Friday, 30 November 2012

The Big Weekender

What an intriguing weekend of action for Sale. Three fantastic wins, one terrible loss. Focus on the positives first. The 1's kept rolling with a 6-2 win, the 3's kept smashing their league with an 11-0 demolition job, and best of all the 4's got a 7-1 win, yes 7-1! The 4's are where I'd like to start because I think that they're such an important aspect of our club going forward. More than just our club, I see the philosophy and what they represent as crucial to the wider game. The 4th team are the bottom team of our club, playing in the bottom league in the region. It's a development team where what you'll hopefully get is a good mixture of social players, young kids picking up their first stick, and old heads who have to choose between the hockey or the housework of a weekend. I think they're great as it's where almost every player starts and where all those that have a real love for playing the game will end up. I started on the 3rds (then the lowest team) as a geektastic 12 year-old boy. We had a man who once told his wife before a match he was going out for some milk come and play for us, a 67 year-old marathon runner, an umpire with an eye patch, and half-time oranges soaked in whisky (I found out about that last one the hard way). We sometimes won 10-0 one week and lost 14-0 the next, visited pubs before and after the game, and generally tried not to take things to seriously (while still trying to win of course). Those little nuggets of magic all added together is what takes a sport like hockey from being a pure physical game that keeps me fit and challenged into something I have a passion and love for. My off-pitch memories are just as vital as my on-pitch ones when it comes to looking back like that.

The point is that the 4ths represent the heart and soul of what I think hockey really is, and what makes people want to play it. Over the years we've seen the subtle vulgarities of the culture of football bleed in a little bit but keeping that friendly attitude and desire going is what sets hockey apart. The 4ths were shafted by the league re-structure in a way that I've covered in previous weeks, shafted to the point that when the season-long goals were set it was survival as a functioning team that was the number one target. To see them get a win and such a great win as 7-1 is fantastic news that brings a smile to my face and something really worth celebrating across the board at the club. For the record, I'm playing down any suggestion that my Dad dropping himself had any part in the 4th team win.

Now after covering my love for the game and last weeks wins I have to regrettably cover the result I was a part of last weekend. It was a heavy defeat, the heaviest I have been involved in for nearly 3 years. I take no pride in being a part of it and feel embarrassment that it came in a week when all the other teams did so well, yet a part of it I was. We played against a very very strong team who were very experienced and knew what they were about in terms of how they wanted to play; we came totally unstuck. Any suggestion that it was a close tie is quickly non sensed by the 9-2 scoreline (yep, read it and weep). We did have our moments of quality but the outlook was overall bleak, with those moments being the hint of sunshine in an overcast day. I wouldn't go as far to say we ever gave up but we were certainly outmatched and punished brutally for it. I personally thought I was awful and despite tweaking a hamstring that limited me to the same pace as my late 40s marker (which to be fair isn't much slower than normal for me!) I can only criticise myself for being a part of a poor loss. With results like that though I think it is best to adopt the simple mentality that it didn't happen and focus on coming back stronger and harder. Of course there is always something to learn from every game but a 9-2 can suck you in and impact your next game by reflecting on it too much. I hope the 2's can come storming back this weekend in another local derby match up against Bowdon... but I won't be with them as I'm back off to the 1's this week!

Slightly bizarre that I'd find myself back amongst the 1's after probably my worst outing of the season but sometimes that's just the way the availability falls, and I'll be determined to do my very best to make amends for last week. The 1's have nothing short of a huge weekend coming up (The big weekender), and I want to cover that next. On Saturday it is league game time and hopefully the 4th win in a row to keep the pressure on the top of the table on and keep that initial target of winning every game before Christmas alive. Then when that is done and dusted it is time for the big one on Sunday: The semi-final of the Cheshire Plate. We're facing off against Knutsford 1sts at home at 1pm. I would love to see as many people as possible turn out and show their support, this really is a huge game for us. Our opposition are a league above and with a place at stake in the final will be fighting just as hard as us. We need to make home advantage count and hopefully make it to the final, which would frankly be the biggest game many of us will of ever played in. Before that though comes this tough test. It is a chance for us to raise ourselves and show us what we can potentially be and how well we can play, and I think that is often when we are at our best. I'm unsure if I'll be playing or supporting myself as yet but regardless I'll be there, hopefully you will too!

