Category Archives: achc

Hockey, Darts, Coombe Hill and The Grand Union Canal

Sunday morning stroll around Coombe Hill

Hockey Coaching

A disappointing turnout on Monday evening with about 10 people coming along – I’m hoping the numbers aren’t a reflection of what we are doing and more about half term / general apathy.

We built on the previous week by introducing more dynamic basics routines, receiving the ball on the move and passing on the move, we also re-introduced the cone gate for them to focus on too. We then moved onto some aerials training which had been requested by one of the younger participants. Aerials is something I’ve never been able to do properly and would never dare to try it in a game. To be fair they all did the exercise of throwing the aerial top D then shooting pretty well. No goalie though and still a lot of shots missed. Paul then introduced a couple of great exercises, firstly 3 v 1 in a box and passing to each player on a cone, trying to intercept and then a 3 v 2 exercise, introducing basic defending skills, line to goal concept and of course shooting. We then finished with a small game. I’m still enjoying it immensely and building the exercises up over the weeks and working as a team with Paul is very enjoyable and I think working well. Watching the down time though, it is still all about shooting from the top of the D, some things will never ever change, only the very odd person practising their skills or close control etc.

Darts

Simon, part of the triples I was ‘helping’

Martin Whatsapp’d me last week, he was desperate for a player for the triples knockout competition. I had no idea what that was, and my memories of the last time I played in the World Cup Football period last year was one of barely being able to hit the board. I used to be ok (20+ years ago) but agreed to come along to the General Arms in Chesham to help out under The Crown Pub team branding! The strategy for me was to ‘hit the board’ aiming bottom left for maximum possible points. It seemed to work as we won the first match, I even hit a double 16 to checkout one game. We should have won the second match, but unfortunately we were knocked out. Drinking lime and soda probably didn’t help my cause either. The pub itself was quite nice with plenty of TV’s showing the night’s football action. The other darts players were friendly too.

Cycle along the Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal near Watford / Croxley Green

On Saturday afternoon in between taxi trips, I popped out on the hybrid to do a short cycle ride along the Grand Union Canal. I rather fancied a sausage sandwich at Cafe @ loch 81 too which doesn’t close until 5.30. I pootled down past the Dumb Bell and and picked up the canal by The Coy Carp pub as usual. I quickly arrived at the cafe so thought i’d carry on a bit longer before indulging in the sausage sandwich, eventually turning around somewhere around Watford. I just love the tranquility by the canal and the quaint views of a bygone era. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the cafe at 3.45, they’d stopped serving hot food – 15 minutes earlier would have been fine. So a cake and cup of tea had to suffice.

Coombe Hill Family Walk

Coombe Hill panoramic (Jamie must have moved!)

I’d wanted to pop over to the highest point in the Chilterns for some time now, particularly with Rebecca. It was a glorious day and we eventually managed to get the whole family (begrudgingly) out of the house and over to the National Trust car park by Coombe Hill. I have to say, it hold spectacular views over Aylesbury and the surround areas (including Chequers). It was a delightful short walk with everyone and we all caught up on what’s been happening, made me so pleased and was the best time spent with family in ages.

Web Work Week

The highlight of the week was a trip to Milton Keynes for the SME Bucks MK small business awards where I had entered Cater For You into the Fastest Growing Business category. I was delighted to be a guest of the AJH Cables team who were also there in the Best Entrepreneur category. Apart for that, it has been head down getting through a huge amount of web work including ongoing work on the Fastbreak site which is now getting to alpha stages, J&J and preparing images for the new Cater For You web site. We should be signing off the final designs for that and look forward to the next stage of front end development.

Rickmansworth Golf

So I finally managed to get a round of golf in. It was a glorious day on Friday, so after a lunch time meeting in Chesham I managed to get to Rickmansworth and dash round in the glorious sunshine. A bit of a rush so we didn’t play terribly well, but was nice to feel the warm sun on my skin.

Dumb Bell

Finally, on Sunday Sarah and I walked Molly up to the Dumb Bell pub to watch Crystal Palace on TV and have a quiet drink. We bumped into Banner and had a delightful few hours catching up and giggling away. We also had one of their burgers, it was delicious too.

