Second Senior Grandmasters Tournament

Hannover-May 29-June1 2009 

between England, Germany, Holland & Italy

Friday morning, and a shaky start for Skipper Wright, Manager Woolcott, and stalwart Grace, when shortly after 5am,en route to Stansted, traffic on the M25,came abruptly to a halt for 25 mins.
Rising panic subsided, as temporary traffic lights released us, and without further excitement, we flew off to Hannover in a rather superior Air Berlin plane.
Very similar to Easyjet, we thought, as we reclined on wide blue leather seats, and were served complimentary drinks and sandwiches, by smiling black -uniformed hostesses, whose hips did not jostle every passenger, as they undulated up and down the aisle.
After a smooth transfer to the hotel, having been met by Hannover team members, we played our first match at 1800hrs that evening, against an Invitation Tournament Side.
Having assessed the opposition as manageable, we scored twice, fairly early on, first from Bill Warrender, and then Gerald Wilkinson, and then proceeded to unravel into a scrappy ,disconnected mess, with no further score from either side.
Sat morning dawned bright and sunny, and with no game until after lunch, a large group took the bus into town to visit the museum.
Naturally, it was closed and so we sat in the sun and had a cup of coffee, in a side street.
It was here that Leon Mack revealed what had happened to his hat.
Apparently, some-one in the Australian team, last year, had advised him that the best way to dry kit was to wrap it around the lamp-shade in your hotel room and allow the warmth of the bulb to gently permeate the sweaty garments, producing a perfect   wearable  consistency in a few hours.
Now the key to this advice gem, is to "wrap around" and "not perch over" and so it was that in no time at all the room filled with smoke and the hat that was Leon's was no more, barring a scorched peak !!!
And I'm not even going to mention the smoke alarm.
Sat afternoon, and the first official game of the tournament England v Italy.
It has to be said that three years ago, when we first played in Hannover, the Italians were unable to field a true age qualifying team and were thus granted temporary dispensation in order that they could play at all.
Virtually the same original team turned out and thus the age differential was significantly against England from the start.
No matter as within the first two minutes George Hazell had struck cleanly a short corner into their goal.
1-0 to England and many more anticipated. Wrong.!!
A younger, faster Italian team ,regrouped and after we had missed several good scoring opportunities, they equalised and finally went 3-1 up with a penalty flick in the dying moments.
Notwithstanding this unexpected defeat, the full squad had been deployed and useful lessons learned regarding tactical strengths and weaknesses.
Anyway, it was now time for the Candlelight Dinner in the clubhouse with free beer and wine.
Most of life is an illusion, in some way or another,and so it transpired was free beer and wine, as it was only the first glass each that was on the house, but no matter.
I like German food,generally,and what matter,if the casseroled turkey turned out to be pork,after all.It was an excellent,convivial evening,much appreciated by those in attendance.
Gerald and Birgitte were actually staying with our German organiser,Didi ------? so it was with some surprise that I found myself ,as manager, presenting Didi with a commemorative photo composite,of the English and German Flags, flanking a photograph of Didi,receiving the World Cup Gold Medal,from Sultan Aslan Char,in Kuala Lumpur,a couple of World Cups ago.
This as a recognition of Didi's talent ,experience,and organising efforts on all our behalves.
Two surprising things happened in quick succession at that moment-one,having accepted the gift,he kissed me,and two,as he thanked us,he cried,which was very moving.
So that was Saturday,and tomorrow has yet to come.
Tomorrow has dawned and in true "Carpe Deum"spirit,we have indeed seized the day,and overwhelmed Germany by 2-0,in the second half,after failing to convert 4/5 opportunities in the first half.
Once again,it was Mr Hazell with a good shot from a penalty corner,that finally released the pressure,and then Dominis Bann,deflected a diagonal strike across the D from Mr Wilkinson,behind the keeper,to make it 2-0 at the whistle.
Other than failing to put the ball into the net for 30 mins despite frequent efforts,this was the match that saw the SGM squad getting it together,and producing some proper hockey,and a real understanding began to form within the individual players.
Our attacks were mainly down the right,because of some excellent collaberation between Laurie Alcock,at right half,sending our new winger ,Gerry Kort,dashing down the field,and delivering efficiently,to a waiting Gerald W,at inside right,on the edge of the D.
Sun afternoon,and the Festival Match was played between an Invitation team,made up mainly of Dutch and Italians,and Didi's Hannover team,which also included BW,the SGM manager.
Curiously,no SGM members were invited to play in the Invitation side,but ,no matter.
The weather was still very hot and sunny,but with threatening storm clouds brewing up strongly,overhead.
This was not nearly as captivating a game to watch,as the previous SGM v Germany,so it was with little surprise,that when it began to rain,the whole SGM crowd disappeared into the clubhouse,having luckily observed a spectacular near miss volley,by my goodself, before deserting the scene.An actual goal from me has been reported by Didi,but is not recorded here for reasons undisclosed.
Another good dinner and convivial evening at the clubhouse,with Mon morning dawning too quickly for some.
The final game against the Dutch,and although it did not reach the smoothly efficient levels of play as demonstrated against the Germans,it quickly became clear that SGM's had the whip hand,although,once again,it took a while to find the back of the goal.
Once again, Bill W.found the spot,with 2 goals,and from Gerald W.2,George H.1Gerry K.1Dominic B.1
Seven to zero SGM v Holland.

All in all, a very pleasant weekend.

Brian Woolcott. SGM Manager