Song of the week

Big week coming up for all teams but focus has to be on the 2's with 'OPERATION BOUNCEBACK' and the 1's with '#CUPSETpt2'. Hopefully both will deliver. Fight, fire, and mental mastery will all be essential to victory so I'm going all out for pure motivation with a song from one of my favourite bands. Their last album was roundly panned by many fans and rightly so in some respects but this is a blood pumper that I have seen used for at least 5 'football preview' montages in the last 2 months. It must do something to inspire then. Advice: PLAY IT LOUD. This weeks song of the week is: Muse- Supremacy

So we come to the end for this week. Thanks for reading. I hope more than anything to bring tales of #CUPSETpt2 being a success. You won't need to wait until next week to find out how it went though as I'm sure you'll be down there supporting...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Slave to the system

Anger is a gift. So says fiery counter culture orator Zach de la Rocha; lead singer of Christmas chart topping metal band Rage against the Machine and teenage hero for all angsty left leaning ex-teenage dirtbags (like me). When in full flow and fury his words are hard to disagree with. Anger is a gift, and we should use it to fire ourselves up and attack challenges... and scream down microphones if they're in the vicinity. Anger has it's limits though, depending on the context. In Mr. de la Rocha's world of violent revolutions it's a pretty big plus point, though quite a sad one when attributed to students bouncing bins off the windows of the local Barclays. In sport anger is a fire that needs to be contained. The obvious example is in boxing. If a fighter gets angry in the ring and loses his discipline then most of the time he will be finished by a swift punch to the temple. In hockey, a rash challenge or a needless dribble from ill discipline can damage the overall team effort. All players have done it, regretted it, and beaten themselves up about it. While they're right to reflect like that it's important to remember that to have passion to control you must possess it first.

My own passion has run high this season, omissions and frustrations bearing heavy on my mind. For the record I am fine and enjoying things quite merrily now, ploughing along this year and hoping to do the best I can to win games. I think over the last few weeks my words here have become a little severe at times in that I appear to have been reacting to my situation in a negative way. I apologise for that impression and it certainly is not my intention. Many weeks ago when the prospect of hovering between two teams first popped onto my horizon I stated that any anger and passion at such decisions needs to be directed at the pitch and not in becoming dismayed or arrogantly railing against the perceived 'poweres that be'. I haven't lived up to that mantra in its fullest it would be fair to say; but that forest has been walked through and I must say I'm out the other side and enjoying every second of Hockey I'm playing at the moment and ready to make those points nowhere but on the field of play. Perhaps my most enjoyable moment this year came last weekend during a 6-1 win (I scored 2, set up 1, thanks for asking) when an opposition defender bellowed at his team mates to mark me tightly as I was the 'danger-man'. Now I've been called a lot of things in my time but that's got to be a new one!

For the record I would never ever intentionally label in a negative light anyone who is prepared to take the plunge of the challenge of organising, shaping, and running a hockey team or club. It's not an easy thing to do even at the best of times and those people never get enough thanks for it. I've helped to run teams for years and sat in more that my fair share of bleak committee meetings facing the prospect of this marvellous club I play for dropping a team from competition or even winding up altogether. I have the fullest respect for all of the guys making those tough tough calls at the moment on selection issues and would like to point out in a season where our teams are regularly facing 10-man sides and witnessing clubs drop out of leagues altogether, Sale is going from strength to strength with full teams and subs, players who have a great time, and fantastic passionate training sessions (which I urge all non-attending players to attend... 3rd team I'm looking at you!). This is due in no small part to the effort and commitment (mental as well as physical) that those folks on the committee put in and I thank them all for that, and if you play you should too.

