Thursday, 15 December 2011

Champagne and Turkey moments XMAS SPECIAL

Festive greetings one and all! It is at this time, two days before the team's epic Christmas outing that I bring to you the first annual Champagne and Turkey moments list 2011. This list commemorates the moments of glory and moments of shame of each player who has had the pleasure of being part of this wonderful team so far this season. Now, this being the first time such a list has been published I thought it would be best to limit, as much as I can do, the Champagne and Turkey moments of each player to what goes on in and around the field of play. This is simply because I feel it would be unfair on our players to allow some of their bizarre personal gripes to come to dominate a list that hopes to celebrate the best and the worst of the hockey that has been played by this team so far this season. For that reason there will be no mention of things such as Marks ridiculous Abraham Lincoln facial hair, the content of my wardrobe (haters gon' hate), Lewis's apparent resemblance to Twitter sensation and occasional footballer Joey Barton, H's resemblance to the character Gadget from Shane Meadows cracking drama series This is England (if you haven't, get watching it now!), Dave's resemblance to a young Bob Dylan, Jon O's unhealthy obsession with cats or Danny's as yet unsatisfied desire to see Ben shower with the fellow members of the team. No, this is an awards list with a bit of class!

Now there will surely be some achievements that I have missed as the most part of these moments are taken from my memory and I have not been keeping thorough notes. If any reader would like to add any suggestions agreeing or disagreeing with the choices that are to come, please do so using the comments section at the bottom of the post, I'll happily respond to any kind of debate we can get going on, the choices are mine and mine alone and so it is up to you, players and fans (probably not many fans... yet) to decide if you think I've got them right. Above all, this is just a bit of entertainment and light hearted fun. It's a great feeling to be in the position where I feel we can poke fun like this at ourselves whilst still being Number one. The list will start from defence and work through to attack covering all players and positions and finishing with Coach and a whole team moment. So without any further ado here are the Champagne and Turkey moments for Sale men's 1st XI 2011.


Harrison (Captain): Only one GK played for us of course, the Talisman, the hero, the lazy bastard known to us all as H.
Champagne moment: Sick stick stop. vs Crewe. H pulled out a wonderfully improvised stick save from a Drag Flick at a Short Corner, it was a great save because he was surprised by the trajectory of the ball (apparently because the striker was 'shit at drag flicking'), a crucial stop in a crucial game.
Turkey moment: Spectator. There would be a rouges gallery of off-field contenders for this title but as we're on-pitch it has to be  the many times when H has had barely a touch of the ball, getting kitted up and warmed up only to spend 70 minutes watching a game in Goalie kit that ironically is probably beginning to smell a bit like rotting Turkey.


Nick: Once known as New-man-Nick, he's now known more as our straight talking, hard tackling, gin-loving defensive talisman.
Champagne moment: No Entry! There have been too many crucial tackles or interceptions to single out just one so for champagne just read the stats. In the 10/12 games Nick has been in the line up we have conceded just 4 goals, numbers to be proud of.
Turkey moment: Seeing Yellow. A cruel one to give here, given mostly for the incredulous look of shock on his face when Nick was awarded a Yellow Card vs Bebington for..... something... it slips my mind now, I'm sure it was totally the correct decision though, it always is.

Adam (Kiwi): The girth from middle-earth it's the warrior orc himself, making up the second crucial component if the defensive line Kiwi's physical presence on the pitch have ensured no striker wants to step on the dancefloor with him.
Champagne moment: Get that out of here! Unsurprisingly this echoes Nick's champagne very closely. Kiwi has also only allowed 4 goals in 9/12 games for Sale this season (him and Nick have missed separate games, in case you're wondering), fantastic numbers. That we have conceded 5 goals in the 3 games he missed shows true defensive value.
Turkey moment: Reverse Gear. There are always times when a defender can get caught out. Vs Triton this happened to Kiwi looking for a pass that wasn't on he found himself quickly under pressure and proceeded to about turn and run the ball back to near our own baseline. A close escape, it looked ridiculous from the sideline.


Mark Holmes: Slotting in his new home at centre half Mark looks at home working the passes, and he's even popped up with a number of goals, outstripping his previous seasons tally (when playing higher up the pitch) of two goals by some distance.
Champagne moment: A stitch in time. In our first 'bad' game of the season vs Bebington racing against the clock at 1-1 Mark pops up with the winner and helps us go on a long winning run, a lot of head's could have dropped if we didn't get that result so it was a cracking time to strike.
Turkey moment: Who am I? Some hours before his heroic moment Mark awoke at 6am in a flat in central Manchester, unsure of his whereabouts and even his own name and company. The dishevelled player who turned up for warm-up (hugely late) was not the Mark that turns up most weeks, it was a turkey version.

Martin Earl: A new addition to the outfit, Martin has fit right in providing consistent work on the unrewarding half-back positions and filling in with defensive cover excellently a number of times.
Champagne moment: Hunter. Being one of the older (but by no means the oldest) members of the team many opposition wingers (usually young pacy prima donna types) think they're in for a fun afternoon of Martin failing to catch them, until they make that first run on goal only to find the unlikely pace man right on their shoulder taking the ball away for them, the element of surprise is very valuable.
Turkey moment: Last-gasp. There was no member of the team which didn't suffer from the heart-break of the cup loss to Winnington Park. The greatest pain of it is that we were only 10 seconds away from victory in that game, conceding from a late short corner. Martin, in his first game for us, filling in on post duties, missed the shot. Not from any obvious mistake I should add, but it can't be harder to imagine a worse place to have been on that pitch when it went in.

Jon O: Left half terrorist who makes some 'adventurous' movements forward Jon O attacks the game and wants to be a part of the game wherever it is played, cropping up top D or back post when you least expect him to be there.
Champagne moment: Assasin. Ghosting in and taking the glory, Jon O bagged both of his goals this season vs Oxton, celebrating his second with what could well become his trademark exuberant celebration run down the sideline.
Turkey moment: Javelin! We are all susceptible to frustration, nowhere is this more evident than in training. Jon O shows us how frustration can get the better of you. Frustrated with a drill one cold Tuesday Jon O had his fury compounded by a hamstring injury, then, out of frustration proceeded to launch his stick over the astro-turf fence where it landed outside on the concrete and cracked slightly. Unfortunate for Jon O, hilarious for everyone else!

Jim: We welcomed back 'Uncle Jim' gladly on a much more consistent basis this season and he has been a reliable experienced head in the midfield, keeping his head when some of us might otherwise lose them.
Champagne moment: Jim'll fix it! Backing up his versatility, Jim has played all across the midfield this season, putting in maximum effort in as many as 5 different positions per game, a great utility.
Turkey moment: Off or On. Being versatile can have its downside, in Jim's case this means that he is swapped around more often than any other player, spending a lot of time on the touchline as a result. Jim is lucky though, he may be the only player to have had his Turkey moment thrust onto him rather than cocked up for it, and has dealt with it well.

Ben: Young and gifted Ben seems to get better with every game he plays and ranks as one of the most influential players when on the pitch.
Champagne moment: Back for Christmas. It's hard to look past a return from injury layoff vs Triton. Ben was out after a knee operation and many of us didn't expect him to be back until after Christmas, but such was his determination in training his place was rightly given back and he filled in with an excellent job at centre half, like he'd never been away
Turkey moment: Nice trip? I've mentioned the surgery of course, in the run up to that Ben's knee was quite delicate and tender. So much so in fact that when he took a tumble on a Friday night he had to cry off from the Saturday trip to Llandudno an hour before the meet; our only loss was this game. It may have been the right decision for health but it was still a big turkey moment to fall, one which none of us witnessed.

