New year, same old Gladiators…

November 7, 2012

Well, well, well, look what’s crawled back into civilisation. That’s right, the Colchester Gladiator Player Diary has re-emerged! It’s no coincidence that the blog’s last post was immediately prior to our Britbowl appearance, and you’ve not heard from me since. For those of you still perched on the edge of your seat wondering whether the plucky ’09 Gladiators triumphed over the Leicester Falcons on the hallowed turf the green and pleasant land the field of dreams the muddy pitch at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, well let me set your mind at ease… we didn’t. We lost by a point, and even now it’s a sore subject, so let’s not talk about it…

I mean it…

So, we’ve rounded out the 2012 season, and the team is very different. Gone are Singer the slinger, Beckford the beast, and Slider the speedster, and in come Action Jackson, Campbell the Quick, and… Curtis.

Now, you’ll know, if you’re a regular reader of the blog, that we specialise in making our team mates feel welcome, feel loved and appreciated, and sometimes, very very occasionally, we might make them feel a little foolish. Particularly if your first name is Dave.

And your surname is Crane.

And you resemble a Vanilla Gorilla…


Well, Dave has done a lot of good things recently. He’s lost a lot of weight. Then, after putting it on again, he lost some weight. Then after putting it on again he lost a little bit of weight. Now his weight has stabilised again. He’s also managed to find a new abode. Previously, he and his former housemate represented the ultimate “odd couple”, living together in a musty, testosterone fuelled love den. There’s was a unique relationship.  Crane would fall over after too many cognacs, and the housemate would point and laugh. Conversely, Crane saw the arrival of “the Jackhammer” – the superhero with the most unique power: to make love with a more consistent pounding rhythm than any other human being, and Crane would stand in the kitchen and hold the extractor fan to prevent the unit falling from the ceiling when the Jackhammer got to work. Fortunately this never bothered Crane, he never had to do it for very long before the inevitable cry of “I Win!” came from the  bedroom above…

So i thought, a new year, a new blog post, and a new set of team mates to deride for all sorts of reasons. The only question left is where to start?

Actually that’s easy. Curtis. Look no further. Too much to talk about here.

For those of you who don’t know, Curtis is only in the team because he’s Coach Karl Bourke’s son. That’s it. His talent is fairly negligible and if you watch the film you most likely won’t see him unless the camera pans around to the ambulance… I jest. Sort of.


Curtis is a youth team graduate and one of the founding members of the Gladiators Youth programme. He’s stuck to football through thick and thin over the years, and to be honest, you’d think he’d be better than he actually is. But he isn’t. And he’s still the best we’ve got. Not sure if that’s an indictment of him or us. Still, he is our QB1 – the man who makes the decisions, the one who leads the offence. The man who we look to for an articulate, intelligent, football minded leader. We look to him, then we look over his shoulder for a better option.

Young Bourke is pretty experienced, and quite worldly. He’s been to the continent with the Great Britain Youth team, and he’s been to… erm… Butlins at Minehead, so he’s very well travelled! As such, you’d expect he’s someone with an acute sense of style, some cultural distinction, and someone who is fond of a diverse range of cuisine. Allow me to debunk each one of these assumptions in turn…

In terms of his style, i think i’ve only ever seen him wear two things outside of his football uniform. One is a t-shirt emblazoned with Charlie Sheen’s face proclaiming that he’s “Winning”. The other is an old Abercrombie t-shirt that’s too small, but he clings to the past, thinking that it still fits. Neither is particularly alluring. When wearing the former, you see a spaced out, washed out child star who thinks he can convince everyone that he’s at the top of his game…who is wearing Charlie sheen on his chest. The other shirt yields little more than a Bourke muffin top. Not attractive. He also insists on wearing skinny jeans – his spindly little legs resemble two bendy straws as it is, so wearing jeans that look like he’s spray painted two walking sticks just makes me realise quite how fragile he is, and quite how much he lacks in the style department. This past weekend also provided a bit of an epiphany about Curtis’ style. Whilst stood in a field ready to practice against the University of Essex Blades, Curtis accused the Blades’ new QB of “swacking”. I was confused, so i looked closely…. His hands were not down his pants, so that’s not swacking. Nor were his hands near anyone else, so it wasn’t that. I thought it might have been some slang term for making good throws, but no, he didn’t register a pass attempt in that series. I was confused, and admitted defeat. Curtis enlightened me.

Swacking, [s-hwak-ing], adjective, informal. To hijack one’s “Swagger”. To imitate someone else’s style.


Swagger, [swag-er], verb (used without object), To walk or strut with a defiant or insolent air. To boast or brag noisily.

