Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Matchday 24 and Boring Weekend

I’m back.  I was gone for a bit but now it’s time to get back on the horse and do some writing!


Many of you reading will know that we lost again, 3-0 to Lahti.  I won’t say much about the game other than that 3-0 was a harsh scoreline for that game.  I’m not necessarily saying that we were the better team or that we should have won, but we definitely did not deserve to lose 3-0 based on the flow of the game.  That’s just the nature of the game though.  Maybe next week the luck will go our way.
This picture matches our situation.

You guys will also probably know that our coach got sacked last week.  I didn’t mention it in my last post even though I knew because I didn’t want to go spreading news that wasn’t already out in public.  I don’t look at any of the news outlets here so I had no idea if the media had been made aware.  Before I talk about Sami I will say that I was very surprised when I got the news.  It was a bit surreal because when training started Sami was there and things seemed perfectly normal.  By the time we had returned from our recovery session with the fitness coach Sami was gone.  Still, I didn’t think anything of it.  Then the owner came in and addressed us in Finnish.  Since I didn’t understand, I assumed it was a call for us to step it up.  We all know that it is unacceptable to lose 9-2 so I was not at all surprised that the owner would want to address us.  However, once the speech was translated I was totally shocked.  I didn’t think that firing Sami was even a consideration, even after such a bad loss.  I’ve never had a coach fired before, so my brain just never considered the possibility.  The decision is made though, and that’s that.  Bringing it up after today won’t do anybody any good.


I won’t say too much about Sami, as anything I have to say to him I can do directly and not via a blog.  But I will say that I really liked Sami as our coach.  I thought he was doing the best that could be asked of him and I know that he had the respect of every player in the locker room.  That may seem like a given, but it’s not.  I’ve played on more than one team that didn’t fully respect the coach.  It’s not apparent to the outside observer but it has a big effect on the team when the guys don’t trust the coach.  Like I said though, that was never an issue with Sami.  Also, Sami brought me to this club.  Even though he didn’t keep me when I was here back in February, he had the confidence in my ability to bring me back.  That will always mean a lot to me.  The hardest thing to do in this game is to get a chance and he gave me mine.  I will miss him, but I don’t think it will negatively affect my play.  I’m being asked to do essentially the same thing as I’ve been doing, so for me not much has changed.




After the Lahti game we had a bit of a team thing at the stadium.  It was planned weeks in advance and was just a bit of a time for us to hang out together as a team and just enjoy each other’s company.  Unfortunately this event happened to come on the heels of three defeats in a week by a combined 14-3 so no one really wanted to see anybody else.  Still we had a brief discussion on what needed to be done and then got on with trying to enjoy the night.  I took a picture of the ‘party’ but I didn’t stay too long.  I’m not really a huge party animal and there was no way I was going out to the bars or anything so I just drank a few beers and went home.


That was Saturday and since then I have done absolutely nothing.  I went for a run yesterday and then to training today but other than that I have just sat at my apartment.  I’ve watched a dozen games, four movies, countless tv shows and played Final Fantasy XIII on PS3.  I’ve also eaten food, pooped and brushed my teeth (in that exact order).  I was planning on trying to get a decent grasp of Finnish, but I’ve noticed that none of the foreign guys on the team speak a word of Finnish so I’m not going to try either.  Maybe that makes me a dick, but oh well.  I’m just lucky that I hit the linguistic jackpot and was born to an English-speaking country.  I guess all the colonialism and slavery that has led a black guy born in America to speak the common language of the western world was all worth it!


That’s all for now.  The only other thing I want to mention is that Ronaldinho’s goal this week wasn’t that great.  He is one of the ten best players of my lifetime so far, but that doesn’t mean that his goal was anything more than decent.  He just muscled a defender then passed the ball past a hapless Brazilian goalie (Sorry to be repetitive.   All Brazilian goalies are terrible).  I saw a player named Wanderson score the exact same goal for GAIS almost exactly one year ago when I was in Sweden. There wasn’t a worldwide glorification of it.  Now I’m done.  The meme:


Friday, August 24, 2012

Matchday 23: (Another) Nightmare in Turku

The last game was the single worst game I’ve ever been a part of.  We lost 9-2.  The game went exactly the way it sounds.