Lynners: Ex Jesus lookalike, current lesbian lookalike Lynners has thrived working higher up the field. One man coverage, two man coverage, three man coverage, it does not bother him. I don't think even sky sports coverage would be enough to take the ball of Lynners when the bit is between his teeth. I'm inclined to be very nice to Lynners of course as he has set up several of my goals this year, including a defence beating assist vs Crewe.
Champagne moment: BOOM! Lynners has always been a champion for placement over power in the shooting debate, which has led to him seeming reluctant to crack the ball in when at top D. It was a great bang that silenced the doubters of his shooting prowess as Lynners boomed in a short corner shot in the first league game of the season vs South Cheshire. He's backed it up with a couple more smashed finishes since then as well for good measure.
Turkey moment: What a finish. Lynners has made it clear he prefers attack but being such a capable player he often helps out the defence and on the post in Short corners especially. This is where he was stood when the Turkey struck, as a wide shot hit his stick and deflected into the goal putting us 2-1 down to Llandudno, a scoreline we never recovered from.

Dave: Dave is our very own Jason McAteer type character, by which I mean his reputation for saying and doing ridiculous thing off-pitch matches his reputation on pitch. This is all about what's on pitch though so I'll focus on that.
Champagne moment: Birthday strike. Vs Triton at home, Dave bagged a goal on his Birthday, it doesn't get much more champagne than that!
Turkey moment: From the jaws of victory... For some reason Dave loves to flick a ball at goal when in a shooting position, allowing crucial extra time for keepers and defenders to react. It's an instinct I know he's been fighting and he managed to put a fantastic shot into the bottom corner of the goal... until Neil popped up and poached it with a deflection, cue lots of whinging, cue turkeys.

Paul: Paul, infamous for his patented 'sweepman-brushman' playing style and also his 'small hands-big arms' physique, is an important option for our midfield who has sadly been out with injury for much of this season so far.
Champagne moment: Sweepstakes. Demonstrating the finest in work effort and sweep ability in a big game Vs Winnington, a game in which all who were involved can be proud of.
Turkey moment: Broken brush. Has to be the injury sadly, Paul would've surely featured or us more often but injury and availability crises in the 2's led to him being absent from us more often than not, a shame as he was building some good link up play with his brother-from-another-mother and fellow right sided player Lionel.

Mikey: Only played one game for us this season but a solid player and always good to see players moving up for the 2's.
Champagne moment: Step-up. Being part of the side that beat Crewe and gave us our lovely 6-point gap at the top of the table.
Turkey moment: New York, New York. Only getting the one game, and leaving for New York for the rest of the season, opportunities lie in wait for next season perhaps.


Goldsie: Fast stick skills and an even faster mouth, Goldsie is often the brunt of many shamefully poor innuendos from the lads, I'm making it my mission to get through his moments without using one.
Champagne moments: One-Two One-Two. Being a player with the ability to take on and beat players (I wouldn't know personally) is a great asset to a side and this campaign Goldsie has shown that value with a much larger emphasis on link play, creating some champagne hockey and tearing defences apart.
Turkey moment: Bad Call. Always wanting to have the ball is a commendable attitude however some of the calls Goldsie makes are dubious at best. Chief among these and well known to any defensive player, is the call of OTT (over the top) asking for an over-the-midfield aerial pass. Nick's counter-call of 'NO!' is usually enough to stop this madness of a pass going through but some players (Kiwi, Jim) have been tempted, only to face the wrath of Nick afterwards.

Danny: The double Doctor of disaster as he's never been known (nor will be again) has been a crucial attacking presence this campaign working in several positions (including, to everyone's surprise, left-half) providing another strong outlet that the opposition can't forget about.
Champagne moment: Stick like a traction engine. In a tough battle it was Danny who made the crucial strike vs Neston to give us a 1-0 win, and what a strike. He latched onto Jon O's pull back so sweetly it was in the goal before anyone knew what was happening. As a striker I can tell you there are few things more satisfying than hitting the ball in the goal really really hard.
Turkey moment: Low score. Danny is known to have had a vice-like grip on the 1st team top-scorer trophy for a good few years, but this season has only managed to hit 3 goals so far, lagging some way behind the leader. Sure, this is due to positioning rather than missing chances but it counts as turkey for me. Note: this is not an excuse to begin zero-angle shooting again Danny!

Neil: Another new addition Neil is the crucial outlet for our team. An absolute nuisance inside the D up at centre forward Neil has had nothing but success, leading our top scorers list by some distance as well as the leagues top scorer list, keep it up!
Champagne moment: Chipping in. Maybe it should be the hat-tricks and in some ways this champagne moment is for them. Vs City of Manchester Neil was able to score two out of his three goals with the most sublime chips over the keeper that he had to to it twice to prove it wasn't a fluke, champagne strikes indeed.
Turkey moment: Plate service. I know some out there will expect me to be harsh and go for the injury Neil suffered last week but I'm not going to do that. For me, there can be no greater moment than the absolute sitter he missed vs Neston. It was put on a plate for him to make it 2-0 and the game safe, but in that moment it turned out Neil wasn't hungry for goals, he was hungry for Turkey!

Lionel: Probably the fastest player in the league, Lionel has owned the right wing when on it this season and though he may of took some time to find his scoring form, he's been a great option to change a game and gives us a crucial element, pace.
Champagne moment: Out of nowhere. Lots of hard work doesn't always mean lots of goals but for Lionel the hard work paid off and I'm picking his 2nd strike in as many games vs Deeside for a champagne moment. Using his pace he latched onto what seemed a hopeless ball into the D to put away the 2nd goal of the game and hit the opposition like a knife in the dark.
Turkey moment: Man down. Has to be injury once more. Vs Crewe Lionel had started strong and was through on goal looking to make it 1-0 and 3 goals in 3 games but his hamstring went and that was that, the Xmas break has come at a good time for Lionel had we hope to welcome him back in January.

Lewis: Mr Ice cold, the man in the 'shit' jacket is a newcomer, fighting for and retaining his place in the first team deservedly, he will give H and coach many selection headaches in the new year.
Champagne moment: Cooler than cool. After a couple of games in the 1's Lewis fell back to the 2's but kept his head in true Ice cold style and came roaring back like a winter blizzard to command a place in the team.
Turkey moment: Bambi on ice. Vs Crewe Lewis started a run only to fall over, get up, fall over and get up again. There may have been more falling and standing than that, I'm not sure, it all happened so fast. The closest thing I can describe it as is when a cartoon character falls down a hill and becomes a big ball of rolling dust with arms and legs sticking out of it at all angles, it was a turkey-worthy fall.

George (Vice-Captain): Lastly of the players we come to me. Not sure how I'd describe myself, my Twitter bio says I'm mediocre so I think I'll stick with that, doing OK for goals though which is always nice.
Champagne moment: Goal of the century. For me it has to be, by a mile, the superb, sublime and totally unexpected reverse stick finish vs Winnington Park for the equaliser in the cup. I used cunning and 'unorthadox' technique (also known as being crap) to make the finish. It might not of been pretty but it gave us the belief that we needed in that game and for that I'm proud.
Turkey moment: Lost. I've made a couple of cameos at right-half this season and I would describe my performances there as a centre forward playing at right half aka Turkey-full.

Coach (Rob): I can't let coach get away without a mention. He's been supporting us every step of the way, shown us the road, helped us go down it and is every bit and more a part of this team as all of the players on it. We all play for him and want to win for him, long may it continue.
Champagne moment: New Born. Looking past the joy of getting to watch the mighty Sale every weekend, I have to save special mention for the birth of Coach's daughter Katy, for whom he has missed some of our games for. It's a testament to the clarity of his instruction in how he wants us to play that we can still go out there and perform for him, in his style, and win.
Turkey moment: Barn Door. After one of our home games the Golden Oldies 3rd team took to the pitch after that. A few of us stayed for a watch and were lucky enough to see coach miss a succession of golden chances, for which much stick was given. I should point out he did manage to score, but it detracts from the Turkey-ness that was on display so please disregard that point.