Yup, that just about sums up Curtis. So you’re accusing this guy of stealing your strut or your “insolent air”. Interesting. I guess this brings me to the cultural aspects of Curtis’ personality…

Cultural distinction – well, i’ve never met anyone quite so xenophobic as Curtis. In fact i might even argue that Curtis, despite being the whitest man in the world, is a little bit racist against white people… Yes, you heard me right. He will tell anyone who’ll listen that he’s “Black Verified”. What that means is that the few black people that he’s met have thought so little of him that they don’t even bother to ask him to go away, they just ignore him. This tacit acceptance is all that Curtis seeks, and so he takes delight in broadcasting this to anyone in the vicinity.

And in terms of his culinary expertise, well… he’s not exactly well versed in global tastes. Far from looking at texture, taste, aroma, colour, presentation or flavour, Curtis’ main criteria for food is that there needs to be lots of it, and if that consists of fried chicken then so much the better. Eat your heart out Fay Maschler… Two stories about Curtis and his foodie roots are fairly well known, both come from the same night, and both demonstrate how Curtis’ reputation as a culinary “renaissance man” is ill deserved.

Allow me to set some context. The Gladiators had been invited to appear on a daytime television show, where we’d be served up three course meals from two teams of Chefs/z-list celebrities, and we’d have to critique the food and score the offerings to determine the winners.


Simple right? Dish number 1 – Lobster linguine with tomato and chilli.

“Curtis, what did you think of this dish?”

“Amazing, one of the best things i’ve ever tasted”

“Great, so grade it out of 10?”

“Erm, a 7”.

Ok…. So you’ve never eaten anything you’d ever grade as more than a 6? I’m sure Lesley Bourke will be delighted to hear that you think of her home cooking so highly.

The second team present their starter –  Creamed Oyster broth with scallops and sole.

“So Curtis, what did you think of this dish?”

“Nice, but a bit salty. Don’t think i like it as much as the other one”

“Ok, so marks out of 10?”

“Erm, 7”

So what you’re saying is that this “salty” broth that isn’t as good as the last dish still ranks as the second best thing you’ve ever tasted, with the same points total as the first dish. Wow, if nothing else that’s truly an indictment of Mrs. Bourke’s food and perhaps her use of seasoning across the board…

This was merely the precursor to the true demonstration of culinary naivety that Curtis portrayed however. I guess, in truth, this wasn’t strictly an issue with his food knowledge, so much as it was to do with his awareness of Essex and it’s food industry. Still, it’s a quite spectacular gap in his knowledge.

So, we’re at dessert, one of which was a very pleasant Toffee Apple bread and butter pudding, but the second was a classic. The Jam Roly Poly. Who doesn’t love a Jam Roly Poly? A delicious pudding, and some fruity, sweet Jam. Jam that’s bursting with Essex flavour. Jam that contains the finest fruits that the East of England can cultivate. Delicious jam from the World famous Tiptree based Wilkin & Sons. A company renowned the world over, boasting a Royal Charter, 125 years of history, 850 acres of farms, and one of Essex’s most famous exports – even more so than “The Only Way Is Essex”. A mere 12 miles from where this show was being filmed no less.


“Curtis, what do you think of the dessert?”

“It’s nice. I didn’t know Tiptree made jam…”

Curtis, I love you dearly but really?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that i had a problem with Curtis, but truth is i love him dearly, and i hope he never changes. If he did, who would we laugh at? Oh right, Crane….


Tint, trout and theft….

September 16, 2009

Again, slacking a little with updates recently, so apologies for that – it’s been a stupidly busy few weeks, and whilst there’s lots happening on the field it seems to be the happenings off the field that monopolise my time!

So, on the field, the Gladiators are STILL undefeated. If you include the Pre-season we’ve played 12, won 12 and are now returning to the National Championship after 20 years away. So, the Gladiators are travelling to Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday 26th September 2009 for the Division 2 championship game vs. the Leicester Falcons. It’ll be the most challenging game we play this year, and a game that will test us more than we’ve been tested since we were in Division one. However, everyone’s in good spirits – training has been lifted to 3 times a week in the run up to the final, and so far the turnout has been very respectable. The last big session will be this Sunday, so hopefully we’ll have a decent opportunity to rep everything before the big game. If you can’t make it to Doncaster, then BAFL have assured us that they’ll professionally film the game, and that it will be available for purchase as soon as possible. Knowing BAFL as i do, that means that just about the time that the youth team begin drawing their pension, they’ll be able to spend their first pension cheque on a shiny new DVD.

Talking of the Youth team, they’ve had a fantastic year too. They made the playoffs in their first year of playing, and lost to the reigning National Champions, the London Warriors, in a game where the score simply didn’t reflect the balance of the game. Everyone in the club is incredibly proud of the youth team, not least Head Coach Dave Hogarth, who deserves tremendous credit for picking up the reigns of the programme and turning it from the poor relation into a serious force in Youth football in the UK. Expect big things from them.