 The team has taken this really hard.  A lot of things have happened in the last 48 hours and now we’ve got to get it together and move forward.  We play FC Lahti and a win would go a long way towards helping to keep this club in Veikkausliiga.  I’ll talk more about everything when my spirits are a bit higher.

That’s all I can write at the moment.  I’m too embarrassed with my performance and the performance of my team to pop up in any public forum.  If you like my blog, hope for a Haka win tomorrow and maybe you’ll see the old me again!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Matchday 22: Trip to Vaasa

Well, that didn’t go to plan.
Vaasa when I was there in February.

I played my second game (of my 2nd stint) with Haka yesterday against VPS and we lost, 2-1.  If you remember, I said here that I would start the match.  In fact, if you don’t remember then stop reading right now and go to a doctor because I’m pretty sure you have Alzheimer’s.  Anyway, things didn’t go exactly the way I expected and I was relegated to a place on the bench.  No one likes going to the bench, but I understood.  We have a lot of quality attacking players in the squad and we can’t all play at the same time.  If we did, we’d lose every game 5-4.  We’d probably win a lot of new fans, but not so many points.

The game itself was strange.  We gave up a goal within 45 seconds, and I still have no idea what happened.  I know that the goal itself was the result of our goalie having his pass blocked by the opposing striker, but I don’t know how that situation could possibly have occurred.  After that things didn’t get much better and we were on the back foot for at least the first 25 minutes.  VPS then scored a 2nd goal and things looked like they  could get ugly.  At that moment I was thinking about how impressive VPS looked.  During my time in Finland I’ve seen every team play in person and no 25 minute span was any better than their opening.  But then Sami, proving why he’s the coach, made a brilliant substitution that changed the game.  A substitution that I wouldn’t have thought to make in a million years.  We took off one of our wingers and put in a defensive midfielder, even though we were down two goals.  This seems like a defensive sub, but in reality it turned the whole game around.  Within five minutes we had created two clear chances and scored one of them.  VPS didn’t know what the hell was happening.  We went into halftime full of confidence.

Now before I go into the 2nd half, I want to mention again just how impressed I was with Sami’s tactical switch.  People who have followed this blog will know that I love tactical discussion.  I love analyzing a game based on how each team’s tactics affected each other.  That said, whenever I am on the bench I try to put myself in the coach’s head and think about what I would do to change the result on the pitch.  To be honest, I had come up with my own plan, which was to switch our customary 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 into a 4-4-2 to match VPS’s 4-4-2.  It would have defined everyone’s role much better and allowed us to turn the tide a bit.  Sami didn’t do this.  I don’t want to reveal what he actually did because I don’t want to give anything away to the opposition, but trust me it was brilliant.  I’m not just saying this because he’s my coach and I want brownie points or anything.  I’m saying it because it is the truth.  Once Sami made the change VPS had no response and the game became balanced and even saw us dominate portions.

The 2nd half was much better from us.  We passed better than we did against Honka in our last game and we created some good chances.  In the time I was in we hit the post, I had a chip go just over the bar (I should have done better) and I would have had a 1-on-1 with the keeper but I was taken out.  The foul was a textbook sending off, but the defender only got yellow.  I was upset that the referee didn’t follow the rulebook, but then again you don’t want to argue for a player to get a red.  It’s just tacky.  The ensuing free kick from 20 yards out went just a foot or so over the goal.  A few minutes late the game was over and we went home with nothing.

She's literally more likely to poop
on herself than say my name.
I don’t think many people consider what it’s like for a team that has just lost a game on the road.  Nobody is happy, and even if you had some reason to be you can’t show it.  For instance, if I had gotten on the bus and had an email that said that my niece spoke my name for the first time (she’s 11 months so that’s not really likely) I couldn’t just go around spreading the good news.  Instead, I have to sit in my seat on the bus in silence like everyone else.  In addition, there’s guys on every team who feel a need to show just how mad they are about a loss.  It’s not ok for you to know you’re upset; these people need everyone around them to know they’re upset.  There doesn’t exist a losing locker room where someone doesn’t kick over a trash can or throw a water bottle in disgust.  I suggested shortly after the game that we should go back out and do a cool-down.  I clearly didn’t judge the temperature of the room correctly, because it was clearly too soon for level-headed ideas on preparing ourselves for our next match.  Ten minutes later though the idea was brought up again and a dozen guys went out to cool down.  I guess that makes me a prophet.

