Over 45 Men Match Report. Nottingham 2024. - Squash Wales

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Over 45 Men Match Report. Nottingham 2024.

Over 45 Men Match Report. Nottingham 2024.

If I had to use one word to sum up the selection and gathering of an Over 45 team to go to Nottingham this year it would be ‘Great hope, then chaos’. That’s four words but you get the point.

In the initial stages of putting a team together let me tell you what the possible order could have been: David Evans, Greg Tippings, Andrew Neal, Jonathan Davies, Adam Evans and Paul Barrell. This team order never quite confirmed all at the same time but this is what could possibly have been. Note the word ‘could’. It’s a cruel word. A bad word. One that will come back to bite you again and again.

In an unfortunate turn of events for the players and the team, the line up lost Andrew Neal fairly early. Andrew has suffered a few injuries of late and felt he had better sit this one out. Next David Evans gave me notice that he would be unable to commit to the weekend and had better not be included. So two top players lost. The search for replacements started. Straight after Greg Tippings informed me he needed to take the opportunity to go for an operation so wouldn’t be fit to play until next season. Not the weakest excuse I suppose. Another top player down so more replacements needed. Then in a most unprecedented and unfortunate occurrence, JD just was not recovered enough from a previous adductor injury and counted himself out. Another body needed. Finally, in a dreadful turn of bad luck Adam Evans injured himself in a training session (Training? It’s no good for you obviously) and would not be able to make the team either.

So five players short, the search was on for men of the required calibre, expertise and skill.

I found none of those things in any of the recruits but if good looks, humour and drinking prowess were the winning formula then I had struck gold!

The obvious choice was Steve Glenton and Steve Bird, both semi- finalists in this year’s Masters with Steve Bird being part of the team for the last two years.

Then Phil Cording, the highest ranked quarter finalist who is literally on fire these last few months joined our order.

Lastly Andy Kettlewell, at incredibly short notice, and without any kit whatsoever, stepped in to make up the bare 5 players we would assemble for the tournament.

Worthy and noteable mentions of players who for one reason or another could not make the weekend were Lloyd ‘Superman’ Forkan, Gary ‘Action man’ Fry, Darren ‘Majestic’ Thomas, Darren ‘Wild man’ Lee, Richard ‘Tough guy’ Tailby, Dave ‘Constant’ Robertson, Simon ‘Ever ready’ Kilshaw and Jon ‘Indestructable’ Ashton. By the way Nic Birt has another three years to go until he is over 45 so take note an unamed person who was convinced he could play!

With a sigh of relief, the team was complete and ready to go! Although, with the bare 5 players the most important thing was that no one gets injured until or during the event. This, I know, was a tough ask given the perspective ages and health conditions of the participants.

In fact, three out of the five players were actually playing with a current injury (ankles, knees, backs and feet) and one was generally just ‘injured’ so therefore only Andy seemed to be in good health!

It was time to be off to the rather splendid Nottingham squash club for the first matches on Friday. Paul and Steve travelled across together from Anglesey, picking up Mark Davies (from the Over 65 team) on the way and Andy and Glenton arrived separately. On the short walk from the hotel to the club we bumped into a bewildered looking Phil who had arrived by train (to claim he had been working all day) and guided him like a lost puppy all him the way to the squash club.

As an aside the honour of ‘surplus kit buyer’ of the year goes to Phil who needed a rather large suitcase to carry his haul of three tracksuits, three polo shirts, two T shirts, two of each shorts and a tight ladies top to the club. There’s always one. See previous year’s reports.

The first job at the club was to have some lunch. You can’t play squash on a hungry tummy can you? So we went off to the bar to see what they had prepared. This turned out to be crisps, chocolate and muffins. I have it on good authority that the muffins were excellent. You know who you are.

So it was down to Captain Barrell to do a sandwich run (literally) to Tesco to get a few items of provender for those in need. 

On the bright side the coasters were present and ready to be distributed to our opponents, unlike last year. As Richard Campbell from Scotland explained ‘I love these, I’ve been using mine all year and now I have one for the wife. If I make it next year can I have one for my son?’ Indeed, you can Richard.

So with the team ranking list given in we started the first match on the showcourt, number 10, against England. And as an added bonus the matches were live streamed on the England Masters website which came as a complete shock to a few of our number who had been happily recounting tales and jokes in earshot of the camera which were not suitable for general consumption let alone a live stream!

This was always going to be a tough call. Even with some of the potential players we could have had in the team, this would have been a hard match to compete against England in.

First on court was fresh out of the box Welsh team first timer Andy at number 5 against Nick Hargreaves. We all thought Andy played well and certainly made Terminator (have you seen this guy’s abs?) Hargreaves cover some court. The first game was the best with Andy going full tilt straight out of the trap, losing 11-8. The final score was 3-0 to Nick.

Steve Bird at number 3 was next playing Paul Warner. Paul, a past combined services champion and old teammate of Lee Beachill, proved his ranking, beating Steve 3-0 in a match where Steve had some high points but never really attained his stride.

Barrell was next up against Mick Briggs. Having played Mick before and not getting much change then Barrell knew what he was up against and despite narrowly losing the first two games 10-8 and 12-10 (more through Mick being slow to start than anything else) the score was 3-0 to Mick.

Cording then stepped on court at 4 against James Greenhead. In his international debut, Phil consistently made some good choices and traded good points, but was to ultimately lose 3-0.

