Football managers have to put up with many trials – including those involving sheep
I HAVE experienced some weird and wonderful things throughout my time involved in football, but last week probably topped anything that has gone before.
I received a phone call on Friday afternoon from our reserve-team manager Nick Fairers. He said we would probably have to call off our reserve-team's home fixture the following day. Slightly confused, considering the weather had been decent for a change, I asked for what reason. He replied: "At the moment, there is a flock of sheep grazing on our pitch." Immediately, a pun came into my head, so I blurted out: "Ewe must be joking!" Nick said: "No, I am being serious Dave."
Of course, I was on a roll now, so I continued with more puns: "Are you sure you're not pulling the wool over my eyes?" Then, I quickly added: "Because you sound very sheepish telling me this". Again, Nick insisted he was telling the truth and my attempts of instill some humour into our conversation seemed to be missing the target. I was determined to get even more puns in, before he hung up the phone.
So, relentlessly I carried on: "Nick I will ram these words right down your throat if this is your idea of a joke, because you have been bleating all week that players are unavailable for tomorrow's match, so this could be an excuse to get the game called off." Fair play to Nick, because I think he finally sussed out I was toying with him because his final response was superb. His voice boomed down the phone: "I am not lying, there are sheep on the pitch, and you are right I do have a few players injured, but it also doesn't help that a couple are baaaanned!"
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To Nick's credit, he worked tirelessly down at our ground, not only did he round up the sheep, but also spent the following morning taking sheep droppings from the playing surface. This ensured the match went ahead, which we unfortunately lost because we were far from being mint!
I suppose this is one of the pitfalls which arises when playing football matches out of the city, on a field adjacent to farmland. I have also experienced issues with football pitches when playing in the suburbs of Bristol. Admittedly, shooing a few sheep off a pitch is a lot safer than trying to avoid a couple of idiots on scrambler motorbikes weaving in and out of players during a game, which happened a few years back at Highridge.
One other memory that sticks in my mind from a while back, which also involved livestock, happened during a Sunday morning fixture in the countryside, near Tormarton. I was managing Bemmy Down Sunday, when during the game one of our players launched the ball into a field. I went to climb the dividing fence to retrieve the match ball. As I was about to drop down to the other side, a voice shouted out from behind me: "There is a bull in that field, I hope for your sake it doesn't charge." I looked over my shoulder and said: "Me neither because I haven't got a penny on me!"