In the Dumb Bell with Molly, Banner and B

Next week is a very busy work week and I’m hoping I can finally shift my cough / cold combination – still fine to work and function, just really annoying.

Eastbourne, TD Record Month and ACHC Quiz Night

As promised in last week’s blog, this week has been rather quieter. I’ve done no exercise as my foot was giving me too much grief (my arthritis I think) and sciatica grumbling, so no runs across the downs, still no golf and only one dog walk. Not even a cross trainer session in the garage.

Snow in Eastbourne

Web Design Work

I spent the early part of the week in Eastbourne again helping out with hospital trips. It was also an opportunity to do a huge amount of work which I duly did. The bulk of the work was getting to grips with the new Fastbreak Sports web site project. I had I thought successfully migrated the data out of their SellerDeck V10 site and next was the large project of cleaning up the images (making them square) and picking out the larger ones. I was then in the process of importing into my local staging WordPress. I was trying a couple of plugs ins, the Woocommerce csv import and also a WP All Import plug in. I think i’m going to have to do a mixture of both to import all of the data. Something I do need to get my head around is the importing of data into custom fields for their Google Shopping feed. This will also then help me out for another couple of web sites – The Stapling Company and J & J Air Systems. I also did a lot of updating on both of those web sites this week.

British Battles

John Mackenzie of Britishbattles.com preparing another map

On Thursday, I popped in to see the very talented John Mackenzie who runs the British Battles web site which I helped to set up for him in early 2002. Until recently this was by far and away my busiest web site (now possibly Trading Depot) sometimes having 10,000 visitors a day. Since the rise of Wikipedia and other niche history sites, traffic has dropped off a little. I recently migrated their web site to new hosts Nimbus where the speed has improved and costs reduced. It is also hosted via Cloudflare to minimise the bandwidth through their caching service.

John spends a huge amount of time researching each individual battle / war and documenting accordingly. He also draws all the site maps under the John Fawkes name and which are some of the first source maps on the Internet. His Twitter site has over 13,000 followers and he is also preparing for a lecture tour, starting with a U3A talk on Braddock soon. A very interesting person and I always love catching up with him.

Fasthosts migration to 20i

This is still carrying on with a few sites a week. I’m now down to just over 50 packages to migrate – obviously the harder ones. I’ve also cleaned up the number of active customers I have – think it’ll be whittled down to around 75 actives sites that I host by the end of the project. I’ve extended the project timescale to September now due to a particular client who was frustratingly non-understanding of what I was trying to do.

Snow Arrived

We had another dumping of snow on Thursday, R & J were delighted as it meant no school on the Friday. I’m feeling particularly guilty though as I was going to go to Wycombe on Friday and means I’ve not managed to get into the Cater For You office for the last couple of weeks now. It was end of month though so handy to concentrate on that. I don’t particularly need to go in as the fabulous team can manage perfectly well without seeing me.

Rebecca spent the snow day baking and making snowmen and Jamie went out with his friends and came back soaking – just what he should be doing 🙂 We also dug out the long forgotten snooker table – I used to love playing it when I was a child and practised for hours. Molly loves it too unfortunately.

Trading Depot Record Night Out – Crazy Bear Beaconsfield

I did manage to join up with the Trading Depot team on Friday night out for a meal at the Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield, to celebrate a significant milestone in their monthly sales targets. The team are a very good bunch and all work tremendously hard, so fully deserved their pat on the back. I carried on with my dry January which I successfully completed so was not quite as much in the spirit as others, but I always enjoy their banter and laughter. I’m hoping when my Eastbourne trips finish that I can spend a day or two more a month working there (if they’ll have me of course).

Screaming Frog Insights

Screaming Frog

I carried on running a few reports on Screaming Frog to help reduce errors on my web sites. This was partly re-ignited by my chats with Darren on Friday evening. I ran it on this site, also linking to Google Analytics and Search Console. There was a huge amount of images from 10+ years ago that were missing, so after trawling through a few old backup hard drives, I managed to track them down.

