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.