This tour was not only for pre-season training and the sampling of beer, but a tour that is stooped in history and holds a lot of significance for our hockey club. For this I need you to cast your minds back to the year 1948 and picture yourself on a platform at Amsterdam Centraal Station. It was at Centraal Station 68 years ago that the Hairy Goats were formed as the Maidenhead HC touring team which was MHCs first tour post World War II. However, before the 1948 tour could get started, the team needed a name and a comment from one of the wives who stated “you look like hairy goats” and the name stuck. Sticking with tradition we needed to fill a few roles as stand-ins – Stand-in Grand Ram Jonathan Crowther, Stand-in Herdsman Chad Fitzgibbon and Stand-in Satyr Karsten Smet with the remaining tour party making up the “kids”.
Fast-forward 68 years to the year 2016 where we begging our chapter as part of a time honoured tradition. This tour all came about after asking the Magicians if they would like to go on tour as part of our pre-season training and getting a resounding yes and support from the team, it was on. We soon opened the tour to the entire Men’s Sections and had representation from 4 sides (2XI, Magicians, Monarchs and the Merlins), with ages starting at 15 years and going right the way through to ??, which is one of our tour secrets. After 8 months of planning and arranging fixtures with our host clubs we finally set off on our 12 hour coach trip to Amsterdam. We arrived pretty much on schedule and the next task was checking into our accommodation. What can be said about our accommodation other than it served its purpose, was clean (always a good selling point), and had its own bar and night club! To compare it to the Four Seasons would simply not be fair and needless to say memories were made at the Hans Brinker Hotel! Once everyone had an opportunity to freshen up, the Herdsman requested our Satyr to ensure that we were heading to a watering hole to rehydrate the herd. Feeling sufficiently replenished it was time to corral the herd back to barn for some sleep before our early start to the day.
After breakfast it was off to Amsterdam Centraal Station to take a tour picture in front of where it all started 68 years earlier. Thereafter the herd had free time to explore the canals, various breweries, museums and for some, catching up on sleep before we needed to head off to our first match. MHC De Reigers was the first scheduled match and was played under floodlights, however, this was no ordinary match as we were playing a team that plays by a slightly different set of rules. Simply put, no hitting in the D, pushing at the keeper only and no lifted ball of any kind. This was good practice for us as it meant that we had to work even hard in the D to score. With the game underway it wasn’t long before our one and only tour injury was picked up. David Merriman was the unlucky recipient to be rushed to A&E after been hit on the bridge of his nose while scoring a goal from a short corner. Our thanks to Ross Wellman form accompanying Dave to A&E while they glued him back together. With the game back in full swing, it is fair to say that it was end-2-end action with some excellent keeping from our first of three stand-in keepers Dave Taylor and at the sound of the fulltime whistle the score was 3-3. Our hosts ensured that we were well fed as they put on a BBQ for the team which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. After the presentation and the promise of future games, it was time to head back into Amsterdam and continue with our cultural learning of how to avoid bicycles… Fun fact – it is said that each year the council of Amsterdam removers at least 30,000 bicycles and three cars from the canals.
The next morning was yet another early start as this was the day that we took on the might of Athena HC and just to put it into perspective, they have 6 hockey pitches and over 2000 members. On arrival we were introduced to our hosts and it was at this point that we discovered we were to play two teams both of which were their U21 squads and were for some of us between 20-40 years our juniors (depending on who you ask?). It would be fair to say that our first encounter against Athena’s U21A was by far our toughest match of the tour. They were in control of the first half and displayed real discipline in their style of play and at the halftime whistle they were 4-0 up, however, they did not bank on the skills of Jim Thompson who made several amazing saves which kept the score line down. The second half saw a change in control as it seemed that our host were literally running out of steam (albeit that they scored two more goals) and it was the turn of “experience” to start making a comeback, although a little late. Josh Turner managed to make a break and found himself in a one-on-one situation with the keeper, but this did not deter Josh, he crossed into the D and fired the ball right between the keepers legs with the ball coming to rest in the back of the goal and restoring our dignity much to the delight of the Dutch spectators now rooting for us! Final score 6-1 . The second match against the U21Bs was strangely a more evenly matched affair, whether it had anything to do with the fact that they had just played one match and then straight into the next, we will never know? The score for this match was 1-0 to Athena, however, thanks to yet another keeper (David Gordon-Smith) who kept his head down and knew how to clear his lines we were well in this game. We did have an opportunity to draw the game when we were awarded a penalty stroke and it was decided that Dave “Superglue” Merriman should do the honours. You could have heard a pin drop, but the only sound that did eventually ring out, was the ball striking the upright! Next time Dave, next time…
Having completed all our matches and as it was the final night in Amsterdam, there was time for our final team dinner, one last walk around the canals and of course fitting in one or two last beers (we deserved it).
As with all trips, they must end and this one ended on a high with everyone returning home with new memories and new experiences of playing together as Maidenhead Hockey Club!
Thank you to all who supported this tour to make it happen and thank you to the club for following our progress while we were on tour, it is greatly appreciated…
If you have not yet seen some of the tour photos, then click here.
Updated 16:04 - 26 Sep 2016 by Maidenhead Hockey Club
Men’s Club Captain