The England Vintage Grand Masters look set to make it into the Guinness Book of Records after taking part in the world’s first over-75 international hockey match.
Tring Hockey Club’s Brian Woolcott took charge of the team in a 4-1 victory over hosts Holland, with fellow Tring Hockey duo Gilbert Grace and David Wright making their mark on the pitch
Taking to the field in typically English weather – fine drizzle turning to heavier rain – England immediately took the game to the Dutch but the early pressure failed to produce any goals and Holland took the lead against the run of play.
Despite the set-back, England continued to pile on the pressure and, with Colin Pinks, Brian Heelis and Leon Mack at the heart of a solid English defence and Keith Hunt and Grace working the wings, the Dutch had to work overtime to keep their visitors at bay.
The equaliser duly arrived when the Dutch defenders were slow to deal with a simple clearance and John Land slotted home past an unsighted keeper.
An illegal Dutch foot prevented another England goal soon afterwards and Bill Greenwood stepped up to give the visitors the lead from the resulting penalty stroke.
After half-time, a penalty corner proved to be the Dutch undoing when the goalkeeper failed to clear his lines and Bill Warrender pounced to touch the ball over the line.
There was no respite for the Dutch and England moved into a three-goal lead with the goal of the game as Hunt diverted a David Wright pass beyond the helpless keeper to seal victory.
“Everybody was really excited before the game and we had trained hard for it,” said Brian, who could not play in the game himself due to injury.
“Within the first few minutes, we found ourselves a goal down and it was an awful shock. But we gathered ourselves and eventually won well.”
The following day, the England Vintage Grand Masters took on Dutch side Den Bosch, but they went down 2-1 despite a goal from Grace, who lives in Long Marston.
“Gilbert scored what must have been one of the slowest goals in history,” said Brian. “It just kept rolling and rolling before trickling over the line!”
Next summer, the over-75 men’s category is set to be introduced into the World Cup for the first time as countries from around the world descend on The Hague in June.
“We are just waiting for Germany to commit to sending a squad,” said Brian.
“Australia are closely matched with us, and the Dutch are always strong.
“It’s amazing to see how masters hockey has developed – especially when you see how many people are slobbing about in armchairs with their bellies on their laps!”
To find out more about getting involved in masters hockey, please visit www.englandhockey.co.uk and follow the link.