Another staple of the return trip of a lost game is the showing of the match dvd on the bus televisions.  Of course no one wants to watch themselves lose and most people aren’t in the mood for critical analysis of their play anyway, but for those who are it can be constructive.  This particular video though was incredibly annoying as it would randomly jump back 15 seconds every few minutes.  As a result, it took over two hours for the game to play out.  After that, we sat in near-total silence until we arrived back in Valkeakoski.  Fans may take losses hard, but they’re at home watching their favorite tv comedy an hour later.  Our job almost requires us to obsess over our losses which can be quite stressful.  Being on a losing bus sucks.

On the flip side, being on a winning bus is the greatest thing ever.  The coach effectively becomes a party bus.  This is the bus I was on when I was playing in Harrisburg.  We had just beaten the Rochester Rhinos to earn a place in the final the next week:

 That’s why you gotta win.  I’ll be back after our next game on Wednesday.  Hopefully I’ll have a video as awesome as the one above!

The meme:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Good Life

It’s almost gameday, and I’m really excited for the string of games we have coming up.  We play three times in the next seven days starting tomorrow.  I’m in the starting team which is good.  We’ve got a lot of guys injured or suspended so we’re a bit bare bones at the moment.  Still, we just added three good players (tooting my own horn there) so we’ve got the ability to deal with players missing games.  I think we’ll do well, but come back in a day or two to see if I’m right!

My house is pretty cozy now.  My trip to IKEA helped, but I’ve also gotten a lot of help from the club in getting such a nice place.  I’ve shown you the pictures of the apartment so you can see that it’s really nice.  But the club has gone above and beyond to help me enjoy my living situation.  For instance, I mentioned here that I had been having a bit of a problem buying a bike.  I finally gave in a few days ago and asked the club if there was any way they could help me find and buy a second-hand bike.  Two hours later, a guy showed up at the end of training and just gave me a bike.  I had never seen the guy before, but clearly the club had just called him and asked him to bring a bike by for me to have.  Better yet, it didn’t cost me anything.  How awesome is that?  It’s not the greatest bike in the world, but it’s got two wheels and you can’t beat the price!

The next day, one of the people in the office came to me and asked if I had time to help him move a tv into my place.  When I told him I already had a tv, he said that this one was better and also had a cable box so I could watch tv.  A few hours later, I had this:

I didn’t even ask for that!  It was just another way that the club has gone to great lengths to make me comfortable here.  I honestly couldn’t ask for more.  No offense to my former club, but there is no comparison between ESK and FC Haka.  That’s perhaps not surprising, but it’s true.  Things at Haka are much better for me at the moment.

Some people may think that this kind of stuff doesn’t matter.  I mean, I would have eventually gotten a bike and I don’t watch much Finnish television.  But to know that the club would make such an effort to make me happy goes a long way.  I always give my best for the team, but perhaps there’s a little extra that I’ll be able to give to Haka that I wasn’t able to give to ESK because I’m so much more content here.  There is no question in my mind that I can take care of my body better here than in Enkoping.  I even have an oven, freezer, washing machine and shower!  I didn’t have those things in Sweden, so to have them here is like living in luxury!

The other day, I was hoping to go to IdeaPark in Tampere.  Essentially this place is a shopping mall, but it’s got its own cool name because malls don’t really seem to exist in Scandinavia.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go because the team car was being used by someone else.  I made good use of my time though, and decided to take a bit of a walk around Valkeakoski.

I only walked around the areas on my path from the city center to my apartment, but still there were some beautiful places.  I’m enjoying the good weather that we’re having at the moment, because I know what winter is like here.  Remember, I was here in February.  For those who don’t remember:

And I’ll be dressed like that again pretty soon.  There may be some hope for decent weather in September, but October is a lost cause.  I know that as soon as the calendar turns over into October that I’ll have to put the t-shirts and shorts away until April.  So I’ll probably be going on some more walks soon!

That’s all.  Now the meme, in honor of USA Olympic Basketball.  Look at the picture closely and you’ll get the joke!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

IKEA and The Great American Bike Search


I’m speaking like I’m from the south Pacific because I’ve been spending a lot of my time with Kiwis!  That’s people from New Zealand for the non-cool kids out there.  We had a relatively light training the day after the game, then we had the afternoon and the next day free.  Kris, his girlfriend and me took the opportunity to head up to IKEA Tampere.

