You learn about your players in pre season. Not so much about your team. But back when I lived in Blighty I always tried to get along to a few. Occasionally the reward for a long trip out to Maidenhead or similar on a July evening would be a dull game played by out of condition semi pro's against a bunch of very young lads - albeit led out on that particular Maidenhead night by Alan Devonshire... that and the post match pint more than made up for any shortcomings in the line up or the game itself. But every now and again and for different reasons, rarely football related, it would make for a cracking evening out.
While our pre season this term has a very exotic flavour it’s the trip to Grays that catches my eye. John Moncur, their newly appointed Chairman, played in my most memorable warm up game. I think it was still in the first half when he and Tim Breacker started scrapping and had to be separated by a bemused referee with one hand on Monc’s head and the other in Breackers chest (such was the difference in stature). It was away at Charlton before they made it into the top flight. But the reason I remember that night so vividly was that it was my first look at our new Dutch U21 striker, Marco Boogers. He didn’t look in the very best of trim and failed to last the full 90. I bee lined the players bar on the stroke of full time arriving before it started to fill and realised Marco must be the big fella propping up the bar with his back to me. I made my way round to his front and offered my hand and best wishes for the season ahead, it was as he shook my hand and thanked me that I noticed his eyes... two enormous red marbles they were. I was taken aback given that he could not have had much time between being subbed, taking a shower and getting to that state. There was of course the terrible realization that this was not the new McAvennie but I was surprised as anyone when a week later he was AWOL, and it was a while before he turned up in a Dutch caravan chilling with the hippies.
So, if you make it to Grays and get the chance please pass on my thanks to Mr. Moncur for his part in my best ever pre season night out.
What was the biggest insight into our season ahead you picked up at one of these games? Maybe you got no insight at all but just had a memorable night for reasons good or bad. Tell us about it.
El Martillo Ingles