Team: Lastly a whole team champagne and turkey moment, two moments that have summed up the joy and failings of our season:
Champagne moment: Can we get much higher? Final whistle vs Crewe, when me moved 6 points clear and beat the best team we'd come up against in the league, everyone worked hard for that victory and felt it.
Turkey moment: Grim Seaside. Llandudno.... enough said.

That concludes the Champagne and Turkey moments for 2011. I hope you've enjoyed them and agree with my choices. Think I've missed something? Feel hard done by? Please leave a comment and let's get debating. Thanks for reading though, this took me far longer than I thought it would so I'm not going to promise a 2012 version of this right now but we'll see

Sunday, 11 December 2011

2011, down sticks

The final whistle fell on the 2011 portion of our campaign, leaving us six points clear at the top, number one being the only position we've filled all season. It's a source of great satisfaction but underneath the smiles is the cold realisation that this is only half time really, and though we may have the advantage now that can all change if we take our foot off the gas. That was the worry with our last game really, with a new six point gap at stake we felt more secure than ever at the top but that's where complacency strikes hardest. It struck yesterday in a confusing way. We were simultaneously complacent and nervous and in the opening half of the game it really showed. On the sidelines we were worried, on the pitch we were frustrated. But, we weathered the storm as always and despite a poor (by our standards) half we went in 3-0 up, not exactly the apocalypse I think you'll agree.

The second half passed much smoother (well, not for Neils wrist) and we came away 6-0 victors. Happy ending right? Well, not really is the answer. Most of the players though it was a poor game and we didn't show up. The feeling was that we were saved somewhat by the tactic of our opposition playing only two older, slower defenders at the back, that combination is always going to struggle to contain our pace. Perhaps it was the case that we struggled due to the high pressure in the midfield and the physical nature of the tackling, that took us out of our step. Well, that's something we're going to have to deal with. We've played everyone now and there are no surprises left for us to spring, they know how we play and if they play to contain us then that is something we have to deal with. The fact that they played to stop us playing and we scored six goals and conceded none should hopefully serve as warning to other teams that want to turn up and come at us with that effort, you might stop us enjoying ourselves but you won't stop us winning!

In my opinion it wasn't a classic encounter for us but there nerves played a big part, the desire to hold that gap for Christmas was maybe a little too heavy in the mind. I do believe that descriptions of it being our 2nd or 3rd worst performance of the season are a bit harsh, as it overlooks the things we did well, like beating our frustration and turning it into goals rather than turning on each other. The harshness of our collective verdict on ourselves says to me that maybe, just maybe, the Christmas break has come at exactly the right time. It allows us to wind down and take stock of where we are, where we want to be, and not allow ourselves to boil over with unnecessary frustration. We are the best team after all!

I'll also just quickly echo the words of coach in terms of maintaining fitness over the break. It is important but none of us are professional athletes and frankly I'll certainly be enjoying a mince pie and a selection box (that's right selection box, who cares if I'm a grown man) or two in the break. It's up to each player in the squad to balance the needs of himself with that of the team. I'm not going to spout off any nonsense about sacrifices and all of that, we do this for fun and none of us are Jesus (although now I think about it several of our players have at one point or another looked like him, Nick is currently our resident Jesus). Anyway that's it for me in terms of talking about our games until the new year, but I will be back later in the week with my Christmas special Champagne and Turkey moments blog, if you've got any late suggestions just drop me a message.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Once more round the block

It was a battle, it was a war, it was as close as we've been, it was the best opponents in the league. We passed through the furnace just like we knew we would have to and we now stand on the other side, a team apart, six points clear and toasting to success. This is the halfway mark, no surprises remain, we've faced every team, beaten all but one (and I assure you on the return fixture we will be coming for them like the wrath of almighty god) and this weekend beat our last challenger, ironically the last team we played before the turn-around. They were good, but I think they knew it, something we have suffered from ourselves. They tried to come into our house and tell us what to do, we allowed that for a time, some say deliberately, then turned up the volume and got the job done. I was personally proud to score our second goal (which proved decisive, though I'm not sure Mark would be happy with that description), but I'm not going to harp on about my performance. There's two reasons for that, one, as I've been made aware I spent plenty of time last week discussing my position and what I would do, that's what I did so there's no need to re-visit it (just remember though, you heard it here first before you saw it on the pitch!). The other reason, the main reason, is because in a big game like that everybody had to bring their all and fight to make that win a possibility, it doesn't matter if you're putting the ball away, making the crucial pass, the crucial tackle or marking a man out of the game. The team we played would have hurt us if there was any liability in the team, there was none.

I think that the selection issues are becoming more problematic for us H and coach. After a crucial win like that, every man deserves to be in and yet there were important members of the squad missing, players who themselves have done nothing wrong other that miss the game itself (which is a cardinal sin in its own right, but doesn't lessen their ability). It is a testament to the players who have come in to give them that problem and it's one they'll approach fairly, because fair is the only way it can be.

It would be easy for me to say that we have it easy now we are six points clear halfway through the season. If we repeated the first half of the season we would win the league that much is true, but you shouldn't need a guy like me to tell you it doesn't work like that. The next half of the season is strewn with difficult away fixtures to all of the teams making up the higher places in the table. Dangerous places to go. Our away form has been somewhat inconsistent with some of our worst performances coming away from home so good preparation and a focused minds are going to be key when we make those long trips, the other teams are not going to give up trying to catch us so we cannot afford to give up any ground. That starts next week with our last game before Christmas. In some ways it is more vital than last week. It's a bit like how a team is most vulnerable just after it has scored, our newly found gap is in great danger next week. I won't allow our Christmas to be ruined by this last game and if there is any player who thinks we have it easy from here on in, they might just be the player who helps H and coach make those selection headaches go away!

So there we go, lap one of two is over and now we have to go out there and win the second half of the season as well. Next time I'll be reporting on our last game and after that they'll be something of a 'Christmas special' blog which will feature every player who has played for us having their own 'champagne' and 'turkey' moments. I've got a few ides already but if you have any suggestions you know where to find me, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


The win train was at the station again on Saturday, a happy 3-1 result for another late late away game. It was perhaps a tougher battle than we expected but we won out and that enough for us. The game had the feeling of a stumbling block in my mind, but we acquitted ourselves with confidence and battled it out. It puts our win streak at 4 and our 3 point gap at the top remains intact. That three point gap is going to be tested this weekend though.

In the backs of our collective minds there is an image of our season calender and as the weeks have worn on one weekend and one game has been highlighted, then circled, then underlined. That game is this weekend and it pits us against the closest challengers remaining to us, three points behind. The other teams have fallen by the wayside and two teams have churned out win after win. They are the last team we play before the change around and the only team with an unbeaten record. Whilst they've got that cherry of a stat on us we've got them beat in pretty much every other way. We've won more, drawn less, scored more, conceded less, and have a better goal difference (naturally). Come the showdown and the stats will be meaningless. It's a huge tie for us, our biggest of the season, the tingles are already setting in and it's only Tuesday, this is what we play for!

It's tough to say who is under the greater pressure in this situation, is it us as the hunted, seeking to pull away? Or is it the hunter who needs to catch us or starve? I don't know or care because I know we'll be coming to war either way and ready for a fight. There's a famous quote 'pressure is privilege', we have earnt the right to entertain this fixture and as far as our opponents achievements are concerned, well, they haven't played us yet...