What can I say about IKEA that hasn’t already been said about Ghandi?  The place is a godsend.  Without IKEA my life would be uncomfortable because I can’t afford reasonably nice things.  Instead, for 100 euros I got bed sheets, a duvet and the filler that goes inside of it, two pillows and pillowcases, a nightstand for my bed, hangers and a bunch of bits and pieces for my kitchen.  The trip to IKEA went well, with one really random exception.

For this story to make sense, you have to know that earlier that day Kris had injured his ankle walking around town.  It was nothing major, but he taped it and elevated the ankle any time he could.  About halfway through the shopping, we found ourselves at the cafeteria and sat down for lunch.  There were five or six chairs at the table and only three of us, so Kris took the chance to put his ankle up on a free chair to elevate it a bit.  About ten minutes later, an older (60s I’d guess) couple came up and started talking to Kris, though they didn’t speak much English.  We thought they recognized us and were concerned about his taped ankle, but in reality they were scolding Kris for having his foot on the chair!  The husband said his piece then walked away, but the wife couldn’t let it go and eventually grabbed the chair from under Kris’ foot, almost dropping her tray in the process.  They seemed really pissed off at what was at worst a slightly disrespectful move.  In reality though, there was no disrespect intended, just an athlete trying to take care of his body.  For the record, I’ve decided to unfairly label old people in Finland as grumpy until I’m proven otherwise.
This picture has nothing to do with this post.

For about a week now I’ve been looking for a new bike.  I have one currently, but I’m loaning it from one of my teammates and he’ll need it back.  Thus, I need to find a cheap bike to get around.  The only requirement is that it has two wheels.  I can’t possibly walk from my place to the stadium every day.  It’s a 35 minute walk and once the weather starts to turn it could be a deathmarch.  When I was in Valkeakoski in February, it was -27 C and I had to walk to the place I was staying then.  It was a five minute walk, but I felt like I was dying by the time I arrived.  Multiple that walk by seven and you might see a frozen Haka player halfway to his apartment sometime in October!  That is unless I get a bike.

The whole bike ordeal has been a lot more difficult than I imagined.  I just want someone’s old bike, not some top of the line, Lance Armstrong Livestrong masterpiece.  In essence, anything that can get me from the stadium to my apartment in -10 C weather without me dying.  Not too much to ask for, right?  Well obviously not right because one week into the search and I have no leads whatsoever.

In positive news though, I’ve started to embrace cooking and eating at home again.  For my first two weeks here I ate out every day.  Today in fact is the first day that every meal I’ve eaten has been prepared in my apartment.  Not that that’s saying much, as it’s 9pm right now and I’ve only had a banana, piece of chicken, chocolate bar and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat today.

Ok tangent:

I don’t eat.  I don’t know why, but I have the smallest appetite of any adult male that I know.  When I go out to dinner, there is never a meal on the menu I can finish.  I would guess that, candy aside, I probably consume less than 2000 calories a day from proper food.  Still, I somehow maintain a 185lb (83kg) frame.  I don’t know why I don’t eat so much.  I never go hungry or skip meals to save money or anything.  Nor am I a picky eater.  In fact I love to try new foods.  I just don’t really have much of an appetite, and I’m quite happy about it.

End of Tangent-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Before I go I’ll do my first ever movie review on this blog!  I went with the Kiwis to see ‘Ted’ with Mark Whalberg(sp).  It was funny, but not nearly as good as I hoped.

That’s the entire review.  What, did you think it would be good?  Haha, good one.  You clearly think too highly of me!

Next game isn’t until Sunday so we’ve got a few more good days to train.  I’ll let you know how things go!

And of course, the meme:


Monday, August 13, 2012

Haka Matchday 21: Smells Like Team Spirit

I played my first game with Haka yesterday.  We played FC Honka and tied, 2-2.  I didn’t start, but came on as a right midfielder in the 61st minute.  I think I played ok, but to be honest I won’t have thrilled anyone with my performance.  I was able to show a bit of my ability, but the last 30 minutes were quite hectic and didn’t really have any rhythm.  Both teams played to win and felt like they would win.  It must have been an exciting game for the fans to watch.
Honka's stadium

There were two other new players playing their first game yesterday, Kris Bright and Jonne Hjelm.  They had rather more impressive debuts than me.  Both guys scored goals!  Kris’ goal was a brilliant wonderstrike into the top corner…(Kris' goal is at 1:10 in the video and Jonne's 3:55.)