You may be feeling a little misled by now at my title and opening comments. Perhaps you were expecting some barnstorming 'arab spring' revolutionary talk. No, not here. The system I'm talking about being a slave to is not the free market neo-liberal capitalist economic doctrine that is slowly eroding both the welfare state and the concept of Social democracy in Europe. It is the system of play that we operate under here at Sale. Now I'm still not daft enough to divulge the details of that here but the point I wanted to make is that only through complete commitment and embracing of that system are we going to perfect it to it's devastating maximum potential. That was the message of coach after another frustrating drill for our attackers, that we need to all do our specific jobs, whether hard or easy, and place complete faith in the system. What this means in a nutshell for example is: if I receive a ball and look to play the ball to a winger, but that winger isn't where he should be, that isn't my fault. What it also means, crucially, is that just because that winger isn't there doesn't mean he won't be next time I get the ball, or the time after that etc. etc. It takes trust in each other, discipline, resilience, and dedication to play our system, we need to be slaves to those emotions. The attackers have had a tough time when it comes to taking chances this year but if we commit to the system and stay on task we will finish those chances and we will be irresistible.

Last weeks 6-1 win for me was a great game and great fun, I was pleased to see it trumped by the 6-0 win the boys on the 1st team managed. A special mention for the first clean sheet of the season for the 1's too! That winning every game before Christmas target is still good and i'll hope to see them pick up some momentum now and drive on with another win this weekend.

I'm heading into a pretty tasty top of the league bash this weekend and hoping that us 2's can come off with a win, it really is a must to keep pace in our division and I know we can do it if we start right from the first whistle and play the system with dedication, I hope to bring you big tales of grandiose wins next week.

Song of the week

A tough choice this week as I'm not feeling any puns coming on. For that reason I've decided to plump for a Rage Against The Machine Song. I'm certainly NOT going to be going for 'that' Rage Against The Machine song. Instead I'll treat you to the song from which the quote that begins this blog originates from. Anger is indeed a gift, but my present to you is this weeks song of the week : Rage Against The Machine- Freedom

The Teas League

I may be absent from the 1's currently but it's going to take much more than that to kill off the legendary teas league! This week we've got our guest judge Mark 'Michel Roux' Holmes taking up the reigns again. So let's see if it was a taste-tastic whirlwind rally down the path of adventure or a congested grey commute around the circular motorway of blandness.

Disclaimer: This is only a bit of fun. I am an appalling cook myself and in no way a food expert. All criticism will be tongue-in-cheek and if any people/clubs choose to take offence please know that all reviews are intended to make no negative reflection on the friendly welcome and hospitality that all teams always provide us, for which we are very grateful and thankful for.

17/11/12 Bebington Away

Jacket Potato and Maybe Turkey Chilli

Substance 4/10- Potato and Chilli filled the gap for those that braved a full portion.

Taste 2/10- Basic food (as in Sainsbury's basic) and questionable meat, maybe turkey, whatever animal it was it certainly hadn't seen much seasoning. Some of the boys had to visit Colonel Sanders on the way back to fill up.

Presentation 1/10- Plastic bowls and forks. It says it all.

Another blunderbuss review from Mr. Holmes, a hard man to please. Have to express solidarity with the plastic bowls though, what's all that about?

Well let's take a look at where that leaves them in the league tab- STOP THE PRESSES!- We have a late extra tea from last week to bring to you attention from last week. This 11th hour entry cannot be reviewed as it was brought in from home packed lunch style by 1st teamer and fellow blogger  'The New Dave Wynne®'. And here it is:

Chicken Salad! Now don't panic folks the Teas league is not going to be sullied with something as downright scandalous as a salad, but it is a good time for me to point you once again in the direction of Dave's journey blog which you can get here:

RE-START THE PRESSES! Let's look at that league table:

1.Colwyn Bay (Chilli & Chips)- S: 8 T: 9 P: 7 Tot: 24/30
2.Brooklands (Sandwiches & Chips)- S:5 T:6 P:8 Tot: 19/30
3.Timperley (Spag Bol with Rosemary & Salt Focaccia)- S:5 T: 2 P:6 Tot: 13/30
4. Bebington (Jacket Potato & Maybe Turkey Chilli)- S:4 T:2 P:1 Tot: 7/30

Hard times for Bebington there with our lowest score so far. I think they could be set for a bottom of the table dogfight as the season progresses. Next up is Chester, which I've had a sneak preview of and think could be a very big contender at the top!

