Sunday, May 19, 2024

Cannock Hockey show club spirit after ‘devastating’ year

Five years ago, Cannock HC launched its #2020vision, a long term plan to become one of Europe’s leading, sustainable clubs.

As 2020 came into vision, Cannock, around 115 years old, faced an uncertain future after being locked out of its Chase Park home last summer. Yet, after this ‘devastating’ shock, the celebrated club has rallied and has shown real community club spirit.

Cannock’s hockey and cricket clubs were denied entry to their Chase Park home in June after receivers were called into the site following a dispute over mooted redevelopment of the ground as the clubs’ trading arm went under.

After Chase Park was put up for auction, a local Staffordshire millionaire businessman who won the bid then pulled out of the deal before the original developer snapped up the site in a second auction for £1.1 million. With a dilapidated clubhouse on a site which houses two water-based pitches, club officials are still uncertain of ever returning back home which has hosted a Euro Club Champions Cup and internationals in the last 15 years.

But it has been quite a year for Cannock, the celebrated club which won seven men’s Premier Division titles in an 11-year spell until 2006. “It was quite a shock for the men’s and ladies’ sides,” admitted David Michael, the club treasurer and board member.

Thanks to players working in schools and local authorities, the club was able to hastily draw up a revised fixtures list playing at two venues, while the juniors have been playing at a different pitch. “The key was: how do we ensure that the club stayed together without going too far away from the Cannock name?” said Michael. “There just aren’t enough pitches in West Midlands and it has put a huge amount of pressure on us.”

Despite losing players and members, Cannock has subsequently picked up new players, while the 1s has also seen some former members return with national league experience.

It is understood that the purchaser would like hockey to continue at the grounds. But for many, the rundown clubhouse now “feels like the past”. Michael added: “We would like to go back but not at any price.”

Since June, the clubhouse has been broken into multiple times and for Michael it is a case of whether the club “wants to look forwards or backwards”.

Cannock have been boosted by support from England Hockey, who have helped with risk assessment, aiding with consultants and dealing with issues with Sport England, as well as trying to keep the club “pushing forwards”.

From a player’s perspective, Rufus Horn, the Cannock 3’s captain, says the club has simply reacted with positive intent.

“We’re seeing how the other half live,” he said, with the club having been devoid of a clubhouse and now playing on sand-based pitches as opposed to their two water-based surfaces.

Cannock members now have socials and after-match meals in a welcoming local pub. “We’ve still got a really good team spirit,” he said, “and everyone goes back to socialise.”

Horn added that some teams are over-subscribed, while the future remains bright. “From being really worried, we are looking forward to what may happen,” he said.

This story originally featured in a previous Hockey Paper edition. Don’t miss out! Subscribe in print or in digital format.

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