World Football

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Colin Suffers a Concussion.

The latest from the Colin Vint experience....



some bad luck...
It has been a while since my last update. The week after our match against St. Patrick's, we were originally slated to play Dublin City, but with their bankruptcy and subsequent removal from existence in the league, we were without a fixture for the weekend. In lieu of training we had the night off and we out on the town together, a team building function of sorts. We trained on Sunday, and then on Monday we played host to the Glenmore Celtic of Dublin in a friendly match. They play in the Dublin City League, which isn't part of the FAI premier or first division table, but we knew they would relish the chance to upset a premier league team, especially one so close on the map. We jumped out to an early lead on a goal from new signing Chris Dean's (the former Waterford centre back captain), the first since I have been here, but Glenmore quickly capitalized on a string of defensive errors and leveled the score at one all. We clearly had the better part of the possession, but we blew chance after chance on misguided shots and selfish play. In all I think 7 or 8 legitimate opportunities were wasted in the first half because of a missed shot or someone chosing to go solo instead of serving the ball to an open player. I think since it has been so long since we have had a good half like this, with successful combinations and keeping the ball more on the turf than in the air, we let it get to our heads and each wanted to impress instead of worrying about tying a team that isn't on our level. In the second half we came out gunning and were able to net another 2 goals in the first 15 minutes, and while I didn't score I finally helped set up a goal. On our third of the evening, I flicked a bouncing ball on to Robbie Doyle, who on his first touch slotted Franco through for a 1v1 opportunity with the keeper, which he tucked away after an effective stepover. Cramping got the better of me again in the 60th minute, although I wasn't tired like in my St. Pat's fiasco, and I came off after 65. The match finished with that 3-1 scoreline, and we garnered some much needed confidence after having only taken 1 point from the fixtures in the month of July. Friday (Aug 4th) saw us matched up against Derry City who sit top of the table, not to mention having what is nationally regarded as the loudest and most loyal fans. We had a good crowd out on the cool night, but it seemed a little less like a home match and more like an away contest in Bray because of the noise coming from the Derry fans. While our fans outnumbered theirs, the rhythm coming from their huge drums and chants was deafening to the point that it was almost impossible to communicate on the field without yelling at full tilt. Derry, one of the few full time clubs (we only train a few times a week, Derry train every day) had a much higher level of fitness, which showed, and they netted goal after goal. Before we knew it, it was 3-0 in their favor. Granted, we were playing much better football than we have been in recent matches, each of their goals was the result of capitalizing on a defensive error, and our tempers began to get the better of us as the shouting began; none of us could hear the others over the Derry drums, but it couldn't have been anything other than harsh words. In the dying minutes of the first half I tracked the centre back into the box on a defensive corner, and as I rose to head a ball clear I felt a baseball bat hit me in the side of the face, a strike which levelled me. I didn't see it, but apparently I won the header and the Derry player headed me just a second later. I tried to get up immediately but couldn't, and after the trainer helped me to my feet and walked me to the sideline, I re-entered. This was a mistake, as I couldn't feel the left half of my mouth, teeth included, and I was having double vision from my left eye. It didn't serve me well to see two balls in the air, or to have such an immense pressure on my face and eye, and I quickly asked Tony to pull me off. After a quick assessment in the back of the ambulance I was told I had a concussion, but the doctor told me I needed to have my face x-rayed as there was a chance I had done damage to my eye socket. My wait in the ER was miserable, as the bright lights induced a painful feeling of nausea, and 3 hours later I was finally seen and x-rayed. As was suspected, I had slightly fractured my cheekbone, an important part of the eye socket, so I was prescribed some light painkillers and was told that I would have to go to the maxillofacial unit at
St.James's Hospital in Dublin the following Tuesday. This morning I arose early and headed into town for my appointment, and after another wait I was finally seen. I was told basically the same thing by this doctor, but after pushing on both cheeks and testing the bones he said I would have to return on Friday after the swelling has subsided in order to see if there were any depressions left on my face. The fracture isn't that bad and should heal quickly, but if there is any sort of difference in my face after the swelling is gone then there is a good chance I will need to undergo a procedure to fix that. I know I will be missing the match on Friday against Bohemians anyway, another top notch squad, but I am more focused on my injury, and praying that there is no significant issues aside from waiting for the fracture to mend itself.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Work....