As always thanks for joining me this week. I enjoyed clarifying a few things this week and stating how proud I am to be part of a club that has such dedicated people as members. I'm no voice of dissent and my whole purpose here is to show what a great club Sale is to be a part of. I only hope that those who have read my blog over the weeks have that impression in the forefront of their minds. It is the truth.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Quarterly Review

So we're a little bit over a quarter of the season gone now so I thought I'd have a look at how we're doing this year down the teams. Starting with my lovely 1's; things have gone a lot tougher this season so far. Not really anything surprising about that as we've shot up two leagues, but to go from winning and winning well to losing tight games has been tough to take. I'm not as on the pulse with collective 1's mentality this season but I'd say that overall we're disappointed but not disheartened, and hell, it's still good fun! Targets are tough to define for the 1's at the moment but I'd of thought winning every game from now until Christmas should be a good place to start.

The 2's are having a decent time of it so far. Had some silly losses to be fair, but some right good wins too. They're a little bit back in terms of points in their league but well in the shake up at the top. The hard yards are yet to come for them this season and the key ingredient for them is going to be desire. Last week I played for the 2's and they put in a 2nd half display that proved to me they have the technical and physical ability to impose and dominate games if they want to, it was a joy to be a part of and I hope we get much much more of it as we go forward in the season. For me, anything less than promotion is a failure this season.

The 3's are down on the bottom of the leauge pile bossing Div 8 SE. That's to be expected if you ask me seeing as they are rapidly becoming less the third team and more like the 1st team: vintage edition. The spanner in the works for them will be the fact they have to win their league to get out of it, but they're managing it so far being 4 points out in front. My old man is the 3's captain and is also 50 this year and I think (though the records are hazy) this could be his 10th year at the 3rd team helm, so a promotion should be just the ticket and an absolute nailed on target!

The 4's are in the same league and having, ahem, a slightly tougher time than the 3's. In fact they kicked off their season with a 16-1 drubbing off the 3's; how sporting of the 3's!. The aim for the 4th team is simply survival and trying to get some points. I don't mean survival as in not going down (there is nowhere to go), I mean fulfilling their fixtures and having the will to go out there every week. It is my belief that the 4's, only in their 2nd season, have been utterly shafted by the league who pandered to the complaints about long travelling time by a noisy minority of clubs to restructure the league in a way that is frankly, if left unattended, going to be the death of grassroots level social hockey in the North West region. That anyone could pick up a stick after either not playing for a long time or having never played before and come up against teams of the quality of the 3's (for example) and not get disheartened seems impossible to me. I hope the league looks at this madness at the end of the year, and I hope the 4's keep sticking it out and enjoying it, It could well be the best achievement of all 4 teams if they do.

So that's my two pennys on where we're at in this moment now. I think it is important to remember who and what we are. At Sale we're all about playing as hard as we can and being as friendly and social as we can along the way. All you need to do is look at some of the team numbers the 1st team come up against in their league to realise that we are a long way from being the biggest club in the region. Right now we're building and we're moving forward even when it looks like we're standing still. As long as we can turn out and enjoy playing a game of hockey the right way (the right way being the way Coach tells us to play of course) and the fair way, with 4 full teams of up fot it players then we're doing something good. A happy atmosphere we'll win more than we lost and move up accordingly.

Lastly on the issue of quarterly reviews I suppose I should I should turn the spotlight on myself. I'm a bit disappointed with myself this year in that I haven't personally taken as much a step forward from last year as I'd of liked. I've got frustrated, made mistakes, and worst of all missed chances that I should score (which I can genuinely lose sleep over!). My playing confidence has suffered and bobbing from one team to another probably hasn't helped that. To be bluntly honest on my own feelings for all the talk of competition and players interchanging from teams when you've been dropped (or provisionally dropped) for 6 weeks in a row, without explanation or constructive criticism it's difficult not to feel singled out and hurt by that process, especially when you feel you've contributed. Motivation can suffer, dedication can be questioned, and all sorts of strange and dark and unwelcome feelings can be felt; I know I'll not be alone in saying it's an uncomefortable place to be. The good aspect about that is that while I don't ultimately control what team I'll play for I am in control of my play, my attitude and my effort and enjoyment. I can say that I'll not be going anywhere anytime soon and whichever team I play for I'll be giving 100% of my effort and bringing my unglamourous but effective game to bear wherever I can, with a smile on my face and a spring in my step (unless we're losing 4-0 or something, anyone smiling then will be getting a slap)!

