Words by Zack Foulds

 

With an earlier kick-off time than the Rugby team had been used to in previous years it didn’t take long for the most physical match-up of the day to get underway and treat the Essex support to a first win over UEA for many years. Some readers may recall how the 1st XV threw away a commanding lead at half-time to end up losing by one point and it was clear to see from the outset that both teams were incredibly fired up for this game and that Essex were prepared to battle hard to prevent any sort of repeat.

The conditions for the game were not particularly conducive to the fast-flowing attacking style of rugby that Essex has become accustomed to this year and so with that in mind the forwards set out their stall for the long hard slog to come. The two teams were relatively evenly matched on paper, with UEA being one league above but Essex being undefeated in their respective league this season.

The game was a feisty affair from the start with the opening phases of the game seeing UEA hold the upper hand following some powerful running from their sizable centre partnership. The first score of the game came against the run of play with Dan Dimoline breaking through the UEA defences to sprint home from fully 70 metres out. The tackling had been strong up to that point so it was a welcome gift to Essex at a time when the first score could easily have gone the other way.Essexbarely had time to celebrate before they found themselves under their own posts following some sloppy play from the restart. Failing to secure ball from the kick, Essex were punished with the UEA scrumhalf putting through a well placed kick, aided with a somewhat fortuitous bounce, falling into the attackers hand for them to score under the posts making the score 5-7 to UEA after 20 minutes of play. Play remained tight for the remainder of the half with the only other score coming from the boot of Rob Baynes, although to the delight of the crowd Tom Wheatley did at least try to start a fight every time a UEA player stood within 5m of him!

With the score at 8-7 to Essex and with everything to play forEssexhad the elements at their back as well as their slender lead; well for all of 2 minutes anyway. The wind that was behind them had reversed and was now blowing torrential hail into the faces of theEssexteam. Nevertheless Essex managed to get points on the board almost straight from the restart as they were awarded a penalty that Baynes duly slotted to take the score to 11-7. Another penalty stretched Essex’s lead to 14-7 but it wasEssex’s second try with just over 10 minutes to go which really struck a blow to the hopes of UEA. Great work from the front row of Barr, Lei and DMJ led to Essex winning a scrum against the head deep inside the opposition 22. Quick work from D. Whiteman at no.8 (on as a replacement for J. Bocking) saw him outpace the blindside defence to score out wide taking the game seemingly out of the grasp of UEA, with the score at 19-7. A last minute try from the UEA open-side was nothing more than consolation asEssexsecured a memorable 19-14 win, which was celebrated in typical style as the evening wore on.

A special mention must go to JC Sagoe who was Essex’s MoM. His tireless work in defence as well as repeatedly giving his side forward momentum in attack was crucial in the victory and in placating the main threat of UEA, which was undoubtedly their bigger, more experienced centre partnership.

1st team captain Oliver White had this to see on his team’s victory: “I felt a large amount of responsibility and pressure during derby day in this, my final year and as 1st team captain. Having won not only the rugger but the whole day meant we celebrated in a big way, Nails, well done us.”

“Winning the league outright and beating our rivals is the best way to finish off my fifth and final season of being part of UERFC.” – James Barr,Rugby club president.

Words by Joshua Tait

 

With this year’s Derby Day theme of Spartans Vs Athenians heavily promoted all over the University of Essex campus, it seemed inevitable that both Derby Day’s hosts and UEA would be out for blood, particularly after Essex’s men’s football firsts were handed a comprehensive defeat in last years encounter at the University of East Anglia.

 

Although Derby Day had already been decided in Essex’s favour by the time of the match’s 7.15pm kick off, there was still much to play for, a point proved by a tempestuous opening that saw UEA giving away two free kicks in the early minutes. Essex found it difficult to control the opening exchanges, and at times found themselves penned into their own half by an aggressive UEA side. Despite some resolute defending, the Blades found themselves on the back foot for most of the first half hour, and struggled to contain a rampant UEA midfield, with the pace of their rangy number 11 causing problems up front. Although the visitors were able to enjoy clear dominance, they created few clear cut chances, and Sam Little in the Essex goal had only routine saves to make in the early stages. It took a moment of magic on the half hour mark to break the deadlock, UEA’s busy number 11 winning the ball on the left wing and scoring with a superb curled finish from thirty yards out. Following the opener, the away side took their foot off the gas and allowed the hosts back into the match, Essex enjoying their strongest spell so far and threatening through a dangerous floated ball in from the left hand side shortly before half time. The opening goal had hardly come as a surprise, but Essex would no doubt have been disappointed to go in behind at the interval after a solid defensive showing.

