Matt Lawrence's diary of a lower-league footballer: Transfer deadline day, frozen pitches and ping pong
Matt Lawrence has played for seven league clubs - including Fulham, Crystal Palace and Millwall, for whom he appeared in the 2004 FA Cup final - during his 16-year career. Now with League Two Gillingham, his diary will appear on MirrorFootball every Monday.
Monday, 30th January
I learnt a serious lesson in the art of football coaching today - although it had absolutely bugger all to day with football!
Always wrap up warm and a hat, scarf, gloves, coat and thermal underwear are an absolute necessity.
You forget that when you are the one playing as you very rarely feel cold, but the minute you take to that touchline and have to bark out information, it's brass monkeys time.
Maybe this is why I’m not destined for coaching… well, that and the fact that “head it and f****** kick it,” is hardly a manifesto to take this beautiful game forward. Probably best if I leave that to people like Brendan Rogers and Pep Guardiola.
No idea what all this 93% pass completed ratio is. Where’s the statistic that measures how many balls you can hoof into Row Z over ninety minutes? Let’s be honest, League Two is hardly designed for Opta Joe!
My day had started brightly enough with a very sprightly training session, but petered out into the realms of frost-bite with my weekly coaching course that followed.
Not to worry, tomorrow is transfer deadline day and there’s every chance that a manager, or two, has my agent on speed dial - probably for one of his other clients though!
Tuesday, 31st January
Long gone are the days of keeping my phone locked to my hip in anticipation on deadline day.
The only reason the phone is nearby nowadays is to field calls from the kids' schools, or keep abreast of how many people are abusing me on my twitter page, oh, the modern world.
At least at the beginning of my career I could only be abused by four sides of a football stadium. Now I can stick through a multitude of mediums.
Thank goodness I’ve got such thick skin… or is that bad skin?
We played 11 vs 11 during training and I think the Gaffer is trying to lock down his starting 11 and formation very early in the week.
After not playing last weekend it was great to get back involved in relatively competitive action.
With things not going as well as expected during the last few games the squad sat down with our sports psychologist this afternoon.
I’m not overly taken with group meetings such as this and think it should maybe be down to individual preference and one-on-one consultations. Still it works at AA, I guess, so why not for us?!
I’m not sure that that’s the greatest analogy in the world, but I guess we'd better roll with it.
After the psychologist came the nutritionist. I say “nutritionist,” but what I actually mean is salesman.
The guy came from a well-known health firm and basically seemed intent on stopping us eating food and relying solely on pills, potions and milkshakes for the majority of our diet.
If you hear me rattling on the football pitch next weekend you’ll know why!
Wednesday, 1st February
With our bad run still continuing the Gaffer rightly cancelled our day off and brought us in.
We had a pretty good session today and the lads separated and did specific work in defence and attack.
The cold had really kicked in today and the poor circulation of an aging footballer was very much evident.
Still, loads of running around and a few sliding tackles later and the blood was slowly starting to coarse through the veins.
I once again hit the gym before training and felt I’d worked sufficiently hard to reward myself with a trip out this evening to watch the televised football.
I headed into Beckenham and met up with an old friend (yep, in both senses of the word) for a couple of drinks.
The pub we were in had three Premier League games on three TV’s side by side.
By the end of the night I didn’t know whether I was coming, or going. And that was nothing to do with the alcohol.
Couldn’t tell you any scores, or who on earth was playing. Just a blur of colours and balls. No comments, please.
Thursday, 2nd February
The Gaffer could see that some of the lads were mentally and physically drained today. Add that to a couple of injuries that were picked up in training yesterday and the Gaffer plucked out an ingenious training day.
All the lads had to hit the gym for an hour and then it was upstairs for a snooker and table tennis competition. Old versus Young of course.
It was also not too much of a shock to see the old ‘uns once again prove victorious. You just can’t beat experience!
The standard of play was a little scary. Some people have definitely been spending way too much time up in the games room.
Sod declaring themselves available for the British Olympic footy team, an awful lot of them should be declaring themselves eligible for the table tennis team.
Friday, 3rd February
Michael Fish had for once got the weather warning correct and Kent was well and truly gripped by freezing temperatures this morning.
Our training ground was far too frozen to train on, so we headed to a nearby 3G pitch for the next best thing.
The pitch at Priestfield was also well and truly gripped by frost and with the arrival of more freezing temperatures overnight a pitch inspection was called for 11am.
It may sound quite an early call to make, but I think that the Chairman and the Gaffer wanted to prevent our opponents Hereford having to make any unnecessary travel.
A local qualified referee was called in and tomorrow’s match was postponed.
To be honest, I’d walked on the pitch earlier in the day and certain parts of the pitch were slightly harder than the car park.
With no chance of an imminent thaw in sight, an early postponement was definitely the logical solution.
The Gaffer came down to the 3G pitch and told us the news.
The lads were pretty upset at not being able to put our bad form behind us, but it meant we could have a high tempo training session today and the weekend off.
We played a bit of keep ball and had a nine vs nine game on a pretty decent 3G surface.
The older lads especially wouldn’t want to use this surface too frequently, as it is not too forgiving on the joints, but it is perfect for a one off.
After the game we completed a fair few runs and got a really good sweat on, safe in the knowledge that we had the weekend to recover.
Saturday, 4th February
I hit the gym early this morning to ease the aching limbs after yesterday’s 3G session.
I was also very mindful that the West Ham vs Millwall game was being televised.
I still have a lot of good friends back at The New Den, so I always try and catch their games.
By the time I was slumped down in front of the TV, West Ham were already down to 10 men.
Unfortunately, the one-man advantage didn’t lead to anything and Millwall suffered a loss in this tough, local derby.
I’ve played in a few myself and I certainly can’t say enough about the atmosphere at Upton Park. With a massive travelling support from the Lions the place is nothing short of vociferous. Those were the days!
This evening I headed to our assistant manager Nicky Southall's 40th birthday party.
I got there in good time to watch the English beat Scotland in the Six Nations.
The evening kind of went downhill from there and culminated in me sliding down the road in four inches of snow.
Still a kid at heart, I guess.
Sunday, 5th February
I spent the day with the kids today. I was bang up for a bit of swimming, but they appeared to believe it was too cold.
I was hardly going to take them to an open-air pool! Clearly they don’t make ‘em like they used to!
Instead we headed for a bit of ten-pin bowling.
Let’s just say that I’m glad those lanes are reinforced, as the kids are no longer happy with rolling the bowls down the ramps.
Instead, they now tend to hurl the bowls from quite a height and bounce them off the barriers all the way down to the pins.
The term “bowling” doesn’t seem to be enough of a giveaway - from now on we are calling it ten-pin bouncing!
We hit TGI’s for lunch before taking in the Chelsea vs Man United game.
Somehow the kids are still on their Chelsea trip and there’s nothing I can do to change their minds.
It was probably a little mean to snigger, though, as Hernandez headed in to make it 3-3 and complete a remarkable comeback.
I am now sat here at my computer goggle-eyed at the Superbowl half-time show.
Not in a good way.
Can the producer not cut away from this wrinkly, old woman and focus back on Tom Brady’s wife? Come back, Gisele, all is forgiven!
The Giants nicked it right at the end, if you didn’t know. Of course I was cheering on the Pats.
Just don’t seem to be able to pick ‘em!