And talking of big things…no, not you Tommy… 5 of the Gladiators Youth have been invited to the Great Britain Lions Youth training camp in October. Congratulations to A-Jay, Ant, Fab, Curtis and Bing. Hopefully we’ll have all of them on the flight to Poland at the end of October.

So, that just about covers the on field things, now we move into the more interesting area – off the field….

I guess the funniest moments recently have revolved around our very own Defensive dynamo, Dave Crane. Dave is never backwards in coming forwards, and just being around him is often enough to make you giggle, so let me walk you through the debauchery of Dave.

So, a while ago now Dave arrived for a game and there was something a little different about him. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it, and then someone had the eureka moment…. He had blue hair. Now, normally this would pass with merely the odd comment here or there. However, Dave’s normal complexion is such that an Albino Polar Bear looks dark when stood near him. I couldn’t quite articulate how he looked other than to say that he looked as though they’d tried to turn him into a member of the Blue Man Group, but ran out of blue pretty quickly. He’ll tell you that he was showing his allegiance to the Gladiators. Truth is, he dived into a swimming pool with too much Chlorine in…

However, as ever, hair grows (except on my head where it recedes dramatically), and soon the blue had gone. Still, that was not the end of Dave’s comic genius.

Let me set the scene, there are four or five of us at the house Dave shares with Mark. We’re chilling out, watching garbage on TV, and the call goes up for a takeaway. Dave, being the Essex trailer trash that he is, instantly called for fried chicken. Being the finely tuned athlete that i am i couldn’t cope with that, and so after some discussion we decided that Chinese was the way forward. Now, choosing Chinese food is a relatively straightforward task – i’d wager that most households in the UK, when ordering Chinese, whip out a menu, look through everything, argue about what “Kung Pow Chicken” actually is, and then order the exact same combination of dishes as they did last time they ordered Chinese. It’s fair to say that that scene was reminiscent of our situation here. So, Dave eventually concedes that he could have a quarter duck and it would be far better than fried chicken – ultimately fried poultry seemed to be Dave’s food of choice. So he’s after something to accompany it, and all of a sudden a quizzical look comes across his face. I steel myself ready to explain what Kung Pow chicken is, and instead Dave comes up with a slightly different question…. “why the hell would you have a dish containing fish and chicken?”
        “Erm, what are you talking about mate?”
        “You’ve been a chef, have you ever done a dish with fish and chicken?”
        “I can’t say that i have…”
        “And what the hell is Minge Trout? sounds like trout that’s on the turn!”
        “Hang on, let me see the menu…”

Yes, you guessed it, Dave couldn’t distinguish between the fictional Minge Trout and factual Mange Tout on a menu. Note to self – invent Minge trout to serve for Dave’s birthday. Perhaps some kind of steamed trout on a bed of mange tout….

And the final ignominy of Dave’s recent days was an experience at Sloppy Joes – for those who don’t know, Sloppy Joes are an American diner in Colchester who are a  long standing supporter of the Gladiators. Following our semi-final win against Hampshire Thrashers we all ventured to Sloppy Joes for food and celebration – about 25 of us. Needless to say, when you’re waiting for service for 25 people on a sunday night, stomachs start to rumble. So, someone, not sat a million miles from me began commenting on how hungry they were, and kept glancing over my shoulder. It was only when i turned around did i see that they were looking at a table behind me who had departed and left an entire pizza untouched. So, being the chivalrous chap i was, i retrieved the pizza for the hungry contingent. Dave was shocked by this, and shrunk away from the entire event. I thought no more of it and began talking and circulating around the Gladiators crowd. It was only after this that we realised the people who left the pizza were in fact still inside the restaurant, paying before they left. They spotted that a pizza had moved, and leant over, to pass comment. Seeing Dave shrinking away from the entire affair they naturally assumed that he was the culprit and targeted their vitriol at him before stomping up the stairs. Dave’s expression can only be described as flabbergasted, whilst the remainder of the team erupted in laughter, and the pizza was promptly torn to pieces.

So, the saga of Dave draws to a close at this point – no doubt there’ll be more to add, and hopefully plenty from everyone in the aftermath of a Britbowl victory next week….

Delays, darlings and daddy…

July 15, 2009

So, more than two weeks on, we’re all still basking in the glow of beating multi-time National Champions the London Olympians, but in the words of Head Coach Matt Roberts, “it’s just another win…”. So, we’ve had a bit of a break from competition recently, and even a rare week off training! So, now we’re full steam ahead for the remaining 2 games of the season. In fact, this could end up being 3 games, after we were forced to postpone the game against East Kent Mavericks earlier this season. However, the Mavericks seemingly have no desire to re-arrange the game, and this seems destined to be awarded as a tie. Not ideal, and we’re not pleased about it, because we’ve offered them 6 or 7 alternative dates, ranging from Friday nights through to Sundays, and, for one lame reason or other, they apparently can’t play. Seems strange to me, because evidently they’re not even planning to train over these weekends either!