That's enough reflecting. Back to this weekend now. I'll be hoping to see at least 3 Men's wins on the board. Playing away for the 2's last week I was fortuitous enough to see two other teams in the 1st team's league go against each other. I won't name the teams but it wouldn't be too difficult for anyone to work it out if they fancy a bit of fixtures live based sleuthing. The 1's have played neither of them yet but if they don't dispatch them both with ease it will be nothing short of unforgivable (I am of course not recognising the fact that teams can change wildly from week to week), they were poor and it struck me as to how much teams really now have to raise their pace to compete with us now. It used to be the other way around. Be proud of that guys. A bit more clinical in the D and we'll be smashing teams for 10 (no, really).

Song of the week

What I'd love to see for the moment is all of the lads in all the teams get on a run of wins and start to dominate games and show ourselves to be the winners we are. Not the winners we can be, the winners we ARE. Anyway this seems like a good time to drop some dirty UK grime, back from my youthful misadventures of one-leg skanking and shouting blap blap for no real reason (yes, I was retarded). This is one of the better tracks from back in those halcyon days (as the top comment on the Youtube video correctly surmises it is a: 'dope tune straight up' (sic)). So for your audio pleasure may I present to you, this weeks song of the week: Ghetto feat. Katie Pearl- Run the Road

No teas league this week of course, though getting a tasty treat of what some future teas last week may be The competition could be very strong up at the top of the table (we could be looking at a chilli battle).

Final point from me now. Dave, another one of our 1st team squad lads has started dropping a blog all about his fitness attempts. As a man who once took that undertain first step out into blogging I knew I would take some inevitable stick from't lads but I'd hope that Dave will ride that out and keep it up. You get out of it what you put into it, though I'm sure from the language he's using he's well aware of that.

Constructive criticism #1: Sort the design of the page out Dave lad! The people need bright colours and pictures, get a bit of that famous Sale Yellow knocking about.

Please spare some time to check it out folks here's the link:

Dave Wynne: The Time is now!

Thanks for reading once again, I hope those in the know agree with my assessments and honesty! See you next time.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Road Trip

So the time finally came for the Sale waggons to fire up and leave Manchester for the very first time this season. We've been quite fortunate to not face any long trips yet, but that lucky road of close away trips came to an end in dramatic fashion by serving us up with our longest road trip of the season to Colwyn Bay, a North Wales town unremarkable in nearly every way, a bleak outpost nestled between the superstar A-list holiday destinations of Rhyl and Llandudno. Poor Colwyn, but in other Trivia it is the birthplace of Timothy Dalton (AKA that Bond that wasn't as good as that other one but definitely better than that rubbish one), also in HUGE NEWS the actor and serial philanderer Bill Roache (AKA Ken Barlow) of Corrie fame went to school at the very school at which we played! Awesome Stuff! For more Colwyn info get over to their Wiki Page.

Anyway it was a crucial game for us, we needed a result here like nothing else or we'd probably be looking like slipping into the abyss of mid-table. I'll cover the game a bit later but this away day has finally given me a chance to give a bit of an insight into what an away day in hockey is like. I think these long trips are a big burden onto anyone who chooses to play the awesome sport of Hockey but it's also potentially the best part of the sport and what makes you want to keep coming back time and time again. It's amazing how fun car-pooling with 13 other lads and driving to obscure parts of the North West can be! So here it is my first ever attempt at a photo journal of a typical Sale 1's Away day...

Sale goes to Colwyn: Beyond Discovery into Infinity...

I hope you like my pretentious title! First thing is first I need to introduce a couple of traditions. On long Journeys like these I like to throw together some 'Bangin Tunez' to keep the car I travel in firmly entertained. These songs can range from such classics as the star wars theme tune to 'enola gay' and other tracks of epic quality! I like to go with an intentionally embarrassing album title so that the car the CD gets left in can be discovered by another person, with HILARIOUS results. My finest hour so far was the raised eyebrows Marky had to face when his dad discovered 'Gary Glitters Xmas Album' recently. As I was taking pictures today I went for the slightly reserved 'Ladz on Tour'.