Trying to find missing images to cut the 404 errors

More oddly, I also noticed that Google is waiting to index over a thousand pages from the site – they’ve been crawled but wondering if it thinks they are spam. The site hasn’t got many good inbound links, though does have an ok (nothing special) page and domain authority. I was wondering if duplicate content is hampering it, so installed a plug in to just show excerpts from my blog posts rather than the whole post. I shall keep an eye on that over the coming weeks.

ACHC Quiz Night

achc-quiz-night-140-people-feb-2019
ACHC Quiz Night at Amersham Free Church Hall – 140 People

The quiz night is one of the biggest social events of the Amersham and Chalfont Hockey Club year and significant fund raiser. Possibly only the end of year dinner dance is bigger, though that isn’t a fund raiser, more a celebration of the playing season. It was therefore a huge disappointment that Challoners Boys School cancelled the hire of the hall on the Friday due to health and safety concerns with the snow. The committee (well done to them) managed to re-arrange it to the Amersham Church Hall, but they couldn’t change the temporary bar license from Chiltern District Council as they need five working days (bureaucracy at its finest). So it was bring your own booze and ask everyone to donate generously to the raffle instead. We were the ‘No Animals, Just Vets’ team, the Over 40’s table and we came fifth, though I think drink was the winner.

Next week sees another couple of days in Eastbourne, hockey coaching after a two week layoff (depending on snow I guess) and hopefully back to running. Also expect to finally make an appearance at Cater For You again. There is also a big birthday to be celebrated, so my dry January will finally be (temporarily?) broken.

Dead Peppers, Eastbourne and Litter

Trip to Eastbourne

Run across the Downs from Crows Link to Birling Gap
The Jazz arrives in Friston

Thank fully a quieter week this week as I spent the first three days down in Eastbourne to ferry my Dad to and from the hospital. The least I can do after they’ve supported me for almost 50 years. It is always good to spend time with them, though the continuous antiques programmes can become a little tedious, though I can see why they are addictive… It did mean however that I managed to get through large volumes of work just sitting there from first thing to last thing. The other thing that is good as I’ve mentioned before is that they are right on top of a hill in the Downs. I therefore had a couple of beautiful runs across stunning countryside, and was fortunate that the weather was just cold and not wet.

Eastbourne Hospital

When we popped down to Eastbourne Hospital, a few things struck me. Firstly was the litter shoved in the bushes around the car park and looked like it was from people standing around smoking. Quite astonishing. I think the litter was particularly in my mind as I had to skip the FPA’s annual environment conference up in London, always very interesting. We are lucky in that we had free parking, but apparently the parking is outsourced and in their attendant hut they have three people and a ticket payment machine so surely someone could a. pick up the litter and b. the break even of the car parking must be high and exasperate the level of car parking charges for sick people and visitors. Overall though, the service from the NHS has been nothing short of superb.

Runs Across the Downs

View between Crows Link and Birling Gap

As i’m continuing my rehabilitation back from my achilles problems over the last couple of years, it was a pleasure to get back out across the Downs and absolutely stunning countryside. I did two runs, one up towards Jevington and another to the coast and Crows Link / Birling Gap. The latter is much tougher in terms of elevation but each have stunning countryside.

Jamie trying out his new stick at a snow covered Amersham and Chalfont Hockey Club!

Jolly Farmer Meal

On Wednesday when I got back, from a green Eastbourne to a snow covered Chalfont, we popped straight out with the family and a few good friends for a meal at the Jolly Farmer in Chalfont St Peter. I’ve only had a couple of meals there since it re-opened after transforming from ‘The Village Hall’ and they’ve been superb. The service I think is something that sets it apart from similar local establishments. I had the full starter, main and pudding, delicious. I’m still doing dry January so stuck to lime and soda’s. Not sure how deep I will go into the winter with my lack of drinking, i’m quite enjoying sobriety again. I did it last year and previously for my half marathon too.