 

The opening moments of the second half saw a second UEA goal rightly ruled out for offside after a corner was sloppily defended, although this certainly did not set the tone for the following 45 minutes. UEA looked happy to sit on their lead, allowing Essex to dictate the tempo of the game and though the Blades struggled to create clear cut chances Essex’s midfield were beginning to control the match. It was certainly not against the run of play when the hosts equalised through a Shaun Brown header, the second half substitute rising high to open their derby day account fifteen minutes into the second half. The Blades were hardly done celebrating when, almost directly from kick off they found themselves in front, Tom Green converting after a blunder from the UEA goalkeeper left him with the goal at his mercy. It was backs to the wall stuff for Essex for the remainder of the second half, and despite keeping UEA at bay they began looking increasingly tired as the game edged towards its conclusion. Just when it was beginning to seem as though they had done enough to see of the visitors, UEA pounced, scoring the equalising goal with a low finish on the right hand side of the penalty area, with just five minutes left to play. It was a blow for a Blades side that had generally kept UEA at arms length despite struggling to create any clear cut chances of their own. With the tie seemingly heading for a 2-2 stalemate, it came as something of a surprise to even the most ardent of Essex’s supporters to see the hosts bursting forward in search of a dramatic winner with minutes remaining. UEA once again looked sloppy following kick off and were punished minutes later when Mark Maher pounced, converting from close range following a flick on from the substitute Shaun Brown, who had once again looked threatening in the opposition penalty area. There was pandemonium throughout the sizeable home crowd, Essex having killed off a match that had at times looked out of their reach. Two minutes remained, but there was a growing sense of inevitability about the result, albeit one that did nothing to quell the rapturous celebrations at the final whistle. Despite their dearth of chances Essex had been clinical in front of goal throughout, punishing a UEA side that switched off too often at key moments of the game. Derby day may have already been decided, but Wednesday evening’s triumph seems sure be remembered as a famous victory for the Essex firsts.

Natural Selection

Words by Thomas Rutherford

Selection for your University sports team, in my experience, is unlike any other.  It certainly isn’t easy, yet it is also too easy for a select few. All of us sports enthusiasts obviously want to win when we take to the pitch, court or whatever may be your preferred terrain on a Wednesday afternoon. We train hard, prepare well and show commitment beyond what we can probably afford both economically and time wise. Plausible and professional you might say? Yes, but in the main, for many of you out there, it is all in vein.

Despite what most ‘elite’ athletes at our university might kid themselves into believing, sport at our level, where money in particular is at a premium, is amateur and seems destined to remain that way. So no matter how hard you might train, how good you are, or how ‘deserving’ you are of your spot in the 1st team, it is largely irrelevant. Why? Perhaps one of the main facets (not including the economic aspect) that marks the difference between a professionally run club and an amateur one is the way in which it is run. Committees are often close-knit groups of friends and then what perhaps is the most regressive consequence of a University Club is that the supposed 1st or ‘best’ team becomes another group made up of those friends on the committee. Fresher students, unless quite obviously a cut above the rest, get discarded into the second team and beyond. If lucky they might sneak a game on the bench. As for the rest, hidden talents become disinterested and anonymous with phrases like ‘politics’ ‘bias’ and ‘cliques’ being all too commonly used when asked why they don’t turn up to training anymore.

Of course, I’m being highly cynical and overly stereotypical, yet not without foundation. Having been part of three different sports here and living with a house of full of Rugby lads, I’ve become wise to the sometime dodgy and unfair goings on in a sports club. This isn’t to say I am criticising their processes, far from it. Quite understandably 1st team selection, all too easily, becomes a natural process. Put yourselves in a Captain’s shoes. Pick a 3rd year player/best friend who has put on a bit of timber, yet has got the experience and prowess? Or do you plump for an ultra-keen and lean fresher student who will add a lot more to the team than just experience? I’d tend to think that the majority of us would stick with our third year pal, simply because it’s easier. It would be a brave individual who would introduce an unknown entity at the expense of the popular, yet slightly portly postgraduate.

