Monday, 20 November 2017

Netley Central Sports v Infinity

A stylised Netley Abbey upon a shield. Now that's a proper badge!

We all have them. Little everyday irritations. You'll have your own, no doubt, and some of them may coincide with mine, but we're all different, so we'll agree to differ on certain subjects. I'm a Marmite and liquorice kind of guy; you're a Brussels sprout and parsnip kind of person. I'm not going to change my mind, and you won't be changing yours, so if we meet, let's just get on and enjoy the things we have in common whilst we're together.

However, as I'm in charge here (above the comments line, anyway), I'm going to let you know some of my bugbears in case we ever do have a chinwag - I have them all on a spreadsheet, so I can order them if I want to and delete them if I mellow with age (unlikely). Here's some of the worst:

  •  Let's start with the workplace, and people who "build their own personal brand". I'm well aware that's what we're all supposed to do to get on in life - create a slightly over-the-top LinkedIn profile, dress to impress, talk quite loudly using buzzwords to cover up the fact that we don't really know what we're talking about, mingle with influencers, make out we're having a more interesting time than we really are on social media...I know how to do it, but just count me out. I'm me. I don't have a personal brand. Take me or leave me, but don't ever accuse me of having a personal brand.
  • Related to the world of work, there are many many phrases that irritate me - "Assume makes an ass out of you and me", "There's no I in team", and so on. And then there are the people who have scrums instead of meetings...

A pair of Infinity players encourage one another as they emerge from the changing rooms.
Netley Central Sports FC (1) 2 v 0 (0) Infinity FC
Trophyman Southampton Divisional FA Senior Cup Third Round
Saturday 18th November 2017
Attendance: 20-ish
Admission: No
Programme: No
Colours: Blue with white sash / blue / blue v All yellow
National Grid reference: SU4508

Danny Phillips on the attack for Infinity.
Carrying on with the irritations...

  • I mentioned scrums. Well, rugby union is right up there on my list. I Just Don't Understand It. I know it's photogenic, I know they're all supposed to be gentlemen (even the players who gouge other players' eyes?!), but I will never ever understand the rules or the general appeal.
  • People who say "Confused dot com" instead of "Confused". Don't do it.
  • People who call Berkshire the "M4 Corridor". It's Berkshire.
  • Dog owners who let their pets slobber all over my crotch when I walk across the park so that I have to go home to change my trousers, and then say "he's only playing!"
  • Pub quiz cheaters. What's the point of entering a quiz and then looking up all the answers on a smartphone? It's the equivalent of doping in sport. Beyond annoying for all the other teams who do it "clean".
  • Premiership football and the tedious circus that surrounds it. Do I really have to explain this one?
There are many more irritations on my spreadsheet, and they grow almost daily. It's an age thing.

Matthew Watts scores Netley's first whilst a man checks his phone on the balcony of one of the flats overlooking the Rec.
Footballers and the people who run the clubs that they play for will have their big irritations as well, and I'm sure a lot of them will be similar to one another. At the level that I watched on Saturday, with a match being played on a village recreation ground, there's the doggy doo on the pitch. Probably left by the same dog that slobbered all over my trousers. Two of the most useful tools in the groundsman's arsenal are his poop scoop and bucket. Sure enough, there was a foul, steaming lump discovered in the penalty box before kick-off at Netley Central Sports, delaying the start by a few minutes. Not nice. Had the dog owner never heard of poobags?

Then there's the more general irritations suffered by the players, all dutifully recorded by pros in Shoot!'s Focus On... feature during the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. Biggest Drag In Soccer or Miscellaneous Dislikes is where they would record the fact that they didn't like losing, bad refs, or going shopping with the missus. If you search the internet, you will find some...

  • Glenn Hoddle didn't like flying or losing to Wrexham.
  • Alan Biley loved punk, but disliked ignorant people.
  • Frank Worthington's biggest disappointment was not getting the lead role in The Incredible Hulk. Me too!