Still, that’s a discussion for another forum – instead we’re looking forward to the re-match against Bedfordshire next on 2nd August. Bedfordshire was the first game of the season, and a ragged looking Gladiators team beat them 20-0. Both teams have improved dramatically since then, so it promises to be a tough game.

However, the 2nd August seems very far away… So i’m sure there are more important things people want me to discuss… Most notably, my love life. For those who attended the London Olympians game, they may have been privy to a minor explosion on that side of my life, as my ex and current girlfriends met for the first time. The explosion really was a result of the current girlfriend not knowing much about the ex, and the ex not realising that she actually was an ex… Still, that’s probably another issue best left alone for this forum. Buy me a beer and i’ll tell you the story….

Anyway, in the last entry i began the quest for look-a-likes amongst Gladiator nation, but alas, nobody actually volunteered any suggestions save for one person who suggested that our aging defensive back, Nick Foxley actually bore a striking resemblance to guy who was helping with the stats on the sideline. Sadly, they neglected to take into account that the assistant statistician was none other than Nick’s twin brother, John. Thanks for that….

Ok, so there are a couple more look-a-likes this time around. The first is one that has been mooted a couple of times amongst the team, and one which has been the subject of much discussion over the last few weeks. Our stout, albino defensive tackle Dave “couldn’t be more trailer park trash if my name was Cleetus” Crane, bears a stunning resemblance to a certain Gladiators Marketing manager and photographer – Martin “Rams fan, no Saints, or Tigers, or the team local to whomever i’m talking to now” Wilmott.

Like Father....

Like Father....

....Like Son!

....Like Son!

Whilst you’re unlikely to mistake one for the other, if you look closely there’s certainly a patriarchal look to Martin. We all know that Martin puts in a lot of hard work behind the scenes at the club, but we never realised that he put in the “hard work” all those years ago when little Dave was a mere glint in Martin’s eye… Dave initially laughed off the thought, but when i probed further he commented “Well, i never really knew my father, and yet all the baby pictures mum has of me look like they were done professionally…” The realisation in Dave’s eyes is truly priceless.

The second look-a-like is certainly more in the spirit of the contest. These two people share the same height, the same weight, the same silly grin, the same funny ears, and the same colouring (after a few drinks and a dodgy kebab at least….). Jocular Offensive Lineman, and El Presidente of Colchester General Hospital, George Meighan, is the elder statesman of the Offense, and never short of a story or twenty.

The Model...

The Model...


However, he disappeared for a couple of weeks a few years ago. He claimed it was for a diving holiday. In fact he was used as the model for the design of this character….

...the finished article

...the finished article

That’s right, George and Shrek. One and the same. It’s so obvious now i’ve told you….

So, as ever, any suggestions for future topics of discussion or look-a-likes are very welcome!

The return…

June 25, 2009

Ok, so after a fairly significant hiatus, the blog returns! *cue the fanfare…or not….*

Now, the hiatus was somewhat enforced – many of you will know the story already, but for the benefit of those who haven’t heard… The blog has been my sanctuary during the times of boredom at work. My boss turns to me and gives me some work to do, i nod enthusiastically, agree to get on with it immediately, and then stick it to one side, and write an entry into the blog to delay the start of the work. this trend worked pretty well for a while, but following a change of boss, standards have tightened. I’ve been disciplined (yes, full a caning…) over my use of the internet for “non-business” (read “Gladiators”) work, they’ve moved my desk so i’m next to the new boss, and they’ve cut off my internet access to the point where i can’t even get onto our internal intranet. Nice. apparently after examining my internet logs my average of 6.5 hours per day online was a little excessive…. Still, i tried!

However, i’ve now decided to stick two fingers up at the establishment (helped by the fact my boss is now based elsewhere!) and i’m writing the blog in an email, before emailing it to my home account, logging on at home, copying the email, and then pasting it into the blog. That’s dedication! In fact, that’s how much i’m fed up of being hassled by the players to get the blog updated!

So, what is there to say? Well, at this point in the season the Gladiators senior team are 6-0, having beaten Milton Keynes (twice), Essex, Lincolnshire, Watford and Bedfordshire. We’ve got two of the hardest games of the year coming up against London Olympians and East Kent – two games that will be full of spice, so we’re all getting ready for that. As for the Youth team, in their debut season they’re 1-0-1 with a victory over Peterborough and a tie against Cambridge. They play Tamworth this weekend, who will be a very stiff challenge for the fledgling team, so we’re all behind them.

