Rocking All Over The World……A little in Dorset Anyway!

Great night last had by all the Cude clan at the village hall in Spetisbury, listening to the wonderful band Backbeat, fundraising for Julia’s House. Mark Cheesley (Haunchers’ prestigious captain….that’s him on the left) singing his heart out and strumming on any number of guitars throughout the performance. Great night, great music, great people, great charity! Anyone looking to book and band in the Dorset, South Hampshire, South Wiltshire area…..I can thoroughly recommend Backbeat or even Mark himself. Great playlist for both, whilst being warm, welcoming and friendly towards the audience.

On a slightly different topic….I am hopefully helping out with a Salisbury hockey club reunion for all players who have ever played for either Salisbury Hockey Club, or New Sarum ladies. Hopefully more information when I next post, but should be in November some time. Watch this space!

Saturday Hockey Match

Not quite sure I’m going to do this ever ytime I play, but here’s a little about yesterday’s match vs Hamble.

Our team (Salisbury), turned up with a large squad of 15, many of which were juniors, and it became apparent quite quickly that we would be up against it. Hamble were compact, fit, strong and well drilled as a team. They also play a higher standard of hockey than we do, and the fact that they’d been training together really showed. I’m by no means making excuses, Hamble were by far the better team, but considering the slightly mixed up team that we had, we did our best and certainly performed better in the second half, than in the first. Credit must go to Matt our goalie who, it has to be said, made many quality saves to keep the score into single figures. Rob Major did a great job in the centre of midfield, without whom the score again could have been very different. The defence were constantly under pressure, and every time Hamble broke, their players all worked so hard off the ball for each other, that their player with the ball almost always had at least two options….something every team should try to do….take note Salisbury. We will, I hope, be working on this at training this week!

Despite losing 7-0, at 0-0 we had a few chances to go ahead, something unfortunately for us we couldn’t take. I honestly don’t think that if we’d have scored it would have made any difference to the final result as Hamble thoroughly deserved to win, but I had a good time despite the fact that I ache beyond belief today (taking my daughter training, and ending up running around coaching, has only increased the pain….albeit it was well worth it to see her rushing about with all the other minis, learning all the basics of the game I love so much).

To sum up….much to work on before the league games start…but hopefully training as a team starts on Thursday evening, and I’m confident that once we train together, and everybody has a better understanding of their roles, particularly the younger, slightly less experienced players, that we can perform well as a team in the weeks to come. Bring it on…can’t wait!!

My Visit to the National Hockey Museum

About a month ago, one afternoon, while researching some details about one of my blogs on the internet, I stumbled across a website. Unusually, it was one I’d not seen or heard of before, something of a surprise given all the information about hockey clubs and hockey related websites I’ve collected and collated on my own website over the past year. This website was for the National Hockey Museum http://www.hockeyarchives.co.uk/Default.aspx and from the split second that I laid eyes on it, it captured my imagination. I watched as hockey images from a different era scrolled past on my computer screen, hooked instantly. I spent the next twenty minutes or so delving into each and every part of it, determined to know more about this mysterious site that I’d so innocuously stumbled upon. It didn’t end there either. I added it to my favourites, and went about the rest of my day, still thinking about that site in the back of my mind. I still remember thoughts of it whizzing round my tiny little mind as I dropped off to sleep that night.

The next day I felt compelled to email the National Hockey Museum…I’m still not really sure why, but I’d added their link to my website and just felt I needed to tell them what a wonderful surprise it was to find their site. The response I received the following day was warm, friendly and clearly from a fellow hockey player and enthusiast. What stood out most was the fact that Mike Smith, the curator of the museum, and the person who’d sent me the email, had offered me the chance to go and visit. Boy….I didn’t need to think about that opportunity for very long, and an email and a phone call later, all was arranged.

Yesterday I went along to the museum and had the most fantastic few hours listening to Mike Smith speak so passionately about his love of hockey, his work at the museum and the witty and amusing stories all related to hockey. After an introduction and a brief history of the museum, we got to have a look around at just a fraction of the goodies they have there. What can I say?! It was a veritable treasure trove of sticks, balls, pictures, paintings, books, videos, clothing, goalkeeping kit, memorabilia of all kinds….stamp collections, badges, hats, pins, postcards….you name it….they have it. Not only that, but they care for it, catalogue it and value it like no one else would. I was (and I’m sure my children can attest to this) like a small child on Christmas morning. Quite literally I didn’t know where to start. My body was naturally drawn to the sticks….so many, each different. Some from eras gone by, different heads, old grips. Some interesting ones (like the picture above), a left handed stick, the jet stick……each and everyone with a story, each and every one lovingly looked after. BALLS!!!!! (Excuse me?) Hockey balls…..a history of! A huge cabinet full of hockey balls of every type, again from very long ago. Looking at just a few of the ones from when playing on grass was commonplace, brought back the most vivid memories…mud, rain, umpires having to stop the match to clean the mud off the ball, cleaning football boots, matches being cancelled because the pitches were flooded or frosty….so many memories. There were shelves of videos waiting to be catalogued… “VIDEOS…what on earth are they?” I hear some of you say (younger ones mainly).