Work is piling up again. No new posts until the weekend most likely. I'll most likely update with a preview on Manchester United's season and a premiership preview before looking at La Liga and Serie A next week. Stay tuned. Thanks for checking.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Arsenal Preview

In a couple weeks Arsenal will start their season in their shiny new Emirates Stadium. I've earmarked a couple hundred greenbacks for travel to London to see a few games in the new stadium. Although a new season and a new stadium will no doubt bring excitement, hope and expectations, I can't help but feel that this season will be as uninspiring as the last one for Arsenal. Their improbable run in the Champions League notwithstanding, Arsenal underachieved domestically. They lack the financial muscle to compete with Chelsea. They haven't defeated Man Utd. in the league in over three years now. Liverpool, under Rafa Benitez, now have a manager with the tactical awareness to get the most out of his players. Tottenham's resurgence, despite the loss of Michael Carrick, will no doubt continue this year. Arsenal, with Thierry Henry, will always be able to score goals to see off weaker foes but against stronger teams their defensive weaknesses will be revealed. Philippe Senderos will likely be out at the start of the season. Sol Cambell, a defensive stallwart, has been released by the club and left back Ashley Cole is almost certainly on his way to Chelsea for a cool 25 million pounds. The phrase "Arsene knows" has been repeated at Highbury many times in the past years. Wenger tends to make some of the most astute moves in the transfer market. He sold Overmars to FC Barcelona for 21 million pounds and Overmars never played up to the level he played at Arsenal. Ditto for the likes of Von Bronckhorst and Anelka. His purchases have been equally shrewd. Thierry Henry was bought from Juventus for 10 million pounds. Drogba, at 24 million pounds, certainly is not 2.5 times as good as Henry although that's what he cost. However, with the departure of Patrick Vieira to Juventus last season, Wenger has chosen to paper over the cracks Vieira left in midfield instead of replacing him with a player with similar qualities. For all his talent, young Spaniard Cesc Fabregas doesn't have the necessary steel to command a premiership midfield and Gilberto Silva isn't so much a tough tackling, lung busting midfielder in the mold of Vieira.

Last year without Vieira Arsenal were overrun in midfield and woefully underperformed whenever they played on the road. This season will find Arsenal without another member of the golden era with Robert Pires' departure to Villareal. One only hopes that much like Overmars and Anelka,

If Rosicky brings his fire to Emirates Stadium all will be well.



Wenger let Pires go when it was clear he had nothing left in the tank because for a good three years, 2002-2005, Pires was probably the best goalscoring midfielder in the Premiership. He could score anywhere from 20 yards in. It's not clear how the team will replace Pires, but the addition of Tomas Rosicky should ease the loss. Rosicky's two goals against the U.S. in the World Cup are an indicator of what he can do, but player's tend to struggle in their first year in England as they get used to the physicality of the league.

Even if Rosicky performs up to the standard many expect, the slow development of Spanish forward Jose Antonio Reyes has been frustrating. A player of his supposed quality should be scoring between 12-15 goals a season in the Premiership, especially with the wide open style of play Arsenal has. His return from starting 22 games last season was 5 goals, that's simply not good enough at this level. Arsenal will need a big season out of Reyes if they are going to make a serious challenge for any domestic honors. There are no assurances that Reyes will even be with the club after he expressed his desire over the weekend to join Real Madrid because of the difficult he has had in adapting to England and the English game.

Jose Reyes, chronic underachiever.