Run to Amersham

I decided to have a go at just extending my running my an extra mile, and I was unfortunately really slow and struggling. A real shame as it was a favourite run of mine a couple of years ago down by the Misbourne, through the fields and woods from St Giles to Amersham. It also means Molly can have a stroll through the Misbourne and drink at the turn. It is odd that the flow is still strong there and nothing from Chalfont St Giles. I’m afraid there was still no golf again this week, though my friend is back from holiday next week so may try and shoehorn a quick round in. I did also get my hybrid bike service at Dee’s Cycles in Amersham for a princely sum, so also hoping for a few more trips down to the canal and a bacon sarnie!

Web Work

As I alluded to above, I managed to get through a huge stack of work, even working all day Sunday again unfortunately. There was some decent updates on J & J and The Stapling Company where I popped in and took a lot of product photos and updated the layout somewhat. I’ve designed their site using the Genesis Framework on WordPress and they wanted a table layout for their product categories so bought a plug in from Barn2 Media, which unfortunately didn’t work out of the box. I was extremely grateful for both of their technical supports to guide me accordingly.

We also had the mock up of the new Cater For You web site mobile / responsive design. I think it needs more work, especially given the lowly conversion rate at the moment compared to desktop. I also sourced some eye watering quotes for hosting, but Magento is a high powered beast!

My Deanta Internal Doors blog post for Trading Depot also saw the light of day after the WordPress update I did was fixed by Darren! The V5 upgrade didn’t go quite as smoothly as others I’ve done.

Greenhouse Clearance and Switch Off

So after the last electricity bill and blaming Jamie and his Fortnite playing, I wandered into my greenhouse and it was warm…. much warmer than the snowy outside… so no wonder the peppers and chillis were still growing ok! So this Saturday I’m afraid was the big switch greenhouse heater switch off and a clean up with some Jeyes fluid. The propagator was also cleaned ready for new seedlings in the next few weeks and more electric consumption.

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Client Visits, London and Hockey Coaching

Hockey Coaching

So I started the week with another session of hockey coaching with Paul. Again, I really enjoyed it and came away with a beaming smile. The session was tighter than the previous week and we tested the attendees with some extended basics and finishing with a game. I’m now almost certain that it is genetically impossible for anyone over 40 to cleanly reverse stick the ball whilst being second nature to the youngsters. Another common shout from me in the session was elbow out to exaggerate the dribbling to the top D. Unfortunately, i’m not able to attend the next two sessions as I’ll be down in Eastbourne with my parents. The club is very lucky (hard work by various voluneers) to have such a talented group of youngsters coming through the club and also the older generation still keen to learn and progress whilst giving support to the younger members.

Web Work

The first half of the week was all about Cater For You and J & J Air Systems. Cater For You is still knee deep in a new Magento platform’d web site design and we were presented with the drafts for the responsive site. If we can increase the lowly mobile responsive rate then that’ll pay for the project itself. I’m also sorting out images which can and cannot be used for the project. We still have a swathe of images not touched for 15 years and are too small or not suitable and we’ll need to re-take hundreds of photos. It has also prompted me to look more closely at dead stock / slow moving and whether we want to take them across to the new web site.

New VOIP phone system at Cater For You

We have also invested in a brand new VOIP telephone system. The team were complaining that the old analogue lines were quiet and with the increased number of phone calls and size of team they couldn’t hear customers very well. Delighted to hear that this system has fully resolved that and they can hear clearly. Only downer was the people who installed it did no training for the team which was a bit odd.

The end of the week saw me based at CSE and then Trading Depot, both companies I’ve been working for since the early 2000’s in various guises. The latter has released a podcast featuring me as the guinea pig for the first edition – the following ones do sound a lot more exciting – maybe download my one if you have insomnia? Really enjoy going there as there is always so much going on and first time I’ve seen them since the Christmas do – my Dad dancing seemed to amuse them….

If you do want to hear my voice and a 1 hour summary of how my career has progressed over the last 30 years or so, give it a listen. You can download the podcast from here or click below.