The stamps on display were incredible….and they have a collection with every hockey stamp from across the world…….EVER! There were jackets worn by Olympic hockey players, badges, pins, hats, signed photos. You name it, they probably have it. They even have a huge collection of postcards that are currently being catelogued. “Postcards?” I hear you ask. Yes, postcards. Apparently (this was a little before my time, but sadly not by much) before phones were everyday objects, owned by all, the clubs used to keep in touch with their own players and other clubs by……postcards!!! I looked at a few, and found myself drawn in. Looking at how the clubs were arranging fixtures and contacting their own players from so many decades ago……call me sad (and I know some of you will) but I found it utterly enthralling. My wife isn’t a hockey player (and yes, she’s got to put up with a whole lot – hockey wise – with me) but she would have loved everything that I saw yesterday…perhaps not the sticks and balls as much as I did, but she loves her history, and the history and the records of the clubs and the players was just brilliant. But what really caught my eye were the rows and rows of books and magazines….going back a very long time. I think a little switch inside my head ‘clicked’. My love of hockey, reading and the fact that I’m an author all merged together with just one thought. ‘You could leave me in here for about a week…and still I wouldn’t be in the least bit bored…with the books alone.’ Just flicking through a couple proved absolutely fascinating. Facts about hockey, the clubs, and associations from over one hundred years ago. To see Salisbury hockey club mentioned, and so many of the clubs I’ve played against in the past, in that historical context was amazing. That is what my wife, a non hockey player would have loved, almost as much as me.

So there you have it – my few hours at the National Hockey Museum. They have some fantastic hockey memorobilia, but I know they are always on the look out for more. There was one item, that had been donated towards the end of last year, that we weren’t allowed to see, but were told about, and I hope just might be on show when the museum opens. The only word to describe it is …….AWESOME! So I urge you, take a look at their website from the link above and check out the great work they do. And, if you have anything to donate…..please do so. I did, it wasn’t much, a couple of sticks that actually mean rather a lot to me (sounds stupid getting attached to sticks….but I’m guessing most people reading this will understand). But just knowing that they’re there, along with all the other items….in a place where they should be and will be well looked after…makes me feel really good! So if you have things to donate…please do. If you have time to spare and are able to offer your support as a volunteer…please do. If you can put a weblink on your club’s website….please do. It’s a fantastic place, looked after by great people and I thoroughly recommend you go and visit it when it’s open.

If you’d like to see more of the photos from my day out click through to my website and check out the gallery section, or check out the ‘Bentwhistle the Dragon’ facebook page.

 

My Olympic Trip

The first thing I have to do is say a big thank you to GB. No, not the Great Britain team, but one of my best friends in the world, Gary Butt, without whom my trip to the Olympics simply wouldn’t have been possible. I had an absolutely wonderful day, probably the best I could have had without my wife and kids.

The journey to the Olympic park was nothing like I had imagined it would be. We arrived at Richmond, parked with ease, and two minutes later, were boarding a London overground service directly to Stratford. The staff in the station and on the train were polite and professional. The train itself was spotlessly clean and on time, while all of the passengers were happy, polite and in great spirits. On reaching the station at Stratford, everyone exited, followed the signs, and made their way to the park at a leisurely walking pace, despite another train arriving at the same time as ours. All in all, a journey that could not have been any better or quicker than it had been.  On the short walk to the park, there were plenty of games makers, all happy and helpful. The movement of people through security was thorough, professional and not really any hold up at all. Again the games makers were fabulous, but it was the personnel from our wonderful forces that really came to the fore. They were polite, efficient, always had a smile, but the you could see the pride that they all carried in the professional way that they were doing their jobs. Before I’d even got in, I was proud to be British, just from the sterling job and the way these wonderful men and women were conducting themselves.

On entering the park…..I remember thinking how gobsmacked I was. It was just awesome. Everything was so clean, so well planned and laid out, so aesthetically pleasing  and, even late morning, so well……quiet. I won’t bore you with the details of what we did, but needless to say probably everything that everyone else before us had done. Checking out all the facilities, shops, toilets, attractions…..the whole lot. We’d arrived more than a few hours before the hockey was due to start….which for us seemed to turn out perfect. I couldn’t have believed that you didn’t have to queue for the toilets or the food, and even in the very busy shops the movement of the people was so well organised, and the staff everywhere were so polite and helpful.

On entering the hockey stadium mid-afternoon, there was little in the way of hold ups, with the thousands of people all heading the same direction, merely looking like a few hundred. We found our seats straight away (with an absolutely wonderful view) and settled down alongside the other spectators. The crowd as a whole, and the spectators around us, were well behaved and enjoyed joining in with anything from the banter with the compere, to the feet tapping, stadium rumbling music, to the ‘only knowing a few songs’ brass band. The atmosphere was nothing short of jaw dropping. Needless to say the game didn’t go the way I’d hoped. It was fast, furious and I have to say Great Britain played with a lot of courage. They didn’t attack as much as I thought they should have (hey, what do I know?), but whether that was because Australia stopped them playing and imposed their own game on them….who knows? Take a look at the match and make up your own mind. Never the less, considering what had happened to them in the semi-finals, I thought they did themselves proud. They were in the game, right up until the end, and I for one was proud to be there to watch. The Australians, on the day, played the better hockey and had just that bit more, and thoroughly deserved to win. It was nice to see the whole crowd having banter with both teams, and cheering and clapping both at the end of the game as they did a lap of the pitch. Wow, what a day!

Our journey out of the Riverbank Arena was a little slower than going in, but I suppose that was only to be expected. The human flow always continued moving, and although we considered staying longer, we opted to head back home straight after the hockey. With many others obviously doing the same, I was amazed at how well the flow of thousands of fans worked so efficiently. In relative terms, it didn’t take long to get back to Stratford station, and board a train that was just about to depart. The train was busy, unlike the journey in, but that was nothing more than we expected. It got a little quieter along the way, and then some of the fans who’d been watching the Olympic football final joined at one point, making it a whole lot busier. But still, it was efficient, clean and tidy, professionally run, on time, and all the passengers that we met were really happy. We got back to Richmond, retrieved the car, and very easily headed back to where we had come from.

