Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Delight and Deluge

So it has been raining for about 55 hours pretty much non-stop now. This has put the big brakes on training as across the board all sessions have been cancelled. This means I think we might want to re-appraise the definition of the term 'all-weather pitch'. It's pretty bad timing for us too as I know we'd have all really liked to have got another session in before we embark upon the great crusade for which we have striven for these many months; the league season. That's right, 22 games of intense competition will decide if we can sail the great ship Sale on to even higher seas. We feel we deserve to be there but as we've found in the past many many times thinking you're better and being better are two very different things. Every week now we'll have to push ourselves to the limit, only 100% is going to be good enough this time round, it's what we owe ourselves, it's what we owe each other.

I've started by mentioning the league as it is our main focus this year but of course I have to bring you the joyous news that on Saturday we were very much 'up for the cup' and pulled off a dramatic 3-2 win. The facts show that we bested a team a league above us but I'd much prefer to point you to the confluence of promotion/relegation/restructuring that means we beat a team which 6 months ago were playing 4 divisions higher than us. There was a bit of pride there naturally for us but as an old wife once warned me, pride comes before a fall. We played well yes, but we can play better, and we certainly thought we had it won and let our opponents back into the game. Where coach may of been delighted with our goals (one in particular that was straight from a training session, for maybe the first time ever!) he was having heart palpitations in the last minute when the score was reduced from 3-1 to 3-2. We battled through though, eased some of the heartache from last year, and moved into the semi-finals of the competition. We play Knutsford now on the 5th of January, which if previous Christmas excesses are anything to go by is VERY bad news for us.

That's a battle and a blog for the future though and I'd like now to thank those lovely friends of mine who I hassled into coming down to watch me for showing the support and flying the flag (or perhaps I should say foam hand) for the team, who knows, we may even make players out of some of you yet! My thanks is also extended to all the members of the club who came to watch, we're at home in January too so I hope you'll come down then as well.

Saturday also saw my second ever game as an Umpire take place, as I oversaw my Dads 3's best Didsbury 7ths (or some ridiculous team number like that). It was nice to get another game done and I'm moving closer to getting approved. Not too many tough calls to make though I'm sure I missed a couple of things too, only one way to better though and that's to keep trying. I'd encourage as many players as possible to get involved in umpiring, it's not a very easy thing to do but enables you to see the game in such a different light and appreciate how hard it can be to make a call sometimes. The fact we always need umpires for games is a factor in my encouragement too!

I've gotten a bit aware that these blog posts are a little texty and now that I have a phone that would be described by men in jeans and tucked in t-shirts as 'smart' I'll hopefully be bringing some greater image content over the next few weeks and maybe even another feature to add to the hugely popular song of the week feature. Speaking of which...

Song of the Week

Given that we had the delight of Saturdays battled win and the deluge of rain of Tuesday that washed out training I thought I'd go for a song that combined both Rain and happiness. Sadly, this ruled out most of The Smiths back catalogue as they were a bit heavy on the rain. So instead I went for a twist on the obvious choice. This weeks song of the week would've been Gene Kelly- Singing in the Rain but out of respect for those awesome street dancers they have on Market Street in Manchester City Centre I thought I'd go for the sick re-mix. I love street dancing, I hope they keep releasing more generic 3D films of it at the cinema (in this section italics denote sarcasm). This weeks song of the week: Mint Royale- Singing in the rain

That's pretty much it for this time but I feel bad for leaving you on the note of that atrocity of a song. So by way of an apology please see the below panoramic image that I took of our home pitch on Saturday AKA #FortressSale. For anybody interested it was taken during a Ladies 1st team game which they won 4-0. Cracking stuff girls, see you all next time!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Up For The Cup

Much happier tidings. On Saturday we posted up our first win of the season! If only it was as simple as that though. Last season I often struggled to come up with way of making a 3-0 win where we dominated the opposition from start to finish sound interesting to outside readers; this year I doubt I'll have that problem. Sadly that isn't because my literary skills have increased to Tolkien levels of description, no, it is just a plain fact that our matches are going to be a much tougher battle than before. Saturday was one such battle.

For a friendly it was feisty and physical and attritional, lots of bullying off the ball and lots of 'early season' tackles going in as Danny so eloquently put it after an attacker had just sweep tackled Martin shins. Despite only being 24 I belong to a something of an old school of Hockey that thinks friendlies should be exactly that, where you own up to your fouls and have a laugh with the opposition. The long term trend in the game is going away from this as more and more the vulgar aspects of the culture of a game like football bleed over into the our own game, so I was somewhat saddened that the 'friendly' tag was not as appropriate as it should be. That said, two sides who both want to be pushing hard in their respective divisions came together on Saturday and I do think it was a positive experience to face that kind of intensity before we get into the meat of games that actually matter.