And what of the supposed 17 year old phenom Theo Walcott? No one has seen him play yet Arsenal splashed out 12 million pounds for his services. Walcott has to be the luckiest kid alive. He hasn't played a top level professional game yet he can say he's an England international and was on the 2006 World Cup squad. All I can say about this one is "Arsene knows."

It all can't be doom and gloom for Arsenal, though, as long as Thierry Henry is playing. If he is healthy this season you can pencil him in for 30-35 goals this season. In his second year as captain, Henry is expected to be more influential on the field. I expect him to exert greater influence over his teammates and he started doing that later in the season as he began to grow into the role. Kolo Toure will be commanding the defense and his athleticism and excellence can't be denied. I only wonder if it's not asking too much of a converted midfielder to command a defense that, at the start of the season, will probably look nothing like the one he played with over the past two years. Only time will tell.

My prediction for Arsenal is that they will finish fourth and only because I don't think Tottenham are ready yet to make the leap to be a top four team and they haven't beaten Arsenal in over a decade, I think. A fourth place finish is not good enough for a team of Arsenal's aspirations, especially since they had done no worse than second place prior to Jose Mourinho's arrival in England.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sorry....

My apologies for not updating the site more frequently. Work has gotten busy and that has detracted from my real passion -- writing about soccer. The upcoming week should find me with more free time and more time to devote to the blog. Thanks for checking. Update coming on Tuesday at the latest....

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Playing Abroad

Below is the latest from the Colin Vint experience. Colin talks about his debut, the red tape that goes into getting clearance to play abroad, and the perils of dining on toast and water before a big match. Enjoy and comments, as always, are invited and encouraged.