The whole day was fantastic…..more so than I could ever have believed. You see all of the interviews on the tv, radio, in the paper and I know that I for one, was more than a little sceptical about how good, well run and professional it was. How many games makers there were, how clean and tidy it was. How well it coped with the huge influx of people. Before I went, I just didn’t fully believe everything I’d seen and read. But having been, I have nothing but praise for everyone involved. Obviously, I had no idea I would be going when it started, but I can assure you that it more than lived up to any supposed hype.  Everyone involved should hold their heads up high. There are too many people for me to name here, but EVERYONE involved should be given lots of credit. My day there was the best it could have been, despite the team I was going to support failing to win the medal they were playing for. I couldn’t have been prouder to be BRITISH, and seeing our armed forces and the games makers in action just reinforced it all.

Congratulations on the best Olympics ever, from a very ordinary individual, who by complete accident found himself with the chance to share in just a tiny little bit of the magic.

Thank You.

Check out my pictures and videos from my day at the Olympics on Bentwhistle the Dragon’s Facebook page, a link to which is provided at the top of the page on www.bentwhistlethedragon.co.uk

Great Britain vs Australia in the Olympic bronze medal match at London 2012

 

Olympics 2012

If you had asked me at the start of the year how I felt about this summer’s Olympics, I probably would have told you that I wasn’t all that bothered. With the exception of the hockey, I wouldn’t have thought I would have taken a look at much else. But…..how things have changed.  Even before the games started, the interest in the Cude household had almost reached fever pitch. From my children having learnt all about it at school, to the hockey npower big dribble that ran the length of the country, to the torch relay that visited Salisbury and stayed overnight…….all of this combined with the intensive media coverage has led, not just me, not just my kids, but also my wife to get excited and immersed in the big event itself. The entire Cude clan are now obsessed with the Olympics. My kids have taken to watching everything, amazed and in awe of the athletes (not just the British ones), and been captivated by some of the sports that they’ve never seen before. Most significantly in this category are Water Polo, Handball, Table Tennis, Rowing, Judo, Fencing and Weightlifting….! WOW! For me……obviously the hockey stands out. I’ve watched all of the GB men’s and ladies games, as well as any more, whenever I can. Events that I’ve found myself watching that I wouldn’t have thought I’d enjoy, are Table Tennis, Rowing, Cycling and Sailing. As for my wife, she seems as interested in all of it as I’ve ever seen her about any sport.  Every night we’ve stayed up well past 11pm, catching up on anything we’ve missed during the day. We all seemed to have reached the same conclusion as nearly everyone else…..Please can we have the Olympics every other month, and preferably in London.

In the build up to the Olympics, when it came to applying for tickets, because I was so disinterested, I only applied for a few tickets to watch the hockey, for which I was unsuccessful. ….and once I knew that, I never gave it another thought, just thinking that I’d watch it all on TV with my kids. Since the greatest show on Earth has started, I’ve seen friends on social media at the games, and found myself very envious. But, guess what? I’ve actually got a ticket to go. And not just any ticket. A ticket to see the men’s hockey bronze medal match. You can’t begin to know how excited I am. And it’s all due to a very wonderful person, and one of my best friends in the whole world, who phoned me up mid-afternoon on Monday, and very casually asked me if I’d like to go. Well………I did have to think for about a 1000th of a second, before shouting down the phone “YES PLEASE!” So, there it is. Olympic Park and Riverbank Arena, watch out……….Cude is coming for you!

Olympic Hockey Memories 3

When I first started playing club hockey at the ripe old age of 13 (old by today’s standards, but pretty young then),  I constantly heard about an ex-Salisbury player who’d moved on, but was talent personified and destined for greater things in the hockey world. His name was John Shaw. He went on to represent Great Britain, and I can remember vividly watching him play on TV in both the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and cheering him on frantically, because like me, he’d learned to play hockey in Salisbury.

I can remember my first encounter with the great man, but I’m pretty sure he won’t remember meeting me. My best friend at the time and I, both 13 and both hockey players, would from time to time walk the quite long journey into the city centre from where we lived,  to peruse what we considered to be the best sports shop in the city of Salisbury. We thought it was best because it was the only one to sell any sort of range of hockey sticks, and as well, the owners of the shop were incredibly friendly and kind. The shop was called Murley Sports, and was by coincidence only a short walk from where I now live, but of course the shop no longer exists. My friend and I spent many long hours in that shop after school, talking to the friendly owners who put up with us, despite us rarely having enough money to buy anything. The hockey stick collection was like nothing I’d seen anywhere else at the time, with a particular brand always catching my eye, and always being the one that I knocked a ball about with, in the shop (the owners were that great!). The brand in question was DFV, and all of the best sticks I’ve ever owned were made by them.