The result was a 5-4 win. From our point of view it was a much improved display than last week particularly from an attacking point of view. I think we can consider ourselves lucky with some of our goals (Mark) but also be happy that we were able to create sustained periods of pressure that, in turn, made that bit of luck more likely. The most all-round impressive aspect of the game was perhaps the heart and fight that we showed when we found ourselves 4-2 down and turned it around to win for 5-4. I was happier with my display having assisted the first goal (and by assist I mean I had my goal stolen!) and scoring the winner, but I know both myself and the team haven't gotten into that top gear just yet.

That's what we'll be hoping to do next weekend though as our first 'real' game of the season is this Saturday, in the cup AKA the Cheshire Plate (which, yes, technically isn't a cup but let's not argue crockery please). Our opposition are from one league above our own and it is a knock-out winner takes all situation. Last season our cup game had the strange status of being one of the seasons greatest achievements whilst also being undoubtedly the most heartbreaking moment of the season, and maybe even of all my seasons. The details are all in the archive of posts if you're interested but I'll briefly cover the facts. We were playing a team 5 divisions ahead of us in our first fixture of the season (no friendly warm-ups for us!). We matched them for the whole game and came back from 1-0 down to lead 2-1. With 10 seconds remaining on the game clock we conceded a short corner and they equalised. They went on to win 3-2 in extra time as a result of a golden goal. Brutal.

If there is one thing I want to put right this year it is that heart break. We owe this cup a win and I desperatley hope we go out there and deliver one, and aim to match last seasons intensity. This season we have been drawn at home and will be playing at 3pm. This is my official call for support, please come down and help us make that home support count. It doesn't matter who you are or what team, if any, you play for. If you're Sale, get down. Bring your friends, bring your girlfriends, bring a bunch of strangers no one knows that are a bit weird, it doesn't matter just come and support!

Song of the week

Yes the now famous feature of song of the week is back for its 2nd edition. Many people might have believed that this feature would never reach such a prestigious landmark but you've always got to believe! This week, in homage to some of the outrageous tackling that was coming from both teams on Saturday as well as the amount of sheer perspiration put in by our boys i've plumpled for and 80s classic that is surely loved by all: Olivia Newton-John- Physical...


That's all for now folks. I hope to bring tales of a cup win and no more 10 seconds away from glory sob stories next week. Ciao

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Knuckle Down

First friendly off the mark. First loss off the mark and first bad performance off the mark too. Not a great start and not the one we wanted. In the burning heat of Saturday (now a distant rain-soaked memory) our style and substance melted away after 10 wonderful minutes and we ended up on the bad end of a 3-0 drubbing from league and local rivals. I won't lie to you all it was a grim post-match team talk, a concise and stark depiction from coach of just how far down the mountain of glory we've let ourselves slip and how much effort is required to get back up there. Grim. The good news though is that we know our problems, what we have to do to fix them, and how long we have to do that in.

It comes down to a simple currency that we have to get more liberal at spending: hard work. It's how we've done it in the past and it's present when we're at our best; working hard for each other. I'm confident that with a little bit of that voodoo magic we can turn that 3-0 upside down. The hard work is in evidence to be fair, some of the boys have been double training the last couple of weeks and everyone has been putting the effort in at training. At this point there is still a little rust needs shaking off but the whetstones seem to be out and we are in the process of sharpening and tightening up. I think it would be fair to say that everyone as an individual is getting a little frustrated with their game through this process but collectively we are still working together. Mistakes are often contagious, the key is to brush them off and right them for next time, heads on and heads up and maybe just maybe I'll be talking to you all about a lovely win and good performance next week!

All said about how bad we did it was nice to finally get some game time on Saturday, the hockey off season is a long one and I always seem to add at least a stone to my weight at various points in that gap, but no matter what fitness, drills, talks, mini games, or diagrams you work through nothing will get you sharpened up like a bit of game time. For me on a personal level it was a bad day, I missed a great chance at 0-0 (and by great I mean it was on the line) and kept missing my through balls and, as a consequence, had to chase a defender halfway down the field to recover every time (what kind of defender attacks?! It's bang out of order!). So, in summary my first touch and sprint resilience need to be improved drastically, bit of a shame that those are two of the most important things in my position but never mind, I'll keep trying.

