What a fantastic weekend it was at Lee Valley, with our men’s and ladies’ first teams winning their respective National League play-off finals on Sunday.
For the men, the sense of unbounded joy was tangible, tinged with a hint of relief for some of the players. On previous occasions the team had fallen at the penultimate or final hurdle, and many questioned their ability to perform under pressure. How they confounded the doubters. David Beckett’s match winning penalty shuffle brought a tense and closely-fought match to a thrilling finale. To come back from a 0-3 deficit against Wimbledon – fresh from their recent and impressive exploits in the Euro Hockey League – and draw level with just 8 minutes was something memorable. We caught a glimpse of the squad’s potential when they won the indoor title with a scintillating performance in the final at Wembley. Now they can add the outdoor crown to their list of achievements and look forward to new European adventures indoors and out.
The ladies entered their final as reigning champions. Undaunted by the pressure they showed their class and poise in disposing of tricky semi-final opponents on Saturday in a scrappy match enlivened by Becky Middleton’s ferocious strike into the roof of the net and Hannah Martin’s mazy dribble and finish. In Sunday’s more open match, the ladies controlled the game from the off. One onlooker commented how they looked like they could carve through Holcombe’s defence at will. In the end, although Holcombe battled hard, this was a comfortable victory and the ladies took home the trophy for the fourth successive season. What a team, and what a record.
Hockey is a team sport. But it is not just the players that deserve credit for this latest success. From the coaching and management team, through to the video analysts and physios, this has all been about identifying and bringing the best out of talented individuals and each one of the support staff has played their role in that.
Particularly pleasing has been the number of colts that have played in both squads. The club has come a long way from the early days when colts’ training sessions were held on Giggs Hill Green if the grass pitches at Sugden Road were unplayable. But those early pioneers who had the foresight to form a junior section have helped pave the way to the success that we enjoy today.
One of my abiding memories from Sunday was seeing so many youngsters in Surbiton kit watching their heroes give their all for the club. They will remember that day and be inspired. For me, that suggests that the club’s future remains bright.
Yesterday was possibly the finest moment in the club’s history and it made me extremely proud to be part of the club. Now it’s time to focus on new challenges and the next chapter.