MY BRAY DEBUT
So training has been going well since signing, but there was a lot of red tape surrounding getting clearance to play in the league. Even though I hold Portuguese citizenship and do not require a work permit to play anywhere in the EU, the Eircom League still required me to get a release both from my last club and from the US Soccer Federation. I contacted my coach at Richmond and had him email me a .pdf release with his letterhead and signature, and forwarded that onto the general manager of the Wanderers, but come training on Saturday (we had a match scheduled for Tuesday the 18th against Sligo Rovers) there was still no response from USSF. Clearly no business would be done Sunday, so really I had one more day to get it all handled if I wanted to be eligible to play on Tuesday. I spent most of Monday on the phone with home, having my stand-in agent brother take care of things on that side. He contacted the USSF to get the ball rolling, and as it turned out they had received a letter from the Eircom League, but the release they needed wasn't from my last University, but literally from my last club team, Team America Premier out of Alexandria, VA, who I haven't played for since the summer after my freshman year of college. Luckily we still had my coach's number laying around somewhere, so my brother Peter spent the rest of the day back and forth between my coach and the Federation trying to make sure everyone was doing their part to get the release sent over to Ireland as soon as it was ready. By training Monday evening manager Tony McGuirk said still nothing had come in, but we had until tommorow morning really so there was a chance it would come in overnight. Thankfully it did, and we had it faxed over to the head of the league at the open of business Tuesday, officially clearing me for that evening's match. Being eligible to play was only the first half of the battle though: with 21 names on the first team roster, and only 16 players dressing, there are always a few left out of the locker room. The starters were announced, and a few stressful minutes later Tony announced the 5 subs he wanted to dress, the last of which included me. A sigh of relief, really, as I assumed he would've had me watch a match as part of the team before including me.
To be honest, it wasn't a a very interesting match in the first 45, with few legitimate chances testing either keeper. Sligo had the better part of the possession, as their attack seemed to be more focused on combinations through the center of the park and distribution to the flanks, stretching out defensive third and looking for any holes to attack. The first 45 saw them unable to find the killer pass, but in the 58th minute a very scrappy goal put them deservedly ahead. Keith Foy, Sligo's portly left back just recently returning from injury, got into a bit of a scrum on the corner of our 18' with two of our backs, with all three on the grass stabbing at the ball. Don't ask me how, because I can't even begin to explain how, but Foy rose from the pile and toe poked a ball that sliced perfectly through the picket fence of our back line, to an open Adam Hughes on the back post, who calmly poked it in to an open net, as our skipper's efforts to dive across the length of the goal line failed. Sligo should've really put the match out of reach with a more than a few 1v1 opportunities either turned away by O'Connor or carelessly put wide or over the bar. Then it came, my call to warm up, and in the 68th minute I was brought on for one of our backs, Steven Gifford. Entering on a corner kick, my first touch nearly started my career off with a dreamlike storyline, as the kick was sent far post, headed back in to the 6' box, and as I stumbled backwards to get under it I somehow got a head to it that looked destined to bounce off the post and trickle in, but the Rover keeper squashed that with a beautiful play of his own, scrambling across the goalmouth and barely getting a fingertip to it on the line to put it out for another corner. In the 81st it appeared Sligo had blown a win when our Romanian striker Andrei Georgescu, or Franco as we call him, beat two defenders and slid a ball in far post to level the score. Our home fans were quickly silenced by a late winner by Darren Mansaram, who netted the game winner for Sligo just 3 minutes later, and we saw our desperately needed point go out the window on a 2-1 loss.
Only one training session seperated that match and our next contest, which pitted us against St. Patrick's Athletic on Sunday. One of the THREE teams hailing from Dublin (R.I.P. Dublin City, who fell victim to bankruptcy last week), the short trip to Bray means plenty of St. Pat's fans make it out for any match against Bray. With a 3:15 kickoff, I had plenty of time to kill before reporting to the Carlisle Grounds, but in retrospect the only thing that seemed dead was me. With no food in the house, nothing within a reasonable walking distance (I make the walk multiple times a week into Greystones, 30 minutes each way, but I was saving myself for the match today), and with no mode of transportation as everyone I consider a ride was off doing something they had to do, my pregame meal consisted of toast and 2 litres of water. Sure, I was hydrated, but definitely had zero energy, which came into play in the worst way from 3:15 on. I was pretty shocked to learn that I would be wearing the number 11 that afternoon... yes, a starting forward's number. Only 20 minutes under my belt as a Seagull and I was already starting a match?! Warmups went well, but from the moment we kicked off I could tell I wasn't running on much. I already knew my match fitness at this point isn't much to brag about, as I haven't played in a full match since November for Richmond, but this was like nothing else. I was winded after only a few runs to chase down balls, and my touch was clearly off. I couldn't bring anything down cleanly, and since our plan appeared to be to play it long to me and Franco, this was a huge problem. I had no support underneath me from the midfield, who looked to be miles away in the 20 yards of space and line of red separating me from them, so anything I did bring down I had to deal with 3 defenders closing down on me, which I more than not failed at. My one bright spot in the first half was turning and playing a through ball to Robbie Doyle, who flicked it on to Franco who tested the keeper from about 40 out but unluckily put it off the crossbar. St Pat's were in control from the start, using simple 1-2s to avoid any problems, and switching the point of attack frequently, so our chasing was reduced to just that...chasing. By the end of the first half I could already feel twinges in my calves, meaning it was only a matter of time before the cramping began. I fully expected to be subbed off at halftime, but for some reason I remained in, even with my obvious lack of match fitness and inability to put a stamp on the game. St. Patrick's jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the 2nd off a beautifully orchestrated combination play, and quickly doubled the lead. Franco once again brought hope back to the loyal fans with a goal just 4 minutes after the lead was doubled, but that would be it from us, and from me, as I was substituted out in the 70th minute. I never expected to stay in for that long, and as I made my way from the pitch to the bench the full calf cramps set in, and just as I had struggled on the pitch, fittingly I struggled just to get off in. Not what I had expected nor ever imagined for my first start, but as disappointing as it was all I can do is put it behind me and only work hard in training to prove I do deserve to be out there next time we suit up. Oh yeah, and note to all you out there who have a match of ANY level: make sure you eat properly. I never thought it would affect me as significantly as it did on Sunday, but my mind and body were at a disconnect, and it influenced both my fitness and my decision making. That definitely will not happen again.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Farewell to the Master

