My 23rd birthday was spent at the Heath Tavern after the Buxted match having a few brews with Oli. My friend and assistant sat staring at my iPhone in stunned silence. The media was reporting that I had no more than six expressions of interest in my services from other teams in the span of a couple of weeks. Word was getting around that a young American was in Haywards Heath and breeding winners at AFC Bolnore, and more than a few desperate clubs from here to the Counties were interested in taking a punt on my signature.
“What do you plan to do?” Oli had asked me that day. A fair question. I wasn’t sure what to do, and I had responded to the 31-year old honestly. I didn’t know what to do. We sat in silence sipping at our lagers.
“Well,” Oli said after staring thoughtfully at me for a some time, “you’re still very young, but you’re already showing your potential as a leader. A move could be very good for you. If you can make in in the County Leagues, why couldn’t you eventually make it to the National League or even the Football League?”
It’s time for the next update on our progress in the season, and it’s all looking gold. We’re doing exceptionally well right now, and I’m pleased with the way the team has shaped up despite losing a very massive chunk of my first team to other amateur teams across the many divisions.
After the season opener against Crawley United we received our draw for the first round of the Mid-Sussex Junior Cup and were going to play away to Fairwarp from the eight division of the Mid-Sussex Football League.
As a reminder if you haven’t read the other post, this season we’re expected to win in all three cups we’re in, as well as win the league. Knowing the similarity in quality between the divisions of the Mid-Sussex Football League, and considering our run the previous season, I have every confidence in my ability to lead the team to a victory in this game and get as near as I can to the trophy.
Two days before we went into our match against Fairfield, I made a signing for a young right-back who could be a star in our team for a long time if he’s not poached. He debuted by getting himself injured quite early in the game. Not so good news for me, needless to say! Luckily, I had made a contingencies for the defense, which was a weakness last season, and I’ve got a back-up man signed for precisely this situation, as well as a couple of youths that I’ve got confidence in as backups, including Glyn Winters, who had made many decent performances for us last season.
Here are the results for the Fairfield match. It was a 1-2 away victory, with a last minute consolation goal from the opposition. Again. I have a bad habit of conceding consolation goals in the last minutes of the match, and I’m really considering evaluating what leads to these last minute goals, with Oak Mapson being one of the things to look at. I have confidence in his ability as a defender for the most part, but he’s always losing headers and putting a defensive gap in our defense.
Our next match was a 3-1 home victory on the league. It was an acceptable performance from the lads. I wish we had more shots on goal, but we converted each time we had it on target, so that ability to finish was helpful this time around.
I’m skipping league games, but in the first round of the Mid-Sussex Junior Cup we had a 1-3 victory against Fairwrap. A convincing win that is in line with my expectations for AFC Bolnore.
The next day, we had our draw for the next round, having to play against either Nutley from back in Division 11 or Sporting Elite from Division 8. A draw that ultimately ended up being against Sporting Elite II, by the way.
Our Tester Challenge Cup results came in, and the first round draw is against Crawley United. I’m starting to see a bit of a rivalry forming here. They were one of the few real contenders to challenge us last season, they ended up joining us in Division Ten, and now we’re facing off for cups that I’m sure Crawley want just as badly. We’ll have to be on our best, which could be tricky since we’ve got two games before it with two days rest between each of them.
On September 20th, my birthday if anyone wants to send a postcard, we had an away match against Buxted III, which ended naturally with a 1-3 victory. Francis Pallen had a hat trick in this match and took the Man of the Match award. I’m starting to like him. Ever since that goal glut last season against Ansty, he’s been being gradually phased into the team to try him out as more than a reserve, and he’s consistently impressed with good goals and good assists. I know it’s wrong to be attached to amateurs who could leave me easier than an girl would, but I’m really starting to like this guy and he could have a good career with these performances.
The last match to cover was another league victory, a 3-0 home win against Wivelsfield Wanderers that we completely controlled. I’m almost upset that we couldn’t turn more of those chances into goals, because some of them were great.
Now that I’ve had a chance to size up some of the new lads I’ve been signing, here are my favorites of the lot so far.
Veteran midfielder Craig Loxton has been a solid performer in the midfield so far, though he’s a bit up there in years and likely doesn’t have much in him. Still, as long as he can perform, I’m happy to keep him around. He’s my replacement for the departure of captain Dominic Green in the preseason, and if I’m honest, he’s doing a better job than Green did, which says a lot because Green was a very, very solid player for us and one I wanted to keep around for the long haul.
Louis Connor replaced Callum McEachran in goal as our starting goalkeeper, and at his age, he could stick around for a bit. Or be nicked by another team. Still, he fills a critical void and we’re making the best of his time with us.
Sam Fisk is our starting leftback. Glyn Winters performed very admirably in the post last season when he started, but with veteran Mark Boyce gone, I wanted a strong, more experienced player in the position than the young Winters.
Alex Pike is our rightback. He’s got some good potential for his age, and he’s a better player than Winters in theory, so I opted to stick him at rightback and put Winters in reserve as a backup option for both Fisk and Pike, as he’s a natural in both positions, if a bit inexperienced.
This has been a bit of a lengthy post, so where does all this information leave us in the league and what is our schedule looking like?
We have had an excellent start to the league. Six matches in and we’re undefeated, we’re into the second round of the Junior Cup and we’re going to go up against Crawley United in the Tester Challenge Cup in our next match, a fixture I’m very confident in, since we’ve beaten Crawley every time we’ve met.
In the league we’re holding an eight point lead on Wivielsfield Wanderers in second with 10 points. Crawley United and Peacehaven aren’t far off from second with nine points each.
A third of our league season is done and we’ve been in control of the opposition, so I have no reason to be anything other than very optimistic at the moment.
And, it’s just going to be a gallery at the end of this article since the content of it doesn’t affect the team performances at all, but the press are now attaching me to literally every vacancy that comes up lately, and my inbox is flooded.
Unfortunately for them, I’m determined to work my way up division by division and league by league with AFC Bolnore to hit the Counties Leagues and beyond. I’m not interested in taking a shortcut and bypassing over a decade of seasons by signing to a new team. Sorry guys, me and Oli are in it together with Bolnore!
As usual, social networking is on the side and blah, blah, blah. I’ll be back soon with an update on the state of our season in Division Ten!