One cold, dark evening, my friend and I had walked down to the shop after school, and upon entering, it all seemed quite chaotic (it was quite a small shop), particularly in the front corner where the hockey stick display was kept. My friend and I stood back, browsing through items we had absolutely no interest in, desperately hoping to move through the racks of sports clothing and reach the hockey sticks. But the longer we hung about, the more apparent it became that the person taking up all the space by the hockey sticks, was in fact a salesman, from, yes you’ve guessed it…… DFV. As soon as we realised this, my friend and I edged forward, eager to see what was going on, and get a glimpse of any new sticks that might be arriving. I can remember thinking how polite and friendly the salesman was, not at all what I was expecting, if I was honest. The owners, my friend and I, all listened as he talked about the sticks he’d brought with him, and got each one out to show. My friend and I were mesmerised as each stick came out, and I swear at one point it actually occurred to me to tell the salesman that I could demonstrate to the owners how good the sticks actually were (a good job for me that I was so shy, and didn’t, as it turns out). The conversations went on, more sticks were brought out, and the one thing that became apparent was that the salesman’s name was John. And yes, by now you’ve guessed the rest of the story. At some point towards the end of his demonstration, he very politely introduced himself to us (you could have knocked both my friend and I down with a feather), and then, on the shop floor…..gave us a quick demonstration with stick and ball. My earlier thought of offering to help made me blush, as I watched the ball whizzing in and out of the racks of clothing at high speed, positively glued to the end of the gorgeous DFV stick. If I’d had the money, I’d have bought his entire stock there and then. After appeasing two very shy, very enthusiastic , hockey schoolboys, still dressed in their school uniform, Mr Shaw parted with a number of sticks (to the shop of course), and, after saying “goodbye” politely, disappeared into the cold, dark, winter’s night. My first meeting with John Shaw, Great Britain hockey player; I can remember it like it was just yesterday, and I don’t doubt, so can my school mate.

My next encounter with John Shaw was more….surreal than anything else. The wonderful Haunchers touring side that I play for, many, many years ago, at the time that John was representing Great Britain, was attending the Bournemouth Easter hockey festival. Now our legendary captain Mark ‘Cheese’ Cheesley had been in contact with John (they knew each other from their days at Salisbury hockey club), in the hope that John would either play for us, or just come down and …mingle. The Bournemouth festival used to be great and hugely popular (and I’m sure it still is…haven’t been for a few years. Haunchers up until recently have attended Weymouth Easter hockey festival…again, fantastic). Captain Fantastic told the side that John might turn up when we all reunited, and to be honest…we all thought that it was a bit of a tall tale….particularly me! Anyhow, one of our games, I think on Easter Friday, was a way from the Chapel Gate ground, on the Astroturf at Canford school (a ten minute car ride away). I can’t remember who we were playing, but as it was quite early in the morning, and a car journey away from the bar, they were quite serious, and quite sober. We, having a full complement of players, had struggled to get an umpire, and the opposition had no umpire at all. As both teams warmed up, a car pulled up into the car park, and out shot a vaguely familiar face………that’s right….John Shaw. He wandered onto the pitch, greeted the Haunchers that he knew (not me of course, but I’m sure he said “hi”), and wandered off to chat to ‘Cheese’, our captain. Well before we knew it, the match was due to start, and the umpiring situation still hadn’t been resolved…….or so we thought. As we started to strip off, up wandered ‘Cheese’, announcing to everybody that one umpire was going to do the whole game on his own, so we all had to behave, and own up (something that as a team, we did, and do, anyway). How surprised were we to see the legend that is John Shaw, step out in to the middle of the pitch in his tracksuit, armed with whistle and a set of cards? My first thought was something like ‘I really wasn’t expecting that!’ Anyway…what can you say? It was of course, thoroughly decent of him to step up and do it, and to this day, I’m still grateful. Umpiring as we all know is not easy at the best of times, whether you’ve done it only a handful of times, or many hundreds, and particularly when you’re on your own and you’re in charge of two teams that really, really want to win….fairly, of course (well, at least we did. As for the opposition…..well, considering it was supposed to be a friendly…let’s just say they didn’t take it in quite in that spirit). The game was a right ding dong, not least because the umpiring was so very, very……………….poor! That’s the only way to describe it. It wasn’t his fault, we tried to help, owning up, etc, but the opposition thought that they were playing in a league match. It quickly got out of control, and stayed that way for most of the match. As I walked off the pitch at the end, two things ran through my mind. One…..how sorry I felt for our improvised umpire, and two, what a complete bunch of *********** our opponents were, for the way they played the game, and for the way they were now saying as loudly as possible, what a crap umpire he was, so that all and sundry could hear. I remember watching John Shaw handing the cards and whistle back to ‘Cheese’, and heading straight for his car. Couldn’t blame him really, especially when he was doing everyone a favour and umpiring so that the game could go ahead. The Haunchers, as we picked up our kit all voiced our thoughts, quite strongly as it happens to our captain, but being the composed, calm voice of reason that he is, he just said,

“Let’s just forget about it and move on.”

While we were warming down (not really sure that was me, just the rest of them), and the other team were too, something had happened at the far end of the pitch, by the entrance. John Shaw had walked back onto the pitch, minus tracksuit, and was busy putting balls from a bucket at different points around the edge of the D. You could have used the smile on my face to light up the far side of the moon, as I, and the rest of the Haunchers, knew exactly what was about to happen, unlike our very unsporting opponents, who, even as John was setting the balls out, were still mocking him. And then it happened…………………..BOOM!!!! One after another he moved around the edge of the D, firing the dozen or so balls that he’d laid out right into the top corners of the goal. Impressive doesn’t begin to cover what happened during those few moments. I think the Haunchers all as one, took a sneaky peak at our opposition further down the pitch, as they watched one of the best players in the country doing what he did best, in open mouthed bewilderment. As we all wandered past them, on the way back to the car park, we all told them,

“Didn’t you know? That’s John Shaw….Great Britain international!” The look on their faces was a picture. They all scarpered pretty damn quick.

