The Littlest Hobo

The post match musings of our beloved Gary Pedler

A journey through time and space, or the first half of the 2017/18 season; mostly unabridged…

Gary Elfler

 

Men’s 3 friendly match, early September

Mens 3’s match report. Well new season, old rules – if you don’t socialise with the team afterwards then you can’t vote and you can’t be eligible for the MoM award (however you are eligible for DoD nominations). So here we go. Nick Riley, Tom Pedler (on a one match loan) and myself went back to the saints bar and rather disappointingly for me all voted for each other …. though Nick nearly cracked to give me a second vote – dah!

DoD was also split between 3 players. Pete for poor and slow distribution, Jack March for subbing himself for an injured player (because he was tired) and Jason Perry for his we’ve got 11, 10, 9, 8 players and an over exuberant celebration when he won the toss.

1-1 btw with a late equaliser from Ben Morgan Williams.

 

Men’s 3 friendly match, early September

Well Fisher German, the company that provided the club with such talents as Johnny Cordingly and Josh Balsdon, were at it again on Saturday when Darren Edwards made a scoring debut for the Mens 3’s versus Kettering 3’s. At times in the first half his midfield control; allied with the vim and verve of the youngsters and there were throw-backs to Eric Cantona and the class of 92. Add into the mix Rob Smith and Ryan Dryer playing Pallister and Bruce and Bammo leading the line like Mark Hughes this over blown analogy is complete.

The only other thing to add is my man of the match award, due mainly to only Bammo and myself going back to the pub and JP’s DoD award for his pre-pubescent calling for the ball. All in all good fun. 1-0 btw

 

Men’s 3 league match, late October

Well JP’s band of merry men travelled to Etone Leisure Centre, Nuneaton, on Saturday to play on the pitch which some say was used for location shots as Tatooine, in the first Star Wars movie.

Much of the critical action was contained in the first 5 minutes where from a side line hit, Phil Powell got penalised for not being 5 metres. Phil, feeling he was in the right, argued with the umpire, who being the umpire – was right. Phil then got blown up for the same offence at the resulting restart. Another discussion between Phil and the umpire ensued, which for a while, took on the manner of the current Brexit negotiations but just as we were all beginning to despair and wonder why we’d bothered to warm up, the two protagonists agreed that the match could resume and despite Phil again encroaching an entertaining game of hockey broke out. Unfortunately, Phil didn’t play any further role in this because somewhere in an awful lot of standing around he cut his knee which resulted in him deciding to substitute himself, trying to stem the flow of blood with a bandage and then deciding that he needed to walk to A&E to have it looked at. This brought JP on to play his customary fictitious No 9 role (or whatever the modern parlance is) and so the game played out.

The game itself was an evenly matched affair with Nuneaton’s guile being counteracted with Market Harborough’s speed and quick movement. Theo Brogan and Joe Butler ran tirelessly up front and brought out a number of good saves from the opposition keeper. At the other end Toby Fletcher and Sid Parr showed maturity beyond their years.

In the end the game was decided due to mistakes by the older members of the defence and the game finished 2-0 to Nuneaton but we all agreed that the game of hockey was the winner and the Doctors at Nuneaton Accident and Emergency Department decided that no stiches were required.

MoM – Jack March

DoD – Phil Powell (by a country mile!)

 

Men’s 2 league match, early November

The barometer of any sides current form can be measured by the magnitude and occasion of those inevitable ‘6-pointer’ games … and when you get a relegation one in early November that speaks volumes. So, a team low in confidence, weak in defence, light up front and without a regular goalkeeper or recognised captain turned up at the Sandy Siro on Saturday to play our Men’s 2. There followed what can only be described as a curate’s egg of a game. Intrigued? – then read on dear reader, read on.