Not quite a super strike :), but all goals count the same and we were happy to take it.  It was especially good because we had allowed a diabolically bad goal just two minutes earlier.  A lesser team would have put their heads down, but the guys who were out there deserve a lot of credit because they turned things from bad to good in a hurry.

We went down later in the game, but we kept fighting and taking chances and finally it paid off in the 88th minute when a great cross from Juha Pirinen was headed into the far side of the goal by Jonne.  It was the culmination of a frantic last ten minutes which saw chances for both sides.  Honka must have been felt hard done by, since they had missed probably 5-6 really good chances over the course of the game.  Then we come down and score with our first great chance.  That’s soccer sometimes; If you don’t take your chances the other team will.  It’s almost like a law of the game that if you miss two or three great chances then the other team is guaranteed to score their first chance.  I think the result was fair though based on the balance of the game.  It was very open and both teams looked to attack.  In the end, we were evenly matched so the points were shared.


In life news, I’ve been doing some work getting my apartment in order.  I’ve finally filled up the refrigerator and also gotten some stuff for around the apartment.  I’ve also put all my clothes up in the closets and set my limited amount of personal items in their place.  I took some pictures of the place so you can get an idea of what it looks like.


Part of the living room


That’s all for now.  No training Tuesday so I’ll be doing some more shopping for my apartment and hopefully getting a bike of my own!  If anything interesting happens you’ll hear about it!  I’ll leave you with the meme.  This is for all my FIFA PS3/XBOX players out there!

Friday, August 10, 2012

My New Apartment

No more living at the stadium!
I moved into my new apartment today.  It’s very nice and I’m quite pleased with the living situation.  The apartment is a bit far from the town center, but it’s only a 10 minute bike ride so I can’t complain about that either.  I’ll put pictures up soon, but I haven’t taken any just yet.  I’ll wait until I’ve put my stamp on the place a bit!

I might be going on a bit about my new apartment, but I can’t stress how much having a place provided by the club helps the player.  If I had to search for my own place I’d be lost.  Now I can just relax and focus on playing my best.  Right or wrong, I went on for weeks about how much I didn’t like my place in Sweden, and that money came out of my contract!  I don’t think that it affected my play, but who knows?  Here I have one less distraction.

Speaking of distractions, now that I have a place I’m forced to sort some things out and they are not easy.  First, I need a bike because it takes 30 minutes to walk from the stadium to my place.  I have one now that’s being borrowed, but I’ll need to find one of my own very soon.  I went to a store today to look at bikes and the cheapest I found was over 200 euros.  I also need some pots and pans, light fixtures and an internet stick, since I can’t get broadband internet service anywhere without a two year contract.  For those reasons, I might still be effectively living at the stadium for a few more days while I sort things out.

I've been spending quite a bit of time walking around this past week, but I don't think I'll be doing too much walking anytime soon because it is incredibly cold outside.  Last night walking home it was 9 degrees celsius.  Today in the middle of the afternoon it was 14 degrees celsius.  I thought this was summer!  If this is what August feels like, then God help me when October comes around.  It won't be as bad as it was last February (-27), but at the same time the games won't be indoors!  There will probably be some miserable days in a few months.

In soccer news, I finally got my paperwork sorted.  For over a week, I waited for my previous club ESK to provide a release to the Swedish FA.  Essentially, all I needed for ESK to do was acknowledge that my contract had expired.  This process would take five minutes, but for some reason the club waited until today to do it.  As a result, Haka and I have been freaking out trying to get this done.  If you're wondering what the form was, it was an International Transfer Certificate (ITC).  This form needs to be filled out for any player movement between countries.  It's a simple form and just matches things up so that nothing can possibly get lost in translation, more or less.  It would be a bigger deal if I had been bought, but since I was a free agent it was nothing more than a formality.  The fears about the ITC turned out to be for nothing though, since ESK got it done.  I’m ready to play my part in Sunday’s game!

I had a bit of media attention a few days ago.  The local paper, VS, interviewed me and Kris about coming to Haka.  It wasn't much, but it's nice to be in a place where the club means a lot.  In Enkoping people cared, but it's hard to have the same passion for a 3rd tier team as you'd have for a 1st tier team.  There seems to be a bit of excitement about the arrival of us new players.  We're all strikers so I guess that adds to the excitement.  Nothing better for a fan than a new striker who they haven't seen miss yet!