So far the highlights of the season have been finding out that Slider can cartwheel in pads, even if it does draw a flag, and that Mark can be as camp as a troop of scouts when yelling random colours… Both events are clearly visible on the game DVDs – DVDs that feature such classic moments as spectators begging the Gladiators to “Please stop scoring” against Lincolnshire, and Slider finding out that he’d broken Leo Beckford’s record for rushing TDs in a game against Milton Keynes with an exclamation of “In your face Leo!” from the sidelines…

Now, i was wondering where the blog should go from here – after all, i’ve introduced some of the team, and this is not the place for match reports (all those are on our website anyway), so what do i do? I was thinking about this, and i was scrolling through some ideas in my mind when all of a sudden the phone rings… The conversation goes a little like this:

TB: Hello?
Caller: You’ll never guess who i’ve just seen?
TB: Who is this?
Caller: Seriously mate, something amazing has happened!
TB: What’s happened? Who are you?
Caller: I’ve just spoken to Brian Blessed!
TB: Brian Blessed? Not sure i’d call that amazing….
Caller: He’s got an amazing beard!
TB: I know who Brian Blessed is, just need to know who you are…
Caller: Hang on a second, i’ve just heard him speak – doesn’t sound like Brian Blessed
TB: I can’t imagine he uses the big booming voice in day to day conversation.
Caller: I’m going to ask him, hang on… Excuse me, are you Brian Blessed?
Caller: Turns out it’s just a bloke with a beard…
TB: Shame, so who is this anyway?
Caller: I didn’t get his name, i just know it’s not Brian Blessed.
TB: Not him, you!
Caller: What? Hang on, who’s this?
TB: I’m Tom…
Caller: You mean you’re not Francis?
TB: Erm, No…
Caller: Sorry mate, wrong number….

Needless to say, that was one of the more eventful 2 minutes of my week….

But it got me thinking, have the Gladiators got any celebrity look-a-likes? I scratched my head for a few minutes on this, scouring some photos… and it turns out that we do have a couple!

So, we all know and love former Chairman and current youth team Head Coach Dave Hogarth:

Small but perfectly formed....

Small but perfectly formed....

Loveable rogue Dave has always been a bit flirtatious with the ladies, but i was a little concerned last year when i read a report in the local paper about a stalker in the Wivenhoe area. Apparently a man was seen prowling the streets, and a young lady came up with the following e-fit….

A familiar hair do...

A familiar hair do...

Fortunately, the man was described as being over 6ft tall, and we all know that Dave barely reaches 4ft tall on a good day, so we know it wasn’t him, but i wonder if he has a long lost twin out there who is considerably taller than him…

However, after that somewhat disturbing revelation, i continued through our coaching staff, and stumbled upon Coach Bourke.

The man with the magic moustache...

The man with the magic moustache...

Defensive mastermind Karl Bourke has been involved with the Gladiators since forever, and he has certainly been one of the more popular members of the club over the last few years. However, what we didn’t know is that during the offseason a couple of years ago he snuck off to make a film. Apparently he needed to work on his speech for it, but the casting people say he had exactly the look they wanted….

Coach Bourke in character...

Coach Bourke in character...

Now fluent in Kazakh and still in love with Pamela Anderson, Karl “Borat” Bourke has returned to the Gladiators for this year.

Anyone with any other look-a-likes please let me know….

Legends, losses and Lambrini…

August 14, 2008

Ups and Downs – surely the only way to describe what’s happened in the last few games.

So, we conquer the undefeated Cambridge, only to find ourselves confronted by the seemingly relentless Mavericks. East Kent have been pushing for the playoffs, and trying to make a point to the league about how they’re developing, and seemed destined to be the team to watch behind the Cobras this season. However, they hadn’t counted on a certain Leo Beckford.

Leo stormed through the Mavericks like… well, like a Beckford through a secondary, and rushed for almost 300 yards, and 6 touchdowns, equalling a Gladiator record set by running back Mel Moore back in the golden days. We absolutely trounced them and their GB defence. They just couldn’t keep up with us. True, they took a nice lead early in the game, but that only spurred us on to greater things throughout, as we racked up over 500 yards of rushing on them.

Having taken the lead in the playoff race, we next had to entertain the Essex Spartans. Local derby, bragging rights at stake, but more than that – playoff football at stake…

Essex were big, aggressive and dirty (much like George on a bad day), but again, were no match for the Slider & Leo double act. Despite truly torrential rain, these two recorded some fantastic stats, taking us to a comfortable 65-16 win.

All attention on the Cobras…

Could we?

Erm, no.

