Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I played my first competitive match for SV Meppen in a cup match against TuS Lingen in a heated derby that saw us win in penalties. The atmosphere was amazing and our fans were really the twelfth man that day. I played 75 minutes.

Our first league match was to be played against Eintracht Braunschweig II away from home, and it was a game that we felt we needed to win to get the ball rolling.

The week's build up to the match was very relaxed. Training was mostly ball work and tactical adjustments. We had played every friendly and cup match with a formation using one striker, but it seemed in training that we would switch to playing with two. The match was on a Saturday so the Friday training session was given to the assistant player-manager while the head coach travelled to watch our opponents.

After training I left with one of my teammates back to his city to relax and hang out with his friends. We watched Bundesliga matches and got a bite to eat and that night I got to bed early since we were to report to the stadium at 9:00 am to leave in the coach. The journey to Braunschweig is a little under four hours, so the trip was spent listening to my iPod.

We stopped off for a prematch meal of pasta and about three times in various cities for stretching and walking around. The food was good and after I got a good sleep on the bus while listening to music.

Although I plan to learn German soon, I only know a few words. Lucky for me a player, one of my teammates Mathias Jack, has been great help to me since I signed with SV Meppen.

Mathias used to play in Scotland for Hibernian and was a player for Dusseldorf in their Bundesliga years as well. We have many conversations about his time at Hibs and the big matches he played in and he is always correcting me if I do something wrong or applauding me when I do something right. I think I will learn a lot from him and more than anything he is a great test in training being a defender, we are always in a battle in practice games.

We arrived at the stadium in Braunschweig and I continued to listen to music as I usually do. I tend to listen to inspirational music of all genres. Sometimes rap and sometimes rock, but always something with a lively theme to get me awake! I also eat a couple bananas and drink apple juice, but something some might find funny is I also buy a bag of gummy bears before a game and I like to finish them about an hour before. With 78 grams of carbs per 100 gram bag, it can only help the cause!

After eating the bananas the coach called us into the changing room, most players were outside checking the pitch, but I tend to not worry about the surface and pay attention to the weather.

The coach gave a speech which I got the drift of and later got the exact word for word translation and he placed a poster with the formation and starting line up. I saw that the formation had changed and I now was playing in a two striker role with the 6 feet 4 inch tall Dutchman Paul Weerman (who in the team photo dwarfs me, although for the record, I am around 5 feet 11 inches tall.)

The tactics were to use Paul as the hold up man, and I would make runs behind, which is naturally my ideal position. Mathias gave me a few tips and let me know what the coach wanted from me and then I set off to be alone and mentally switch on, which was hard with the loud noise the arriving Meppen fans were making in the tunnel. We eventually took to the field confident of our first win.

The game was going well for the first half hour with me getting behind the Eintracht Braunschweig defense but only managing half chances. The game really change when one of our midfield players had to be taken off with an injury and was substituted for a defender. The match slowed down a lot and at the half it was either team's game.

The second half was much more of the same and with many half chances I finally managed a clear tap in but instead of taking the easy touch into goal, something inside said to dive with a header. The goalie saved and the match finished 0-0.

After the game the coach was pleased with my performance and Mathias also praised my game, although I am only ever satisfied with wins, goals or assists in my personal assessment. We took the long journey back to Emsland with vans and cars full of Meppen fans driving next to us waving scarves and flags out the window.

I had trouble sleeping that night thinking how things might have been different if I'd scored that goal, but the next day in training the coach again praised me and assured me I will score many goals this season. With a bruised kneecap I only half took part in the cool down jog around the surrounding lake and went home pleased about the comments from the coach.

Now this week is another cup game against rivals BV Cloppenberg and should be another great turn out for fans. Friday we have a league match at home that I hope to be a part of and of course score in if I am involved.

Overall a good month and with league and cup wins this week I hope these times continue for myself and the team.

Until next time,