Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Had a setback the other week. Played a very enjoyable game out on the right wing, as my team beat arch rivals Fairview 3-1. At half time I had half a mind on coming off but decided to keep going. I figured if I felt anything, or got a nasty knock, I'd come off straightaway, but I was feeling OK.

Managed to get involved and string the odd pass together, and attracted another challenge that received a booking (that was twice in three games now - don't think it had happened more than once in my whole amateur league career before I got injured). I was still jumping out of most challenges, and winced when I went in for a ball with an overwight bruiser with alcohol on his breath (a type never known to time their tackles to perfection), but it was going OK.

If anything it was tiredness that led to the twinge - I raced for a challenge on the keeper, had to check myself at the last minute, and then felt something twinge in the knee. I signalled to come off pretty much straightaway, and the knee didn't feel right, but I wasn't rolling around in agony so I didn't know what to think. The thing with an ACL injury is you don't know what's going on inside the knee. Could the replacement ligament could just rip off without causing too much pain?

I was feeling pretty down about it on the night. I'd half-convinced myself that that was it - I'd knackered the ligament again and could wave goodbye to playing football, or say hello to an endless stream of appointments, scans and physio, yet again. The next day it was sore and swollen, and it hurt to walk for a few days afterwards, but by the time I'd got to Thursday (when I'd arranged to see my GP) it was feeling pretty stable and solid.

The GP waved away any concerns I might have had, and did that bent-knee push-on-the-shin thing (which all docs do) to see if it was secure. She was pretty adamant that I'd be in agony if I'd done anything serious, but was also pretty dismissive of my desire to play football ("do you really need to?") and my obvious anxieties after two years out ("if you're going to be so anxious, why do you bother?"). All in all, not terribly helpful...

But now - 9 days after I injured it - it's feeling good. I did some weights and running down the gym last night and it felt strong, so I'm going to ease my way back again. I'm going to focus on building up the strength in the upper leg, have a few Monday night games of 5-a-side, and get back to Saturdays probably by the end of the month. No hurry, after all...

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Got a letter printed in the Independent the other week. I'm not normally a letter writer, but I got a bit irate by some half-wit columnist who argued charities shouldn't appeal for help for people in Gaza.

Here's my response:

Mary Dejevsky asks, "What business is it of Oxfam's whether and when the fighting stops?" The answer is that a ceasefire will allow Oxfam and other aid agencies to do their work – saving lives. While the fighting continues, they can't do their work, and people are suffering.

As an Oxfam supporter, I would feel they were wasting my money if they ignored the causes of emergencies. In the same way that it lobbies on climate change, it should use its influence in other situations if humanitarian crises can be prevented.
Ben Beaumont
Swindon, Wiltshire

Champagne badgers

The champagne flowed from Street’s many orifices on Saturday afternoon, as their cup challenge gathered pace with a bulging win over a ‘View subdued. Admittedly, the fizz was nowhere to be seen in the first half, during which our be-hooped behemoths (from Wikipedia: “the largest and most powerful animal ever to exist”. What, more powerful than a badger? I doubt it, Wikidiots) were distinctly flat and tepid.

The poobrains played that age-old trick of starting games as if they had all just met in the changing room. Passes didn’t so much go astray as end up in an entirely different cosmos. Tarmac was practically killed by a firm knee to the side-leg, and the Fairview pressed hard, like a desperate sex-starved teenager, to force corner after corner after corner. Ultimately, they lacked the composure to take advantage of Street’s disarray, and were possibly put off by de Silva’s screamy shouty savey antics. And then, slowly but surely, the badger-beast awakened.

After playing their worst for 30 minutes, Street were cock-a-hoop that it was still level-pegging. For a brief spell, the minties got the ball and played a pass or two, and Smiffy and Dunkirk looked like they had the measure of a Fairview backline that was perhaps a bit too keen to play the offside game. If they could remember their inner badger, things were looking up for the rest of the game.

And so it was. The second half began in a green-and-white bubbly blur. Led by Stiffy-Smiffy’s proud strength and sexy hold-up play, Street were just too good for their opponents. Dunkirk bagged a brace and threatened more, as the loopy-hoops went on the rampage. Fairview threatened intermittently but were thwarted by some stout snouting, from Chris and de Silva especially.

