker, full back and tailback over past seasons. Dave was with the Club through the glory days in the 80s, and is working exceptionally hard to promote the Club and get us back to the top. He’s toyed with retirement more times than I care to mention, but we have no doubt we’ll see him in kit this season.

    Duncan Flack - Septic Running BackDuncan Flack is our token American*, and despite having lived in the UK for at least 10 years still has a deep Texas twang to his voice. He’s a running back, and he wears 44.

     On top of these guys, we have a strong contingent of younger players, led by graduates of the Essex Blades in the collegiate league.

    Tommy Clarke - He’s quick, and plays both waysTommy Clarke is a fleet footed receiver or cornerback (depending on how he feels when he gets out of bed!) and a vital part of our special teams. He wears 21.

    Adam Burrows - Lineman and ladies manAdam Burrows is an up and coming young lineman, again out of the Essex Blades finishing school. “Rugby” as he’s fondly known is a real charmer with the ladies, and promises me that his best is yet to come. Whether that’s on or off the field is anyone’s guess!

    Mark Gilbranch - Jack of all trades…Mark Gilbranch is another of the new breed of Gladiators. A teacher by trade Mark still hasn’t found his true calling on the football field and has (in the past two seasons) played full back, tail back, tight end, wide receiver, middle linebacker and outside linebacker. Rumour has it that his 88 shirt will be seen under centre any day now…

     

    We’re a close knit bunch, and can regularly be seen out and about around Colchester, either in full kit handing out fliers for the Club, or in various pubs and clubs around the town. Our social side is very important to us, and rest assured, any stories that arise are liable to be published here!

     

    So, next stop for us is our awards night at the start of November, before we get stuck into the pre-season training and rookie days. Between now and then we’re still on the hunt for a head coach, and there’s plenty of promotional work to be done, not least for the “Great British Tailgate Party” at Wembley at the end of the month. So, watch this space for all the news and developments from the Colchester Gladiators over the coming months!

    *Duncan’s asked me to point out that he’s not a token American, but in fact was born and lived in the UK until he was 20, then moved to the US for 13 years, but has since been back in the UK for almost 2 years. So, he’s given away his age (old git), and shown that he’s not an American ringer – looks like linebackers won’t be too scared of him next season…


    Kick Off – sort of…

    October 17, 2007

    Well, here it is. A diary of the season written by a player on the front line! For those of you wondering how this came to pass, i was invited to start writing a diary outlining what it is like being a player in a British American Football team for a e-newsletter that is published weekly. So, with the permission of the Club Chairman, and our Media and Marketing Director, i have started this week. Now, although this won’t strictly be a weekly column, i will continue to update and post as and when i scribble something for Touchdown News. So, without any further ado, here is the first post…