It was in truth a game best summed up when no hockey was being played as there were several long interruptions and the first was sock-gate. We’d gone 1-0 down but were getting back in the match when the opposition goalkeeper decided to take issue with Krish for wearing the wrong colour socks. The keepers line of argument seemed to be that as it was a league game, we should know better and the offending player should leave the pitch whilst he changed them. In the spirit of keeping the game amicable we pointed out that two of their players also had the incorrect socks on and we told him that it was a league game, they should know better and …you get my drift. Anyway, it was decided by the grown-ups that no action would be taken against the opposition and Krish would change his socks at half time.

Barely had the game restarted when Gos decided to enter a debate with one of the umpires over some trivial decision which lead to another long delay. When all the dust had settled Gos took us to one side, told us not to question anymore of the umpiring decisions, as it wasn’t helping the game, and then went off to tell the opposition the same. As a team we listened sagely to this piece of advice whilst making a mental note to vote for him as dick of the day – unanimously as it turned out.

We then decided to chase an orange ball around for a bit, managed to equalise and just before any DVT set in (deep veined tedium), the umpires decided we all needed another breather, blew for half-time and reminded Krish to change his socks … which he duly did. But the hosiery sage didn’t stop there because when the game restarted it turned out Matt Cook was also wearing incorrect socks. We immediately subbed him and told him to change them and to keep warm we decided to pass the time playing some more hockey. (Unfortunately, before Matt could come back on his Dad came to take him home for his tea, and he played no further part in the match – it was that sort of a game!)

The second half that followed was more akin to two drunk men trying to blow a feather off each other’s noses on a windy day but we somehow contrived to take the lead with the scruffiest goal ever seen. I would add that it may have hit the backboard, but any sound was drowned out by the fireworks going off around us – and I’m not talking metaphorical fireworks, I’m talking proper ones because St Joseph’s display was well underway. This now brought about another delay in the match as the smoke from the bonfire was drifting across the pitch hindering the umpires view of the spectacle.

Thankfully common sense prevailed and having invested so much in our lives in the game we all thought it best to play out the last three minutes. This we did, closing the game to the second rendition of Peter Kay’s of ‘Is this the way to Amarillo’ and making it back to The Royalist just in time for last orders.

Goal scorers – Gos, Krish

MoM – Luke van Diepen

DoD – Rich Goswell

 

Mid November

Well being that I was the first to comment when I’ve been dropped it’s only correct that I praise the selection committee for selecting me to play for the first team. I know in part that it is due to injury and international call ups but come down to the sandy siro at 1pm this afternoon to see me make my debut and find out whether the 10 years of toil and sweat was worth it. #littlesthobo

 

Men’s 1 Cup match, mid November

National Vase Competition

Market Harborough 4 – Tamworth 1

What can I say, what could I possibly add other than with 10 mins to go we were losing and then at the final whistle we were winning. Confused then in classic red top style read the players ratings for the match and make your mind up.

• Gary Pedler – GK (4/10) – Let down by the defence for the first goal and surprised by the pace of the game but made a strong save late on.

• Mark Cunningham – D (5/10) – Exposed for lack of pace for the first goal and welcomed the opportunity to sit down and have a rest by the umpire in the second half

• Rob Smith – D (5/10) – Some bold selections and no doubt would have considered those during his second half sit down on the naughty step … but it was quite cramped with Mark being there too.

• Wyn Sleeman – D/M (6/10) – Moved into midfield after being exposed by his weakness under the aerial ball which resulted in the first goal of the match. Maybe it’s time to put to bed the thought of him as a defender as he was stronger in the second half.

• Nick Riley – D (5/10) – Steady as ever and even had time to throw a couple of aerial balls – which resulted in a 7/10 being downgraded.

• Jon Cooper – D (8/10) – Finally a proper defender … no seriously a proper defender! Made tackles and everything and found the game so slow he even had time to amble forward a score two goals. Rightly awarded man of the match.