I'll be making a fond return to centre forward on Saturday as well after cameoing at right half last Saturday. I'm not appalled at my performances in that position but to say that marking isn't my strong suit is something of a massive understatement. So I did find myself exposed at times due mostly to my knee-jerk ball pressure over-commitment (10 years of forward play gets into your bones) and I have to thank my team-mates for stepping in and helping me out of trouble. The fact that my man contributed nothing significant to the game and was hugely reluctant to shake my hand at the final whistle (marde arse) shows that I must have had some effect there. That said I think the fact he was a hugely greedy dribbler obsessed with showboating may have let himself down a lot too, so I can hardly claim to be defensively supreme. Anyway it matters not as I'll be repaying in kind all of the bail-outs I received last weekend with some goals this weekend.

This game represents the half-way point of our season and is hugely close match. For that reason I would ask and beg that you please turn out and support us, we will take any advantage we can get and having some support and cheering will certainly get us going. It's also a good chance for us to show you what we can do and give you guys a taste of the results of the hard work we've been doing. So come along, bring a friend! bring a flag! and get ready for the showdown, we've been ready and waiting for some time...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Why do we do what we do?

It's become a concern to me that these blogs are following a somewhat similar pattern. Don't get me wrong, it's a happy pattern, but reporting about another victory each week and trying to come up with new things to say is only good for so long. There are only so many times that I can bang on about not being complacent and not lowering ourselves and playing to our potential and not being arrogant and so on and so forth before it becomes a bit repetitive. There has to come a point where this starts to be a routine, when it becomes a discipline, when I don't need to bang on about it, when we know it by heart. I'd like to think we're getting there, maybe I'm being generous though, what do you think? What I know is that our 7-1 win had a hint of routine to it. I don't say that to spite our opponents (who probably aren't worth their bottom of the table tag), just that we were confident of a result (OK, maybe over-confident to begin with) and we delivered.

So instead this week I'd like to talk about the phenomenon of Hockey itself and just what exactly makes me turn out for it every week and why I think it deserves the hype that I (but not many others) give it. Let's start with the obvious, lots of blokes like to play sport on the weekend. It's a good way to stay fit, is a good laugh and gets you out of the house. Pretty much all of those blokes are not professional athletes, that includes everyone on our team. When you go out and play sport the man will typically choose the lowest form of sporting activity on earth, the Sunday league football match. That's right, 22 men kicking the crap out of each other on a battered piece of old waste ground. There'll be plenty of swearing, maybe even a fight, probably best to leave the kids in the playground. At the end of a turgid 90 minutes of what should be the greatest sport on earth to play the unfit, uncouth, men drag themselves from the field of play and leave to go back to their lives having dispatched or been dispatched by another group who live less than a mile away from them. I don't want to take their fun away but it is quite a desperate past time in my opinion.

So OK, having layed that down at the door of the Sunday league, why is Hockey so vastly superior? The silver-backed defender of the raw, physical 'English' game of football will point instantly to notion of Hockey as a 'Girls game' as a sign of terminal weakness in the game. The fact that violent conduct, dissent, and coarse language are all much more severely punished in Hockey will only add to this notion of it being a sport not for the 'real' man. The more cultured of the defenders may even point to the overall class difference between the two games; Hockey being perceived as the public school game and football the working mans pleasure (L.S Lowry, Bovril on the terraces and all that...). Of course it's all bollocks. Hockey is a sport all about speed, technical ability, and fearlessness (E.g. The fearlessness of running our for shorts or loitering at  the back post when the ball is driven into a crowd of sticks at 90mph and you can't see it until it's in your mouth). Do not doubt that you can get hurt or be hurt (there is a difference, ask Kiwi) playing Hockey. The 22 men that make up a Hockey game are all armed with weapons, rather than making this a violent game I think it lends potential numpties a moment of caution before they decide to go charging around like a bull in a china shop (Or a fat centre-half in a six-yard box). The game is physically demanding and plays in a very similar way to football, or perhaps that should be the other way around seeing as Hockey is 3000 years old?

Anyway, let's forget football. I love Hockey simply because it isn't football. In Hockey we trek across half the North West to some grey town in Cheshire or Wales seeking a challenge. It's a day out I suppose, it certainly adds something to the experience. I like that in Hockey those journeys aren't just the reserve of the sports elite level players but open to all, from division 11 to the national premiership, you want to play, you get on your bike. I don't think many people would agree to that being an advantage but I don't think it would be the same game without it.

There is a gentlemanly aspect to the game as well. A sort of hark back to what we perceive as more civilised times. Hockey holds itself to the similar principles of sportsmanship present in Cricket, but I worry for it. Since I began playing I think that has become a notion that has shrunk and one that is held onto only by the older players of the game. I think that our team doesn't have too much to answer for in that shrinking but it would be sad to see the sport lose its tag of nobility. I'm talking specifically about the way we treat our opposition (principally off the pitch, ther's no mercy on it) as well as our umpires. There are fewer opposition teams I see that stay around after a game these days, and even fewer instances of two teams mingling with each other after a game. It's a shame, but I'm proud to say that our team doesn't suffer from this particular illness.

That's it for me, the beauty of the game, the friendliness of the people who play it, and the togetherness of the team are what make this sport special and truly the best sport, to waste my weekends playing. I hope you agree in your own way, for your own reasons. Don't worry if you don't agree with my comments on football, I'll freely admit to being a huge fan of the game and to watch it is the best, but don't come at me telling me those pub teams have something better than me, because you're wrong.

Next up for us is another late push-back away game in what I might start calling the ESPN slot, hopefully we can match up to the prime-time billing.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Down by the River

So Saturday took us down to the banks of the River Dee estuary and the not quite picture postcard setting of the mud flats all around there. I only mention this due to the number of biting insects that settled down for a right good feast on my legs meaning I cannot easily forget it right now. It was a good game, a close game to be fair. A battle. A battle we won fortunately but for the first time this season we barely had the opportunity to risk showing that arrogance I spoke of last time, too much was at stake. In fairness the pitch didn't help our cause. It was one of these bizarre new hybrid astro pitches which is 50% water based, 50% sand based and 100% frustrating. On as dry a November day as you're going to get the pitch played like what it was, a massive piece of rough plastic in the middle of a field. So our passing suffered a bit, the ball pace was slower and the direction a little wayward, I personally found it very difficult to push the ball on the surface (no change there then, says the shanter crew). We found a way to rise above though and we're pretty happy to take a 1-0 win away from a decent team and a nice bunch of people.

Some of the lads have spoken about us winning with our hockey. Now that may sound like the most obvious statement ever but allow me to elaborate. We aspire to be a team that shows its class through technical ability, tactical aptitude and importantly, through team working. We want our ability to be the difference, we want the opposition to know that, and we want them to be as happy as they can be to lose to a better and more deserving team. This happened to us two seasons ago against the ever-promoted Lymm side, we gave them our all but they were better and we accepted it. What we do not want is to be the team which everyone despises because of our gamesmanship, our whinging, and our dirty play. For sure we want to play hard and will tackle tough when we have to but there is a fine line, one we don't need to cross. We're not there that on that aspiration just yet but we're certainly packing the skills to do so and I though it was worth a mention.

We're now 8 games into the campaign and despite a grim day by the seaside are looking in good shape with 21/24 points on the board and an, as yet, unchallenged grip on top spot. I said four weeks ago that these four games would be a crucial test. We passed the test but due to the loss only come out with a B grade, as we'd be 6 points clear if we hadn't slipped up. There's now only 3 more teams to play before the all-important switch around just before Christmas and we've reached what premier league pundits have called 'kicking-on time'. The next three games are the last chance we get to surprise an opposition and in the next three games are the treat of our closest neighbours (this weekend), as well as what is looking to be our most serious challengers (2nd placed and without a loss, in 3 weeks time). That will be, no doubt, the test of the season so far, big game faces needed that week.