London with Becca

Banana Cake – Cater For You recipe

Rebecca had her braces fitted this week so we had made some nice soft banana cake for her to eat earlier in the week. She then asked that we do something together on Saturday, so obviously I jumped at the chance for a bit of time with her. We popped into London once I’d dropped Jamie and his bike off at a friends and headed straight for Oxford Street with the aim of being at Canary Wharf at darkness for the Winter Lights exhibition / show.

Whilst I cannot stand shopping, I do enjoy it with Rebecca and she milled around the various clothes shops buying the odd thing. What was interesting to me though was how busy say Top Shop, John Lewis, H &M were then went into my favourite, Debenhams and it was really dead. They are having a tough time with sales at the moment and teetering on the edge of administration, I wondered about buying some shares, but if their store has no footfall on Oxford Street they really are in big trouble. Obviously there isn’t a big segment in the market for middle aged men who don’t go shopping!

Winter Lights at Canary Wharf

A quick search of what there was to do this weekend in London showed that this was the main attraction. When we arrived in a packed train, Canary Wharf was busy, though not unbearably. Surprisingly, it is the first time I’ve been there, despite the fact many of my friends have worked there of the years. It was quite an eye opener for us with the skyscrapers reaching into the starry sky. A cold evening, we trundled around a few of the sights, where eventually we picked up a map, and realised it was a lot bigger than we had thought! After seeing about half of the displays and stopping for some fries, we decided to pootle back home and defrost in the tube. Well worth going to though and we eventually arrived back home shortly before 10pm.

Batchworth Lake Walk to Cafe @ Lock 81

As I was spending half the week away in Eastbourne, I thought it would be nice to spend the morning with Sarah and Molly. I have previously mentioned on social media and my cycling blog posts that I love the Grand Union Canal by Rickmansworth and in particular the beautiful Cafe at Lock 81, so we parked up at the Aquadrome (currently free parking but soon to be paid for) and walked around Bathworth Lake and down the Canal to the Cafe. It was a crisp sunny morning, so a warm cup of tea and their fabulous bacon sandwiches were just the ticket.

Before driving down to Eastbourne, Jamie and I popped to the hockey club to mess around and practice whilst also having half an eye on B who was playing in the ladies Over 45’s game. Unfortunately they lost heavily to a very good Canterbury side who were a pleasure to watch.

As well as the dog walk, this week I went for the usual 10k run over to Chorleywood and back with Molly, couple of treadmill workouts and most importantly no golf.

Run with Molly – by the Dumb Bell field

Thai Food and Golf Get Togethers

Yet another flat out week personally and work wise. After the huge meals on Sunday, a couple of days of famine were in order, so some reheated soup from the freezer – these soups in fact which we froze in their plastic containers. I also tried to step up the activity and did a few runs to try and burn a few calories off. Oddly, i decided to do a lot of skipping on Monday evening, i’m not sure how much, but maybe 7/800 or so and my calves for most of the week were really aching. Obviously need to do that exercise a lot more.

Chiltern Forest Golf Club with Marc from AJH Cables – stunning views across Aylesbury Vale

Chiltern Forest Golf

On Tuesday I caught up with Marc from AJH Cables at Chiltern Forest. He is focusing heavily on developing his export cable market and he had some really interesting customer stories that he has made great headway with. He is literally selling to every single part of the world and developing his huge range of contacts. He has also specified a brand new cablehttps://ajhcables.com to be manufactured called Rawflex which is a reeling cable which he has also registered the name for. I’m running his web site through a few SEO tools such as Screaming Frog and SEM Rush to see how he can improve his site with some easy wins.

I do enjoy playing at Chiltern Forest, though it is tough – we started on hole 10 and these first 9 holes were a struggle and I marked my card with a shocking 57 but much like last week at Berkhamsted I turned it around with a 43 on the next 9 including a birdie (first in a while). As well as Marc’s company, the food was good and reasonable afterwards (skipped the soup and had ham egg and chips). The views are simply stunning on that course overlooking Aylesbury vale.

