Friday, May 27, 2022

Cannock, the hockey club everyone loved to beat in 1990s

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Hockey Paper staff
Hockey Paper staff
Latest breaking news, previews and match reports written by Hockey Paper staff


There is always a club that everybody loves to hate. It’s usually one which wins a lot or is perceived to have buckets of money, writes Claire Middleton

In soccer, it’s Manchester City on both counts, though you have to admit – even grudgingly – that they play lovely football. Back in the day it was Wimbledon – and there was no reason, grudging or otherwise, to applaud the way they played the game.

In hockey it’s probably Surbiton (whose women are always winning) – though I’ll leave others to judge whether they are Wimbledon or Manchester City in the playing stakes.

It was ever thus, and the side involved usually uses it as motivation. In the late 1990’s, back when the National League seemed to have a chance of turning into something really special, the honour belonged to Cannock and they played on it for all they were worth.

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Cannock roll of honour
Nat Champs 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005
EHA Cup 1998, 2002, 2005, 2007

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1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Claire

    It was so nice to read this article about these amazing years. I was lucky enough to play 97-2000 in this amazing team and I cannot put into words how proud I was to have been able to ‘sneak’ in to the squad, let alone the starting line up for my last match vs Canterbury in the play off final in 2000. The national set up was quite dysfunctional at the time and players like Kali and Chris had been cast aside and it felt far harder to get in the Cannock side than the England team, which I never did.
    I grew up half a mile from the Morris Ground but my dad was a Wombourne HC member (sadly a club that no longer had exists) and I was away at school so played for other clubs until I came ‘home’ in 1997. That didn’t stop the dressing room calling me ‘Jonny Posh’ despite me pointing out that I was the most local!! I grew up with Chris Mayer and Kalbir Takher and Ben Sharpe as heroes, so to play with them was a dream, but they were tough. Anything less than 100% was ruthlessly called out and we were always aware that we were unpopular with the HA infrastructures.
    Whilst the team was so good because of the quality we could put on the pitch (Bobby Crutchley scored 41 goals in 21 league games twice in a row), the strength of the club was in the simply incredible people off the pitch that gave us the platform to play and the 1st team squad was taught to appreciate how much they did for us. These weren’t sugar daddies who just wrote cheques, they were working men who gave up days of their own time to build the foundations of the club and meant that every win we had was shared with hundreds off the pitch. People forget that Cannock’s first Astro was literally built by members in their spare time.. people like Ken Bedford and Alan Mayer and Laurie Alcock and Peter Pritchard and Paul Singh had as much to do with the success as the players and countless others who watched us all over the country.
    The spirit was emphatically epitomised by Chris Mayer, who would spend his Saturdays watching teams 2-10 playing from noon till night and putting his arm and advice into any teenager throughout the club, it taught us all that although we were the 1st team, we were first and foremost club members… no more or less important than anyone else.
    We always paid subs and match fees like anyone else (although some players were paid mileage expenses). In 1999, Chris Mayer led a campaign to recruit around 20 personal sponsors who covered the 1st team’s subs and match fees (about £400) and we wore their name/company on our sleeve, but every player sought out the individual straight after the game to personally thank them.
    I can unequivocally say that they were the most electrically fun days of my life, and I wish I could do it over and over again.
    After the game in 2000, I was graduating but was asked to join the post Sydney first England training program. At the same time, I got my first job in London and I remember the coach at the time suggesting that I could just play for a club in London… I couldn’t even imagine lining up against the ‘Nockers and stopped playing NL. I have never regretted it, when you’ve tasted the best hockey could ever offer, it’s best to just savour it.
    I’ve been in Hong Kong now for 16 years and still play with a team that is about bringing through kids. I hope I will play till I drop but NOTHING will ever touch those days, shared with hundred of amazing people and fortunately I keep in touch with the boys reminiscing about putting 13 past East Grinstead or 10 past Southgate, every goal greeted with the Cannock ‘Pig Pen’ screaming EAT MY GOAL

    thanks for the article, I loved it

    Will Glover

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