Actually we travelled with about 24 guys, we had the Offensive Co-ordinator kitting up and starting on the OL, and we had guys dropping like flies all around. Fact is the Cobras are just too good. Too quick, too strong, too agile, too young, and with far greater depth (and i’m not just talking about the potholes in the pitch!). A 44-0 drubbing ensued, where all Gladiators just wanted to bury their heads in the sand. Still we have Maidstone Pumas visiting Colchester this week, and then, barring any major upsets, we’ll be making a trip to South Wales for the first playoff game the following week.

The highlights for me over the last week really didn’t come from football, but actually from Cricket. Frinton’s Cricket Week is an annual affair where drunken louts (me) make fools of themselves and generally have a week where the haze rarely lifts. This year was no exception. Despite working for the first part of the week, i still managed to cram in 3 days of debauchery. I heard stories that would make most people cringe, tales of filthy goings on in tents, cars, on the beach and around the cricket club. We caused carnage, lighting fires, throwing tomatoes, drinking Lambrini… we lost a person (honestly, he was there one minute, gone the next – still hasn’t been found), we had our testicles burned, we celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and memorials, and we even squeezed in a bit of cricket too. Most of the stories are far too graphic for this blog, so if you’re that interested, come along next year, and join the carnage – i’ve got two guys signed up already!

Sacrifice, Victory, Stupidity…

July 17, 2008

Now, i can’t help but develop a slight crisis of conscience at this point. I’ll openly admit that i have been somewhat slack in my blogging exploits over the last few weeks, but that’s really down to two reasons: firstly, deadlines at work are rapidly approaching and encroaching on my “Gladiators time”; and secondly, my “Gladiators time” is growing and growing week on week, due to the amount of stuff we’ve got going on! So, that leaves me with three choices:

1) Focus on work – after all it’s what i’m paid for! Glads and blogs will wait.

2) Focus on Gladiators business – i’ve got lots of fingers in lots of Gladiatorial pies at the moment, all of which would benefit from a bit more attention.

3) Blog away ’til my heart’s content – perhaps the easy option; a shameless personal plug, and to the detriment of my paid employment and at the expense of the Club.

Now, on the surface this looks a fairly easy decision, and the consequences are pretty clear. But, here’s the thing… If you read the Gladiators forum, you’ll have noticed that i appear to be under some pressure from a certain defensive back, who also moonlights as the club Vice-Chairman, as well as a certain unnamed Linebackers coach to continue blogging. So, with that in mind, never let it be said that i neglect my many legions of fans (well, my two fans at least), and to the detriment of the Gladiators, and quite possibly my career, here i sit, blogging hat on, and fingers on the keys. Nick – if the club suffers, they can blame you…

So, with fingertips gently poised on the keys, what can i document this time? Well, the obvious would be the game – 5 weeks after the last gasp victory in Maidstone, the Gladiators return home to take on the undefeated Cambridgeshire Cats, in temperatures somewhat more moderate, and a crowd somewhat more enthusiastic than Maidstone provided. Cambridge brought a QB with an arm made of rubber who could sling the ball for miles, but seemed to leave the receivers at home. The Gladiators, on the other hand, brought a fearsome defence, a secondary made of granite, and an offense that seemingly could score from anywhere on the field. Finally, the team came together, and although there were few exceptional performances, the team as a whole can be very satisfied with the performance. The match report goes into more detail, and tells the story better than i could on here, but it does leave out some key observations from the day…

Leo Beckford was making his debut in the blue and gold this week, and for those who don’t know him, he’s been a stand-out player for the Essex Blades for quite some time.

Leo is known for two real things – the muscles on his left arm, and the muscles on his right arm: that’s right, another little gym bunny who loves nothing more than polishing his guns (to put it in perspective, where our beloved Mark Gilbranch packs some pistols, Leo models his mortars). Seriously though, Leo is an athlete – an exceptional 400m runner, or at least he was until he met Adam Burrows who introduced him to the world of cheap booze and cheaper women. Then, when they turned off the internet, Burrows introduced him to American Football.


So, the day began for me as i went to collect messrs Beckford and Tommy Clarks from their humble abode, and proceeded to pay a visit to Sir Charles Lucas school, where we were able to dig out a blue helmet for our debutant. After some poking and prodding, and some manipulation of the padding, Leo seemed happy enough with the fit, until Burrows revealed that it was his old helmet and may have been used for activities other than football. The mind wanders far and wide at this point, but Burrows assures me that it was nothing more sinister than doubling as his bicycle helmet. Yeah. Right. Believe that and you’ll believe anything…

The warm-ups pass without anything too drastic happening – the mascot walks into the changing room, and the innuendo level rises as ever.

Comedy moment of the first half – Mark Gilbranch comes off the field, and in front of the main stand, full of families, kids (4 of which are from his class at school), he yells….a very bad word. Kids, if you’re reading this, it’s a bad word, Mr. Gilbranch didn’t mean it, and don’t ever repeat it. Instead, next time he takes the register, just fold your arms, shake your head, and tut loudly at him… The look on Mark’s face when he realised what he’d done was priceless.

