There has long been talk of Indoor hockey at Southgate, suggestions in the showers that we were once quite good at it and teasing slithers of information over post-match pints indicating that life in the shed is very different to that of life outdoors.
This year led by our new coaching team with big support from Clarissa and Rob Schilling both our 1’s teams have been training and playing indoor hockey for the first time in a couple seasons and I’ve been along for the ride, learning the ropes and generally getting in the way.
Cast your mind to that incredibly chilly icy snap of weather before Christmas, it was Thursday 7th December and all our club training was cancelled due to the pitches being inch deep in frost, with an evening off hockey an executive decision was made not to have an evening off hockey and so I found myself somewhere in Essex down a dark lane with Todd Lomas and Lucca Bilyard attempting to find Hailyebury school which has been our base for some of the indoor training.
Ever the optimist I had hoped my talents might have been spotted by Kwan but whilst Todd and the 1’s squad engaged in some ferocious training it became apparent that I had come woefully under prepared as there is a coterie of new kit required to be an indoor specialist, from a special indoor stick to what resembles a cricket glove to your non marking indoor shoes. So whilst Kwan commanded his men into fast paced drills I found myself crawling around a storage cupboard looking for the requisite kit somewhere behind the cricket nets.
Before long with a long retired indoor stick from the 80’s and wearing an outdoor PCD glove I was armoured up and ready for the initiation. Men’s chair of selectors Lucca Bilyard and England masters player Howie Wilson were on hand with medical support in the form of Dr. Charlie Rookes to show me the ropes on a pitch adjacent to the 1’s training (close but still so far)>
Thirty minutes later and I was lying on my back looking at the ceiling and unable to talk. It turns out indoor hockey is exhausting, exhilarating and did I say exhausting. Even for someone with less than passable basic skills the game still moves with a fluidity and pace not seen outdoors, yet there are also all manner of new rules to master from not lifting the ball to not hitting the ball and woe betide anyone caught ‘drilling’ (ask Joergen). In short recovering over a pint after I was determined to catch a proper game and see what the Indoor Hockey Tournament experience was like.
So it came to pass that on 17th December after an early start and a leisurely drive across our capital city the gleaming spires of Whitgift School came into view. Over the weekend our M1 and W1 were competing in the London qualifiers to move through to Division 2 South of the EH Super 6’s which is a yearly event taking place in Dec-Jan. Unlike traditional hockey experiences which tend to be in and out affairs lasting a pleasurable 80 minutes with a drink after, I realised life in the shed was more than a game it was an entire day of back to back hockey. Amazing.
Like the Quidditch World Cup without the flying, the Whitgift school hall was full of all the various teams, warming up, watching the games and generally waiting around (there is a lot of waiting in the shed) all the teams bedecked in the various liveries and comparing notes on the games just played. The cafe even took my dollar bills (cash only) only adding to the feel of an international tournament (This was for London teams only).
Kwan was away in Argentina so Huw Stephens took on coaching duties as Southgate took to the floor for the first time in this new era aiming by the end of the season to seek promotion to Div 1. The team was a combination of youth and experience – the experience in the form of Captain Rob Schilling, Teague Marcano, and Matt Ramshaw and the youth in the guise of Rob Gill, Lucas Joehnig, Harry Haynes, Todd Lomas and Max Garner. The balcony was a smormasgorb of Red and Black support which got louder as everyone got increasingly tired with the after effects of Shed-Eye.
The good news was that the boys kept winning, starting off with a tense 3-2 win against Wapping, a bigger win over Tulse Hill & Dulwich and then a convincing 5-0 win over Teddington. By this time it was already 5pm and we had only just reached the knock out stages. The numbers in the hall had dwindled by this point as eliminated teams headed out and home.
An increasingly tense atmosphere pervaded as home boys Croydon stepped up to the ochre for the semi final which proved the game of the tournament. Southgate shipped two goals in the first 2 minutes as our centre back (mentioning no names. Teague) kept giving the ball to their centre forward. Yet Teague immediately pounced back and secured and converted a flick making it 1-2 after 3 minutes. Charles Hamilton equalised towards the end of the first half seeing a nail biting 2-2 result going into final 17 minutes.
The second half was a scorcher Veysel Demir in goal pulling of some blinding saves, the score went to 3-3 but Southgate edged in front in the final moments and held on to secure a place in the final with a 4-3 win.
Everyone was exhausted by 6pm including the opposition and the final against Wapping was a bit less frenetic and bit easier to watch from a Southgate perspective, the team held it together and coasted in the end to a 4-2 win with promotion to Div 2 south secured.
The team retreated for a beer and the better part of Christmas to recover.
Which led to this weekend and the Division 2 qualifiers held all the way down in the South West at The University of the West of England. Southgate’s team had expanded over Christmas and some more experience came back into the side meaning a very strong squad of 12 found their way into the Bristol shed for a more serious bout of games this time over a whole weekend.
There are a scrum of officials and umpires involved and a more serious atmosphere within the hall itself, that didn’t stop the hardcore support (Mr Demir, Mr Sofat and myself) from showing our true colours (Red and Black) throughout the weekend. Saturday, the team got off to an impressive start beating Trojans 14-2 before seeing off old rivals St Albans 10-5 It was a riot of attacking hockey.
Sunday kicked off at 10am with some of the opposition wearing their late nights heavily as Southgate picked up against The University of Bristol who put up a sterling rear guard effort to stem the free scoring Southgate attack, they inched ahead before Southgate pulled it back to parity. The Bristol keeper had a once in a lifetime game with some unbelievable saves as Marcano, Hamilton and Sterlini peppered his goal with shots from all angles. Bristol hung tight, but eventually the Gate pressure broke through and the game ended 7-5 in a thrilling conclusion.
12pm and the team faced former GB player Dan Fox and his Guildford side. Yet Southgate were warm and limber by this point and were 4-0 up in the first 10 minutes. Some truly beautiful hockey on show, one of the Fareham spectators called it ‘exhibition hockey’ and some sensational team goals to boot. Half time it was 6-1 and despite a wobbly final quarter Southgate ended easy winners at 9-4 and with that win they cruised through into Division 2 coming up in 2 weeks in Repton.
Yet before that we had a three hour wait to play the final game, effectively a dead rubber against Fareham who had had a pretty torrid time results wise. Yet the joy of indoors it seems is you can lose, still play well and still enjoy it. The Fareham lads were a case in point. Southgate were truly dominant throughout the 40 minutes yet Fareham snatched a couple of good goals and did their best to disrupt the Kwan-Ball style of play. A game played in the best spirits ended 11-3 and the team left for the long drive home ready for the next round on the 21/22 Jan at Repton.
Special mention should go to Teague Marcano who scores more goals indoors than he does outdoors and was joint top scorer with 19 goals over the weekend, Rob Schilling whose passion for indoor is clear and his precision long ball passes through the middle are a thing to behold and to Rob Gill who has enjoyed a love/hate relationship with this new form of the game and its challenging rules- yet has managed to find his way into the squad and show some real steel and nouse from defence. Ollie Wickens and Veysel Demir in goal have both been top class.
The team were top goal scorers across the division in both north and south ending up with 51 goals and a +32 goal difference. Remarkable stuff.
Bring on Repton.