Another Tradition is the award of 'Dick of the Day' (DOD) which goes out to the player who has made the biggest dick of themselves that day (obviously). This can be awarded for any action from the moment that person wakes up that day until the moment that the votes are cast, so you've got to have your wits about you. In a tradition that has been revived especially for this blog and also due to me rooting around in my attic we have the return of the DOD hat.

As you can see it is a vile pink pvc effort that is every bit as disgusting as it looks in this picture. But who would be wearing it come the end of the day??... Stay tuned! Now my kit was packed it was off to the meet at the world famous Sale sports Club.

 There was an early shout for the DOD award when Dave rocked up in these boots...

 Here's the standard meeting place for the 1's; the front door to the clubhouse. Many a driver has arrived at the club over the years to the sight of non driving freeloaders like me huddling around outside this door. This is usually a time when all the piss-taking/ wind up efforts for the day get their first airing. In this photo Nick is admiring Dave's new stick whilst hopefully simultaneously admonishing him for his new choice of boot. When this is done it's time to get directions, get organised, and get on the road.

This is the man responsible for all that part of proceedings. This is a very photogenic picture of our captain H and makes him look like a well turned out on-the-ball sort of chap. Do not be fooled, he has the nickname 'Captain Organised', and the only thing you need to know about that is we're a big bunch of sarcastic wind-up merchants when it comes to nicknames. Lucky for H despite being the furthest away game of the year all we really had to do was turn right, drive down one road for a long time to get there, then turn left a couple of times.

This in fact was the road itself. The M56, Gods own motorway. Not much to say here other than the tunes were being pumped out quite consistently at this point.

Bit further down the road and we're in Wales itself! what a lovely view and what a lovely day.

The next treat on our smooth journey was only the lovely Sea! So lovely I went in for a close up...

This is perhaps the most poignant image of the North Wales coast ever taken. A lovely sunny sea view, with a big grey lamppost straight down the middle ruining everything.

We arrived early and ahead of the other cars so we got to spend a few crucial minutes dicking around smashing an over sized tennis ball at each other around a school PE changing room. Living the dream.

I love this picture because it looks like H is in the middle of some kind of super skillful manoeuvre of the kind you wouldn't expect a keeper to have the ability to execute. He does though of course...

Fooling around over it was time to get kitted up. Here's a shot of H getting his big leg pads on. This week wasn't too bad but usually the stench of stale sand, sweat, and astro turf emanating from this kit bag is a real biological curiosity to inhale, though one that may result in mind-altering effects.

Colwyn had the audacity to play in Yellow so the Famous Sale Yellow was swapped for the not-as-famous Sale Blue. This was the kit we won the league in last year. The omens are good...

By now my incessant picture taking was making me a target for abuse, mostly from Marky our teams pint-sized piss-taker. As you can see the wit extends to such things as 'sticking two fingers up to the camera', a classic #BADMAN. Yes, that is a real kit bag and not something pulled out from a smouldering skip fire by the way.

So now all the messing around was done and dusted team talks were given and we hit the pitch ready for action. This is a last second snap of Colwyns pitch with some of the school buildings in the background. I'm a bit whimsical about this picture as it may show the very building where Ken Barlow picked up the first of his elite womanising skills. Hallowed Turf. So, the match...

We lost 2-1. Devastation, apocalypse, death by the sea. We fought but it didn't drop for us, we didn't score enough, didn't impose enough and didn't press enough. A hard game, against an unbeaten team, but the funeral bell for our league title hopes could be heard up in the hills on that final whistle. More on that a bit later though...

After the game we changed and some of us were lucky to be treated to a cold shower, whilst others copped out and waited until we got back to their Clubhouse where such luxuries as 'warm water' existed. Wimps.

Post matches are dominated by teas (teas league round 3 is below have no fear!), the Man of the match and DOD awards and of course fines. Fines is basically a free-for-all insult session that usually starts out as jibing someone for letting a goal in or not scoring a chance and ends with a stream of awful abuse likely to result in long term psychological issues, but you take your fines and pay the price, all the money collected goes for a good cause (Beer).