Comedy moment of the second half – I’d love to say that Slider’s touchdown dance was my favourite moment of the second half, but I’d be lying. It was really down to Cambridge. Picture the scene – the Gladiators are leading, but you’re marching downfield. you want a score to bring yourselves back into the game. The crowd are watching expectantly, and the heart is pounding. The QB goes under centre ready to call the cadence… and all of a sudden the ball is snapped, through your legs, nowhere near your hands. Disaster. But pure comedy gold. The entire Cambridge offence stands still. The QB is still under centre waiting for the ball, none of the Offensive line have even blinked. The entire Gladiators defence rumbles through them and recovers the football. The Cambridge players don’t seem to understand what’s going on, but just about all of the Gladiators sideline is in hysterics.

Spanner of the day (or week, or month, or ever!) – Nick Foxley. Surely the only reason he wants me to write the blog is so that he can read what i scribble about his hit. So i’m not going to say anything…


…except that it was huge, it was bone shattering, and i believe the echo is still being heard somewhere in the Pacific right now.

Anyway, if you hadn’t already guessed, it was a fantastic result for the Gladiators, knocking off the undefeated Cats, and keeping their playoff hopes alive.


So, in other news this week, we didn’t win the quiz – i know, i know, unbelievable as it is, we don’t win every week. But the team has been strengthened by the addition of Dave “Once a week” Crane.

Dave’s recent move to inhabit Mark’s spare room has meant that he’s available and ready to contribute each Wednesday. His “once a week” moniker has been the subject of much debate, as there are a number of possible origins…It could be that he’s only sober once a week. Or that he only eats vegetables once a week. Or that his constipated body allows a release only once a week. Or that he has to top up the dye in his strawberry blonde locks once a week. Or, most likely, is that he’ll only answer one question each week in the quiz.

This week, a touch of glamour was added to proceedings as an old friend of our beloved chairman joined us – a lady by the name of Wendy joined the table, and immediately was the subject of much interest from the singletons in the ranks. Any time she mentioned a woman’s name – either a friend, relative, sibling, or offspring – Mark chirped up with “is she single?” Now, not that Mark’s desperate or anything, but he only has three requirements from a potential partner – 1) a pulse, 2) breathing, 3) female; but he’s flexible enough that he’ll accept 2 out of 3… In fact, if there are any kids from Marks’ class reading this, then feel free to set him up with an older sister, or a single aunt. That’ll give me something to write about once the season is over!

As Mark was being less than subtle, George heard a little hint of a recent hospital visit in Wendy’s stories, and leapt on it like a fat kid on a cupcake. “So, you were in hospital recently? I work there you know. Who did you see? Oh yes, he’s a very good doctor. I’ll put in a good word with him for you next time…” then a cheeky wink, a big broad smile and…. Hogarth sneaks in and changes the subject somewhat abruptly by asking “is there a man in your life at the moment Wendy?” Dave’s subtlety is normally his strength, but suspected the direct approach might garner him more success. Unfortunately this backfired pretty badly as Wendy spills her heart out about a lost love that nearly leaves us in tears. Still, nice try Dave…

Wendy then takes control, asking us what we all do for a living. We skirt around my job, because i don’t even know what i’m supposed to be doing, so i’ve no idea how i’m supposed to explain that to someone else! George is obviously at the Hospital, Dave’s a jack-of-all-trades, Mark’s a teacher, and then we get to Mr Crane who imparts that he’s a Youth Worker. Wendy seems impressed…

“Oooh, you must have lots of patience!”

“No love, i said Youth Worker, not a doctor.”

Dave, get with the programme….

Still victory escapes us once again, but no doubt we’ll continue to press for quiz glory. For anyone keeping score, we’ve got about 10 bottles of wine to drink in winnings – not sure when would be appropriate for that, but we’re working on it.

So, despite all the fun and games of the last few weeks, the last word, as ever, goes to my beloved Ria. Driving with her in the car the other week, we had the radio on. The DJ was doing a feature about the “worst games to play on the radio”. Having done Hangman, spot the difference, and snakes and ladders, he moved on to Connect 4. So, two callers on the line, one would be red, and one would be yellow, they’d call out a number from 1-7, corresponding with the column that they wanted the disc to be put into. Seems simple enough – truly enthralling radio i’m sure you’ll agree. They get underway, and there are discs going all over the place. Eventually we sense a pattern emerging, and i start to urge one of the players (yellow) to go with column 6 for the win. Three in a row diagonally – i can picture it – and it’s begging for the fourth. I turn to Ria…

“If he slots it in number 6, he wins!”

“No he won’t, he needs five in a row.”


“Love, what game are we playing here?”


Not even Mark could pull that one off….



