The Off-Season: Withdrawal Level – Vindaloo

It’s now reached a level of eye-watering, cough-inducing agony, which no amount of red wine or sweet Lassi can cure, on account of it’s still being January.

What we’ve seen – or rather, what I have seen as the administrator of no less than three @essexspartans email accounts – is an absolutely unprecedented amount of post-Come & Try enquiries about joining us. As such, we are now a football club with three official teams and more than 100 players.

Big stuff happened – the move, for example. In case you’ve been under a rock in Kent or some other home county that doesn’t sell Essex papers and haven’t seen the publicity, we have successfully negotiated a move out of Billericay and into Thurrock. The Gateway Academy in Tilbury has offered us a club-wide training facility and Thurrock Rugby Club is our new senior game day venue – floodlights, food and my favourite place: the bar.

We were able to secure a lot of coverage in local press for it and as such, we recruited a few local people as players and maybe some extra coaching staff from that alone – and there was me thinking that no one reads papers anymore! Where this extra influx has come from, I don’t really know, but I’m hoping it’s something to do with us being recognised in the community a great deal more now than we ever were. Whatever the reason, we hugely appreciate it.

So there we were this Sunday gone (yesterday, in fact!) getting guys and girls kitted up for the first time, freezing cold, and I watched them learn how to block and tackle and throw each other to the ground. It made excellent viewing, I must say. And in that state it’s hard not to get carried away; we have four potential female players for the season which we’ve not had before, and I was hinged and poised ready to draft a team submission letter to BAFA Women for the upcoming Sapphire Series before it was pointed out to me that unless I was coaching them, we weren’t quite there yet.

And I’m no coach – I’m a mere minion at the side of the pitch with an iPhone and a notepad – so I suppose Women’s GB victory in Essex will have to wait a year.

We always start hopeful – all sports teams do – and sometimes pre-season pieces and interviews can get a bit ‘broken-record’ sounding with Yes, we’re very positive; Yes, the new players are looking great; Yes, 2013/14/15 will be our year. But actually we’ve never had an off-season with such momentous changes for the club’s future, followed by the biggest pre-registration numbers we’ve seen at practice, so maybe it is going to be a little different come April.

For senior football, our gentlemanly nemesis in the frankly unbeatable Bury Saints have taken their rightful place in Division One, which means we get to welcome the Cambridgeshire Cats to the division as a new opponent. It’s been a while since our two teams got together – long enough, I think, to have each become unrecognisable in the face of the other – so everything to prove going forward.

For the younger ones, they made their own massive shoes to fill last year with one of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had from a Spartans team – if it can be done once, I have every confidence they can do it again and I’m sure they do, too.

Bring on the daffodils – I can’t wait for the spring.