England holds bus loads of Blast fans Local guys bring indoor game home

January 28, 1992|By Sandra McKee

An old saying in England has Baltimore Blast midfielder Billy Ronson and defender Mark Mettrick prepared for anything on this trip to Sheffield, England, where the Blast will take on Sheffield Wednesday, a First Division power, tomorrow night.

"I've heard it since I was a little boy, learning to play football," said Ronson, referring to the game of soccer in Europe. "You're always told, 'If it moves, kick it, and if it doesn't, kick it until it does move.' "

Mettrick laughed. He's heard those words, too.

"A lot," he said. "I don't think there is any doubt Sheffield is going to be very aggressive and very physical, but I don't think it is going to be anything we can't handle."

It is something of a homecoming for Ronson and Mettrick. A year ago, when the Blast played in Manchester against Oldham, it was the first time Ronson's father, a bit of an English soccer legend himself, got to see his son play the American game. This time, Ronson's father will again be present, but so will an entire bus load of Mettrick's friends and family, who will make the 20-minute trip from Glossop to Sheffield for the game.

"They've rented a bus to carry them through the moors," said Mettrick. "It's a very desolate area, with only a few sheep farms on the way. Glossop is just a small town, so nearly everyone knows us. My mom and dad, brothers and cousins and some of the people who work in our butcher shops and some friends are all coming together. I think about 20 of the 30 or so on the bus will be family. They're all excited about the game."

If the Blast could pull off a victory indoors against the well-respected outdoor team, it would be quite a feather for Ronson and Mettrick, who take some family teasing over playing the non-traditional indoor game.

"Even before the game starts, some of the old guys from home will be telling each other I've lost it," Mettrick said, laughing. "But if we can win, then they'll have a lot more to talk about. We gained some respect last year beating Oldham, but they aren't the power Sheffield Wednesday is. We'd be beating a lot of ... TC tradition if we beat Sheffield, even if it is indoors."

The Blast is hoping to catch Sheffield in an unfamiliar spot, but coach Kenny Cooper said he doesn't think his team should expect too much. Sheffield has sent for game films and has been studying diligently.

"But even if they understand the concept, it will still be hard for them to adapt quickly," said Mettrick. "Outdoor players are used to playing 90 minutes, not two-minute shifts, and they often feel they have to stay on the field until they do something. In this game, that doesn't work over the long haul."

One of the players Mettrick is hoping to see in midfield is John Sheridan, who was his childhood teammate for about five years.

"About 15 years ago, when we were about 12, we were on the same team," Mettrick recalled. "Now he's one of their main stars and worth millions of pounds. I talked to him about 10 years ago, after he'd just broken his leg. Now he's a megastar, playing in Ireland as well as England, and from what my dad tells me, everything goes through him. He's like their midfield dynamo. It would be fun to line up against him at midfield."

For right now, all anyone knows about this game is that both sides will be prepared to kick anything that moves, as long as it means a victory.

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