My last encounter with John was when the new Astroturf pitch at Salisbury hockey club was unveiled quite some time ago. I was fortunate enough to be playing in the Salisbury 1st XI at the time, and John had kindly brought a few of his friends along, and combined with some present and ex-Salisbury club players, had agreed to take us on, in a day of festivities, with the ladies playing later that afternoon. The game was great, played in the right spirit, a great crowd, with lots of new faces and old, all appearing to celebrate this momentous event that had taken so long to come to fruition. Memorable moments include a ‘Barter’ aerial ball that flew over his shoulder, up in the air about thirty feet, and landed outside the fence of the Astroturf, and the skill and ability of John Shaw and some of the friends he’d bought along. The first team, needless to say, were outclassed that day and ended up losing, but at one point I found myself  covering back (as sweeper) behind my keeper, who’d gone rushing out to meet, of all players, John Shaw, on a breakaway attack. The entire first team, with the exception of myself and the keeper, had moved up to try and even up the score. In the blink of an eye, John had rounded the keeper with consumate ease and was now at the top of the D, pulling back his stick, ready to unleash a shot at goal, with only me standing on the goal line, in his way. Talk about your life flashing before your eyes! Moments from the previous story, yes the one with him belting the balls in the top corner of the goal many years before, ran through my head like an out of control steam train. But still, there was a big part of me that fancied myself to save whatever shot he unleashed……..I’d done similar things numerous times before, but why should this be any different, I remember thinking. Anyway, he scored with what was a powerful, and accurate strike, kept away from me. I recall coming off the pitch and thinking about that moment. I’m sure he could have let go with a much more powerful shot (don’t get me wrong, it was a sweet strike), but not only that, I was sure I should have got my stick on it and saved it. My reasoning then, as it is now, is that the sun was bright and low, and shining directly into my eyes……It was….HONEST!  If not for that, then I was sure I would have at least got something on the shot. That’s how I felt then, and exactly how I feel now….stupid really!

Anyhow, a great ladies game progressed after our match and the festivities went on for many hours in the bar afterwards. A great and special day was had by all, marred only by a bad injury to one of the first XI, my best friend from school, mentioned above, the one, who like me, stood and watched John Shaw dribbling the ball in and out of the displays of that wonderful sports shop. Thankfully,although it took some time, he recovered from injury and returned to play again.

So there you have it, my encounters with, for me, a hero, a legend and an inspiration. John Shaw, thank you very much for inspiring that young schoolboy, and I’m sure many others at Salisbury hockey club.

A clip from the Salisbury Journal about the Astroturf opening mentioned above.

Olympic Hockey Memories 2

What seems like a very long time ago, when Havant were widely regarded as the best men’s hockey side in the country, Salisbury 1st XI were drawn against them in the cup. Of all the teams we could have drawn……WOW! There was much excitement in the build up and quite a few of the club’s men and ladies who weren’t playing in the game travelled down to Havant to support us.

Warming up was quite surreal really, looking across to the other half of the pitch, to where numerous international players were going about their normal routines. To say I was in awe was something of an understatement. David Faulkner, Rob Hill and Russell Garcia were there, as well as a few more. To describe things as a David vs Goliath situation would perhaps not have done justice to it.

I can honestly say it’s the only time I’ve been nervous before the start of a hockey match. Even when I was young, nerves never really played a part. I was always too excited about playing to get nervous. As we lined up as a team, I’m sure we all looked around at each other as if to say,

“What the hell have we got ourselves into!”

Looking at the Havant line up, they all seemed to have a steely determination that I’d never seen before, or since, in a team I’ve played against. Perhaps that’s what made them so good. Before I could shake the importance of what we were about to embark upon out of my head, the whistle blew to start the game.

Realistically we never stood a chance, but for me two things stand out from that game, apart from the fact that we were playing against some truly brilliant players (often seen on the TV), and would get to see just how good they were up close. (Oh God they were good………just watching Rob Hill flick the ball in the warm up was awesome.)

The game started, and to our utter bewilderment, we weren’t a goal down after 30 seconds or so. Then it reached a minute, two, three, and then the most bizarre thing happened. We got the ball, slipped it through to one of our best forwards who picked it up, raced through to the top of the D, pulled back his stick and unleashed one hell of a shot. I know, as I was standing at the back (as sweeper), mouth agog, barely able to believe what I was seeing, and I wasn’t the only one of our team in this condition.

With the keeper watching on, the ball smashed into the post and went behind for a Havant sixteen yard hit. You could see the whole of our team thinking the same thing, all at the same time…..

“We’ve actually got a chance.”

However, I believe it was this incident that had a twofold effect. One…..it woke Havant up, something I’m surprised needed to happen (perhaps they’d all been on the purple nasties the night before), and two……it made them very, very angry.

Needless to say, I don’t think we even got into their half for the rest of the game and we ended up keeping it to a very respectable 11-0 loss (you think I’m joking, but we actually played about as well as we could…..honest).

The other moment of note, for me at least, came about ten minutes before the end of the match. Havant had pushed nearly all their players forward…..well, you would wouldn’t you in a game like that, and we were defending for our lives. I’d found myself marking David Faulkner (a big hero of mine). As I stood behind him, goal side, he abruptly took a step backward and stood right on my foot. Before I had a chance to even move, he removed his foot, turned round, looked me straight in the face and said……………

“I’m really sorry.”