The Dennis Bergkamp era officially came to a close today. Bergkamp's testimonial(a kind of sendoff exhibition match) was held today in Arsenal's brand new Emirates stadium. As Bergkamp spent the majority of his playing career in the Arsenal and Ajax shirts, it was only fitting that Ajax would provide the opposition. Some of the players on the field included former Arsenal legends David Seaman, Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira and the undisputed king of Arsenal Thierry Henry. Ajax's side was no less impressive with the GREAT Johan Cryuff, Marco Van Basten, the De Boer brothers, Frank Rijkaard and Edgard Davids suiting up.






Few players in the history of the game have played with the kind of grace that Bergkamp played with during his career. The hallmark of his game was the feathery first touch and his amazing vision. He always seemed to be thinking one move ahead of his opponent. My three favorite Bergkamp moments are: 1) the goal against Newcastle where he flicked the ball over his opponent to his right, spun left, went behind the defender and calmly slotted the ball beyond the keeper. If this all sounds like I'm making it up you can view the goal here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuTdGC6rLoQ&search=Bergkamp%20goal%20against%20Newcastle . 2) Bergkamp's goal against Argentina. Bergkamp takes down a 50 yard pass with his first touch and spun Ayala inside out and put it in the roof of the net, beating the keeper at the near post. He did this with no more than three touches of the ball. Simply amazing. 3) The game against Juventus where he drew three defenders and shook them all then laid the ball off fro Ljungberg to score.
Bergkamp will likely be remembered less for the goals that he scored or the ones he set up and more for the way he played the game. There was something very cerebral about the way he approached the game. He was never the type of player who would sit around the box and wait for goals like Van Nistelrooy or Owen, nor was he as versatile as Henry or Ronaldo in his prime. What Bergkamp had was something no other player I've seen ever had -- the ability to lose four markers with one touch of the ball, or the ability to go full speed then suddenly stop on a dime and chip the keeper from 20 yards out.

Farewell to the Dutch Master.


His arrival at Arsenal in 1995 signaled a change in the way the team would play the game. Long gone were the chants of "boring, boring Arsenal" and Bergkamp gave the team a style and verve that was never before seen at Highbury. Later came the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Marc Overmars and Robert Pires and Arsenal would go on to win three league titles in '2000, 2002, and the unforgettable undefeated season in 2004.
The burning question for me now that Bergkamp is gone is where does he rank among the great foreigners who have played in the premier league. He is certainly below Cantona, Henry and Gianfranco Zola and possibly beneath Vieira as well. Outside of those players I don't think any foreigner who has played in the premier league has had a greater influence on the style of play and the flow of the game that Arsenal developed in its ten years since Bergkamp arrived. Bergkamp will definitely missed by all Arsenal fans and the game will miss him as well. Players like him come around once in a lifetime.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Playing Abroad

Below is a first hand account of what it is like to go abroad and chase the dream of becoming a professional soccer player. I got the entry from Colin Vint via his older brother, Peter, who is a good friend of mine. Many thanks to Colin for taking the time out to write about his experience and allowing me the "exclusive" privilege of being the first to chronicle his experience in Ireland. Hopefully many more entries will come my way that I can share with you and hopefully in the future we can get an entry of what it's like to play in the EPL, La Liga, or the Bundesliga. Well, without further ado, I present Colin Vint's firsthand experience of training with Bray Wanderers and later recieving a contract offer...


