Magpies travelled to take part in the inaugural Southgate London Masters Tournament at the end of July and returned after a very enjoyable three days as winners. Teams from Belgium, Italy and England took part in what is scheduled to be an annual event leading up to the Olympics in 2012. The hospitality and organisation of the hosts at Southgate was first class – save perhaps for asking Magpies to play at 9.00am on all 3 days! Thanks must go to Simon Bardwell, Jonathan Aldridge and Philip Cobbald for the organisation of the team and inviting one or two guests to swell the squad numbers during the weekend. Also thanks to Murray Graham for providing the very smart playing shirts.
Preparation for the first game started at the ridiculously early time of 7.00am for breakfast, followed by a full hour warm up on the pitch from 8.00am. Our opponents, Leuven (Belgium), took a more sensible and relaxed approach to pre match preparation and arrived at 8.30am. After starting well and taking the lead, Magpies struggled with the physical demands presented by the opposition and went into half time 2-1 down. After an evenly contested second half Magpies were happy to come away with a 2-2 draw. The afternoon game against Bra (Italy) was a different matter with Philip Cobbald completing a hat trick by the 13th minute and Magpies being 6-1 up after 15 minutes. From this point on the game settled down and some particularly charitable defending from Magpies, coupled with equally charitable shooting from the tallest player in the squad, produced a final score of 10-4.
In the morning on Saturday, again 7.00am breakfast, but fortunately a less extensive warm up, the team produced a clinical display to defeat Southgate Pirates 7-0 with some excellent flowing hockey and much improved finishing from one forward. The afternoon game was predicted to be the tightest of the tournament against Ultimo Legio (Italy). The team were delighted with the transfer market activity of the management who replaced the homeward bound Alistair Williamson with Robert Clift. In a high quality game played at a quick pace, honours were shared at half time – one goal to each side (Aldridge) and both teams playing with 10 men either side of half time. In the second half Magpies gradually gained the ascendancy and further goals were scored by Cobbald, Aldridge (penalty stroke) and Martin Reader to leave the final score 4-1.
With a depleted squad (several players having to leave on the Saturday evening), a couple more guests and a thankfully re-arranged start time of midday, the match on Sunday against Southgate Jesters was comfortably won 5-1 and with it the tournament.
Highlights of a thoroughly enjoyable weekend were numerous:
i. Kevin Ridley locking himself and his keys inside his room at the university halls of residence and needing to be rescued by Jerry Blackmore.
ii. Bob Skinner playing the first 10 minutes of the first game under the impression that we were playing football.
iii. Alistair Williamson putting back Anglo-Chinese relations about 10 years during our meal on the Friday evening.
iv. Jerry Blackmore apologising to his opponent and the umpire when being carded for a late tackle by saying “sorry I got there as soon as I could.”
v. Jon Aldridge being heckled for poor shooting by a group of umpires with a regular cry of “that will cost you a jug!”
vi. Simon Bardwell ghosting past three defenders and scoring with a rasping reverse stick shot beyond a bemused goalkeeper – undoubtedly the goal of the weekend!
vii. The re-appearance of a familiar designer tracksuit – worn by the player in each match deemed to have earned it most!
viii. The tournament rules stating that players must be between 40 – 55 years of age and that only with the permission of the tournament director would players older than 55 years be permitted. Be warned for next year Mr Dolton and Mr D Blackmore!