• Luke van Diepen – M (6/10) – Lots of flat stick tackles, lots of running and a seventy-minute masterclass in why Rob Smith doesn’t select him regularly for the 1st XI. (Chuckle I’m only joking Luke … but I am enjoying this – whose next?)

• Tom Bradshaw – M (7/10) – Any pre-match worries about his legs being tired after playing tennis in the morning were allayed by a 6-0, 6-0 loss – though his back was a bit stiff from picking up the balls to return to the server. However, instigated the comeback with a near post smear to beat the keeper at the near post.

• Adam Smith – M (7/10) – Put in a good shift in the midfield, always available and always found space. Basically, a better version of Rob Smith!

• Ryan Harrison – M (8/10) – Showed in the first half that he could beat three players before losing the ball so was moved up to centre forward in the second half with a view to winning more short corners. Carried out his orders with aplomb and was only beaten to man of the match because Jon Cooper scored from the resulting short corners

• Ben Sleeman – F (5/10) – The only time Tamworth’s left back let him out of his pocket was to let him to take a penalty flick early in the first half. Fortunately, the keeper saved it – otherwise it would have gone wide.

• Charlie Schanshieff – F (5/10) – Led the line well but well marshalled by Tamworth’s defence.

• Ben Morgan Williams (aka Punchy) – F (6/10) – Think I’ve witnessed Ben’s debuts for the badgers, 3rds, 2nds and 1sts and they all remind me Sir Alex Ferguson’s description of Ryan Giggs when he first saw him. “He just floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind.” If we can only bolt a more hockey playing ability to that we’ll have a player. Well done BMW and keep up the good work

As my mentor (Su Jarmulewski) would say at this point ‘peace out’ but if anyone wishes to contend my ratings, I will be available tonight in The Masons from 7pm for further analysis. #feelingcontended

 

Mid November

Mmmm well whilst my match report from Sunday’s game was received with much enjoyment by the chattering proletariat, it was clearly not so well received by the bourgeois bully-boys. Littlest hobo back in the three’s this weekend. #somethingwrong

 

Men’s 3 league match, mid November

Well there’s been some seismic activity at my beloved club this week of seemingly Zimbabwean proportions. Not only was I banished to the three’s after being part of of a winning 1st team last Sunday – but I’ve also been stripped of any match report duties. But to paraphrase Mel Gibson, “they can take our scribes but they cannot take our freedom!”

So highlight of today’s match was being asked by the vice captain to help put the GK kit on JP. Went across and found him about to put a female abdominal guard over his head saying “Gaz, is this the neck guard?”

#couldntmakeitup #littlesthobo

 

Women’s 3 league match, early December

Now I’ll be honest, the best of my hockey days are behind me and gone is the time when I turned up for a match and got the sense that the players were bolstered by my appearance. Now when I turn up the first thing that is said to me is ‘great you can write the match report’ which happened when the Ladies 3’s played Roundhill Ladies. Undaunted I set my mind to the task in hand which is to establish a theme early in the game and try to weave a narrative into it as the match progresses. Sometimes it can be an innocuous comment, a moment of farce or even a twinkling of genius – all games have them, and you just must be alive to that flash of spontaneity.

Why am I telling you this? Well this game didn’t really have any of those moments and this report reflects that! That’s not to say that it wasn’t a good game, it was and despite the 1-0 loss, the Ladies 3’s played really well.

Now my only other experience of watching them was a couple of weeks ago at Loughborough when we arrived 45 mins before the push back to find the opposition already warmed up and seemingly three nil up. A sound thrashing was duly administered! This time a Ladies 3 team, bolstered with a smattering of Ladies A team, Ladies 2’s and Ladies over 35’s was a team ready to play.

They started a little shakily but with a slight tactical adjustment they never shirked from the task in hand. With the resolute defence, a midfield harrying and chasing and the tireless running of the forwards, Roundhill Ladies were never allowed to settle and increase their advantage.

