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.