And when Yr Chairman played his lucky Shane card, the game was up. Despite Fairview getting one back with a decent long-ranger, Street’s champagne was bursting forth all over the show. Bustling his way hither and thither, the super-dude scored with a delectable lob, could have had another, and turned their chatty number 7 inside out and round-the-back with what can only be described as pure football mancream.

Ah, the old forgotten joy of beating Fairview. What sexy bliss.

Postscript: Of course, everyone knows the real champagne moment on Saturday came from Ginsburg. For those not at the game, imagine this: the ref makes what may or may not have been a dubious offside call. Rather than shout his disagreement from the sidelines a la Yr Chairman, Ginger, or frankly EVERYONE ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE, dear ol’ Gins strides on to the pitch, no doubt to explain to the referee in suitably teacherly tones how and where he is going wrong. The ref, suitably bemused, books him. Ginsburg scuttles off, to cheers, hoots, clapping, jeers, and a place in Street’s all-time top-ten champagne moments. Only Street. Only Ginsburg.

Union Street (0) 3 – 1 (0) Fairview
Dunkirk 2, Shane

de Silva, Burn M, Isaac, Mozley, Ginsburg (Sale), McCullock (Shane), Davies, Adams, Beaumont (James), Kirk, Smith
Ref: bemused

Sunday, January 18, 2009


It's nice, innit? Lopping stuff off trees. Snipping bits off bushes. Ripping up old fences. Digging. Having a rest and a cup of tea. Listening to Radio 4. Talking to the neighbours. Plantin' stuff. Being outside. Getting a drippy nose from the cold. Ruddy cheeks. Dirty finger nails. What's not to like?

Mother’s pride

Taken from the mysterious Man in the Dugout's match reports...

"Your ever-willing servant has made a new year’s resolution. As well as being nicer to Mrs Dugout, and pledging to go on a Dugout-building course, the main one is this: try not to criticise referees. They do a very difficult job, and, at our level at least, only get paid £35 for two hours’ worth of pure abuse. It takes a special kind of masochist to take that punishment every week, and for that they should be applauded, even if they are USELESS NO-EYED MONG-HEADED TWAT-BURGLARS.

But I digress.

As such, my resolution makes writing the report for today’s game (for I’m writing this the VERY SAME DAY, only a couple of hours after the match. Put that in your heartbroken pipe and smoke it, Kavanagh) rather difficult. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to focus on the boring stuff, like who played well, and the goals, and Ginger digging impressive snouty-holes, and stuff.

The game was a swirly ding-dong humdinger with everything a dugout-dweller could hope for. Describing it as a “close cup tie that, fittingly, finished two-a-piece” doesn’t do it justice. Which is a shame, as that means I have to write a bit more. The first half was as tight as Burner at an airport check-in. Street were compact and effective, like a surprisingly spacious badger sett, as headband-Alex led the charge with headers, tackles, and all kinds. Chances were at a premium, despite these days of VAT reductions and fiscal rescue packages, and the hoops were left hanging on for a Sale, whose ample backside still raises a smile during straitened times.

It seemed that it would take a lucky free-kick rebound to separate the teams at half time, and so it was. Shouty-screamy stand-in keeper Gem “dramatic dive on to my chest for the cameras” de Silva tipped the looper on to the bar, and Street’s snoozy defenders were hapless to prevent some eager Leys’ lad having a happy poke from five yards. Fnar.

But the hoopy-loopy boys were doing their mothers’ proud, what with all their kicking and shouting and tackling and so on. Like snow on a mild day, the BBBBBBBBBBL boys had no time to settle, and the second half carried on where the first one left off. With the swirly wind at their backs, and with teamwork the like of which we haven’t seen this side of The Crystal Maze in the 1990s, the minty twerp-faces fought their way back, helped in no small part by a far-post corner knock-in by Mr Headband.

Alas, the other lot went straight up the other end and got back in the lead quick smart, but still the ferocious twits kept fighting. Davies was running, Crispin was running, Dunkirk was running, Eddie was running, Shane was running. There was a lot of running.