And there you have it……..my claim to fame…..David Faulkner apologising for stepping on my foot in a hockey match.

Despite losing, the opportunity to play in that particular match was great. I know all the Salisbury players involved that day gave everything they had, but we were purely and simply outclassed. Still I had a great time, and in fact I would say that most of my favourite matches have been when we’ve lost, whether that’s because I see more of the ball at the back as sweeper, or because the majority of matches I’ve played in have been lost, I simply don’t know. Anyhow, I’ve had a great time playing hockey, win, lose or draw and my children are forever having it drummed into them that It’s not the winning or losing, it’s the taking part and having fun that counts…..something I truly believe.

On the subject of the hockey match against Havant, I mentioned how amazing Rob Hill’s flicking was. I quite fancy myself at flicking, and at my best, used to be able to flick it just over half a pitch length. I’ve also scored a few decent open play goals from flicks, despite the fact that I’m a sweeper. Anyway one day I was playing for one of the Salisbury sides (can’t remember which one, but not the 1st XI) at Warminster against West Wilts. After arriving, most of my team wandered off to find somewhere to get changed, but since I was already in my kit, I decided to take a closer look at the game taking place on the Astroturf, which I could already tell from a distance looked like it was a real humdinger, with tackles flying in left, right and centre. Standing on the sidelines, it became apparent that the game was being played between West Wilts 1st XI and Yeovil 1st XI, and yes you’ve guessed it, Rob Hill was playing at the back for Yeovil. I watched intently, hooked on the fast paced and fully committed action from both sides. And then it happened. A West Wilts player had dribbled into the D, about to shoot at goal. Rob Hill made a great tackle, and then swiftly dribbled over to what would have been his own left hand corner of the pitch, taking a little glance up the pitch as the opponent he’d just robbed of the ball chased him down. I wasn’t standing too far away on the side line, and wondered exactly what it was he’d do now, as there was no obvious pass to get him out of trouble, and his defenders weren’t exactly ‘busting a gut’ to get back and help. With the ball on his reverse stick, and all the time on the move, Rob Hill, very casually, with what looked like a very tiny flick of both his wrists, played an aerial ball. Not just any aerial ball either: the single most amazing pass I’ve ever seen. The ball left his reverse stick while he was running in the bottom left hand corner of the pitch. It took off like a rocket, with the Yeovil right wing picking up the pass as it dropped, wide right, halfway inside the opponent’s twenty five, and going on to have a shot at goal. The ball had travelled the full length of the pitch, probably because it went diagonally. From a reverse stick on the run…………wow!

To this day I can remember it in exact detail. Of course I told all of my team mates when they arrived at the pitch…..and of course, none of them believed me. It was brilliant….Rob Hill…LEGEND!!

Please add your thoughts and comments for a chance to win a signed copy of my book ‘Bentwhistle the Dragon in a Threat from the Past’. Click on the ‘read all’ version of the post to view comments box at the end.

 

 

 

Olympic Hockey Memories 1

Sean Kerly, Ian Taylor, Imran Sherwani, David Faulkner, Richard Dodds, John Shaw, Rob Hill and Russell  Garcia are all names that conjure up powerful emotions and memories for me. The Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984 were the first to really capture my imagination, despite the fact that I’d been playing hockey for many, many years by then. Whether it was the prominence of the hockey in my life (probably!!), the media coverage, because we had such a good team at the time (I seem to remember hockey items everywhere in the newspapers and on TV…….long before the internet, children), perhaps the age I’d reached (15), or just the fact that it seemed so much more amazing than any of the others….with the opening ceremony featuring the man in the jetpack zooming around the Olympic stadium over all the spectators’ heads, I just couldn’t tell you. All I know is that it stands out vividly, and I can remember organising my time so that I could see each GB game. The excitement of watching each and every game that year, and in the following two Olympics (Seoul in 1988 where we won Gold and Barcelona in 1992) was probably the greatest I’ve ever experienced watching any sporting event on TV (and I try to watch a lot of sport on TV, when I’m not trying to play it)…..even to this very day. Sean Kerly’s prolific goals, Ian Taylor’s amazing saves (particularly when facing a penalty stroke), and Imran Sherwani’s mesmerising dribbling skills were the ingredients of a young hockey player’s dreams, and I couldn’t wait for each and every opportunity to see my heroes on the television, of which there seem to be a lot, back in those days. While I’ve never met Ian Taylor or Imran Sherwani or Richard Dodds, I did once see Sean Kerly from a distance in a crowd (quite a thrill at the time), and have played against David Faulkner, Rob Hill, Russell Garcia and John Shaw (as well as having been umpired by John Shaw, something I’m very sure he has forgotten, or has been trying to. More on that later.)

But the first one of these amazing hockey players I want to mention is Richard Dodds. As I said, I’ve never met him, only ever watched his games on the TV as a youngster………and you know how it is. You sit there…..thinking you know more about the game than they do, thinking you could slip right into the side and do a better job at a certain position……YEAH RIGHT!! But I’m sure most fans are the same whether it’s hockey, rugby, football…..whatever. I remember watching GB and England matches on the TV and for whatever reason, always thinking that I never really fancied Dodds as a player very much…….that is until this certain moment!! I can’t quite remember the exact details, but I think for some reason that it might have been an indoor game. He was playing (captain I think), and I was sitting watching excitedly, once again thinking that he and I could have swapped over pretty much seamlessly and nobody would have spotted the difference (except the name on the shirt). Then it happened. The opposition broke away…quickly. I moved forward, and was now perched right on the edge of my seat. I can remember thinking,

“We’re outnumbered. They’re all over us. How will this not be a goal?”

