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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunday Morning Footie (IV) - After the Lord Mayor's Show

Rainham 84 auditioning for their roles in the latest series of Glee....
After the outstanding effort made last week, this morning was always in danger of falling into the trap of becoming the let down of After the Lord Mayor's Show. The morning had been cold, but the sun was trying it's best to come out and give a bit of warmth to the hardy souls on the touchline. Pitch conditions could not be better, slightly firm but taking a stud and quite slick.

Roles had been reversed from last week, the opponents had only ten men. However no one told the lads, in case they switched off and thought they had the game won before they had kicked a ball. It was hard enough to stop them thinking it was easy, because we were back to the normal eleven.

Rainham 84 focused on the job in hand and move into gear right from the get go. Instead of being hungover from last weeks efforts, they carried right on from where they left off. Good passing, backed up by strong challenges and quick thinking, was rewarded by rapping the opponents crossbar with a fierce drive. It was only a matter of time.

By holding their shape well and clever individual moves, Rainham 84 ended with a rasping finish that was worthy of a place on Soccer AM. Take a bow son, take a bow. (Well that is what Andy Gray would have said if he had not been sacked!) One Nil to the boys in red.

Rainham moved up through the gears once again and were rewarded by a tidy long range effort from our holding midfielder. Along with the rest of the lads, his positional awareness paid the dividends it deserved and Rainham looked comfortable at 2-0.

The second half showed a real improvement from the opposition. They had obviously been given a real talking to at half time and on another day, with perhaps a full compliment of players, they would have proved a stern test of our resolve. But despite their best efforts, they rarely troubled our stalwart defence and our Keeper did well to keep himself warm throughout the 60 minutes.

Now the main reason for this blog is so that Harvey's far flung relatives can get an update on his and his teammates progress. I try not to single him out too much, because I do not want it to go to his head and I guess other parents might read this too. Plus with the kind mention for the blog in the newsletter this week, it is more than certain that this does get a wider audience than just the Mackay Clan. However praise should be given where praise is due. Harvey has been placed in a position this season he really did not like but, along with his coach, I have been telling him he is quite good at it.

Today, as his MOTM trophy proves, he is doing more than just stopping the opposition. I can only think of once where he actually just hoofed it clear today. In fact there was one pass that I think went unnoticed by the crowd on the far side, but I got a great view from the other side of the pitch.With the outside of his right boot, he bent an inch perfect ball into the path of our tireless left winger that was worthy of a far higher stage than a humble Sunday morning contest.

With minutes left on the clock, he took the ball out of defence, beat three or four of their lads and unselfishly laid it off to his team mate. There was a big part of me thinking, head down son, go on yersell!!! Seeing as I was running the line, I suppose actually shouting this was perhaps not in the spirit of sportsmanship. I really must keep it shut, but it is so hard! One very proud Dad indeed.

Harvey's Nanny and Grandad had made the 200 mile round trip to see him this morning. They could see the improvement that the lads have made under the guidance of Martin and his assistants. Dad had been working yesterday as a scout for Swansea FC. So you could argue that the lads were being watched by a Championship Scout. For him to see the improvements the lads had made, well that is praise indeed.

Harvey was rewarded for a mature and steady performance at the heart of defence. Good job, well done Son.

But most important of all, do you know one of the best things to see today? The smiles on the faces of the lads after a job well done. Something that is helped by winning of course. It is a good habit and one I hope the boys get addicted to for years to come.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Sunday Morning Footie (III) 'Up for The Cup!!!'

Cold, five degrees with a biting in your face wind.

Harvey was really looking forward to this game, we had a small training session the day before, where I basically bullied him for twenty minutes to get him used to knocking 16 stone men over. The workout was good, but the washing machine did not take kindly to all that mud from the field being flushed through it.

We got there slightly early to sharpen up passing, but as soon as we got out of the car we realised this might have been a mistake, it was freezing. Thankfully there were a few other plucky early arrivals, so Harvey trotted off to have a kick about, Dad headed back to the warmth of the car until nearer kick off.