I kind of hate to say it, but that’s about all for now.  I’ve spent the last two or three days almost entirely at the lounge area of the stadium watching terrible Olympic sports with Kris.  Now I can use my free time to liven up my place!

And of course, today’s meme:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


They just couldn’t stay away!

The cat’s already out of the bag for many, but I’m happy to announce to the rest of you that I’ve signed a contract with FC Haka of the Finnish Veikkausliiga.  The press release is up at www.fchaka.fi.   I’ve already put the value of the contract in another post so I won’t go there again, but the contract is for the rest of this season (October 31).
Haka vs. Inter Turku

For my long term readers, you will remember that club name.  That’s because when I started this blog I was actually planning on playing with Haka.  I thought that my European adventure would start at Haka.  It didn’t, but I’m here now and happy for that.  I’m now quite happy that I took the opportunity to talk to Sami Ristila (the head coach) when I left in February.  At that time, I told him that I enjoyed my time here and would happy to come back if he ever needed me.  Fast forward four months, and he needs me.  Well, he needs strikers so hopefully that means he needs me.

For those wondering, the ankle is fine now.  I was able to do a proper training yesterday and it felt good, so I think that injury is behind me.  It will still need a bit of time before it’s as good as my other ankle, but there’s nothing that my ankle limits me from doing right now so it’s no problem.

I signed my contract officially yesterday and I will be available to play come our next match on Sunday.  I still haven’t gotten clearance from the federation yet because I can’t get anyone from Enkoping SK to email over a release letter.  It’s annoying because the letter would take literally 30 seconds to write.  Even more annoying is the fact that my contract is finished with ESK and I can’t understand for the life of me why I need anything from them.  My leaving ESK was cordial, but it still seems weird that I must rely on them for anything to be available for my new club.  It would be like me breaking up with my girlfriend, then asking her to write me a letter saying we’re broken up before I can date anyone else.  I’m sure it will get done in the next few days, but I wonder how this process gets done with players who leave their club under less-than-ideal circumstances?  Like what if your contract ended and then you went and trashed the club in the papers?  Would you then have to come begging back to that club for a release letter?  It all seems quite strange to me.

Back in Valkeakoski, the city where Haka plays, I’ve been spending most of my time as a vagabond.  I was staying in a hotel, but the entire freaking place got rented out by a Russian hockey/skating club.  They’re not using every room, mind you, they just booked every room so they could have the whole hotel to themselves.  What a Russian thing to do.  I don’t even know what that last sentence means.  Anyway, I got booted from the hotel where I was loving life and now I’m sleeping on the couch of one of the goalkeepers.  I really don’t want to be an inconvenience though, so I decided I’d spend most of my day in the town.  Kris Bright, a fellow new signing and striker, is essentially in the same situation.  Our brilliant plan has been essentially to just live at the stadium until we get our housing situation sorted.  In the stadium there is a nice room with a huge, custom built sofa that could seat like 20 people, a big screen tv and wireless internet.  So we’ve just been sitting here eating food, watching the Olympics and Skyping people.

There’s really not much more to say at the moment.  I’m not quite settled so there won’t be so much more to say until then.  We’ve got double training the next few days and I should be into an apartment by the end of that.  At least I hope I am.

Now here’s today’s meme!
Can I get a high five for getting a contract? No?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

London in Pictures: Part 2

I seem to have a bunch of new readers since I changed teams.  To you guys I say thanks and I hope you stick around and follow the blog!  To my longer-term readers, you'll remember that I went to London a few weeks ago and posted some pics.  Well now I'm posting the rest.

I'm all set to sign the contract officially tomorrow.  My ankle feels great and I should resume full training tomorrow as well.  I did some very rigorous testing of the ankle today without getting it taped and I passed my self-imposed tests with flying colors.  I'll probably continue taping my ankle when I train and play for the next few weeks though, just to be safe.

Anyway, here are the photos.  Enjoy!

Emirates Cable Car

Looking west over London.  O2 Arena on the left.
Big Ben

Emirates Stadium.  $28 to take the tour...no thanks!  I'll just take a photo of the outside and pretend like I took the tour!