Therein lies the dilemma that officials across the sporting community face. At a university where at the moment, it has to be said, participation rules the roost, does putting the best possible team out on a Wednesday actually matter? After all the younger members of the squad will get their chance on the big stage in the future will they not? In my eyes, it does matter. True, Essex might not be renowned for outstanding sporting achievement, but this shouldn’t prove a stumbling block for any team who wants strive to be the best they can possibly be. Indeed, it is pleasing to see that even within the last three years, some clubs have adopted a more professional and winning culture within their ranks and success hasn’t followed far behind.

Sporting politics is a complicated beast. I’m a captain of a relatively small sport’s club and I can tell you it is probably more hassle than it’s worth. You want to please everybody and so in clubs where your teammates are often your drinking partners, becoming unpopular because of your Lombardian approach to team selection is sure to cause a few fallouts. But a few bruised egos and the odd drunken argument is surely outweighed by seeing your team improve and succeed on match day. Go on captains, be brave.

Few would argue that footballers deserve the exorbitant wages that many of them receive. Samuel Eto’o’s contract at mega-rich Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala sees the Cameroonian forward take home a fee in the region of £250,000 a week, and he is far from alone in commanding that sort of money. Carlos Tevez is currently making around that figure despite being on strike at Manchester City and despite playing for the relatively small time L.A Galaxy, former England captain David Beckham is rumoured to earn roughly $40 million a year.

Emmanuel Adebayor attracted column inches recently, with few praising his refusal to drop rumoured wages of £170,000 in order to join Tottenham Hotspur. Adebayor’s reasoning was simple – “We all play football to get money”. Perhaps not a quote designed to curry favour with the romantics, but one that is rooted in the realism that is lost on them all too often. While Adebayor is of course generalising, he is largely correct. After all, who would put in the commitment required of footballers for no reward? I am not suggesting for one moment that the sacrifices made by professional footballers are equivalent to the hundreds of thousands a week that many of them earn, but I can say with some certainty that few of us would turn such fees down if offered. There are vast, some would say outrageous sums of money floating around the footballing world and it is not the players who are to blame – if it was not going to them it would certainly find its way to less deserving recipients. The fact is that we, as fans are one of many groups indirectly responsible for making football the big business that it is today – all the players can be blamed for is having the nous to try to earn as much as they possibly can. No one would dream of criticising a friend for earning a promotion or pay rise, however undeserved, so why is it acceptable to shun the professional footballers who entertain us on a weekly basis for what is essentially the same thing?

Football is a career lacking in the security that many others can boast. All it takes is a bad injury, or even a period of poor form and the dream could be over. For many footballers it seems to be a case of earning as much as they can, while they still can – hardly a surprise when many of the financial difficulties encountered by careless ex-pros are taken into consideration.

It is all too easy to characterise footballers as mercenaries, but that doesn’t mean that it is correct. They are not thieves; they certainly do not force us to part with the cash that ultimately pays for their wages. While I am sure that there are some who have taken a few clubs for a ride, there are just as many and almost certainly more who simply want to earn as much as they can in order to provide a comfortable and secure existence for their loved ones. Cheesy? Of course, but who could begrudge them that.

In the days where every act or sin committed by somebody in the public spotlight is highlighted in a matter of minutes, not many pieces of news genuinely shock me. Therefore when I heard the news that Gary Speed, the Welsh national football manager, had tragically died in an apparent suicide, I thought it was some sort of sick joke.

The former Welsh Captain and ex-Leeds, Everton and Newcastle midfielder was found dead at home by his wife, Louise, the mother of his two boys, early on Sunday 27th November. Remarkably, I had seen Speed the previous day on the BBC 1’S Football Focus magazine show. He was live in the studio and appeared cheery, relaxed and completely at ease with himself. This along with the recent upturn in the Welsh National team’s form in the previous few months makes his passing all the more sad and shocking.