 Here's H tucking into the Teas, I know, a sneak preview of the Teas league, but teas are a crucial part of any away trip.

Post fines here was what was collected, everyone suitably insulted and all money into the end of season beer kitty. The man-of-the match was Ben for defending despite someone putting a massive hole in his leg. And the all important DOD was...

Danny! Congrats Danny on being the first to wear the sexy dick of the day hat this year. Danny received votes for being green carded and giving lip to the umpire, but I think we can all agree that this was certainly the happiest pink PVC hat wearing man in all of Colwyn Bay that day. Now he's Internet famous!

Time to hit the road again and head back on the long road a defeated but not dispirited team. The one thing our team always seem to have over our opposition is superior camaraderie in the clubhouse, we love our pink hats and our fines and I really think that spirit is what makes us a special team with a stronger core than many others. Anyway, when we got back it was dark so here's an artistic shot of our club at night.

It's always nice to have a pint back at base at the end of a long gruelling day. It was a significant and tough day for us to take, and I think we were all a bit tired, as H's perfect mid-yawn capture shows.

As for me, well I was happy to wrap my hand around the Clubs finest pint of lovely Becks, a long day, a long way to go to lose but sometimes that's just the way it goes.

That's it for the photos and I hope you can get a bit of an idea what it's like hitting the road with our bunch of reprobates. It was an odd game to use for a photo journal and I really really wanted to be able to come back with a big win and a great showing but it wasn't to be. As I said before I think most reasonable analyses would say that us being way off the top two in terms of points leaves us a bit cut adrift in 5th place and 9 points back is death for our league title hopes. We've played 6 and gone Won 3 Lost 3, not the stuff of champions. It's a bitter pill to swallow but one that's going down the neck either way. Rather than go off the wall and let everything we've worked hard to accomplish over the last year or two I hope that this bitter pill can be turned into the medicine we need to move forward. Let me explain.

We don't do pressure very well, and this league we're in is pressure incarnate. Pressure on the ball from the opposition, pressure to not make mistakes, pressure to score every chance, make every challenge, and win every game bar none. Too much pressure; we folded up on it. The pressure came mostly form ourselves I feel, which is good, we have to push ourselves but now that we've slipped back in this race I hope we can take a step back, drop the pressure and dial up the desire. This is a chance to examine our errors, identify what we need to work on to improve into that team that is going to leap forward once again. There is nothing to fear now,  in slipping back from promotion positions the worst for us is over now. We need to be a bit more targeted in what we want to achieve, how we want to achieve it and make sure we don't slip into regression, we need to focus on putting in the hard work now that is going to make us come back on those teams that have beaten us for revenge later on in the year.

The early signs as a reaction from last week... not great. Numbers were down at training but to be fair I got to see some real passion from some of the guys down there, and I hope to see that from all of us, but first we need to get everyone there, I can't speak for the passion of the invisible man, but he makes a crap hockey player.

 Song of the week

So with us being a bit off the pace and not needing to bludgeon ourselves for our frustrations and mistakes I've decided to go for something that I hope will make us all relax, realise that the world hasn't ended or all our hard work has now never happened nor been for nothing. The goalposts have moved a bit for us now, but we're still on the pitch and we're still playing. This weeks song of the week is: Doves- There goes the fear.

The Teas League

A long road trip like this makes for a very important tea at the end of it. The whole concept of the Teas league was indeed spawned from the experience of some very long road trips being accompanied by some very very poor teas at the end of them so when we arrived at Colwyn HQ a lot of nervous eyes were of the Chafing dishes to see what delights were hidden within.

 Disclaimer: This is only a bit of fun. I am an appalling cook myself and in no way a food expert. All criticism will be tongue-in-cheek and if any people/clubs choose to take offence please know that all reviews are intended to make no negative reflection on the friendly welcome and hospitality that all teams always provide us, for which we are very grateful and thankful for.

Pleased to say that yours truly was back in the judging seat for this one despite Marky's excellent deputising.

03/11/12 Colwyn Bay Away

Finally the food was uncovered and plated up and what we found was this...