One for the Crap Football Photos Twitter account. They don't like unnecessary filters or slightly out of focus players or refs.
But I digress (to be honest, I've spent the last seven years on HAH digressing. One day, I'll actually write an entire piece about a football match...). Saturday's trip was to the recreation ground in the centre of Netley, a village to the south of Southampton (to my readers in the north - yes, there are places further south than Southampton). It's a typical village rec - there's a playground, a basketball/games court and one of those new-fangled outdoor exercise facilities that look like a playground, but are meant for adults to do "steps" or whatever. And there's doggy doo bins, thank goodness.

The roped off football pitch is raised above the rest of the field and is fairly flat. There's a drop of two metres or so behind the far goal, which means you can effectively watch a game at pitch level at that end. There are six floodlight poles, but no evidence that they work, as the match was played entirely in daylight. The changing rooms look fairly new, and have a tea hatch on the right-hand side as you look at it. 50p for a cuppa. Good value.

All in all, a perfectly acceptable venue for a local cup game.

Matthew Watts does the aeroplane celebration after scoring his and Netley's second.
The competition was the Southampton Divisional FA's Senior Cup, and both clubs had reached the last 16. Now, this is normally contested by men's football clubs within the local FA's area, from approximately the level that teams like Winchester City and AFC Totton play, down to Southampton Saturday League sides, with the final being a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the players to play at St Mary's Stadium. But this season is extra-special, as the competition is 100 years old, and Southampton FC have entered and are competing for the trophy. Granted, not the first team, but their under-23s. Still, even their u23s are good enough to stick 12 past Hampshire Premier League side QK Southampton, so they're clear favourites to lift the trophy.

Netley Central Sports play in Division One of the Hampshire Premier Football League (level 12 in the English football pyramid), whereas Saturday's opponents, Infinity FC, play one level higher in the same league's Senior Division. Thus, pre-match, a win for Netley would be unexpected.

What is this? The Matthew Watts Fan Club Page? Even goalscoring heroes have to tuck the corner flags away in a safe place at this level!
As it turned out, Netley were the better side on the day. They wanted it more. Listening to the people following the two clubs, this was Netley's best performance of the season, and conversely, it was Infinity's worst. But that's cup football for you. If the lower-ranked team play at their limits, they'll usually have a chance.

Netley took the lead two minutes after they'd hit the post, in the 37th minute. It had been coming. A cross came in from the right which Infinity failed to clear. Matthew Watts was in acres of space 10 yards out on the left. He thwacked the ball low and hard with his right peg into the opposite corner. Big smiles on the faces of the team in blue. They definitely wanted it.

Infinity have several experienced ex-Wessex League players on their books. A lot of people tipped them to do well in pre-season, but they showed little evidence of their collective pedigree on Saturday. The closest they came was hitting the base of the post early in the second half. But if anybody was going to score another goal, it was Netley, and so it was after 75 minutes when Watts was played through the centre. He ran on and slid the ball past Infinity's keeper to make it 2-0.

The same two sides meet again this coming Saturday at Netley in the quarter-finals of the league cup. Will the result go the same way? Netley are the lowest-ranked club left in both the Southampton FA Senior Cup and the Hampshire Premier League Cup. They have a good team which is also challenging for promotion - but they can't be promoted unless they buy some dugouts and have hard standing laid along at least one side of the pitch, which the council will have to approve. But at least they're still going, which wasn't a foregone conclusion as they nearly folded in the summer through lack of funds. They were saved at the eleventh hour by a sponsor coming in and putting enough cash in for them to start the season. It's never easy at this level, whether it's doggy doo in the box, or no money for kits and equipment. I hope they can carry on for a few more seasons yet.

Study of Autumn Leaves and a Goal Net.
In the next round of the cup (the quarter-finals), Netley Central Sports will play host to Wessex League Lymington Town, which will be extremely tough, with Lymmo playing three levels higher. But if Netley are at their very best, who knows? Further north, Saints u23s will travel to Winchester City.