So we're in a bit of an 'under construction' phase at the moment but just like a Tesco express that could face local planning permission protests from hippies we'll be built up, ready, and open for business as soon as possible.

Song of the week

A new feature for this year that I'm going to try out is the song of the week. In case you're a bit daft, this means that I'll be putting a song up that I think best sums up the previous week in my hockey world. Sometimes the song will be good, most of the time it will be dreadful, and if I get the chance to use some kind of cheeky pun I will: AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. This week is a fairly safe choice as it is the first time I've run this amazing feature. It's a nailed on classic tune and to me represents our inability to hit the ground running on Saturday but also the recognition that we can turn things around. So without further ado the first ever Mighty Sale song of the week is... The Rolling stones- You can't always get what you want.

 See you all next week!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Suddenly.... September!

Hello my old friends. I know it has been a while, sorry about that. As the months of summer began to wash over me (rain-pun very much intended) I drifted away from the lovely life of hockey and into the doldrums of inactivity that I think can be best summed up by the image of an empty can of Pringles. The break was certainly necessary, for more mental than physical reasons. Last season began before the one before had even ended and it was a make or break one for us. We totally dominated it from beginning to end, it may have looked easy on the table but it wasn't, not when all you really have to fight is yourself for 6 months. It takes it out of you, and it took it out of us as a unit. As a unit we all needed a holiday, and what I can tell you is the Ice Cream in Croatia is both delicious and moderately priced.

Anyway I awoke in horror the other day with the sudden realisation that it was in fact now September and the new season is pretty much on the doorstep. Now I've not been totally ignorant of that fact and we have been doing some punishing pre-season fitness work for a while now, which has either made me fit or brought me closer to death. I don't think our preparation has been quite as good this season than last year (for a thousand poor quality reasons) but the good thing about that fact is that it can be changed at any moment when a group of individuals decide to graft together and remember the team that we are.

I'm writing this after 2 consecutive days of 2 hour training, no problem for an athlete I suppose, however I have never professed to be such and in fact I may end up sleeping in my computer chair tonight due to an inability to remove myself from it. It is all good really though, no pain no gain, carpe diem etc. And despite the pain I am excited that the new season is here, so please let me do a brief preview.

Those that followed our adventures last year will know all about our glorious league winning antics, but what you may not know is that when we gained promotion, due to a serendipitous league re-structure we ended moving up two divisions. So this season the 1st team will be competing in the lofty heights of Division 3 (South) of the Barringtons North West Hockey League, happy days! Of course moving up like this is exactly what we wanted but I would also spare a thought for the poor 4th team who have been dumped with the brown end of the re-structure stick and have been moved up 3 and a half divisions (don't ask me how you go up half a division, I don't know), and will play teams the 2nd team played last year. I just want to say keep smiling boys and remember, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger (plus they also play the 3rd team which is a nailed on 6 points surely!).

As always happens between seasons we lose some guys and gain some guys. Some people choose to have things like families, jobs and careers and such nonsense that is against all team-working principles. Despite this outrage I'm happy to report that the competition for places looks like it is going to be hot once again with stronger 1st and 2nd teams looking like the likely scenario overall. There are no safe or certain places in any team (especially mine!) and all the guys are judged by the effort and commitment they provide to training and the results they produce on the weekend, so embrace the privilege of pressure if you find yourself in the 1st squad in the early season, and if you're in the 2nds squad, hunt those squad places down mercilessly and without complaint and you'll likely get your chance.

This would also be a good time to mention that I am no longer understudy and chief-organiser vice-captain extraordinaire for the 1st team for this campaign. The 'poisoned chalice' has been passed on to our zealous defender Nick, a man who if he approaches the role with the same zeal he does a 50/50 ball will do a far better job than me. On a personal level I'm happy to see the team develop, get the opportunity to focus on my own (technically-limited) game and more importantly not have to sort out collecting subs and providing directions every week any longer!

Our first game is at the weekend against local opposition and fellow league adversaries Timperley, we're walking somewhat blind into this league so it's going to be a good chance to see what the standard is like and blow off our match rustiness. It's only a friendly but I think I can speak for most of the team in saying we want to hit the ground running and pull off a win.

Thank you guys for reading and I'm sorry if this blog doesn't flow too well this time. It's my first post since April (despite claiming at the time I would post during summer, sorry!) so I'm just getting rid of another kind of rustiness. I will be keeping you guys up to date as the season goes on so if you have me on Twitter or Facebook then prepare to have your news feeds invaded for the next 6 months because...