Chilli and Chips

Substance 8/10- Chilli is close to the heart of any Sale player as it's what the home teas have been for many years but Chips were the perfect fresh addition. Self service meant portion size as desired (H is a chip fiend).

Taste 9/10- Faultless really. The Chilli had a lovely balance of flavours, a delicate spice that didn't burn you up and the chips were fine too. Only a 9 as it was tray served rather than straight off the stove. Better than Christine's chilli at home? Controversial...

Presentation 7/10- No real problems with the presentation, plastic crockery and cutlery holds it back slightly, despite the matching colours. Proper Chafing Dishes are a plus point though. A solid effort.

Belting effort from the Colwyn Lads here, this really was very nice and though it's early doors the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down here to the rest of the league. Let's see the table now...

1.Colwyn Bay (Chilli & Chips)- S: 8 T: 9 P: 7 Tot: 24/30
2.Brooklands (Sandwiches & Chips)- S:5 T:6 P:8 Tot: 19/30
3.Timperley (Spag Bol with Rosemary & Salt Focaccia)- S:5 T: 2 P:6 Tot: 13/30

Brooklands reign at the top is all over and Colwyn step into the breach, how long will they remain, who can say?

That's all folks hope you enjoyed the photos, bad times about the result but that won't stop us from coming back next week don't you worry!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Where the rubber meets the road

They say a watched pot never boils. I've never understood whether this means that if you don't light a fire nothing will happen or that if you literally watch a pot it seems to take longer to boil. Perhaps a bit of both? Answers on a postcard. To make that bizarre opening relevant I'm going to compare our team to the said pot. Maybe we've not started our fire and that's why we're not on the boil. Maybe we're scrutinising and navel gazing ourselves too much and it's making us take longer to come good... maybe a bit of both.

We won last week 7-2 but the general consensus was that we were poor value for that win. I could agree for the most part but there were some decent passing spells throughout the game and times when we kept the ball away from our opponents for minutes on end through fluid movement of the ball. Rare moments admittedly, most of our joy came through that favourite past time of mine; front line pressure. If we're to come across teams so willing to cough up the ball in the depths of their half every week 7-2 could well become the norm, sadly that won't happen. More to the point, it won't happen this weekend.

Yes this weekend the Sale show finally gets on the road will a full on balls out road trip down to the lovely seaside town of Colwyn Bay (speedos optional!). This match is a good reference point for how far we've come along. Last season we were playing Colwyns 2nd team. this season we're testing ourselves against their firsts. Progress. I'd love to spend the rest of my blog making wisecracks about getting the ice creams in and building sandcastles but the fact is that some very serious business is on the cards down at the bay this weekend. It's as near as damned a make or break fixture for us as we're going to get this year. They're unbeaten just like Timperley so it's another top of the table opponent and if we lose then we're 9 points off the top spot and firmly in the doldrums of the table without any kind of upward motion. It is a simple statement: we have to win.

To lighten things up a bit I'm hoping to take a few holiday snaps of our lovely road trip journey (assuming selection of course!) regardless of the outcome. These long trips can often be the most fun part of the game, providing the result is the right one. North Wales is a long way home on the back of a loss, I know that from experience. I also remember a 5-4 'last minute winner' game at Colwyn a few years back, to this day one of the best games I've ever played in. I hope for something as fun this weekend but hopefully with a more clear cut win for us than that!

Whatever spring we got from last week we need to use every part of it to build up a good head of steam for this match. Momentum is key and right now they have more of it than us, but on the pitch its 11 men v 11 men and we're at our absolute peak when we want it more than the other 11 do.

Song of the week

Given that we're heading into such a crucial game I thought it would be appropriate to have a song fitting with our destination. In this case I've gone for a lovely little tune that was pretty much my favourite song of summer 2011. It's called 'the Bay' (see what I did there??), and whilst the bay in question wasn't written to be Colwyn Bay I'm sure that if you listen to the lyrics with a thoroughly sarcastic ear then you'll find some resonance with the Bay in the song and the Bay where the battle will take place this weekend. So this weeks song of the week is: Metronomy- The Bay.

That's all folks I hope to bring joyous tidings, photos galore, and of course another instalment of the famous Teas league next week!