For me, as a fanatical Newcastle United loving child, Gary Speed was one of my heroes. I used to have a poster of him up on my wall and I always made sure I wore the no.11 shirt when I played football for my school. He was a heroic figure for many, as I’m sure you’ve come to realise in the days since his passing. Countless tributes and kind words from Speed’s illustrious colleagues in the game have been attributed to the former Welsh Captain; ‘role model’, ‘model professional’ ‘good guy’ and ‘gentleman’ to name but a few, all of which go to show just how highly he was regarded as a player and more importantly as a man.

My memories of Gary Speed are of a man who commanded respect on the pitch without ever asking for it. A goal scoring, cultured midfielder who was quiet and unassuming yet oozed self-confidence and authority that made him that man in the team who you could trust with your life. These qualities seemed to be engrained in him as he made the step into management, firstly with a largely unsuccessful spell at Sheffield United but then more recently he seemed to making big strides with his national team, a recent 4-1 thrashing of Norway being the highlight.

Why then would a family man with his experiences, resumė and talent want to end it all?  That has been the question on all of our lips. As of today, the whole story surrounding his death is still vague and still just as shocking. Speculation and rumour will be rife until the real story comes to light. Indeed we may never know what drove Speed to his untimely passing but it again poses stark emphasis on the volatility of the human mind, in particular the minds of those in the sporting arena. The death of Robert Enke in 2009, the German no.1 Goalkeeper at the time, was a tragic loss. Then Dale Roberts, the Accrington Stanley ‘Keeper committed suicide last year. In both cases, the players had suffered personal loss or heartbreak. Whether Speed suffered similar misfortune is unknown, regardless, it raises questions surrounding depression and mental health in the sometimes lonely and ruthless world of professional sport.

 

Speculation aside, Speed leaves behind a loving family, adoring fans and a legacy which singled him out as the perfect role model for any up and coming footballer. He was a real football man and I’m sure all football fans are nothing but proud to call him ‘one of their own’ regardless of the colours he wore.

May he rest in peace.

Words by Thomas Rutherford

Following my brief hiatus from these pages and the world being denied of my thoughts, upon which so much depends, I thought it only fair to share my pearls of wisdom with you this week when I could be treated with more seriousness following the removal of that hideous moustache from my picture in the last issue!

 

Again, many stories have been flying around the sporting world of late, the most shocking of which being the tragic death of Gary Speed. He was a much loved and highly respected player, manager and football pundit who has most certainly left his mark on the game which he loved. As much as it pains me to admit, the article by Mr Rutherford (see below) is a must read to see just how much his passing meant to at least one adoring fan.

 

You may also remember in my last Foulds’ thoughts I, with assured confidence, told you of Shaun Edwards “looking forward to new challenges within Rugby” which I again assured you meant he was nailed on to be the next England Rugby coach, well… I was wrong, truly and utterly incorrect in so much as his name barely got a mention. Oh well, on to the next one! So I can now tell you with absolute certainty that Martin O’Neil will be the successor to Steve Bruce at Sunderland. The man is without doubt one of the best coaches in the game and this could be a great way for him to get back involved within English football. Added to that, the foundation is already there at Sunderland to allow him to impart his own personality onto an already capable squad and take them to that next level, as he so successfully managed to do at Villa.

 

Back to the England Rugby scene again, and how about the ‘leak’ of the RFU’s investigation into what went wrong at the World Cup? It certainly raises a lot of questions about the attitudes of some senior players at the World Cup. I think this certainly exposed the amateur strain that is still very much prevalent within Rugby, which in relative terms is still very young as a professional sport. That players representing their country are so money motivated – it is claimed that one of the senior players bemoaned the loss of £30,000 having just lost in the quarter final – presents a sad image for young aspiring players to look up to. Playing for your country is a bout pride and honour, ok I understand that money is what makes the world go round, but I think it being at the forefront of their thoughts whilst on the rugby field can only ever be detrimental to their performance. With Christmas now looming, for me it means an extravaganza of festive sport, endless football but most importantly for everyone the Darts World championship, which I again can tell you Phil Taylor will win (his previous 15 world titles aiding my crystal ball somewhat!). So I wish you all the merriest of Christmases and look forward to seeing you all that little bit plumper next term!