All of these things flashed through my mind in practically a split second. Our keeper came out (I think it was Taylor, but can’t be too sure). The opponent moved the ball across to their right hand side, leaving the opposition player with an open goal. With a flick of his wrist he powerfully guided the ball towards the empty goal. I sat and watched as they scored. Only…….they didn’t. From out of nowhere a defender dived full length at top speed, and with his reverse deflected the ball away from the goal. I sat there astounded….well and truly. Who was this defender I hear you ask? Who do you think? That’s right………Richard Dodds!

From that day on, I paid more attention to what he did in each game I watched, and do you know what I discovered? I was kind of right. He wasn’t good……..he was great! Oh, he wasn’t showy or fancy. He didn’t stand out like some of the others (nobody did when Sherwani was dribbling). He just did everything really, really well. He was a fantastic defender who just got on with it and led by example. He was someone I really, really wanted to emulate. So, Richard Dodds, if you ever have the misfortune to read this, then two things. One….I’m really sorry I ever doubted you as a player….I was an idiot (and yes I don’t discount the fact that I may still be one). Two…..you really inspired me to play the way I have during a very long hockey career….so thank you very much.

One last thing on this subject. Certain games, actions, moments, call them what you will, tend to stand out when you play hockey for a long time, any game in fact. One of these moments for me was in a summer league game at Bournemouth against a very good team. During that match, I found myself in the exact same position that Dodds had done in the situation mentioned previously. We’d were outnumbered at the back (not an unusual occurrence for a Salisbury side), with the opposition having any number of choices as to who to pass to. As sweeper I tried to go to the ball, but it was moved on quickly. As I turned and tried to run back (yes I know, me…..run. That’s how bad it was,) our keeper had come rushing out and the opposing centre forward had just slipped it right to one of his team mates, who by now had an open goal. I was near, and rapidly closing down the angle, but not near enough. That Dodds moment that I’d seen on TV flashed through my mind, and as the winger brought back his stick to strike the ball, I launched myself, stick out in front of me, and amazingly did exactly what he’d done. I deflected the ball, reverse stick, off the pitch. It can’t have been too shabby as everyone watching the game gave me a round of applause. I was a little disappointed though! The umpire (who I knew a little) signalled for a penalty corner. As I got back to my feet, blood pouring from my knees, I spread my arms and clearly remember saying to the him,

“I was trying to get it out to the sideline……honest!”

To be continued……..

Please add your thoughts and comments for a chance to win a signed copy of my book ‘Bentwhistle the Dragon in a Threat from the Past’. 

Olympic superstar Michael Johnson carrying the Olympic Torch in Salisbury recently.

Lacrosse

Not written in my blog for a while so, here goes. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to play in two great games of mixed hockey, both of which I’ve enjoyed immensely, incorporating new friends and old, which has been just great but ….here’s the surprise….I’ve been to two lacrosse training sessions with my eldest daughter on the same astroturf pitch that Salisbury hockey club use. It’s the first time I’ve ever had the chance to try lacrosse, despite having watched a few games in the past, and having looked at thousands of lacrosse websites across the world for the ‘sport near you’ section of my website www.bentwhistlethedragon.co.uk. Not having ever picked up a lacrosse stick before last Sunday, it was a real thrill to finally do so at the same time as my nine year old daughter. The smile on her face when she started trying to pick the ball up and throw it was a delight to see, a smile that gradually got bigger and bigger as she had to train alongside me and then run out against me in a few of the exercises. I’d like to say I let her win the ball all the time, and some of the time I did, but it was only really my hockey experience and hand-eye coordination that gave me an advantage over her. I suspect it won’t be long before I won’t get anywhere near her, either at hockey or lacrosse, as I know she’s excited to continue with the coaching sessions and hopefully play a part in the new club that’s trying to be formed in this part of the world. So to all of you Salisbury residents old and young alike, I urge you to come and have a go at lacrosse. It’s free of charge, fantastic fun, run by friendly, knowledgable coaches and offers the chance to make some new friends while keeping fit and having fun at the same time.The sessions run until 15th July every Sunday, 2-3pm as South Wilts Sports Club, Wilton Road, Salisbury. For more information contact Holly Benton at salisburylacrosse@live.co.uk. I look forward to seeing you there.

A couple of other things to mention. First, I seem to have had my twitter account suspended for no reason that I know of. I’ve sent quite a few messages to twitter support, and so far have had no reply. So for anyone who’s tried to follow me on twitter, I can only offer my apologies and assure you that I’m doing my best to try and resolve the problem. The second thing I would like to say is that no one has commented on anything I’ve had to say…………..ouch! Now I can honestly say I don’t really like the sound of my own voice, and part of me thinks that no one at all is reading any of this…..but I know that the blog page of my website is most definitely looked at. So, once again to try and get things going……I’ll offer a free copy of my book to the first person to make a sensible, thoughtful and hopefully amusing post….and yes, wherever you are in the world, so long as it’s not in the middle of the Amazon, or Antarctica, etc, etc.

Looking forward to hearing from you all…..well…both of you anyway!

My daughter and I at the second Salisbury lacrosse coaching session.

Should I Let My Kids……….