I know that I'm not very good at dropping in the boys names into the blog, reserving mentions for special achievements and commendations is something that I like. The very special mention this week has to go to Coach who has witnessed the birth of his second child and first daughter last week, so big congratulations from me there. I would have liked to dedicate our win to the event this weekend but I think something a little bit more emphatic than a 1-0 win will be required, perhaps we can accommodate this weekend. Also, getting a holla this week has got to be Dave who has been trying to worm his way in for some time now. I was reluctant at first, but he stole the show at the weekend with his fantastic castrated choir boy impression when calling for a pass. It's hard to do it justice here but let's just say that 'DANNY!' may become a new team catchphrase.

That's all folks I'll report back after this weekends action in the 'Derby'. It's at home at 3.30, I expect some support to be down and hope to see you there.

Oh, some old man mentioned that the 3rd team are still the only unbeaten team in the club. I know, I don't care either.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Confidence is a preference. Arrogance is a vice

Confidence is a preference of the habitual voyeur of what is known as...Parklife! No I have no idea what Damon Albarn was warbling on about in that Blur song either, but that's all a long time in the past (unless you frequent the same nightclubs as I do). I want to focus on the present situation, which is that we've got a bit of bounce to us! That's right, it was back to winning ways on Saturday. We played some good stuff and, importantly, bossed the possession. A fair comment might be that it probably wasn't the best we've played but far from the worst we've played this season as well. The mojo was put back in at the weekend and once we settled down the confidence flowed back in like a regenerative, restorative, fluid being drip-fed into the sides circulation. The passing was back and the hard-work was all-round. That level of confidence comes from, I believe, a faith and trust in not just the system we play put also in the team mates around us. Last week that faith was tested and came up lacking, this week we stood up tall and gave praise and offerings to the lords of Hockey, and lo did the Lords shine upon us, and lo did we victor, and lo were we three points clear once again.

One little personal milestone was passed this week by myself. I have now scored more goals this season than last. Not bad after 7 games, although in truth it may just be more of a testament to my poor strike-rate last time out. The next goal, for the small number of you following my progress through the season (which I'm guessing is a crowd of 1... me), is to get into double figures. I think Neil is probably going to beat me there seeing as he only needs one, after his fantastic individual effort in scoring our third at the weekend (which if you're wondering Dave, is the closest you're getting to a mention this week). It might sound a bit harsh but I think all of the forwards feel we could be scoring more goals and really putting teams to bed, my hope is that this weekend we can do so. I think the first step we can take to achieving this is to win more short corners and making sure our conversion rate gets back to the level it has been in the past.

The second part of the title this time has nothing whatsoever to do with britpop or Blur. It is instead a little bit of a warning shot, one that I feel I can fire now we've bounced back from a loss. Simply put, the only thing that put us in the place where we lost was us. It was the complacency and the lethargy that dropped the guard and the arrogance that allowed the sucker punch to land. There's no use shouting about it, nor whinging about it, when you take a hit like that it's not the arrogance that saves you but the confidence that gets you up, starts you fighting and make you change what you need to in order to get the upper hand. Confidence we want. Confidence is getting out on the pitch and proving what you know, that you are the better team. Arrogance is getting out on the pitch and thinking it is already proven. There's an old football saying (one which City fans should be employing), you're only as good as your last game. Very true.

Next week has us on the road again taking on a team that I thought would be second this week, instead they lost a close game to the team who took that second from then, which means another big game for us, it could be the hardest place to go all season, they could be hurting and wanting to scalp us. I'm confident we can prevent that happening.

Monday, 31 October 2011

And it was all going so well...

Oh dear. I must admit I've not got a huge appetite to report on the occurrences on Saturday. I didn't want to have to write about this situation this year, the least I can hope is that this is the only time I need to address the subject. The facts are this: we lost our first league game of the season, going down 4-2 away from home in our furthest road trip against a team that we still have never beat. Now I don't believe in curses, but I do believe in sickness and it seem that we suffered a little bit of altitude sickness, the cure for which is a firm plant down onto the ground, or astro-turf if you like.

The 4-2 isn't the fair scoreline. The 4-2 was, at points in the game, 0-1 and 4-1. So, we shipped 4 unanswered goals in a period of about 25 game minutes, which for statisticians out there is 200% more than we managed to concede in 350 minutes. Grim reading. Now I would normally view this kind of record like a meek schoolchild sat on the same table as all of the trouble makers but knowing that I wasn't the one getting the letter home, even if I do believe that the forward is the first line of defence. I don't have that luxury this time. What can only be termed as an unfortunate series of events conspired to place me, a life-time forward player without about as much instinct to mark a player as a fat man has to run a marathon, at the position of right-half. Now I'm not complaining, I'll do whatever I need to for my team and whatever I'm asked, but I was certainly out of my comfort zone. I tried to give as much as I physically could and my still aching legs and astro-burned knees and elbows are testimony to that, but did I do enough? Was I satisfied? Am I proud? No on three counts. There is no absolution in a 4-2 loss like the one we inflicted onto ourselves at the weekend, not for me, not for any member of the squad. It was a result of foolish pride and poor hearing. Foolish pride for us thinking we can turn up and win, poor hearing for not heeding the words of coach and not hearing the calls of our team-mates as we passed the ball away or wandered into a tackle time after time after time. When the Halloween horror show was over we were a wounded animal, raw wounds on show and with no one to be vengeful to or turn on other than ourselves, and that is a far more embarrassing thing that any scoreline could be.

I remember the first game we lost last year, a deserved loss to a decent side who went on to gain promotion. There was lots of frustration and pent up anger then as well. There was also lots of fatalism and shrugging of shoulders, absolutes were used, it was a season defining moment and one we never recovered from as we limped to that 5th place finish we knew didn't credit us. It was at this moment that the violins came out instead of the fighting spirit. We were too busy and shameful to steel ourselves, get over ourselves and start playing well again. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us losing, they are only going to view us as vulnerable and it is only going to boost them. It is now our task to prove that we are not vulnerable.

Last year, after we lost to the better side we went out the very next week and lost to an inferior side. This year that sequence could be reversed. On Saturday we, the wounded animal, face the 2nd place team. At stake, a 5 point gap at the top if we win, a trip down to position 3 if we lose. Make no mistake that this is the most important moment of our season, not so far, I mean full stop. It is now up to us, as a group who lost, to right the wrongs. It is all of us, those who know the mistakes they made, those who pointed them out, those who wrongly do not fault themselves, those who were missing and those do not want our hard-work to count for nothing. We will always have to prove that we are the best team out there rather than just muttering it in frustrated rambling over beers on Saturdays after losses, while we look up at other teams.

So to all the lads on our team I say, embrace this challenge and come together. We will fall down only if we let ourselves. The others want to take what we have, but let's not let them. Let's smile and do what we can do, let's win, let's stay on top and let's get them points back on that board. We're in for a fight, be ready or be beaten, there is no backing down.

Monday, 24 October 2011


Finally the moment we have been waiting for has arrived. A gap has now opened up at the top of division and we are on the right side of it! That's right, we are now officially number one out on our own, 3 points clear at the top of the pile and very happy about it too. Now I know that with a 100% record and top goal difference we have technically always been top but it's not quite the same as being out on your own. To borrow from a phrase the fact is that on any given Saturday we can either win or we can lose. This Saturday we were one loss away from a potential third spot, now we're one loss away from a potential 1st spot. Not that losing enters our mind. We can't afford to let it. As you may know the only way out of our division is by the route of champions and that is a path we are going to have to walk every weekend from now until the 17th of March.