The latter part of 2011 was an exciting one for the University of Essex Golf Club. An influx of new members, regular training schedule and a vibrant social scene has seen the golf club’s stock rise within the university community. Go back 12 months and ask a random person on the squares if they knew Essex had a golf team, the answer would have probably been no. Well this year the tables have turned, the club is ‘kind of a big deal’ and most of you will no doubt have friends and lovers within the team. Some have even been saying that golf is the new rugby!

Onto on-course matters then and President Emily Irons has been quoted as saying she has been ‘delighted and excited’ at her clubs BUCS performances so far this season. Indeed, the first term’s matches have been very promising. The 1st team have continued to make steady progress in their outside bid for promotion. Always the underdogs, the experienced 1st side have been kicking at the heels of the league leaders since the opening fixture. Since that disappointing opening draw, the Blades have won 5 out of 6 matches, with that unfortunate loss being against the high-flying Hertfordshire side. Fresher Sam Mason, though inconsistent, has added a raw and talented edge to the side, exhibiting some huge hitting off the tee. While PHD student Christian Macmillan has been an assured presence, remaining unbeaten all year.

The 2nd team have also been putting in strong showings.  Under the captaincy of the ‘ice-man’ Jin Yoon, the inexperienced side have put in some valiant performances against some tough opposition. Despite only recording one victory (walkover), many of these new players should take heart from their offerings. Fresher’s Marius Thorvildesen, Sam Wells and Sophie Roberts have been excellent additions to the side, all three having registered a win apiece. This in a league where the opposition on paper, is considerably stronger.

With the prospect of promotion and Derby Day just around the corner, the Blades golfers are understandably chomping at the bit to get 2012 off to a flyer. The 2nd’s will be looking to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon and the 1st side will require many things to go their way of they are to make the jump up to next division.  But in a club where the mantra is ‘never give up’, nothing is impossible, that’s for sure.

If you want to come and try golf then you’d be more than welcome. Get in touch via email with either Emily Irons (eirons) or Thomas Rutherford (tpruth), failing that, log on to the SU website for more details.

Words by Thomas Rutherford

The University of Essex Rugby Club is topping the University form table with their first team and an improving second team. With half of the season complete and in the record books the firsts are desperate to achieve both an undefeated league championship and cup run to add. The New Year beckons with a difficult opening fixture against UCL 1st XI in the cup, an unbeaten counterpart a league above, however the Essex outfit remain upbeat about their chances. They welcome all-comers to Rugby Pitch 1 and fancy themselves against most teams in the BUCS Eastern Conference. The fixtures though begin with a third match up with the UCL second team, both times the Essex team proved to be superior in each area of the game. The league boasts one opponent who has the potential to be a banana skin for the Essex outfit; Universities at Medway firsts are unbeaten also, apart from their loss to the Essex side. The two form teams will meet in what will inevitably be the league decider in just the second week of this term. With home advantage the Medway side could prove to be more than a formidable opponent. If Essex go on to win this matchup it is more than likely that an unbeaten league campaign will be achieved.

The second team also has shown promising signs, with a difficult beginning with a team getting to know each other and learning week by week, they are surprising their opponents with performances that are both impressive and exciting to watch. Unfortunately, they were ousted in the cup by a team 2 leagues above but they still remain confident in securing a place in their league with the intention of gaining promotion following year. The second team are lying in a place in the league unrepresentative of their ability, suffering from the inevitable issues facing a team made up of predominantly first years. With the rapid rise in team chemistry and bonding the side really started to gel after a few weeks and are now a force to be reckoned with in their respective league.

The first team will be rebuffed by returning players of yesteryear who have been studying abroad and also with players returning from injuries that kept them out for the majority of the first term, these returning players should bring about new levels of competition for places and make the players work harder to impress. Not only this, there is a hunger to succeed, the mantle of being an unbeaten team come the end of the second term is one huge motivation. This includes success at the ever closer Derby Day in which the team is desperate to make up for their close and undeserved defeat on UEA grounds last year.

The first fixtures back has seen both teams continue to display their improvements with the 1st team overcoming a familiar opponent in UCL in a 46-22 victory and the 2nd team were beaten by two late break away tries against the side that only in October gave the Essex outfit a thrashing in their first fixture of 47-5 to a more respectable 22-29 defeat. These results show that the 2nd team has progressed leaps and bounds and the 1sts are still undefeated and showing no sign of stopping. Now the Christmas cobwebs have been dusted off we can all expect more of the same from the Essex Rugby Club this term.

