The Flagons was formed in 1987-1988 as the first official veteran’s team in the Club. It started under the captaincy of Alan Limer and his vice-captain Warwick Hoyle and it was the latter who also took on the role of tour organiser because it was decided early on that we should have an end of season European tour. As we didn’t always know where we would be going at the start of the season, it was often included in the Fixture Card (a pre computer source of invaluable information) as Athens Away and the tour became known by that name even though it was many years before we finally got there (1997).
As you will recall, the Olympic Games were held in Barcelona in 1992 and so it was decided that we would tour there before the Games began. Warwick sent out his initial invitation letter in November 1991 stating that two matches had been arranged for 21st and 22nd March, 1992. He also stated that he had made hotel reservations at Meson Castilla, a short distance from the cathedral and close to “where the action is”. A follow up letter in February confirmed a dinner booking for the Saturday evening at the Restaurant Carracoles situated near the famous Rambla thoroughfare in the heart of Barcelona. Warwick also confirmed our two fixtures, firstly on Saturday against the Polo club and on Sunday against Athletic Tarrassa.
For those of you who have not visited the Real Club de Polo de Barcelona, it is a wonderful sports complex containing not only of course a polo pitch, but hockey pitches, tennis courts, a swimming pool and even a small bullring. There is also a large clubhouse with superb changing and catering facilities. From a personal point of view, my previous visit to the Polo club had been in 1978 as a supporter of the Men’s 1s when they completed a hat trick of European Cup successes.
We played a good game on the Saturday against a strong Polo team and although we lost the match we were not disgraced. The scoreboard in the photo reflects our hopes and not reality. One thing we had to make very clear to our hosts over the years was that the Flagons was just an ordinary group of players who didn’t take the hockey too seriously and we liked to have a few drinks and enjoy ourselves. Otherwise, the mere mention of the name Southgate and we would find ourselves up against a 1st XI full of internationals. We had a few drinks at the club after which we spent a good evening wining and dining in downtown Barcelona. Details of such evenings and there were a great many over the years, become a little hazy. However, almost invariably on these and other tours, I had the job of being the kitty master, so I had to collect everyone’s money and then settle the bar and restaurant bills at the end. To be honest, this probably did me a favour and generally meant that my hangover was less than it might have been if I had had no responsibility. I did the job willingly and all I ever asked was that the rest of the team watched my back and ensured I didn’t get mugged and thankfully that didn’t happen.
On to Sunday morning and the majority of people were feeling the worse for wear and suffering from little, if any, sleep. Our match was scheduled to start at 10.00am against an entertaining Tarrassa Samba XI. Tarrassa is a short distance outside of Barcelona. Here was where a stadium had been built for the Olympic hockey tournament later in the year, but prior to that happening, we were very excited to be playing there. It didn’t really matter to us that there was no crowd (I think it held 10,000) apart from a few stadium staff and a dog because we could imagine we were playing in our own Olympic final. The match was evenly balanced at 2-2 when what occurred next has gone down as one of those never to be forgotten moments by those who were there. Having had a solid, but not particularly memorable game up until this point, who should enter the D and score what turned out to be the winning goal, none other than John Willmott, your erstwhile Club President. John has every reason to be proud of this achievement and he will regale you at length, if you ever ask him what happened at the Olympic stadium in Barcelona in 1992. John will be remembered for many things, but this must rank as one of his best playing moments.
All the Flagons’ tours were memorable for one reason or another and we were fortunate to visit so many great clubs and to meet so many wonderful, hospitable people over the years. I consider myself to have been lucky enough to be part of that team and to have shared in those experiences.
Keith M. Lewis.
10th February, 2021.