Maidstone, Heat, and Slider…

June 11, 2008

It’s hot. Damn hot. But then again, i don’t think i’ve played a game in Maidstone where the sun wasn’t beating down and people were turning into lobsters… Just another day in the Garden of England apparently (according to the Maidstone Pumas’ General Manager).

So, we arrive in Maidstone, with the sun beating down to find a nice firm pitch, a 5 man refereeing crew (albeit consisting of Harry Potter, Tweedle Dum, the Flagless Wonder, a trainee from Somerset and some bloke called Nobby – fills you with confidence…), and two teams ready to go at it. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it was all systems go, ready for kick off, but that wasn’t quite the case. We had our roster check, we had the coin toss (we lost, and i blame Tommy Clarke…), and we even buckled the chinstraps, but one essential part was missing. The ambulance. Yes, it’s compulsory to have an ambulance at the game, and we didn’t have one. So we waited…and waited…and waited… Talks of a Maidstone forfeit were bandied about. Talks of Gladiators being awarded the game. The refs confirmed that we had to wait an hour before this happened though. So we continued to wait. It was like having the music from Countdown in your head for an entire hour. Watching the clock tick round, and imagining the impact of this. 12.30 came and went, as did 12.45. The big hand was getting nearer and nearer the top of the clock when, all of a sudden, with seconds remaining, the Ambulance came into view, greeted by rapturous applause and cheering… Actually more like a chorus of “About bloody time!” from 60 disgruntled football players. But that was not the only drama to unfold…

So, we kick off, and Maidstone take the ball. Ineffective on their first drive, we take over. Three plays in we see Alex “Slider” Robinson storming into the End Zone for an apparent score, only to have it called back for a block in the back. tut, tut Dave Scott.

The score does come though, with Duncan Flack storming in from close range, but not before the Pumas managed to sneak in one of their own. However, because Slider’s great, he runs in the 2 point conversion and the Gladiators take the lead at the half. This was soon followed by a Paul Gates run down the sideline for another 6.

Unfortunately for us the Pumas were not dead yet – a 31yard TD brought them level with only a couple of minutes left on the clock.

Colchester marched menacingly into the red zone behind more strong running by Robinson and Flack but a six yard loss on a sweep brought up third and long. On fourth down, Robinson was stopped a yard short on the Pumas’ 4 but the home team had the ball with time running out. However, the youthful exuberance of Mark Gilbranch proved too much for the Pumas’ running back, as he was hauled down at the line of scrimmage. Mark finally managing to prove that he is actually more useful with his pads on than he is with the pub quiz answer sheet in his hand… Mark was backed up by Nick Foxley and Paul Brunsden, forcing the Pumas to punt the ball away with less than a minute on the clock…Gladiators take control with 37 yards to go… tick followed tock followed tick followed tock. You could hear the cogs in the official’s watch moving – or you could have done if he hadn’t been wearing a digital watch… The heat was intense, sweat dripped off everyone, some guys were roasting nicely and the tan lines were really something special.

First Down – minimal gain.

40 seconds to go.

Second Down – nothing.

Less than 30 seconds. tick followed tock followed tick followed tock

Third Down – Dan “the slinger” Singer drops back, closes his eyes, utters some sort of prayer and lets the ball fly… imagine the slow motion spiral as it sails through the air… Gates leaps, Defenders swarm around him, the ball drops…. into Gates’ hands at the 8 yard line for a first down.

Last chance now… tick followed tock followed tick followed tock, 15 seconds to go….Robinson sweeps round the outside to the 3 yard line. Then chaos – as the clock runs lower and lower, the officials can’t decide where to spot the ball. I stand there screaming at them, pointing to where Robinson was down, but still they discuss the spot, and even change the ball. tick followed tock followed tick followed tock. Then, blessed relief, Harry Potter signals that the Pumas have taken a timeout. 3rd timeout, 3 seconds on the clock, 3 yard line. Why they’d call it then, nobody knows. All we know is that it gave us the opportunity to get the play in. Coach Neil O’Hare was cool, calm and calculated. He assessed the options, and knowing that there was time for one play only, he called King Right Toss. 3 seconds, 3 yards, 3 words.

Whistles blow, the teams line up. Singer starts shouting, “Red 18, Red 18…” the snap goes, the blocks are made, but hardly needed – the Pumas’ defence are exhausted in the heat. Singer turns, tosses the ball to Robinson. It’s Robinson to the 3, the 2, the 1… TOUCHDOWN! Time expires, the crowd (all 2 men and their dog) go wild, and the Gladiators claim the win. Slider racks up another 100yard game, and Duncan gets a score, so he can’t whine this week.

So, lengthy break now – about 5 weeks until the next game, but there’s plenty going on behind the scenes, so watch this space for updates…