Lord Byron, the English Romantic poet and satirist, once remarked that “adversity is the first path to truth.” The 2008-2009 season was unmistakably once of misfortune for the men’s hockey team, as they flirted with relegation from BUCS Northern Conference 2B. Winless after ten league fixtures, by rights, they should have fallen through the trapdoor but, reprieved, they now face another moment of truth as the new season nears. Move forwards and upwards, or suffer further disappointments.
But the summertime has proved a great healer and, although most of the old faces remain, there will be no time wasted looking backwards upon negativity. A new year brings replenished hope, a spirit embodied by Rob Newton, Male President for 2009-2010: “I legitimately think the hockey club could have one of their best seasons for a very long time. I think we could be one of the standout clubs at the university this year!”
And why not? After all, while most clubs will be unrecognisable from last year given the inevitable cycle of graduations and transfers, for men’s hockey it is a case of spot the difference. Boosted by the news that Billy Walsh, the former first team captain and midfield dynamo, will be continuing his postgraduate studies at York, remarkably only two players have moved on. “With the strength of the freshers across both sides of the club, there is going to be a lot of competition for places and hopefully promotions [from the second team],” Newton added.
The foundations are largely unshaken, then, which offers scope for ambitious expansion. For the first time, the hockey club will field five different sides – a men’s third team, competing exclusively in the Yorkshire League, will supplement the first and second XI’s, who are seasoned BUCS campaigners. Meanwhile, a second women’s team will be kept active by a steady stream of matches in both BUCS and Yorkshire League competition.
So, what can we expect from the firsts this time round? Newton identifies last season’s goal drought as the first hurdle to overcome – the team scored 12 times in their league programme – as well as the seamless incorporation of new talent, both those already inside the club and those about to be.
“Last year’s freshers who can expect to have a big year in the club as settled players include Andy Harris, Sam Harriman and Adam Douglas. Andy Harris’s self-proclaimed drag flick abilities could be interesting this year in the firsts!” Newton said. “The main strength of the men’s firsts is the creativity that exists throughout the team. We should expect to see lots of goals this season!”
The man charged with harnessing all this creativity is Andy McIlwraith, who succeeds Walsh as captain, and is expected to place the accent on fitness and tactical discipline. Familiar foes await, with the division containing two Durham University teams, Northumbria, Leeds, Sheffield Hallam and, intriguingly, York St. John. Each week will provide an opportunity to gain retribution for last year in what promises to be a keenly-contested league.
The President tips both the firsts and seconds as promotion candidates, highlighting the seconds’ superb victories over Northumbria (4-1) and Sheffield (6-2) at the back end of last season as examples of their potential.
“I’m very confident we’re going to have a very successful season throughout the club. The club is in a very healthy state at the moment, particularly on the playing side and this year should continue the upturn in the quality of the club,” said Newton.
“We have strength in depth in playing and character, and I really feel it’s a club which, with its large size, is able to encompass all sorts of individuals and still be very much together as a club. We’re a club, not a collection of teams!”
The University of York Hockey Club will be holding freshers’ trials on the following dates on the JLD Astroturf (adjacent to the Sports Centre):
Monday 12th October: 15.00-16.00
Thursday 15th October: 12.00-13.00
Sunday 18th October: 15.00-16.00
BUCS LEAGUE AND CUP FIXTURES – MEN’S FIRST TEAM
Wednesday 14th October – Durham University Fourths (H)
Wednesday 21st October – Northumbria University Firsts (A)
Wednesday 28th October – Sheffield Hallam Thirds (A) BUCS Cup
Wednesday 4th November – Leeds University Seconds (H)
Wednesday 11th November – Durham University Thirds (A)
Wednesday 25th November – York St. John Firsts (H)
Wednesday 2nd December – Durham University Fourths (A)
Wednesday 3rd February – Northumbria Firsts (H)
Wednesday 17th February – Leeds University Seconds (A)
Wednesday 3rd March – Durham University Thirds (H)
Wednesday 17th March – York St. John Firsts (A)
BUCS LEAGUE AND CUP FIXTURES – MEN’S SECOND TEAM
Wednesday 21st October – Sheffield University Fourths (H)
Wednesday 28th October – Sheffield University Thirds (H) BUCS Cup
Wednesday 4th November – Leeds University Fifths (H)
Wednesday 11th November – Sheffield Hallam Thirds (A)
Wednesday 25th November – Bradford University Firsts (H)
Wednesday 2nd December – Leeds Met Carnegie Seconds (H)
Wednesday 9th December – Leeds Met Carnegie Seconds (A)
Wednesday 3rd February – Sheffield University Fourths (A)
Wednesday 17th February – Leeds University Fifths (A)
Wednesday 3rd March – Sheffield Hallam Thirds (H)
Wednesday 17th March – Bradford University Firsts (A)
For more information on the Hockey Club, visit https://sites.google.com/a/yusu.org/hockey/Home
If your club would like a season preview, contact [email protected]