So well played to everyone of you but a word of warning I have spoken to Wyn and he will be drilling you on Tuesday on how to set up 16 yard hit outs, defend free hits from outside the 23 and what it means when I shout, ‘defend line to goal.’ Keep up the good work and that next league win is just around the corner.

Dame of the Match – Emily, Nat and Grace

As my guru Su Jarmulewski would say at this point ‘peace out’.

 

Men’s 1 league match, early December

From 1991 till 1998 whenever Ian Rush played striker for Liverpool, and he scored, they never lost, and from 2017 whenever I played in goal for the first team, and we went 1-0 down, we never lost … but this isn’t necessarily all about me. Let me explain, having spending most of my hockey career as a better-looking version of Steve Claridge I have often wondered what lies on the other side of that first team door. Now having played two games for the ones I’ve seen the future and whilst I don’t want to become known as a whistle blower – here’s what I know so far.

A – Pre-match rituals. When the troop of monkeys get to the pitch there’s the usual machismo banter to establish pecking order. Some more introverted individuals stand away from the rest smoking but and large most of the talking is done by the silver backs.

B – Warm up This seems to involve the minimum of moving about and once some cursory stretching has been undertaken the rest of the time is spent trying to hit as many of the balls over the fence as they can. The smell of testosterone is quite intense at this stage.

C – Opening plays of the game. Seemingly they are happy to let the opposition have the ball for much of the opening 5 minutes or so to allow them to get into the game. This can be a problem if they win the toss but thankfully in today’s match against South Notts they simply hit the ball straight off the side of the pitch from the push back – thus ceding possession.

D – Set pieces. They often let the opposition have repeated free hits and short corners in this period to give the midfield and forwards a breather. It’s normally around about this time that they let the opposition score.

E – Flirting with the Opposition – Speaking of the opposition there is a fair bit of talking to the opposition (which I quite like) but I tend to find the Umpires get quite talkative too. This often leads to quite a lot of sitting on the naughty step for one or two players.

Subject to editorial rights this will form part of a two-part blog, so I will elucidate you with some further pearls of wisdom after our cup game tomorrow. However, for the club historians amongst you there was Jedi mind trick after 10 minutes and we started to play as a team running out 4-1 winners. Come down the Sandy Siro tomorrow (2.30 push back) for parts F to J.

Goals – Nick Hall (2), Ryan Harrison, Ben Sleeman

MoM – Adam Smith

DoD – Tom Whitehouse (for forgetting his boots and seemingly wearing slippers)

 

Men’s 1 cup match, early December

Picture the scene. It’s the English Hockey Championship Tier 2, Round 3, Vase Knockout Competition. It is the last play of the game between Boots Hockey Club and Market Harborough Men’s and Boots have a short corner. As they set up the Market Harborough goal keeper eye balls each of his defenders solemnly assuring them that he has one last save and such is his calm presence that the resulting injection passes under the stoppers stick, over the 25-yard line and the games ends with the keeper running across the pitch like Bobby Stokoe at the end of the 1972 FA Cup final yelling “we’ve got in their heads, we’ve got in their heads!” True story.

So how much were we in Boot’s heads? Well let’s look at the facts. Boots are two divisions higher than us and currently running away with their league so when the oppositions supporters turn up and tell me as a goal keeper that I am in for a busy afternoon then the portents do not look good. Therefore, that game plan was to simply extract and dwell on the positives and these are as follows.

Firstly – we restricted their Polish international striker to single figures. Indeed, we restricted all their scorers to single figures but unfortunately there were 7 different scorers (and unfortunately some of them did score more than once!).

Secondly – one of their short corner routines was so complicated (complete with a Ralphy style spinaroo) that it even gave Nick Riley ample time to run out and block the shot. (I would also add that they only scored from one of their five short corners – though one of them has yet to come down from the stratosphere and may yet end up in the goal.)