When I got back to the allocated parents section, Harvey was holding his hands up and shouting ten, ten, ten at me. I am thinking, great the managers have seen sense and are only playing ten minutes each way. Nope, no such luck, Harvey was telling me they only had ten men. Thanks to injuries and illness, we were down to the bare bones. The opposition did not seem to notice, one of their parents actually said, you look like you have more than us out there. I put them right but realised why it looked like this. Our lads were working their socks off because of the lack of numbers. The opposition also stuck to their usual formation, as although we did not have anyone upfront, they still kept five at the back. So glad they could not count.

After ten  minutes of hard graft and some good passing, a break through. Our centre forward who had been in his sick bed, decided to give it a go. For ten minutes we saw how much better Rainham 84 actually were with a full compliment. But after running around bravely, our lad gave up the ghost and took the wise course of action to get home to wrap up warm.

However being back to ten men only made the boys work harder. Some of the effort that was being made was incredible. 50/50 60/40 and in one case an 80/20 challenges came Rainham 84's way. They were just so much more up for it, surely this would pay off. It is a rare thing to say in a game 10 v 11 that the 11's best player was their Keeper. He was stopping everything and anything the boys could throw at him.

Our Keeper was not taking his own kicks today, which was strange. I asked his Dad if his son was alright. He too had been in his sick bed, back was hurting and he could not bend down. Could we get any more depleted? Eh, yes. After another slick attack by Rainham 84, we suffered another injury and the lad had to come off. Surely with nine men and a crocked Keeper the game was up?

But no, we kept pushing on and looked the more likely to score. Our wonderful physio and bosses wife, managed to patch up our wounded lad and get him back on the field. Word was spreading on the terraces that extra time meant another ten minutes each way. That mattered on a couple of fronts. I could no longer feel my face and the lads had been a few players down for the normal time, extra time was just sheer punishment for the lads who had worked so hard.

First half of extra time came and went. This had penalties written all over it. However Rainham 84 forgot to read the script and after some excellent build up play, Rainham 84 had a tap in. Well it should have been a tap in, but the lad tried his hardest to sky it and it smashed in courtesy of the underside of the crossbar. Five minutes to go, is this going to be a case of hanging on in.

Nope. Another fine break and then some individual skill that put their brave Keeper for once on his backside, Rainham 84 finished them off with a great second. 2 - 0 to Rainham and on to the next round of the Cup.

Harvey, pleased with his team's hard work today. Did what he had to do, no heriocs, just a steady job, well done.
Take nothing away from the opponents today, they were a tough bunch who tried their best. But Rainham 84 worked their socks off and to be fair, played some excellent passing football. To a man, all 11, erm 10 and sometimes 9 made all the parents and coaching staff proud to have been there. The cold did not matter all that much any more. Although the team talk was the fastest we have had in a while. Oh and Harvey and I managed to sprint back to the warmth of the car.

I read somewhere in the press this week that West Ham were after Martin O'Neill. Now I can understand why, but he has a job to do here at Rainham 84, so they can clear off.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sunday Morning Footie (II)

Downhill slope, wind blowing across but down the hill too, made for a game of two halves....
Another early start and an away trip to a team we had a close fought battle with at the start of the season. Some of the boys had a problem finding the venue, so preparations were put under a lot of pressure from the start. With the lads kicking uphill and against the wind in the first half, keeping the score down in the first half was important, especially knowing how keenly matched these two teams were.

The opposition started off the better today, the slope and wind being a major factor. A couple of really tidy finishes from their boys meant that we headed into the break with the familiar scoreline of Three One down. The battering we took in the first half seemed to have knocked some of the stuffing out of our lads and their confidence in their abilities had vanished from sight. However the gusting wind and superb kicking from our keeper forced our lads to come out of their shell.

Suddenly we looked like the team we all know we can be. Attack followed attack and surely it would only be a matter of time. Three Two came in due course, then a post and bar got smacked. Should have been Four Three to the boys, but that is your luck in this game some times.

From their only attack of the second half, the opposition finished off their counter very well. Four Two down and a mountian to climb.

Then, an unsual thing happened away from home. A very soft penalty. But there was nothing soft about our finish. Top right corner, an adult keeper would not have got to it. Four Three, surely with all this possession and domination, we should win?

