15/16th March 2008

Ian Russell was assured that a new pitch at Luc Ronchin Hockey Club would enable an enjoyable and safe hockey tournament so after a 3 year absence LX went to Lille. This was the 10th anniversary for the tournament.
As the Barcelona tournament was taking place the following weekend, it meant that competing teams and player availability would be less than anticipated by the French organisers.
So it was with two potential members, Donald Dunbar (58) waiting to qualify for the over 60’s and Michael Sprange (68) hoping to be invited to join and help the over 70’s who too joined the 9 members to make up a formidable team with an average age of 68, to retain the trophy.
It was also a pleasure to be joined by the 5 lovely ladies who supported us throughout and helped to make it a most enjoyable weekend, so thank you Delia, Patricia, Pam, Gloria & Jean.

Friday 14th March.

My journey started from Sandhurst going via Slough to pick up Eugene and then on to Hemel Hempstead to meet up with Brian.  After a leisurely cup of coffee it was time to make way to Wrotham to meet with Ian.  Fortunately at this point Eugene had left his coat in the lounge which was retrieved and informed that was lucky as you had all your money and passport in it, oh dear, yes Sprange had not even thought about a passport!!!!
So a dash back to Sandhurst and then onto Wrotham to meet up again with Brian, Eugene and Ian.  A record breaking drive (1 hour 45 minutes) enabled us to arrive only 15minutes behind schedule but with the ferry being delayed by 30 minutes, all was well.
The real journey for all the car drivers began on reaching the outskirts of Lille where finding the right exit off the motorway in the first place,  then the entrance exit to the Mercure Airport Hotel seemed beyond all our powers, even with the aid of GPS systems.
Eventually after a trip to Lille University, and several further trips along the French motorway systems around Lille, we found our way to the hotel.
Those travelling by Eurostar found it an easier journey although Barry had to walk the length of St. Pancras station to check in his oversize luggage, only to discover that it could go on the train after all, so it was lugged back to the train, but it did save 16.00.
On arrival at the Hotel we were met with an irate Hugo & Gloria who had waited 30 minutes for a taxi to take them to the restaurant. They then to find out that the cost would be €30 for a two minute drive, so the taxi was declined. They also declined the chance of a 10 minute walk to the restaurant as it was now nearing 21.00 hours and not the 19.30 as planned, so most of the group had dinner in the Mecure after which a peaceful night passed.

Saturday 15th March (the Ides of March)

A leisurely breakfast and morning was had by all before making way to the Luc Ronchin Hockey Club, which surprise, surprise everyone went to without visiting Lille for maybe the 3rd or 4th time in 24 hours.
We had all declined to have the lunch of boiled beef and carrots before we played hockey, a very wise choice suggested by Ian.
Another surprise for Ian was that everyone paid him over breakfast so all funds were in on time.  To our surprise later in the day we all got a €5 rebate, was this as a result of Eugene being on the Wagon!!!
We had 3 x 30 minute games to contend with on the New Water Based Pitch which was excellent even though the pace of it was a little slow.
Out matches were at 13.30 Superveterens (France), 15.40 (Eburons) & 16.30 (Alliance) so two games played back to back.
El Capitain David Read made a very wise choice in lining up a strong defence, two wingers who were always in position to receive the ball, a defensive centre half and a more attacking one with two willing runners up front playing as inside forwards and centre forward.
This resulted in us not conceding any goals throughout the tournament.  Barry was as ever alert in making the 4 or 5 saves when called upon during the tournament.
We beat the Superveterens 1-0, drawing 0-0 with the Eburons and beating the Alliance 1-0 Goals by Donald ensured both the victories.
Eugene, who at first intended to go as an umpire, was drafted in as a player to make our eleven and he was a star. He also thought he had grown in stature as after some searching by Hugo for his track suite top, he found that Eugene was wearing it.
During early drinks in the bar before dinner Ian was handing out the dinner tickets. He was confused that he had an extra one; who had he forgotten? Of course himself!!!  Then the tickets were not needed, by this time he had also forgotten his spectacles, so another search took place. Cannot reveal who had them.
An excellent meal was had by all but spoiled by a very good jazz band, the sound level being too which killed off any chance for conversation.

Sunday 16th March

An early breakfast and back to Ronchin Hockey Club for another 3 x 30 minute games in reverse order of the first day.
Our first match therefore was against Alliance who informed us they only had 7 players.  We loaned them two and lined up with 9 per team then surprise, they had another player arrive, now  ten v 9, and behold another, so Ian rejoined us and a very enjoyable 10 aside match followed and another 1 nil victory to the LX.
This was followed by a match against the Eburons who were a little petulant and when we were awarded a perfectly good goal by Sudesh, they disputed it very strongly.  We lined up restarted the game with a push to them only to see them immediately picked the ball up and placed it for a 16 yard hit, to our surprise the umpire just waved play one so a 0 – 0 draw was the final outcome.
We then played the Superveterens winning 2 – 0 ( a game we should have won by 5 or 6) as in the previous day all the goals were scored by a number 7 shirt (Ian had lent the shirts to Donald & Michael) this meant we had 3 number sevens on the pitch. It was Michael’s turn to score the Sunday goals.
So we headed the table with 21 points with the Alliance on 7 points with two games to play we were confident of winning the tournament.  We loaned  them Sudesh and Donald and who helped them to win 4 nil & 2 nil, Donald scoring 4 goals, which meant them ending up only two points behind us, our committee during the last match had decided that if the Alliance had gone on to win the tournament Donald was facing a €100 fine!!!
The strange arrangements of the French meant that during the morning there was a 45 minute break for lunch, which the LX declined to take at this point... We had arranged for our last match to be switched to an earlier time to allow Barry & Delia to catch the Eurostar.
The other strange arrangement was having a hot stew on the Saturday before the matches and a cold buffet between or after the matches on Sunday, the other way round would have been much better choice.
The result of two days play was an undefeated LX team who won the tournament Trophy.

I am hoping that those making their way home on the Sunday did so without too much trouble, although there was a gale force wind of 7/8 blowing in the channel which delayed our arrival time.  With those who stayed on another day I hope you had a good evening and safe journey home.
The last sight I had on leaving Wrotham was seeing Ian on the telephone to France trying to arrange for someone to pick up his hockey sticks.
So it all started with forgotten Passport and ended with forgotten hockey sticks.

Those attending were:

David & Jean Read, John & Patricia Widgery, Barry & Delia Sewell, Sudesh & Pam Nayar, Hugo & Gloria Rowbotham, Ian Russell, Eugene Murphy, Brian Woolcott, Royston (Broken stick) Woodcock, Donald Dunbar & Michael Sprange.

Great company and an enjoyable weekend, thanks for the invite, looking forward to 2009.

Match Report: Mike Sprange