Interior Courtyard at some art museum.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Farm Livin and Ankle Healin

I’m now with (hopefully) my new team.  I say hopefully because there are a couple things preventing me from signing the contract at the moment.  I’ll get to those in a second.  If you’re a bit confused as to who I’m signing with, don’t worry: I haven’t revealed the club just yet.  I don’t want to jinx anything until it’s done!

Like I said earlier, there are a few problems, one significant the other minor.  The minor one is a paperwork issue, but we have ten days before the next game I’d reasonably be available for so that’s not a huge issue.  It will get done, it’s just taking an unnecessary amount of time.  The significant problem is my ankle; it’s still 100% now three weeks after the initial injury.  The club knew about my ankle before I got here and it didn’t discourage them from making an offer, but now having seen me in two trainings they are worried that the injury may be more than a rolled ankle like I believe it is.  For this reason they want to structure any contract with a clause that allows them to terminate it at essentially any time.  This seems reasonable enough, but I don’t like it one bit.  It opens up Pandora’s Box.  If six weeks from now I pull my hamstring and have to miss four games, will they just release me?  It would be a dick move, but financially prudent for the club and perfectly legal under a contract with the clauses they’re asking me to put into the contract.  I don’t want that obviously.  Even worse, there could be a situation where I’m essentially here on trial waiting for my ankle to heal.  After two weeks, for any reason, the team could decide not to take me and then I’m in the awful situation of being out on my ass with two weeks to find a team and sign.  The only realistic way for me to do that would be to go to the lowest level possible where I could immediately wow the staff and get a quick offer.  Obviously that’s not the ideal situation.  I could very well end up stranded in Europe without a club in the autumn.

With all that said, I’ve spoken with the coach and he’s made it clear he wants me here and wants me playing.  He respects my ability and will give me every chance to prove my fitness.  He stressed that as long as I can play 100% that the contract is firm and I have no need to worry about anything other than getting completely healthy.  I mean, he could technically be lying but I just don’t think he would do that.  I don’t feel like anyone would do that, to be honest.  The staff has decided to only put me through very light training for 3-4 days to see if the ankle makes a big improvement.  If not, then I’ll have to get a scan to make sure there isn’t something significantly wrong with the ankle.  If that comes back positive (the wrong result) then there will be no contract for me anymore.

Anyway, I left Enkoping on August 1 so I’ve been at my new club for three days now, more or less.  I’m staying at a hotel at the moment, but the first night I was in a very different setting.  I stayed at what was effectively a B&B quite a ways away from the club’s city.  There was no internet there, which is why I didn’t post anything the past few days even though a lot happened.  There were farm animals and all that, but it was actually really comfortable for a city boy like me.  I won’t talk about it, I’ll just put the photos and videos I took.

I’ve had a couple of trainings with my new team.  They were actually both on Thursday.  In the morning it was just a handful of guys + the ‘keepers + some junior teamers.  We did some passing work and then some finishing.  It was pretty basic, but I was really happy to be able to test the ankle in that environment rather than with the whole group.  It felt the best it has since I hurt it.  I scored some good goals and was happy with my mobility.  Even at 80-90%, I’m a bit quicker and a lot faster than the majority of players.  I could easily play and contribute in a match right now.

The afternoon session was for the whole group and was light.  There was a big difference for me though.  My ankle was significantly more restricted and it showed.  My lateral movement was effectively zero and even movements that didn’t cause pain still looked awkward because I was overcompensating for the ankle in everything I did.  I did alright in the early possession drill, but by the end of training when we played 6v6 to goal I was unable to do anything.  I couldn’t run past players because of the small space and beating a player was out of the question because of the ankle.  I probably looked a bit like some kid who won a contest and got to train with his heroes for a day.  I’m not worried about it though because I know I can be an important player for this team as soon as I’m 100%.  The ankle is not a problem unless I get tackled there.  But every athlete is one wrong step or a bad tackle away from being injured so in that way I’m not in a much different situation than anyone else.  With ice packs and rehab I've improved more in the last two days than the previous two weeks.

Hopefully I can sort everything out and sign officially.  Then I can tell you all where I am now!  All I can confirm at the moment is that this team is in a higher league than ESK and that I’m no longer one of the old guard.  There are plenty of guys in this team who make me seem like a spring chicken at age 25!  I also don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that I’m still in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland).  I’ll give some hints as the days go by if I haven’t made things official.

That’s all folks.  But of course I can’t leave you without a meme!