I mentioned the Focus On... feature in Shoot! earlier. You can find a few examples of this in a book about goalkeepers that's just been published, called Glove Story. The book was co-written by Rob Stokes, who some of you may remember was Waterlooville's man between the sticks during the 1990s. There are some of my pictures in the book, including one of my dad's old quilted keeper's jersey which adorns the front cover and spine. Another one of my photos fills two pages later in the book. Wessex League followers will recognise the colourful goalposts of Bournemouth Poppies taken during a match against Fareham Town a couple of seasons ago. I know I'm biased, but I really do recommend this book - it's a cracking read! Glove Story can be ordered in time for Christmas from here.

More pictures from Netley will be added to the HAH Facebook page this evening.

Next time, I shall either be following one of our local clubs in the FA Vase, or I shall report on a game from the Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup. I'll decide nearer December 2nd. Thanks for reading. In the meantime, I assume HAH hasn't made it on to your personal Irritation Spreadsheet...

Monday, 6 November 2017

Bishop's Waltham Dynamos v Overton United

The long walk from the dressing rooms.
I've recently been reading about artificial intelligence and the rise of machine learning. Scary stuff.

I'm sure most people are aware of how they're targeted by automated algorithms in various places on the internet, whether that's for advertising purposes or for more sinister reasons, from the simple "If you like James Blunt, then you will probably also enjoy Cannibal Corpse" on Amazon and similar sites (I may have got that one slightly wrong...), to the shady opinion-swaying advertorials from corporate-backed so-called "thinktanks" that appear on our Facebook feeds because we once clicked "Like" on a meme about chain smoking kittens.

But now the machines are coming and we're all going to have to learn new skills to survive - unless you're a meat-packer or a chief executive of a multinational company, in which case, you can carry on as you are.

Bishop's Waltham Dynamos gathering their thoughts before kick-off as the rain clouds glower down on those below.
Bishop's Waltham Dynamos FC (1) 1 v 4 (2) Overton United FC
UK Office Systems Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup
Saturday 4th November 2017
Attendance: About 20
Admission: No
Programme: No
Colours: Yellow / red / red v Blue and white stripes / white / blue
National Grid reference: SU5417

Dynamos come close to doubling their early lead, but this shot was saved.
I was reading a report with an infographic which shows you the likelihood of your job being done by machines over the next 15 years or so. I found mine, and apparently, there's an 87% chance that my job will be done by a deep learning trained robot before I retire - and they're pretty good odds compared to some. If you work in a job that is routine and repetitive, your days are probably numbered - this group includes telemarketers, accountants and shopworkers; if, on the other hand, your work involves creativity or empathy, you'll probably be okay.

Of course, new jobs will be created by this new technology, but the worry this time (compared to previous technological revolutions) is that nearly every sector will be affected at the same time, because machine learning can be applied universally and it's developing so rapidly. So many people will become superfluous at the same time, with not enough jobs left to go round.

I already refuse to use the automated checkouts in supermarkets (that used to be someone's job!), and I shall in the near future refuse to use automated vehicles that have put human drivers on the scrapheap. I'll do my bit.

Equaliser for Overton as Steve Price heads in.
Footballers will be safe from this unstoppable tidal wave of automation. At least, the creative ones will be. Not so sure about the routine, repetitive Tony Pulis teams, mind. We're going to have an awful lot of leisure time in the near future, so luckily we'll still have our sport, whether we're playing it or watching it.

With my playing days long since over, I'll carry on getting my dose of fresh air on a Saturday afternoon whilst listening to 22 muddy blokes in their twenties and thirties yelling "Do we want this boys?!", "Left shoulder!" and "In the hole!" to each other.