Wednesday evening was spent in Amersham town centre to catch up with Wardy who is back in the UK and Cremo kindly organised a few people for a meal at a Thai place called Tom Yum’s – first time I’d been there. It was fairly good, but the company was excellent and we finished off at The Beech House where the beers kept coming thick and fast! I’ve had too many beers this December so Jan – March 2019 will have to be a much more modest affair. Wardy seemed on good form and very fit and healthy with all his trail running he is doing. I was a bit upset to see Martin is suffering post knee op with sciatica and more.

Tom Yum & Beech House Amersham

I think there were also solid plans laid down for a golf tour in 2019 – this subject keeps coming up but nothing concrete planned yet. The last one was for Cash’s stag do in Porto almost three years ago now, but I think we will either go back to Portugal where a friend has a family villa or La Cala in Spain. The latter is preferred by my golf buddy who is currently laid up in ITU with Guillen Barre – something for him to focus his recovery on for mid next year hopefully. Very pleased to see a huge improvement with him this week when I popped in on Friday.

Queen’s Head Chesham

On Thursday evening Sarah and I popped over to the Queen’s Head in Chesham to do the quiz and have another Thai meal (two in two nights!!). Great fun with our friends there, an awful lot of giggling and laughter, but we didn’t win the quiz this time (Alvin and the Chipmunks, say no more). I was driving this time though giving my liver some recovery time and enjoying Sarah’s new car. Speaking of car’s, don’t panic everyone, but my trusty old Jazz passed its MOT again on Monday, so the filthy car will be my transport for yet another year… much to the children’s disgust.

The weekend carried on where the work week left off with a night out on Saturday evening and Sunday evening. The former was a delightful evening at the Tomlinsons to celebrate the last birthday of December (just the 5) which is Sarah’s Mum.

ACHC Fancy Dress Mixed Hockey

Sunday was a particularly special day as Olivia had organised for the resurrection of the Christmas fancy dress mixed games. I always looked forward to these every year when we could make them (normally on Boxing days) with various shenanigans happening and often ending up at Winkers. This was the first at the new club almost two years after we first started playing there. I think we ended up with roughly 18 a side and it was a joy playing with Jamie and Sarah. Rebecca was going to play too which I’d looked forward to all week but she had no mouth guard or shin pads and no point taking the risk. The game was good fun and great to see juniors with parents and many other members all playing a sensible, semi competitive game of fun hockey.

It was also my first game since the Over 40’s and I thought my achilles was fully repaired (I’d done a 10k trail run fine on Saturday with Molly), but alas, I felt it niggle half way through the second half and this morning it is lumpy again – rather upsetting as loved being back on the pitch. Will have to stick to my original target of next season in the 5’s with Jamie eligible for Saturday adult games.

Sunday evening was fairly impromptu with a quiet pint with Paul up the Dumb Bell. Bumped into my old friend Banner and we carried on until we were the last in the pub as usual. Rebecca has been after a part time job too and might have sorted that out for her. A great way to round off the blog week.

Dumb Bell Pub

Quiet Sunday evening drink sorting Rebecca’s job prospects

In between all that I did also do a mountain of work for Cater For You and various web clients. I’m trying to generate a lot of content and promote various sites to improve back links and domain authority. It seems to be working already as C4U has gone up in ranking and domain authority.

I’m looking forward to a quieter start to 2019! Merry Christmas to you all, have a good safe one and see you on the other side.

England Hockey Masters Final (T3) 2018

I’ve been playing hockey on and off since 1996, mostly off due to my useless body which continually gets injured.  Two years ago after a summer 1’s game at OMT we were laughing about how the youngsters were all flying past us and wouldn’t it be a good idea to (re)start the ACHC men’s Over 40’s team.  So a germ of an idea snowballed into reality and somehow I was Captain and using my (and the teams) extensive list of contacts, we set about creating a squad and entered the England Hockey Over 40’s national competition.

