10 Feb And now for something completely different ……..
Henry V was born in the tower above the gatehouse of Monmouth Castle in 1386. It could reasonably be argued therefore that he could have qualified as a Welsh hockey player had he not been more interested in defeating the French in war whenever the mood took him.
His invasion of France in 1415 was a case in point. Partly provoked by France’s support for the Welsh rebel leader, Owain Glyndŵr, Henry sailed across the English Channel with his army and initially laid siege to the port of Honfleur so that he could secure his ships and bring in supplies as required. After a very difficult 6 week siege in which Shakespeare records Henry’s impassioned speech to his knackered troops ‘once more unto the breach dear friends, once more – or close up the wall with our English dead’, he was eventually successful and turned his attention to a full scale confrontation with Charles VI’s French army, well known for their formidable organisation and deadly crossbowmen.
On arriving at countryside around the town of Agincourt, Henry arranged his troops, outnumbered 4 to 1 by the French, at the top of a small rise so that they had the advantage of the French having to attack uphill.
The night before the battle, a huge storm engulfed the fields where battle was to drawn the next day and both armies were soaked to the skin. More importantly, the ground at the base of the rise had virtually flooded and was a mud bath.
When Charles’s commanders gave the order to advance and charge, they did not know 2 things – that the mud was going to stop their horses and that they would be in range of the English longbow archers, whose armour piercing bodkin tipped arrows could be shot a distance of 300 yards.
The English slaughtered the French, primarily with arrows, and won a great battle, resulting in Henry eventually being declared regent and heir apparent to the French throne.
Readers and supporters of Bridgend Hockey Under 11s cannot fail to find the parallels.
After a huge storm the night before, which was still depositing gigantic amounts of water and wind onto the superb new astroturf pitch at Sofia Gardens as players arrived for the latest tournament, Gwent ‘B’, Bridgend’s first opponents, had positioned themselves, metaphorically at least, on the high ground. Excellently coached, well prepared and strategically adept, Gwent B simply slaughtered Bridgend in the first game. Indeed, any observer would be forgiven for thinking that Bridgend were attacking uphill and through mud whilst trying to dodge arrows. Certainly by the end Bridgend had been taught a bit of a hockey lesson.
A group discussion followed during which it became clear that various strategic decisions prior to the game had not been thought through. 6 layers comprising thermal, teeshirt, hockey shirt, hoodie, anorak and kagool might have pleased mum but meant that wearers could see nothing and move nowhere. They were as helpless as a trapped French knight in full armour.
The clothing situation was remedied for the next game versus a mix of Canton ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams and after a very disappointing first half in which Canton scored 3 splendid goals, Bridgend finally found some fighting spirit and came back with 2 great goals of their own through Ben and Matthew. The final few minutes were end to end but Bridgend could not convert another chance so Canton deserved their victory.
A council of war then took place amongst the Bridgend players and management during which it was decided to make some changes to team formation and start to play to our strengths of passing the ball accurately and at pace.
The final game was versus Whitchurch B and, after a peculiar start that saw Whitchurch score after 20 seconds whilst the Bridgend keeper, Adam, was distracted by a song of some sort, Bridgend finally started to play.
Adam made some great saves to deny Whitchurch another goal whilst the new defensive trio of Tilly, Luke and James refused to yield at all to any Whitchurch pressure.
The midfield simply came alive. Ben in the centre began to make a series of strong runs and passes whilst Michael on the right won tackle after tackle and set up new attacks with great passes. It was from one of these that Bridgend’s travelling army of supporters saw a great goal from Tomos, sweeping in the pass from Michael. 2 minutes later he repeated the feat and Bridgend were in front.
Matthew playing alone up front then went on a fabulous run and finished with real style to extend the lead before he and Ben combined beautifully for another goal to seal the win. Rapture does not do it justice.
To partially quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V:-
‘I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for chocolate, warmth and Bridgend!’