Now it is true that our destiny now being fully in our hands is a bonus but it is not and never was the goal. It only serves as a milestone of progress and a reminder that the ante may be upped at any time by the other teams who want to get one over on us. We know that feeling well, because that feeling was once our feeling. We're still coming out with the same old rhetoric about hard work and team work, earning the right to win and all of that, that's simply because it is true. On Saturday we faced what I believe could be one of our close challengers and work hard, as a team, kept that rock (which for anyone not cool means ball) and didn't give it up easy. I was able to do my bit by sticking in two out of the three goals in my usual fashion (which is, wait in and around the P spot and get to that ball like it was a live grenade if it comes anywhere near me. Not classy, but effective) and am happy to report that I have equalled my final tally of league goals from last season already!

Next week the show goes on the road big time as we head off on our furthest away trip of the season in Llandudno, on the seaside! In reality this is a trip that is something me and H have been looking forward to, simply because it's a place we've never been to and won. In fact, we're playing a team we've never beaten and we're very determined to change that fact this week, and hopefully never have to return.

Finally I have to bring terrible news to you readers, the no-loss league record of the Sale league season has this season been wiped away. The 2nd team this weekend lost 3-1. A sad result and I'm sure the lads gave it their all and will bounce back. However, this does not change the fact that the 2nd team captain has brought shame and dishonour to our valiant name. Now I know Mo isn't about this weekend so it just gives us all some extra time to think up a suitable forfeit for him when he returns. Also, if anyone is following the household rivalry between myself and my Dad's teams competing 100% records please be informed that the 3rds didn't have a game this weekend. I think the match was called off following rumors that Glen Campbell was in town. We have more points than them and they have even got this weekend off too! (Vera Lynn tribute act). See you next time folks.

Monday, 17 October 2011

More of the same

There is no substitute for hard work, now that is an aphorism that carries more than a vein of truth. You work hard and you get the rewards. We worked hard, we won 6-0. I would also warn that if there are no substitutes then your opposition will get tired quite quickly. We took advantage, that's what they get for making us play so late in the day, after all of the other men's teams had won we were not going to let the side down. From minute 1 to minute 70 we dominated and yet there is still more to learn, summed up by one of our lads who rightly asked the question 'why do we get stuck underneath double figures for goals?'

Why indeed? I still think we force it a little too much instead of crafting the opportunity, if we take the cold calculation of midfield with us into the D I think there will be few that can live with it. I'm serious when I say we need to score more, we are not the highest scoring team in the division. In fact, the highest scoring team are paying us a little visit next Saturday and I think it could be our sternest test so far this season. Last year our defence was hot and gave up the least goals in the division, this season they've not had to graft as hard so far, but on Saturday I'll be looking forward to them standing up to the test, that is unless the midfield and forwards don't beat them to it, which they should.

Having got to 4 games at 100% is great but it could all go very horribly wrong from here. I think now we have got to a point in the season where all the teams can see what kind of results who is getting against who and can start sizing them up before hand, this has both pros and cons, what I'd say to any of our lads doing this is that when you are number one it doesn't matter what they've got you have to prove you are better than everyone. It's like the legend of pro-wrestling Ric Flair says 'to be the man, you've got to beat the man'. I think our next 4 games are hugely important we're facing three teams that have had good starts, and one team who we have never beaten in previous seasons. Right now we want daylight at the top and if I'm sat here in four weeks time telling you that we're still 100% then we will have it, and we will deserve every inch of it.

So it's time to start the next chapter of the season, and let's hope this story stays as predictable as it has been so far...

Monday, 10 October 2011


When I woke up on Saturday morning it was raining. It is still raining now. The rain was sat on us for 70 minutes and more during our game. The air was cold, the clouds were low, our feet were brought down to sodden earth, and our hot streak was chilled by the constant miserable drizzle which tipped relentlessly from the from the grim grim sky. Saturday was a day to forget for Hockey, a day to forget for anyone who has ever though of being outdoors, Saturday was when our wake up call arrived.

I said last time out that all those teams under us would be coming for us now. I hold to that still. We saw on Saturday how that might happen, by gritty determination, defensive play and looking to take their chances. I don't intend to be kind about our opposition, they were not as good as the other teams we have played so far. Why they get credit is because we were so bad, so so bad... compared to how we have been. There was hard work in our group and determination that is true, that is why we got a result (yes we won, though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise due to the morbid tone), but there was much more frustration, sloppiness and ill discipline.

Was it the grim weather? Was it complacency? Did we believe our own hype? Were we unprepared? Lazy? Arrogant? Individualistic? The reason are as many as the excuses but they both share the same characteristic, they are irrelevant. Saturday was a day to forget as I said. I don't think there is a player on our team who wants to play another game like that, I don't think there is another player in the game who would. We took a partial step back but that should only serve to show us all how grim the path we've trodden has been and that the only way is forward. So I'm confident we can brush ourselves off, stay positive, and stay happy. Everyone has a bad day, we will overcome and we will work hard to do so. There's one thing that still speaks volumes though, we did get the win and the points that go with it. We are still position one, so it is still in our hands so to speak. That's an important moment of warmth to take away from a bitter day.

Moving onto positive goings on I think it is appropriate that I call for a raising of a glass to the fact that so far in the league season all 4 of our men's teams are undefeated! A cause worth celebrating especially for the 4th team who are technically undefeated for all of recorded time. It is certainly going to create an interesting atmosphere at selection meetings when we discover which team (if any) shall be the first to bring shame upon the club by losing, I'm thinking a forfeit may be in order for the captain of that team! It is especially interesting in my household as my Dad's team (3rds) has a 100% record as well as us so big bragging rights shall be claimed by the team to outlast the other in that respect. I'm not too worried after watching the 3rds star striker (and our coach) miss at least 3 open goals, that kind of strike rate is going to lead to problems somewhere down the line! I'm telling you all this for two reasons: 1) It is hilarious as I'm sure you'll agree and 2) I'm not able to make it to training this week so he will be unable to punish me with extra laps/ star jumps/ photos of me not doing v-drags when I should. Of course I'm also leaving out the minor detail that those misses came in a 14-0 victory, but is that the point? It could have been 17!

So with no training for me that's it until Saturday where I think a little bit of setting the record straight might just be called for on the pitch...

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Rush of Victory

I've not got a great deal I can update with at the moment. This weekend we won 6-1 and are still top of the pile, I missed the game myself (only one I intend to) but from what I can gather the momentum is still rolling on. I'm going to be seeing to it that it doesn't drop for next weekend either. Another big win added with the team we beat last week drawing this week (so, they're no whipping boys) the message is clear to all the other teams; we are no fluke. If they're paying attention to the league they'll know that now, and they'll be coming for us. If I was one of those other teams I'd be up for that chase, I'd be wanting to announce it like this. We don't have daylight up top yet and the only way to guarantee getting it is by winning every game, so that's what we're going to try and do. I'm also not having everyone else scoring all the goals and having all the fun, I'll be back at the party soon, and looking to dance!

I'd like to now draw your attention to something that could be a new revolution in our sport. That is a 'new way to play' is known as Rush Hockey. Now from what I can tell they're very much still in stages of creating a buzz about this activity, so perhaps any of us getting the chance to try it our properly are a little off in the future. To put it simply, Rush Hockey seems to be a Hockey version of 5-a-side football. There are 4-5 players, you can shoot from anywhere on the field (that will be interesting), the games are shorter, no aerial play is allowed (which is good news for me but bad news for Kiwis incredible aerials!) and it seems to be played on a pitch about the size of a 5-a-side pitch. So now you might be thinking, so what? We play mini-games all the time in training, how is this a revolution? Well, cast your mind back 15 years (if you can) to a time before 5-a-side was common place, and then think about it now. I'm sure everyone has at least played a game of 5-a-side, some of us will even play once a week in a team. In 5-a-side the emphasis is on skill, technical ability, and your how you adapt and work as a unit. To be provided with a competitive game that emphasises those things can only be beneficial for any players who are dedicated to improving their game.