 

Words by David Morgan Jones

With all of the University’s teams sitting in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the next part of the season couldn’t come soon enough for UEFC. All six outfits are extremely eager to show that the whole club will not take this season lightly, that despite their relatively poor start.

 

The1st XI have seen injuries play a major part in what has been a struggle of a season so far. Captain, George Maher and Shaun Brown have been huge losses to the team and have been out from football since well before the Christmas break. Although not winning a point in the first term, the team has battled bravely and refused to roll over easily, shown by the ability to score in every fixture apart from one. They are sure to be looking to take that next step and secure maximum points from the next five fixtures. The 2nd XI at one point were looking like embarking on a memorable cup run, but were eventually knocked out 2-1 by St Mary’s. Alphie Karatay’s squad may have only recorded one victory in the league but have played well and deserved more than just three points. Billy Layzell possesses a well settled 3rd XI and after a few experiments with tactics, they have everything in place to push on considerably. However, the team are currently sitting second from bottom due to dropping points against weaker teams (including those with players using only one football boot). Goals aren’t proving to be a problem for Layzell though, as players from all over the park are pitching in with some crucial strikes.

 

After finding themselves placed in a difficult league, Jack Bending’s 4th XI has seen some good performances capped with some good results. The turning point being the twenty minute comeback from 3-0 down, against Canterbury Christ Church, early on in the season. It is just a solitary victory over the UEFC 5th team that is proving to be the only three points so far. A lot of early mixing around with players led to some heavy defeats for James Bates’ 5th XI. Now though, it seems he has assembled a strong team that are looking forward to fighting back to get some points on the board. The squad will be itching for the return fixture against the 4th team, with league survival being the potential reward for the victor. The 6th XI’s fixture list sees every match being a local derby of sorts. The added incentive has affected the players well and Ben Grover and Lee Marshall’s team are sitting in third place. Promotion will not be ruled out if the players can gain victories in their coming games.

Words by Gary Finch

In recent weeks, perhaps even more than usual, it seems that the spotlight has been centred firmly on British referees – or to be more specific, their mistakes. The main point of contention seems to be the ruling on dangerous tackles, with Vincent Kompany’s sending off against Manchester United sparking much debate over what exactly should constitute a straight red card. The masses call for both clarity and consistency from our referees – which on the surface seems simple enough. The reality of the situation however, is a little murkier.

 

Take Kompany’s much discussed dismissal, awarded for a somewhat overzealous, if largely successful tackle on Manchester United’s Portuguese winger Nani. This was no Diego Maradona handball, a glaring mistake of the sort to unite an entire nation. This was simply a contentious decision, one that collective fandom found it tellingly difficult to classify. Again, consistency is called for from officials, from a body of fans who have themselves struggled to come to a collective decision. Referees should of course be operating on a level above the average fan, but they are only human. Some decisions will always be ambiguous and this does not reflect on the quality of officiating.

 

It seems glaringly obvious that those calling out Kompany’s dismissal as somehow ‘spoiling the spectacle’ would be the same supporters crying out for more protection were their team’s star player to be damaged by a similarly crude challenge. Had Nani himself not so deftly sidestepped Kompany’s lunge, the nation’s best supported club could have been without one of their brightest talents for, potentially months.

 

Had that been the case it seems likely that those calling for clarity and consistency would shuffle quietly to one side – quite possibly to join a baying mob calling for Kompany’s head. Situations like these often seem to require a villain – the problem being that fans often forget that without the referees that they victimise there would be no football at all. It now seems an instantaneous reaction to question refereeing decisions, a clear sign that their authority has been heavily compromised in recent years, with the figures that were once seen as all powerful overlords of the game reduced to little more than sounding boards for the frustrations of fans, players and managers alike. Football is not in need of any more scandal, and for order to be restored referees must regain a power that seems to have been lost somewhere along the line. Clarity and consistency? I think it is perhaps more important that you practise what you preach – an adage that the football fans who barrack officials would do well to keep in mind.

Words by Josh Tait

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