Not to be, despite all the best efforts of the team. On another day, we could have had Six, just not today. Overall though the boys showed great effort, and real determination not to lose. But lose they did and I am sure that with another game under their belts, with another session on Friday, they will improve and get back to their unbeaten run that was going so well before the weather came and messed things up. Although it was a hard fought loss today, one thing stood out a mile, not a single Rainham 84 head dropped. They gave their all and in truth battered the opposition for the entire second half. Onwards and upwards.....

Mixing Business with Pleasure

As most of you who know me, my job takes me to the North West from Kent almost every week. Normally this involves either a very very early start and an incredibly late late finish (did you know the Dartford crossing is free after ten pm!), or some Travelodge doing what Travelodge do well. Cheap and cheap.

However this time it could be different. Mum and Dad live en route and Alice does not start her new job until Monday. So if we set off late Thursday, we could stop over and I could get up at a more civilised hour from theirs, to my day packed with meetings from St Helens to Manchester.

Oh and then there is the small matter of Louise being able to run the legs off of Nanny and Grandad!

I love my pony tails Mummy!
 To say my day went well is an understatement. I made all my appointments in good time, just a bit late for the last one and even for a Friday, traffic was kind. However my day appears not to be half the fun that the rest of the guys had back at Nanny and Grandad's. Louise has a whole new bag of stickers and a magazine to boot. Alice had her last little break from the norm and chance to relax, before the beginning of her new job next Monday. Louise even tried out a new hairstyle, that she seems most pleased with.

However from now on, these trips will have to be planned with military precision. I supposed being married to an Ex Wren, that will be no problem what so ever!!!

A Busman's Holiday if ever there was one.

What do New Zealand, California, Australia, France, Portugal, Italy, Spain, South Africa and basically most of South America have in common? They all do make a damned fine wine from time to time. I may have mentioned this a few times, but I am what is known as an Arch Angel for Nakedwines.com an online wine company like no other. I promised myself to not use this little blog for the endorsement of any product, however these guys and gals are an exception.
These New Zealand wine guys don't half have big odd shaped balls?
I was sent a few invites prior to Xmas about up coming tastings for Arch Angels to attend and then went and forgot all about them. I then got a wee reminder from Head Office, took a days holiday from the bump and grind that is Au Insurance Services and headed off to the home of English cricket, Lords, for the London Annual Trade Tasting of New Zealand wine.

It was not until I was on the train there that I suddenly thought, I could really do with one of my fellow bloggers here to help with a numerous number of points. Like the lingo, the geography oh and the small matter of some 1000 different wines to taste! Adrian I am sure would have risen to the challenge, just the small matter of being half the world away prevented me from having an able assistant. No more about New Zealand really needs to be said, I will leave that up to Adrian and suggest you read his blog at kiwiscots.blogspot.com He gives a far better flavour to the country than I could even begin to attempt.
Far better than watching cricket, Lord's once again gets put to a better use.
 Now I have been to a few of these events in the past, the Portuguese and Argentinian tastings were at the very same venue. I have learned that basically, you have to spit and not swallow if you fancy keeping your legs and getting home in one piece. However I make an exception to this rule and that is, when you come across a gem, have a good old drink whilst you can, it is for free after all!!!

After around 40 odd sips and spits, some nice chat and some rather dull and boring chat, it happened.

You see I had been informed by the really helpful Sam at Nakedwines.com Head Office, that I was supposed to find wines that do not have a UK distribution, good price thus making good value for money and obviously taste better than average. The minute I tried this Trinity Hill Homage Syrah Hawke's Bay 2007 I thought, boy if this makes the site I am going to have to ask the wife to increase our monthly subscription. It was heaven in a glass. It was on a self tasting table so I could not believe that the whole room was not standing beside and trying this wee number. It must be keenly priced. I checked the brochure. Not one to use modern text speak but, OMG! It's RRP, £70.00 a bottle!!!