The first thing I have to say here, is that my post today is not going to be the one I had planned. The one I had planned was either going to be about the first/best piece of sporting equipment you’ve ever owned (i.e. stick, ball, boots, gloves, etc) or the best sporting festival that you’ve ever been to. As normal I was going to recount my answer to the question, and then sit at home and pray that someone might take pity on me and post a comment. The reason that this post is not the one planned is…..well because of my weekend. I managed to watch (on the TV) some of the Olympic Test Event hockey from the Riverbank Arena on Olympic Park. I really enjoyed watching, which I can’t always say despite my many years as a hockey player. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m not playing, the commentary, the viewing angles, lack of replays, or just missing the kind of angles that I’d like to see it from, but sometimes I find it really hard to get into.  Oh how I’d like the kind of technology that Sky apply to their football coverage to be available to cover hockey matches…..how totally and utterly amazing would that be?

Anyhow, I really enjoyed watching despite some dubious commentary at times, my TV showing that Argentina were playing China, when in fact it should have been Argentina playing Great Britain, and the timing disappearing and reappearing, seemingly at random…..anyhow, I digress. The hockey was great in each and every one of the games…and you know this is the case when you are still thinking about it, hours after it’s finished.

As well as the hockey, one of the things that played on my mind was ….injuries. Watching Crista Cullen score two goals and then have to leave the pitch with a damaged ankle, and then watch Alex Danson join her on the sidelines shortly afterwards really stood out, and played on my mind. “How would they both recover? Would they be fit and ready for the Olympics?” were important questions. While the GB team played well after they’d both gone off, with I have to say some magnificent defending (I seem to appreciate that more than the attacking, what with being a defender myself and having been so for what seems like a million years), the team as a whole did seem a very different prospect, with Argentina not facing nearly the attacking threat that they had been. Wondering about all of this sent my mind racing back through a history of hockey matches and all of the injuries I had suffered.  During numerous trips to A&E, I’ve given the wonderful doctors and nurses cause to treat me for two cracked ribs (twice in the last four years), stitches in my face (twice), a broken finger (in two places that had to be operated on that night), my top lip being hit by a stick and split apart (requiring thirty-two stitches from the on-duty plastic surgeon), not to mention numerous torn ligaments, chipped bones, bruises, grazes, etc. Casting my mind back over all of this makes me think …one…just how injury prone I’ve been (is it just me, or does everyone know of players that pick up no knocks at all?), and…two…however badly I’ve been hurt, I’ve always been desperate just to get back on a pitch and chase that stupid little ball about. When I was hit with a stick in the face and needed thirty-two stitches, (and this next bit is very stupid looking back on it, I can see that now, but probably would still do the same again if I had to choose), it was at my home hockey festival at Salisbury and, yes, I played in a game the next day. The game I played in the next day was as the only ‘grown up’….hmmm…that doesn’t sound right….the only ‘adult’ in a team of junior girls that I helped coach against the ladies 1st XI. While the game was a drew, and as games go, might not have been that memorable to everyone else, I can still remember vividly everything that happened, and I have to say, it sticks out as being up there in my top ten games that I’ve ever played in.

“What is my point? ” you might ask. Well….I’m not really too sure. Only that as a hockey player, and almost certainly any player of team sport, there’s an almost desperation to get back out and be part of the team. Looking back on that game…was I doing it to be part of the team?, knowing that me being in the team would have made a difference….sadly I think not. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to be part of the team and play against the ladies 1st XI, but I think it was for a more selfish reason…..because I  knew how much I would enjoy it, and essentially carry the memory with me…which I have. So to return to play, we do what we have to, sometimes still going back injured, even when it’s not such a good idea. Why, I don’t know…perhaps you could let me know your thoughts, and the injuries you’ve received playing your sport….(not in too graphic detail).

I wish Crista Cullen, Alex Danson and anyone else who has been injured playing team sport this weekend, a speedy recovery.

While hockey watching, I also found myself tweeting at the same time, something that’s very new to me, not something I could ever really see myself doing, but thoroughly enjoying the banter with everyone else. During the afternoon a tweet flicked across my screen about Lizzie Watkins, a hockey player in Australia who had died from being hit by a hockey ball. There was me, thinking about injuries, the hockey on the TV, and a young hockey player in Australia had died, doing what I love to do. This new is still going around my head now, which I suppose is why I’ve seen fit to write about it. My thoughts go out to Lizzie’s family…I’m so very sorry. The sad news about Lizzie and all the injury thoughts don’t seem to want to part from my head (if you knew how little room there is in there, you’d think they’d be fighting to get out), all of which brings me to my children. Both love playing hockey, and the eldest one (who’s 9) and I are supposed to be going along to Lacrosse sessions in less than a week’s time, something I’m really looking forward to trying. But all the time turning over in my head is………do I really want my kids doing all of this…particularly in light of what’s happened to Lizzie? I love my kids more than life itself and would do anything for them, but do I do something as simple as let them play? Hockey for me has been more than just a sport. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s been a way of life. ..how I conduct myself on and off the pitch…it was how I was taught, and I know that there might be people reading this now (good one eh? people reading this!) who don’t understand what I’m talking about, but I also know that there will be people/players reading this who do. I have friends who understand what I’m talking about and conduct themselves in the very same way. So it’s all of this, and the fact that hockey has been so life changing and enjoyable that makes me think that I have no choice but to let my children play, despite the terrible sadness of what has happened in Australia to Lizzie.

So to all parents…let your children play. Ferry them to the pitches in the cold, the wind, the rain, the snow, and let them experience all the joy and friendship that can spring up from playing a team sport…I know I will!