Finally – we all felt decidedly more Christmassy after listening to their ghetto blaster blaring out ‘Stay Another Day’ by East 17 in the changing rooms after the game.

So that was it really. For the statto’s amongst you the final score was 11-0 but at times in the second half it felt as though we would be lucky to get nil and comment of the match came from Bradder’s from the side lines shouting out “next goal wins” when we won a short corner deep in the second half.

So, the Men’s first teams cup odyssey is over for another year and they are left to concentrate on the league. With that my first team odyssey is over too with my inevitable promotion to the three’s. Thank you for listening and maybe one day I’ll be able to write another match report … it’s been a journey!

MoM – Tom Moorhouse (seemingly unfazed by the nonsense swirling around him)

DoD – Rob Smith (for a myriad of reasons … all valid!)

The last word however must go to their Polish striker who told me at the end of the game, “utrzymuj dobrą robotę, twoje raporty meczów są świetne i nie pozwól, żeby dranie zmąciły cię.” A class comment from a class man!

 

Christmas Eve Eve

Since his first team debut in November, the accolades have continued to roll in for Gary Pedler with stellar performances, repeated player of the match nominations and Committee meeting discussions. Indeed, the touchline was abuzz recently with the rumour that he might a late entrant onto the short list of nominees for BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. So the Harborough Mail sent their sports reporter down to the Sandy Siro earlier this week to interview him and uncover the man behind the legend.

It was a sharp winter evening and the crack of hockey balls being hit across the pitch, echo around the Welland Park Academy Stadium. As he kits up for the training session, Gary Pedler pauses as I suggest that he’s gone about his call up to the first team in a roundabout manner. “It’s certainly a route less travelled” he says, allowing himself a wry grin.

It is indeed a circuitous route since his first attempt at joining the club when he moved to Market Harborough in 2005. During a telephone call with the then Chairman Simon Garlick, he was told to come down for a trail. Work commitments prevented him from attending but thinking back on the situation he again allows himself a rueful shrug saying it was a very different club in those days. “Harborough Hockey Club back then was solely a mixed side, overloaded with male players and there was a reluctance to challenge the status quo and once you were in you were very hard to dislodge – regardless how good an incoming player was.” Would a player such as Adam Pardon had such a long run of selection in today’s climate I venture, “it’s hard to say” he replies, “but I think that The Don recognised the sea-change and maybe that’s the reason why he moved earlier this year” 

Shrugging off the disappointment off not being able to attend the trial he went off and played a few more seasons of football before curiosity got the better of him and he went down to Welland Park on a Wednesday night for a hockey training session. There is a whispered tale that Rob Smith, then the A-team Captain, after watching him train, asked him at the end of the session whether he was available for a game the following Saturday. Summoning up my courage I ask whether this was true, I only get a nod, and after a short pause he adds, “but they were short, and he’d asked most of the other people on the pitch before me. He went onto explain that he had friends up that weekend, so he had to politely decline. Would he have been so hasty had he known how long it would be before he would be asked again I ventured. “Hard to say’” he replies, “but I always felt that Rob recognised that I was a player and i was a question of me biding my time”

Undaunted by the repeated set-backs he eventually began playing hockey regularly firstly through the badgers’ team before settling into the 2nd XI where he soon earned the moniker of ‘best left back in the Club never to have played men’s first team.’ If this reputation weighed heavy on his shoulders it is something he approaches in an understated phlegmatic shrug. The fact also that when he did get his chance, it meant that he was playing out of position, similarly doesn’t faze him, “You just get on with it, enjoy every opportunity and play every game as though it is your last” he explains. 

As we close the interview I congratulate him on this refreshing outlook on the game and mention that that this attitude means that despite turning 50 next year, he is still played a higher level of hockey than his 17-year-old son who has allegedly more talent. Momentarily he looked lost for words but as he puts his helmet on and walks onto the pitch he turns to me, smiles again and says, “I’m in his head, I’m always in his head!”

 


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