A couple or three glasses of it later, I got back into the swing of tasting some of the more reasonably priced numbers and for those of you out there that like a glass or two, my top three were

Red - apart from the above mentioned there was also Te Awa Pinotage Hawke's Bay 2007 £12.00
White - Stoneleigh Chardonnay Marlborough 2009 £7.99
Rose - Framingham F - Series Montepulciano Roasato Marlborough 2010 £11.49

I have details of suppliers here in the UK, but I am sure if you Google the name, you can find someone who is selling them in a good wine retailer near you!

All in all, another great day out, experiencing wines that I would not have given a second glance at before and despite the rumblings of a bit of a wine head the next day, a worthwhile experience for sure.

I am going to type up full notes on all 43 wines tried and tested last week and send over to Sam at Nakedwines.com  Please let me know if you want a full copy of the tasting notes, name of winery, guide price and distributor details.

Sunday Morning Footie

View from Car Park over the Rainham 84 home ground at Howard School, Rainham, Kent.
9th of January 2011 and after over a month of a lay off without kicking a ball in anger, Rainham 84 were back at it in the cup, for their first game of the year. Despite an indoor session and a delayed Saturday morning training session, the boys were long over due a game in anger. What with the Xmas excesses and the fact they were up against one of the best teams in Medway, the omens did not look good.

After ten minutes, not only did the omens not look good, but the scoreline looked pretty poor too. Two Nil down and hardly out of the traps, this was going to be one long and cold morning up at the Howard school. However a couple of flashes of brilliance, some of the old passing clicked in and the boys started to look like their old selves again.

Just as the lads mustered up a head of steam, a sucker punch and Three Nil down. One of the plus points of this cup game was the knowledge that there is the John Lees Cup if you get knocked out. Works on the same sort of idea as the Champions League and Europa League here in Europe.

However the boys were starting to play with more confidence, they got out of their own half with some style on a couple of occasions and they were given their just reward with a goal before half time. Despite the difference in leagues and the supposed status of the opposition, Rainham were standing their own.

Second half finished Nil Nil, so if you can ever take something out of defeat, was the fact that it was a good run out after such a long lay off. The boys held top opposition for a full 30 minutes and Harvey got his just reward and recognition for his heroics in central defence.

Rainham could easily have been hammered here this morning, but no, they kept at it and showed some good old fighting spirit, that will stand them in good stead for the rest of this season.

Central Defender and current Captain of Rainham 84, Harvey Mackay, modelling the new home kit.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Feeding Kids and Ducks

Last day of the year, so we all decided to go for a lunch out to save our overused kitchen from further abuse. The trick here in Kent is to get out early, especially when half the population will probably have the same idea as us. We headed for a place near Maidstone, Kent called the Malta Inn. It is a Beefeater, so you know what you are getting before you arrive.

We arrived to find the carpark almost deserted, apart from a few cars, the 11.45 arrival obviously did the trick. The only other worry was the wee chef that arrived, in minging whites. He parked in the Disabled Space, spat out his fag and trundled off to the kitchen. Nice. Maybe we might get more than we thought from this establishment after all. 

The place is a lovely open spaced restaurant/pub, right on the river bank and in summer is a great place for a Sunday afternoon out. In winter it is still popular as the view of the river is very relaxing, watching the boat traffic head up and down.

Dad, this is not going on your blog is it?

Louise was really excited about the crayons and colouring book, they still hold an attraction for Mathilda, as for Harvey, I think he is getting a bit too old for the things.

The food was good, the restaurant soon filled up, so we were glad we got there in good time. The couple behind Alice were hilarious. "Last time we were here the food was cold, so could you make sure it is warm this time" Now first of all, if I have a bad meal at a place and have had to complain, I rarely go back. Secondly, when the food arrived, you guessed it, it was cold and the chap had to send it back. Oops.

Now I have to say, we could not fault the place. The service was great, the river view superb and the food just fine. No complaints from the Mackays. Unlike the complainers behind Alice. I do not know why some people bother. I was waiting for them to get their video out, serial complainers!!!

Best bit of all, Alice had the sense to keep her bread from her starter to feed the ducks. Made Louise's day, although if she had actually hit a duck with the first lump she threw, she might have actually sunk the poor thing.

More bread please....

All in all, a great way to spend the last day of 2010. Here is to many more days out feeding the clan.