And then there was another bungled equaliser courtesy of Dunkirk, who may or may not have been offside. And then there was a lot of shouty-arguing directed at our dear friend the referee, the poor thing. And whilst we were still calming down after all that, we ‘lost’ our defensive stalwart Chris to the vagaries of a referee’s addled mind. It may have been some kind of referee payback thing, or just a shit decision. Whatever, it deprived Street of their most composed and handsomely bearded player, which was a great shame for all concerned.

And that, ordinarily, would have been that. Street would have crumpled, we would have lamented and, much later, sang sad songs of pain and incompleteness. But this is a different kind of Street. This is the 09 Street. A great vintage. The plucky-stripy dudes closed the game out, shut it down, sent the Bailiffs in and reopened a whole new game all of their own. And that’s the Street that I love.

Blackbird Boys (1) 2 – 2 (0) Union Street
Headband, Dunkirk

de Silva, Sale, Hendy-Isaac, Mozley, Burn M, Kirk, Davies, Pratchett, McCulloch (Smith), Shane (Munday), Angood
Linesman: Ginsburg
Ref: [your expletive here]

Other notes: The fragrant kit (Beaumont’s Tesco-value fabric conditioner working wonders: “Look after the kit and the kit looks after you” were his sage words, and who were we to disagree?). The whopping attendance (last-minute cancellations for heartbreak notwithstanding): burrowing dogs, shouty braveheart-a-likes, parents with kids, midfielders stuck in traffic, and latecomers with newly-fixed cars. The Great Big Swan Samosa turn-out (it's what great teams are made of)."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Big time

The day came. I dug out my shin pads, scraped two-year-old mud off my boots, and tried to remember my matchday Saturday routine. It came back to me soon enough: wake up with hangover and spend most of the morning on the loo or pacing up and down fretting about the forthcomings, whilst sending the odd hopeful text to others along the lines of: 'Are you sure it's not been postponed? It's rained for at least five minutes this morning'.

But I dragged myself down to the wonderful Horspath playing fields, and tentatively entered the changing rooms I knew so well. There was Sale's fat behind. There was the Wizard's shiny boots. And there I was, hopeful of a five minute cameo when Street were already six goals to the good. Alas, in true Street-style, it was not to be. I was soon told that we only had eleven players. Mozley, the bald idiot, was only going to turn up half way through the first half. I had to play.

It was only for 45 minutes, but God, I was crap. On top of my understandable tentativeness in the tackle was a total lack of any kind of fitness. I was parked out on the right wing - the best place for passengers. My first act was an ankle chop on their left back. I got about five touches, air kicked about a dozen passes, jumped out of three tackles, and generally didn't have a clue what I was doing.

Still, it was great to be out there, wearing my lucky number 5 shirt, the feel of mud and grass beneath my boots. I got subbed at half time, and the mighty Street sneaked a battling draw against the league leaders. What better welcome back to the Big Time?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


After the operation on my ankle (notable for a return to the whoozy euphoria of general anaesthetic), which removed all the nasty floating bits, it was all a bit too straightforward. There was none of the easy-does-it, one-step-at-a-time after-care of my knee op. And it was frankly disappointing to get to hospital at 8am and walk out by about 3.30pm, with not a crutch in sight. How was I meant to skive off work if there was nothing wrong with me? Eh?

One upside was the lack of an endless regime of physio exercises. I was pretty much told to get fit, run on it when it felt OK, and then start playing football again if I fancied it. That's the kind of physio instructions I like - none of this 20 hamstring catches, 3 times a day rhubarb.

So, I spent the next few months getting kind-of-fit again, revisiting my wobble board but mostly getting drunk and generally having a right ol' summery time of things. And then, by October, I was back in the swing of five-a-sides (after some very hesitant warm-up games, where I did little but stand in goal and wonder whether I'd ever have the confidence to kick a ball in anger again). And then it was all a matter of when to time the Big Return.

Like most things in life, playing football after an operation is all down to confidence. Confidence in your restructured limbs to withold whatever comes their way. Confidence that you can actually still play with any kind of skill (Hmmm, might have to wait a while for that one). And confidence that the opposition don't really want to maim you every time they come near you. And the longer you leave it (in my case, over two years), the longer it's going to take to get that confidence back.

