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!


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?


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…