ACHC O40’s September 2016 vs Old C’s

After dredging through my contacts and getting back in touch with a heap of people I hadn’t spoken to for many years, we gathered a fearless group of players, some who hadn’t played for many years and had a friendly against Marlow Hockey Club who helped us out tremendously. The first game and real thing came against Old Cranleighan hockey club.  We were fortunate in that game and the old competitive spirit came back into everyone and we won on flicks, though this meant we stayed in Tier 2 and not drop into Tier 3 which would have been more suitable for this newly assembled group of friends.  We lost to Marlow in an absolute humdinger on a hot day 6-5, but we had all re-formed and the banter was non stop – something that I think is missing from many current Saturday teams with many players not going back to the bar and mixing, or just sitting on their phones – maybe i’m just getting old!

So roll on the 2017-18 season and I was still the Captain of the team despite being long term sidelined again, this time with an achilles problem. This time we lost our first game of the campaign against previous Tier 2 winners and runners up Henley.  With only 11 players we started slowly and the game was over by the end of the first half at 5-0.  We drew the second half 1-1.   So the third tier beckoned.

The next couple of fixtures we squeaked through against West Herts b team and Luton (won on flicks though we did dominate the game) and a very stressful re-arrangement due to snow.  The game against Broxbourne was interesting as it was half term – my goodness it was tough to get a team out, but I turned up some unexpected gems who hadn’t picked up a stick for quite some time. Trick even turned up from Cambridge to help us out.  Somehow, we battered them 7-2, our only comfortable win of the cup run.

So the quarter finals arrived against Petersfield, and snow threatened to intervene again, what a nightmare.  The squad came out on the Saturday and cleared the entire pitch of snow – though typically it would probably have cleared with warmer weather – but the team bonded even closer.  From this point, I said that the team would not change unless there was unavailability or injured – we had the same squad of 16 players for the last three games, which was really tough on a couple of players who were back from injury or illness – including this season’s captain Paul who would probably have made the difference in the final.

The semi finals saw us turn up at Witham, a club where one of my hockey touring colleagues was chairman for a while and have a great hockey pedigree.  We got hammered 5-1, with a couple of their players dominating the game.  Our best players Richie and John commented at half time that they weren’t able to get near them but they battled on and on.  Whilst we drowned our sorrows in the bar afterwards, their Captain told us that the team was an amalgamation from other teams (as some of our previous oppo was) and it turns out, England Hockey adjudged that they shouldn’t have been playing in Tier 3 as they were regularly playing at too high a level.

So completely unexpectedly, we were through to the final and rather disappointingly, they had moved the date and venue to Birmingham University – superb facilities but we were rather hoping it would be at the Olympic Park!  Despite the date change, every one of the 16 players made themselves available and the club vintage team were so generous and sorted out a coach to take most of the players and spectators – spectators who would have to buy a ticket to watch us play!!!

This would be the greatest day of my hockey career (only the CSP 1st XI being promoted can compete) and I woke up feeling rough / temperature (probably stress!) and highly dubious about my other achilles lasting the game. Paul was still on standby, should I be unselfish and get him playing instead of me – unfortunately, I decided to play myself and had the honour and privilege of leading the squad out onto the pitch and various team announcements.  We were playing Holcombe, a club who are right at the top of the hockey family tree, a fact that I think got into our heads for the start of the game.

By half time, we were 3-0 down and at one point it looked like a drubbing was on the cards.  Then we realised that we could play, we were fit and nerves seemed to disappear and we eventually clawed our way back to 3-2 with all the chances going our way. I still maintain another 10 minutes and we’d have won!

Even though we didn’t make it, I’ve never been so proud to be a Captain and be part of that squad of players on that day – I was bursting with pride with what we created over those two seasons.  The coach home was just as good, clearing off three mini barrels of beer from the Rebellion brewery and just as many bottles of lager.  Twenty five people went for a curry in Amersham – what a day (and night). Unfortunately, my other achilles went half way through the game and I could hardly run and has again put me out of hockey for the foreseeable (the physio did say forever, but I want to play with Jamie next season).

So in summary, we had seven games, lost three, drew one and won only three (fourth on flicks) and despite hardly playing, it was one of the best season’s of hockey of my life, something I will treasure forever.

Below are a few photos from the day: