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.