GOING ON TRIAL
Salutations from across the pond in Greystones, Ireland. Believe all
the rumors you heard about Ireland being really green... it is. I
don't know if it's because it rains more times a week year round than
not or what, but it definitely makes for beautiful scenery and crisp
pitches. No story really to how I ended up here, a friend of mine
from the University of Richmond who graduated a year before me lives
here and had a connection to get me a trial with the Finn Harps, a
first division side located in the northwest of the republic, but
since that couldn't go through my unnamed contact helped facilitate
the trial with the Bray Wanderers, a premier division squad
conveniently located only 20 minutes away from where I am staying. I
booked my flight, and a week later I was here, training with the
under-21s that evening. The whole process of going on trial is new to
me since I only recently graduated, and it's nothing like trying out
for your local select team. I was the only new face on the day, and
was just sort of thrown into the mix to see if I could keep up with
the u-21s, which thankfully I could. A midweek friendly was scheduled
against the St. Joeseph's schoolboys, basically a youth program that
feeds into Bray's u21/reserve sides, and regarded as one of the best
youth squads in the country. they jumped out to an early lead, but
thankfully our starters put their nerves to rest and levelled it
minutes later. Coming off the bench I quickly got into the mix
quickly, flicking on my first touch as an assist to the other front
runner, who buried the bouncing ball one touch. Second half I had a
bit of magic of my own, as my left foot is not my most prized
posession, but a through ball found me in a foot race with 2 Joey's
defenders and I was able to get onto it and slot a near post shot just
past the keeper with my left peg from about 16 yards out. The match
ended 4-2 in our favor, and afterwards the 1st team manager Tony
McGuirk
approached me and told me I had a good showing, and to report
to 1st team training the next week.
After a simple session on Monday, we then had our own
friendly against the visiting side Livingston FC, recently relegated
from the Scottish Premier League down to the First Division but still
a strong opponent. They jumped out to an early lead with a goal 5
minutes in, and doubled the tally just moments before the halftime
whistle blew. Whether it was the unseasonable heat (nothing compared
to the humidity in Virginia) or something else, our side looked flat
and uninspired. The second half began much like the first, with
Livingston netting an early goal to make the score 3-nil in their
favor. Being a friendly, we didn't quite adhere to the international
rules for substitutions, and in the 60th minute a few of us, including
me, were brought on to provide fresh legs and hopefully create a
spark. I didn't see the ball much, but when I did get it I was able
to play a few guys through with simple balls, flicking stuff over
defenders or splitting them, but I did make use of the one decent
opportunity presented to me. Receiving a ball at the corner of the 18
facing my own half, I faked a pass back and cut the ball back behind
me, splitting 2 defenders... after muscling through their attempts at
a tackle I smacked an overzealous shot that curled just wide of the
upper corner. Disappointed with the end result, but I did turn a few
heads with what I created. Livingston netted another late goal, and
the match ended 4-0. Overall a poor showing from our side, but we
were able to create a lot more in the second half.
After another training session with the First Team that week,
and a third early the next week, I finally sat down with Tony and
discussed my progress. He said just as he was after the u21 match, he
was impressed with my vision on the field and my ability to create,
and my size (6'2'' 220 doesn't really go against me) was a positive
given the style of defending in the league. With that, he said that
they definitely wanted to offer me a contract, and that I should go in
to the grounds that week to meet with Jack O'Neill, the general
manager, to finalize what we both wanted and expected. After a bit of
back and forth between what they had to offer and what I asked for, we
came to an agreement, and I signed with the Bray Wanderers on
Wednesday, the 12th of July, through the end of the current season in
mid-November. Crazy to say it, even crazier to think it, but that
officially made me a pro footballer!

Playing Abroad

Below is a first hand account of what it is like to go abroad and chase the dream of becoming a professional soccer player. I got the entry from Colin Vint via his older brother, Peter, who is a good friend of mine. Many thanks to Colin for taking the time out to write about his experience and allowing me the "exclusive" privilege of being the first to chronicle his experience in Ireland. Hopefully many more entries will come my way that I can share with you and hopefully in the future we can get an entry of what it's like to play in the EPL, La Liga, or the Bundesliga. Well, without further ado, I present Colin Vint's firsthand experience of training with Bray Wanderers and later recieving a contract offer...


