Grand Masters Hockey European Cup
from 22nd to 24th June 2007

Report on England Grandmaster’s



A much more purposeful half oh hockey by England saw them take a four- goal lead into half time. Within ten minutes of the start, following some very direct play, Peter Sharpe crossed from the right and Rod Cochrane connected beautifully, coming in from the left wing to open the scoring. With the midfield moving the ball around fast and crisply, and with Imtiaz causing the defence immense problems by running at them, it was only a matter of time before a short corner was going to be converted. It was a strike by John French, deflected by a defender, that brought the second goal. The third came again from a short corner, converted this time by Peter Sharpe at the far post. The fourth and final goal of the half, the classiest of them all, came again as the result of an Imtiaz drive through the middle, but rather than taking on the goalkeeper he dummied and pushed the ball left for Rod to push into an open net. In the second half there were less creative opportunities generated although Steve Stowell added two more goals through characteristic deflections.



The scene was set in the final tournament match to determine the outcome of the gold medal at the inaugural Grand Masters Hockey European Cup.
England, reigning European gold medallists, took on Germany,current world champions.
Both teams had struggled in their matches against Holland who only went down 0-1 to England (John French the scorer with Alan Dures saving a last minute penalty stroke) and had held Germany to a goalless draw. England could therefore achieve gold by drawing against Germany but a win was the only focus urged by captain Ken Willcox and coach, Andy Barnes.
The early exchanges were cautious with little action in either circle as both sides started nervously with a number of passes going astray. England had the clear territorial advantage but were lying a little too deep in attack to trouble the disciplined German defence.After 20 minutes,it was a defender,the Prime Minister (Neil Major), who came through to open the scoring.Spotting that the German defenders were holding back, he accelerated to the top of the circle unchallenged and his shot deflected off a German stick into the goal. 1-0 to England and a deserved lead. Imtiaz with his skillful stickwork and Peter Sharpe with his direct approach were beginning to impose their play in attack and the strategy of man -marking the main German playmakers with the energetic Norman Ballard and the Prime Minister played a significant part throughout the match. In midfield, John Maylam had an excellent game with Ken Willcox playing with calm authority.Iron man Terry Howlett was his usual ever dependable self snuffing out any German threat down the right flank (all this with a subsequently diagnosed broken finger!).Substitutions were made and the tempo increased with John French looking sharp and John Land moving the ball on with typical urgency.The half time score remained at 1-0 to England.
England then scored again 10 minutes into the second half. Stephen Stowell,who had been posing different problems for the ponderous German defence with his speed, received a perfect long pass from German Sheik and left the opposition sweeper in his wake only to be charged off the ball in the circle by a desperate last ditch lunge.Justice was done when a fierce shot by a fired up Imtiaz from the ensuing short corner was deflected in at the near post by the ever alert Mike Surridge.
The Germans now began to impose their authority on the game for the next 15 minutes as they went in search of goals.Their centre forward was quick to seize on a loose ball at the top of the circle and,despite an acrobatic dive by Alan Dures who got his stick to the shot, he scored and for a period the Germans threatened to equalise.A short corner soon after was squandered by them and England ,with further changes made,took a stranglehold on the game and started to retain possession of the ball.
John French, with a close-quarter snap shot, hit the post, and, with the clock running down,Imtiaz siezed on a misdirected German clearance and committed the goalkeeper before slipping an inch perfect pass to Stephen Sowell who slid the ball into the back of the net.The crowd's roar could be heard in Wolverhampton (the home town of German Sheikh's considerable fan club down for the day by coach and welcomely noisy, having been reminded by German to chant "England" and not his name!").The Germans knew the game was over and Andy Barnes made his final substitutions with pitch time for hot shot Rod Cochrane who had made his mark in previous games to put England in pole position for this match.
Although England's final tournament tally of 17 goals was testament to a strong and varied attack in which all played their part, the success of the 16 man squad was firmly based on good support from midfield and impressive defence.One goal conceded in 4 games tells its own story. Alan Dures saved a penalty stroke and was generally unflappable in his circle (less so when awarded the WAGS prize after the final game for unspecified qualities) while displaying outstanding reflexes on the gala dinner dance floor.Pete Crayford was the cornerstone at the heart of the England defence with his firm tackling and sure distribution. Adrian Robertson showed good positional play and was always hard to beat using his calm experience to good effect, especially in the final match, while newcomer,German Singh,proved an exciting addition to the defence with his strong tackling on either flank and thunderous clearances and passes to the forwards when needed most.
Ably led by Ken Willcox with the considerable help of coach Andy Barnes (the lessons of Leverkusen taken on board), the success of the squad owed not a little to team spirit and the many squad weekends leading up to the tournament played against strong (mainly younger) opposition from many different clubs.The final squad was a mix of experienced existing England players and newcomers(6) to the European tournament. While no room for complacency,this was a case of mission accomplished and answered the call of "Frenchie" ,after his many international appearances, to "get me my first gold medal!"
In the city of Chaucer's tales, England celebrated their pilgrimage weary but with gold hanging from their shoulders. Bring on Beijing."


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