Also, the site where they are looking to set up this Rush Hockey is at the powerleague on Wilbraham Road, which, as anyone handy with their geography will be able to tell you, is about as close to our home pitch as is possible. This is the only site in the North West that is trying it out, so for us not to get involved is damn near insulting. When I know some exact details on this I'll update you all immediately because I truly believe this could be a fantastic new way to play what is obviously the greatest sport on the planet. But don't take my word for it, check them out at Rush Hockey. You can also 'like' them on Facebook if you're into all that, or follow them on Twitter if you're into a bit of that as well. To be honest, if you do that you'll be as clued up as I am, and hopefully as excited too. See you next time folks.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Can we get much higher?

This could get quite boring. I hope that it does. If I have to write about us winning by large margins every week, I'm quickly going to run out of superlatives and endlessly repeating the phrase 'keeping momentum' isn't going to be very interesting to anyone. The facts as they stand now are that we are in position one in the league, we've scored seven and conceded none. We are pleased. It feels like this league game has been a long time coming. With pre-season and the cup we've been screwed on for a while now, waiting for this game. One of mine and H's worries before the match was that we were under-prepared, it was a problem last season for home games and something we need to stamp out. What I'm talking about is silly things like lateness, not focusing early enough, starting the game after it has started mentally. That is like a poison, but I'm happy to say that we were not infected by it on Saturday.

Last season we beat a team 9-0. With the greatest of respect to them they were awful. I don't want to take the mickey though because this team lost by double figures nearly every week, scored only 3 goals in the entire season and had to travel at least 15 miles for every game, yet they still turned up and played every single week. You have to applaud that. This weekend that same team played our new men's 4th team, and drew 4-4, I'm happy for them to have found a level. The reason I mention this team is because with our large margin of victory (7-0, if I hadn't mentioned it) was not against a team that were vastly inferior to us. They gave a good fight of it and you could see that they had some qualities and pace of their own. But it wasn't anywhere near us. We shut them out and piled the goals in, and getting the goals is exactly what we missed last season. Our play in the D is finally coming on to match our play on the rest of the field, we're dangerous now, and we can come at teams from lots of different angles. I'm not going to get specific but our work and effort have allowed us to start scoring easily. The perfect example is the two goals I scored yesterday, I didn't smash them in from the top, I didn't beat 6 men and flick it top corner. I waited on the P spot for the ball to come to me and put it in the goal, simple (although I, and any other forward worth a damn, loves to smash one in from the top).

What I'm saying is we earned all seven of our goals and all three of our points. And now we need to go out and do the exact same thing 21 more times and we'll be where we want to be. That's going to be a battle, we have to prove our class every week, we start from nothing every week and play against the worlds hardest team every week. One things pretty sure, we're up for that. If we could've played our next game straight after the last one I think we would have. I know H would've anyway, he had plenty of energy to spare. So that's it guys, the balls is rolling and we're on our way. I'll hope to bring you some bleeping bleep test talk next time out, although another rhyme might have to wait for a while I'm afraid, see you next time.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Get your drag on for the lads...

First fully dark training session tonight. We were all lured in by the promise of a bleep test, so numbers were a bit lower tonight. I was quite excited, I even had pasta and everything. Sadly, that has been postponed due to technical issues (as in, we had no technology) and I had wanted to bring you some results to peruse over but I guess that will have to wait for another day.

We're very close to league action now, almost as close as I am to making an interesting comment about preparation and pre-season training. Our last training session was about V-drags! No me neither. Although I can now rule out the following possibilities in terms of what they are: 5 men in drag, large V shaped pieces of metal attached to limbs, Venezuelan Dragons. Anyway, enough shanter. It was a useful thing for us to work on certainly. But this is not a coaching blog and I am certainly not a coach. So with this in mind I thought that the best way to offer you something of a tutorial was to provide a memorable musical rhyme to memorise the essential points. I decided to enlist the renowned cultural orator Gracious K. If you are unfamiliar with Mr K's contributions to society then you can find some of his musings HERE.

Now my rhyme is very much in the style of K's much lauded 'Migraine skank' and I hope that its simple yet catchy rhythm can leave you all rocking the V-drag skank, it goes as follows:

First step you send your stick left,
Next step you drag your stick right,
Then you move both feet round the man,
Then you show me the V-Drag skank.

1st team I wanna see the V-drag  skank,
Don’t stop poppin' that V-drag skank,
Inside right show me the V-drag skank,
Inside left show me the V-drag skank,
It’s like cut inside and skank,
Put two hands on your stick and skank.

Man a like shooooooow meee how you get round, man a go drag round

Now if that didn't help you understand the complexity of the manoeuvre then stop being afraid of bleep tests and get your arses to training! See you next time, where I might return to being sensible...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Full steam ahead

Well, that was fun. Yesterday we put our first win on the board, and in style. There isn't really a lot you can say about a 5-0 win other than how pleased you are about it, just ask our spectator goal keeper. Its a great bit of prep and a great way to bounce back from last weeks disappointment. Our big aim was to prove we could play with that same intensity as we did against a team much higher than us. I think we proved that well, though maybe there were some patches where we let it drop, we'll work on those.

I won't go into the specifics of how we played, if you want to see us in action you're going to have to come down and watch us, but in terms of progression I can say that last season we played the same team and drew 2-2. This year i think they got into our D twice rather than scoring twice. All in all we're heading in the right direction. But it means nothing. A friendly is a friendly, there are no points on the board, and that is what we're focused on now. We don't do fines pre-season, thats how non-serious it all is! We don't count goal scorers in the final tally (Sorry Neil, the jug was nice though!), so it's really all about next week. We're postion 9 in our league at the moment, and we want to move up 7 places on Saturday. We'll accept no substitutes.

I'd encourage you to come down if you can and lend us a bit of support, we're on at 1:30 at WHGS, come and be with us on the start of the journey...

Monday, 12 September 2011

10 seconds...

Apologies for my outright lies in my last post claiming that this post would be posted yesterday. A combination of aching limbs and a sore head conspired to reduce my brain power to the point where only basic motor functions were possible. This was largely due to the excesses of Saturday nights post-match activities. In this weeks case it was the drowning of sorrows that was taking place rather than the toasting of victory, but the difference in our attitude was slight because the margin seperating us from victory was so slim.

Now the records will always read that on Saturday we lost 3-2, but the numbers don't tell the story. Not by a long way. What keeps ringing through my head is that with 10 seconds to go the lowly Sale, 5 divisions inferior to their god-like opponents, were winning the game. Not just winning it, bossing it. Making the 'superior' opponents look clueless and lacklustre, a team without a drive, without cohesion, a team not up for the fight. Our hard work achieved that, our discipline and support for one another was what did that, and no result can detract form that. We played our way and we out-worked a team that were supposed to put us quite easily to the sword. This was supposed to ruin our hard-work and all of the preparation that we put in was meant to be brought back down to earth, but we simply went onto that pitch and said no. I think that at the end of the game, whilst tired and heartbroken, we were also proud.

The game saw us slip into a 1-0 deficit at half time, the result of a penalty flick. The flick was incorrectly given, but other than that the general standard of the umpiring was fantastic. It was a shame not to see the defender being given the benefit of the doubt, but we certainly kept our heads and tried not to appeal and rile the umpire, something our opponents showed less discipline in. To be in it at half-time was a great feeling, knowing that we had to keep our work-rate up was the real challenge, they way we played contained them very well. In the second half our tactical changes left the opposition struggling with what to do to break us down. We hit them a few times on the break before we finally netted an equalizer. I've not really mentioned this to any of the lads so I'm not sure if they noticed but I was the one who scored the equalizer, on my reverse stick no less. I mention this purely because my reverse stick ability is a part of my game which is comically lacking, so to score like that against such classy opponents is a source of great humour, if only to myself! But in all seriousness, when I looked around having scored to see the joy and belief on the faces of the other guys on the team, it was a great pleasure. This was a group of players who now believed that not only were they in the game, they could win the game. Once we knew we could score, that second goal didn't seem so surprising. It was a goal of great craft as well, open on the top of the circle Lyndon managed to resist the temptation to test the keeper (something I'm ashamed to say I probably couldn't do just yet) and played the pass that took the keeper out of the equation. Danny put the finish on it, and Sale were going through the the next round.