This week, it was a trip to the small Meon Valley town of Bishop's Waltham, the home of Jeff "And that's the first goal Stranraer have conceded in over 800 minutes of football" Stelling. It's a pleasant place, bigger than nearby Colden Common, and ten times larger than neighbouring Upham, both of whom have Hampshire Premier League football teams.

Jonnie Gurney weaves his way through the Dynamos defence on his way to scoring Overton's second.
Bishop's Waltham also used to have a team in the Hampshire League, and not so long ago. Bishop's Waltham Town finished as Division One runners-up in 1992-93, which is as high as they ever managed. They spent a couple of seasons at the bottom end of the expanded Wessex League a decade or so ago before resigning during 2006-07. They were then absorbed by Sporting BTC and played on for another five seasons before changing their name to Sporting Bishop's Waltham for four seasons before reverting back to Bishop's Waltham Town in 2013-14, when they folded mid-season for a second time.

The "new" senior team in the town is Bishop's Waltham Dynamos, who were previously a junior side with a large number of children's teams. The Dynamos senior men's team have been working their way up the Southampton Saturday League. They were promoted to the top division last season as champions, and going in to this game, they were leading the table with just a single defeat so far.

Overton United keeping dry during the half-time team talk.
Dynamos' opponents on Saturday were Overton United, who play two steps higher in the Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division, so it was an intriguing "David v Goliath" match-up (sort of!). The competition was the Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup, which I featured in the previous round when Warsash Wasps took on Clanfield.

This tie turned out to be a little closer than the match at Warsash (it finished 5-1 to Clanfield there). Indeed, for the first quarter of the game, Dynamos looked the more likely winners. They took the lead on the heavy pitch after 5 minutes, when James Cox shot towards the bottom left of the goal, which Overton's keeper anticipated, but a deflection directed the ball in to the opposite corner.

Dynamos then had several chances to double their lead before Overton equalised after 26 minutes. Steve Price got his head to a corner ball near the penalty spot. There was no stopping that one as it flew between keeper Fin Taylor and the defender guarding the post.

It had been overcast and gloomy since kick-off, but now the rain started to fall intermittently. The only cover at Bishop's Waltham's Priory Park is the shelter offered by trees surrounding the pitch on three sides (if you count the trees lining the track on the near side as you enter the complex). Those who had come prepared with wellies and umbrellas were the wise ones.

A cheeky peak over the hedge.
The rain didn't bother the players, least of all Overton's Johnnie Gurney, who had already had a couple of probes at the Dynamos defence. After 41 minutes, he received the ball near the centre-circle and went on a weaving run. Past one defender, past another, then another until he reached the edge of the box. No panic. No problem, as he slipped the ball under the advancing keeper. "That's the difference between these two teams - they just have that little bit of extra quality when they need it" as I was told by a bystander.

The extra quality allied to the confidence boost of going a goal up just before half-time meant that the away side were in almost complete control during the second half. Gurney and Price both scored again, each from close range, to keep their travelling support happy. They progressed to the last 32 of the competition with their 4-1 victory, whereas Dynamos can concentrate on the league. If they play as well for the rest of the season as they did for the first twenty minutes here, they may well make it two championships in a row come April time.

The next round of this cup is due to be played on December 2nd. Overton United will travel to Montefiore Halls (another Southampton Saturday League club who play at Wide Lane in Eastleigh).

The sun comes out for the first time all afternoon just as it's time to go home.
Rereading the opening couple of paragraphs, I feel I must apologise for being such a miserable old goat, but I'm not changing it all now. Everything will be fine. It always is.

For the last two HAH's before Christmas, I'm going to feature two more cup games (making it an entire half-season of knockout matches - no idea if I can keep that up from January until the end of the season...). The next one will be a Southampton Senior Cup tie on November 18th, then something on December 2nd - the Hampshire Intermediate Cup clashes with the FA Vase, and I can only choose one! I may throw that one open to a vote on the HAH Facebook page.

Speaking of which, there will be another 40 or so pictures from Bishop's Waltham on there before bedtime tonight.