I wasn't in any hurry at all to get back and playing for the Street. I still felt that every time I went for a header my knee would go the wrong way when I landed, like poor ol Michael Owen's. But I also knew the longer I left it the harder it would get, so one random Thursday, when the call came out for the team on Saturday in December 2008, I thought I'd throw my name in the hat, and my hat in the ring.

I say 'throw my name', what I actually mean is 'very tentatively say that I could maybe come on as sub for a few minutes right at the end if we're really short'...

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Soooooooo (rubs eyes, yawns, blinks hard, stretches arms etc), where was I? When I last posted, I was roughly three months into my rehab, and golly, ain't it just been a long and windin' road since then? The usual rehab period for an ACL reconstruction, for those stupid enough to want to play football again, is about nine months. And I was right on course...

After endless months of gyms, swimming pools, wobble boards, lunges, and hamstring catches, I was ready. In September (this is still in 2007, for those who like to know where there are, year-wise) I started a bit of the ol' pass-and-move, on-me-ed-son, hoof-it-to-row-Z, ankle-kickin' five-a-side. I might even have scored the odd screamer, and looked forward (eagerly, like a hyperactive dribbling dog) to the day when my amateur football career could be brought back from the dead.

Except... After a few weeks or so of the aforementioned silky football, I felt something in my ankle. Something wrong. Like something bad was lodged in there, and was pressing down on all the tendons or muscles or fleshy-bits or something. It made it hurt to kick, run, and do all the other things people associate with running around and kicking footballs in the Oxford City FA RT Harris League Division 1 on a Saturday afternoon.

Oh dear, I thought. Back to square one. Or at best, square three. Maybe square four, if I was lucky. So began a new round of doctors, appointments, waitings, queues, scans, letters, X-rays, diagnoses, more waiting, and a whole load of sitting around on my fat arse, very much not playing football.

It seemed that I had bone spurs (alas, no other cowboy paraphernalia) in my ankle, floating around and causing a general nuisance. Cricket fans among you will note that this is the same injury as suffered by dear ol Fred, bringing my unwanted collection of injuries-of-the-rich-and-famous to two (alas, I've yet to find a sports star who has broken their big toe doing a teenage 'stage dive' off a bed, but the search is still on).

A note here for my GP. Most of the time, I love my GP. Her motherly ways have soothed many an ailment. But on this occasion, when I asked whether I could have bone spurs (having done a little a bit of research, and been pointed in this direction by Gem 'ankles' de Silva), she pretty much told me that it was impossible. She actually huffed, with you're-totally-wasting-my-time eyes, that only really old ladies got bone spurs. Verdict? GPs: lovely people, don't always know much about ankles. Worth remembering, I'd say.

So where did all this leave me? Up a football creak without a paddle/ankle. All I could do was wait, for the X ray to show that I had bone spurs, and then the follow-up appointment to tell me I needed a scan, and then the scan to show that I really did have bone spurs, and then the follow-up appointment to confirm that, can you believe it, I have bone spurs, and then, finally, the small operation to remove the bone spurs.

And all that waiting brought me up to June 2008. Over two years since my last game (scroll down to 'that's entertainment') for the Street...

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Well, it has been a long time since last I wrote, hasn't it?

I just stumbled across my blog from all those moons ago, inbetween checking the Liverpool score and getting sucked into countless inane 'drunk NY Eve' photo galleries on Facebook. I'd forgotten all about it (the blog, not New Year's Eve), and it all seemed a bit, well, unfinished. There I was, in the middle of my rehabilitation, getting bored out of my tiny mind down the gym, and then I just left it - and its follower (hello Mum) - hanging.

There were so many unanswered questions. What was wrong with my feet? Would I go to Thailand? Could I ever finish my knee exercises? Did I get another new phone? Did I ever get to fulfil my stag do fantasy? Did I cut my hair again? Would I stop whinging? And would I ever, ever play for the mighty Union Street again?

Well, I fear there may be more questions than answers, as Johnny Nash once sang, but, over the coming weeks, I'm willing to resurrect this thing, and you can find out just how my knee has faired in the last 19 months...