And then the heartbreak; 10 seconds left, a short corner, a goal. The opponents were out of jail and extra-time beckoned us. Our bodies were tired, not as tired as theirs. Our work-rate never dropped though and we battled through to the second half of ET, but it wasn't enough. They got a chance, they took it. A golden goal, but for the look on the winners faces as they trudged off the pitch it might as well have been brass. That's all I have to say about the winners, they don't merit the attention and they don't merit the many teams between us and them.

What I would say about the heartbreak though, and I'd implore our guys to do this, is hold on to it. Embrace that feeling and hate it. Hate it because you never want to feel it again. Hate it because it is but a drop in the ocean compared to how it feels to drop to lose games we should win. Hate it because it's how we will feel if we don't replicate our performance and we don't go out into our league and win. Let's take that feeling and use it to beat teams.

And let's start that winning next week in our friendly, a bit more on that next time though as  think I've got a bit too emotional now and need to have a lie down. Thanks for waiting for it and thanks for reading it!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Dangers of Passion

We're close now, so close I can almost taste it. The start of the season is coming up on Saturday and I feel like I have been waiting an age for it to come around. But now, with the club day and the first training session out of the way the next Hockey action is that long-awaited first game!

I suppose I should bring you up to date with the club day first. It was an excellent turnout, there were enough men down to fill at least three of our teams, with subs, not too bad for a first get together of the season, with planty of other guys to return. There were also a lot of new guys down, who I'd like to welcome to the club. I covered competition for places last time and how new players help that and I would re-iterate what Captain H said at training (minus the expletives): that players are not judged on what they used to do or whose friend they may be etc. but on the effort they put in on a Saturday and on a Tuesday, that's the only way to make selection fair and fair is the only way selection should ever be in my opinion.

We've also started training, the first of our first team squad training sessions. Starting with an agility test was a bit of a shock to the system but I am really excited to see what Coach has come up with for us to do over the coming weeks and am glad of having the pitch time to work on our game. I'm positively brimming with excitement, I think most of the guys in the squad are. Our only worry is the potential reality check we face on Saturday.

For the first time whilst I have been playing in the 1st XI we have decided that this year we would enter the Cheshire plate competition, we looked at the teams involved and thought with some in our division and some a couple of leagues higher it would be a good test of our strength carried over from last season and a good chance to rate ourselves against stronger opponents. Well we certainly got our wish. Our draw in the cup sees us face a team that are currently competing six divisions higher than us. If hockey worked anything like the football pyramid (which it doesn't) we would be taking on a team playing in the conference. It's safe to say we are underdogs. But then there is the belief. It is this belief, this passion, which is the reason for the title of this post. We are so prepared and so primed and so ready to take on our first opposition of the season that there is a danger that we could overcook it.

Make no mistake, we want to win. But also make no mistake, we probobly won't. I'm not a defeatist but the harsh reality has to be put out there so that it doesn't bite quite so hard. Beating this team on Saturday is not one of our season goals, and so we have to make sure that whatever happens on Saturday it helps us move towards our goals. A far more constructive test in this game than going all out to win is to see how well the way we play and the composure and togetherness we have as a team can stand up to this opposition. I believe that in that department we have the potential to come out the clear winners. I hope that we can focus on playing our game, that would prove that we can do that against any team in our league, at anytime, in any place. That would be a much greater comfort to me than making sacrifices to compete with a team we are not competing with.

So that's the danger of our passion, not blowing up on day one, managing ourselves and giving our all, our way, not theirs. If we do that then we come away the winners. Would be nice to smash them though all the same!

I'll hope to update my (by now) thousands of readers with the result of this highly anticipated game sometime on Sunday.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


So we're about two days ahead of the first official Sale Hockey Club action of the season, the Club Day! Club day, is essentially a practice game between all the players of the club with guys of various abilities all jumbled up and thrown together. The format always depends on how many folks turn up, could be one big game could be a few small. Essentially the club day serves two functions. Firstly it's a chance for all members to meet up again after the long summer off, have a bit of a social and blow off some of the dust and rust from their sticks. It's also a chance for the leaders of each team (and this season we have 4!) to have a look at what kind of ability level each player falls into and try to attribute them to a squad and team.

For me, coach and el Capitan it will be crucial for us to see what kind of squad we are going to see shaping up and who will be filling the 17-19 places who we will be thinking about when we draw up the team sheet for 1st team games. Of course, it's not some sort of trial by fire and players always push themselves in and out of contention over the course of a season.

This season I think the competition for places will be at its highest ever, and that is a great asset for us. In my opinion there are about 6 lads who I would be very surprised not to see start the majority of our games and no, I don't count myself in that number. After that there is somewhat of an open field so there's a lot of hard work to be put in all around, especially if we're looking at taking an average of a squad of 13 on match days. This should be encouraged but it is also somewhat tricky ground. This isn't professional sport and we are not a marquee team playing national league hockey. Many of our players are giving up a huge chunk of their free time and money to come and play for us and when we have games all the way in North Wales the last thing we want to do is give the impression that players do not matter to the team. It is insulting to them personally and it is also bad for the team both on and off the field, after all, what is a team without its players?. That said, those guys who fit into our system, who work hard and show they have both the ability and dedication to our cause and our seasonal goals, will never be far away from a first team game.

And even for those lads who miss out on a 1st team game our 2nd team is looking to be a lot stronger this season as a result of the competition for places. Last season they got promoted from their division and now with an influx of players should hope to prove they can more than compete at that level and continue to narrow the gap between 1st and 2nd team standard of play. Hopefully there will be a lot of guys working hard to do that in their league and give us on the 1st team a nasty headache in selection meetings.

I'll be watching the numbers we manage to get down on the club day closely as well to see what kind of a 4th team we may see shaping up for the new season. It is the first time in over a decade Sale has entered a 4th team into the league and it's going to be a big test for the club to pull it off. I'm wishing them all the best and will be supporting them in any way I can.

Anyway I'll sign off for now and will hopefully update you all on what happens after Saturday when I'll hopefully do some shameless promotion for this blog. Adios for now.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Where to begin....

OK so I'm not totally sure what I'm going to get out of this exercise. One thing I'm sure I'll get is the piss taken out of me by at least one or two of my lovely team-mates, but I'm more than capable of handling that shanter.

I just wanted to be able to improve our club's presence online and try to keep everyone updated about some of the things that are going on and more specifically the progress of our Men's first team who I will (hopefully) be playing for throughout the coming season.

As it says in the description hockey has been around in Sale for the last 123 years. That means hockey was played at Sale before football was played at Old Trafford, before cars were on the road, and even before Coca-cola was drunk. So, a long time then. Ironically hockey isn't really played at Sale anymore. Certainly we are based at Sale, and proud to be a part of Sale Sports club on Clarendon Crescent but these days nearly all of our games are played on astro-turf. There being no astro-turf at Sale our actual 'home' pitch is at William Hulme school in Whalley Range. This, I think, has led to a slight estrangement from our clubhouse for some of our members, and justifiably so with today's busy lifestyle. This is another reason for me making this blog. I want to keep some of the other guys up to date with how we're doing so that no one misses out on a part of being a member at Sale hockey club, which I think is a very social club.

Anyway, I don't want to go on for ages right now So I guess that will do for some opening remarks. Here's hoping for a successful season and a successful blog.

Thanks for reading!