There will probably be a few superlatives in everyone’s post-event comments, but for once they would be legitimately justified when describing the events of a pretty special weekend. OK, the game itself wasn’t great, but just like in 2009 when the gathering in Richmond Park was the highlight of the weekend, in 2011 it was the Friday morning practice.
At £350 a night, Pennyhill Park is not the kind of place most of us would ever frequent, but for a couple of hours on a bright and glorious Friday morning, we felt part of the furniture watching our Buccaneers practice in the Surrey sunlight.
It was a shame that two of the highest profile Buccaneers were unable to practice and play, however for the assembled members of the Bucs UK, it meant that Gerald McCoy and LeGarrette Blount were on hand to sign every item presented and pose for every photograph requested, with politeness, patience and class.
The appearance of Brian Ford and Mark Dominik was also well received. That these gentlemen took time out of their busy schedules to meet with the fans was much appreciated. Brian is now a friend to many following the invitations extended to club members for behind the scenes tours of One Buc Place, while Mark is an equally excellent individual who you confidently feel is truly steering the organisation in the right direction.
And then the players – just like #93 and #27, they patiently dealt with every request and it is hard to believe that Josh Freeman, still only 23, is the undisputed leader of our team. He is mature beyond his years and a magnificent advertisement for the franchise. It takes a lot to impress a cynical old git like me these days, but these young Bucs were a credit to the organisation and it was a memorable couple of hours that those present will remember forever.
As for Sunday, it was a thrill for everyone present to have the opportunity to have a photo wearing Shelton Quarles’ Super Bowl ring – that Phil Smith-Jones nearly walked away with it was another matter, but a ‘suited and booted’ Shelton was coolness personified. Jonesy actually spent most of the weekend looking a bit like Angelos Epithemiou with his carrier bag full of Bucs UK polo shirts, but gamely made sure that all 120 ordered shirts found their expectant recipients.
Throw in an appearance from our Super Bowl winning QB and the greatest TE in Buc history, who very gamely agreed to make a catch for the TV despite clearly not being as mobile as he used to be (then again neither is Jonesy) you had a splendid two hours pass really quickly, before the decision needed to be made as to how to spend the remaining five hours before the game; in my own case, I joined several club members in the autumnal sunshine in the beer garden of the Green Man – not too shabby for the middle of October.
There will be plenty of column inches written about the game itself, but a highlight unlikely to be reported was a section of the Bucs UK being picked out on Wembley’s big screen and then ten minutes later, Graeme Reid being texted by his friend in the US to say that Reidy’s legendary kilt had just made it on to FOX TV.
A few words for our leader – thank you and well done Mr Stewart on the organisation and co-ordination of the weekend and particularly well done for not pouncing on Katherine Jenkins this time, as she left the podium after the national anthems.