GOING ON TRIAL
Salutations from across the pond in Greystones, Ireland. Believe all
the rumors you heard about Ireland being really green... it is. I
don't know if it's because it rains more times a week year round than
not or what, but it definitely makes for beautiful scenery and crisp
pitches. No story really to how I ended up here, a friend of mine
from the University of Richmond who graduated a year before me lives
here and had a connection to get me a trial with the Finn Harps, a
first division side located in the northwest of the republic, but
since that couldn't go through my unnamed contact helped facilitate
the trial with the Bray Wanderers, a premier division squad
conveniently located only 20 minutes away from where I am staying. I
booked my flight, and a week later I was here, training with the
under-21s that evening. The whole process of going on trial is new to
me since I only recently graduated, and it's nothing like trying out
for your local select team. I was the only new face on the day, and
was just sort of thrown into the mix to see if I could keep up with
the u-21s, which thankfully I could. A midweek friendly was scheduled
against the St. Joeseph's schoolboys, basically a youth program that
feeds into Bray's u21/reserve sides, and regarded as one of the best
youth squads in the country. they jumped out to an early lead, but
thankfully our starters put their nerves to rest and levelled it
minutes later. Coming off the bench I quickly got into the mix
quickly, flicking on my first touch as an assist to the other front
runner, who buried the bouncing ball one touch. Second half I had a
bit of magic of my own, as my left foot is not my most prized
posession, but a through ball found me in a foot race with 2 Joey's
defenders and I was able to get onto it and slot a near post shot just
past the keeper with my left peg from about 16 yards out. The match
ended 4-2 in our favor, and afterwards the 1st team manager Tony
McGuirk
approached me and told me I had a good showing, and to report
to 1st team training the next week.
After a simple session on Monday, we then had our own
friendly against the visiting side Livingston FC, recently relegated
from the Scottish Premier League down to the First Division but still
a strong opponent. They jumped out to an early lead with a goal 5
minutes in, and doubled the tally just moments before the halftime
whistle blew. Whether it was the unseasonable heat (nothing compared
to the humidity in Virginia) or something else, our side looked flat
and uninspired. The second half began much like the first, with
Livingston netting an early goal to make the score 3-nil in their
favor. Being a friendly, we didn't quite adhere to the international
rules for substitutions, and in the 60th minute a few of us, including
me, were brought on to provide fresh legs and hopefully create a
spark. I didn't see the ball much, but when I did get it I was able
to play a few guys through with simple balls, flicking stuff over
defenders or splitting them, but I did make use of the one decent
opportunity presented to me. Receiving a ball at the corner of the 18
facing my own half, I faked a pass back and cut the ball back behind
me, splitting 2 defenders... after muscling through their attempts at
a tackle I smacked an overzealous shot that curled just wide of the
upper corner. Disappointed with the end result, but I did turn a few
heads with what I created. Livingston netted another late goal, and
the match ended 4-0. Overall a poor showing from our side, but we
were able to create a lot more in the second half.
After another training session with the First Team that week,
and a third early the next week, I finally sat down with Tony and
discussed my progress. He said just as he was after the u21 match, he
was impressed with my vision on the field and my ability to create,
and my size (6'2'' 220 doesn't really go against me) was a positive
given the style of defending in the league. With that, he said that
they definitely wanted to offer me a contract, and that I should go in
to the grounds that week to meet with Jack O'Neill, the general
manager, to finalize what we both wanted and expected. After a bit of
back and forth between what they had to offer and what I asked for, we
came to an agreement, and I signed with the Bray Wanderers on
Wednesday, the 12th of July, through the end of the current season in
mid-November. Crazy to say it, even crazier to think it, but that
officially made me a pro footballer!