Last on court was Glenton against Alistair Coker. Also an international newbie, Steve did his characteristic slams into the nick (and the tin once or twice but they were really good tins, impressive tins even) and powered lengths but couldn’t stop the English onslaught, losing 3-0. 

Ultimately we didn’t get any points but to be fair with a depleted squad and three international new comers we had played and competed every match. There was a lot to be hopeful about but a lot of hard work to be done tomorrow.

After a swift shower to wash away some of the sweat and tears it was off to the bar for a rather tasty meal of chilli or curry followed by a swift drink of various types although definitely the coldest was a bottle of Estrella. Andy, however, stuck to his guns and ordered an IPA. Nice choice lads. 

The short walk back to the hotel was punctuated by occasional ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as we admired both the architecture and grandeur of some of the splendid properties in The Park. The conversation revolved around how much the houses were worth, how nice the gardens were, what we could steal easily and how long the police would take to respond. Four and a half minutes apparently. It is worth noting that the St. James Hotel has certainly been refurbished since our last visit. New fittings, carpet and paint abound however the porn star lift still lives on! Some things are better left as they are!

Back at the hotel we were joined by several of the other players from the Scottish team mainly (see it’s not just us that likes a pint!) and we compared notes and strategised for tomorrow. Strategy is more difficult with only the bare 5 players as no one can be rested, or strategically placed to do a certain job. We all had one job- play your opponent and do as well as you can. And don’t get bloody injured. Or more injured in most cases.

Finding our way back upstairs for a sleep in overly hot bedrooms it was discovered that at least 2 out of the 5 of us snore and one team member likes to splash water all over himself in his underpants in the middle of the night. No names revealed. You know who you are.

Breakfast was a solemn affair mainly because no one could enjoy the full splendour of the sustenance in front of us. Andy, however, had got up early, done some hill walking, an hour of Pilates and been to the shops. Usually at least one player can tuck in but with all of us on court this morning it was no such luck. Glenton was on court last so he made the best effort. Well done Steve I knew I could rely on you.

At the club, Captain Barrell’s first job was to submit the team order but as it was the same as last night it wasn’t too difficult and Allen Barwise just waved and said ‘same as before?’ Yep.

Session 2 was us against a strong Scottish line up.

First on court was Andy in a highly competitive match against Dave McCormick. Again, fast out of the traps, Andy secured the first game 15-13. Slowly Andy then succumbed to Dave’s consistency, losing 3-1 in the end.

Next on court was Phil Cording again Chris Turlik. There was hope aplenty after Phil, at two games down, edged ahead to win the third game. Chris played some great squash in the fourth and Phil lost 3-1.

Then Barrell was up against Allen Tasker and it is fair to say the racket skills of Allen left Barrell in some distress and disorder. With a little deja- vu from Galway two years ago Barrell went chasing phantom balls and took several taxis, losing 3-0.

Now Steve Bird took the mantle against Richard Campbell who as rumour has it, is probably the nicest guy in the world. Except on court where he is something akin to a nick missile. The first game was the best with Steve just losing out but the final score was 3-0 to Richard.

Last on court to play the very dead rubber was Glenton who faced Chris Gray. Chris, another master of the racket, careened Steve around an awful lot of ground quickly and despite competitive rallies aplenty, Steve lost 3-0.

With a sum total of 2 points from two matches we headed to get some lunch at the bar. The light buffet we had was alright but to be honest I was hoping for more of the curry from last night.

Our final match up was against Ireland.

Starting the proceedings was Andy again against Paul O’Brian. Handsome Paul took the first game and that was to be the story of the match, despite two good first games, Andy lost 3-0.

Second match on was Phil against Vincent Pippet. With two of the games going to extra points and Phil once again winning the third game (why the third, Phil, why not the first or second?), the match was a good one with some long rallies but Phil was to lose out 3-1 in the end.

Next on court was Barrell against Neal Murphy. These two are old rivals with Neal always emerging the victor. However, suffering from an injury, recovering from an operation and after a hard match this morning Neal was not on top form. Barrell was able to take advantage of this and ran out a 3-1 win- our only win of the weekend.

Steve Bird made his next appearance then against Keith Moran. Keith, a master veteran ran Steve at a high tempo from the start and despite a close second game, Steve lost 3-0.

Last man once again on was Steve Glenton against Kevin Knox. Carrying an injury to his foot Steve was noticeably in pain at a few points but had no intention of retiring (plus he couldn’t anyway), taking the second and third games in what can only be described as a sustained raft of accurate shot making. Could we indeed be set up for another win? Unfortunately, it was not to be with Glenton losing out in the end. Final score 3-2 to Kevin.

After a good soaping in the shower the team were ready to head back to the Hotel to change into the smart dress required for the evening do. ‘They won’t make me wear a tie will they?’ said one team member and in the event they didn’t. However, that didn’t stop Phil spending a small fortune on Welsh flag cufflinks and a tie pin.

Luckily we bumped into Rhian Davies from the Welsh ladies team while walking back to the hotel and she promised to escort us on a ‘short cut’. Citing the fact that she had been in the Park a few weeks ago for the Nationals, we, like small lost lambs, followed her on what can only be described as a trek up K2. Steps, steps and more steps, arriving the other side of the hotel and considerably further away. Short cut? I think we need to re define the term to Rhian. We appreciate her gesture though, even if we never want to go through it again.  We eventually arrived tired, beaten and with a few inches off the skin of our feet. Glenton was in tears, Barrell was crawling and Steve and Phil were pulling each other along by the hand. Andy funnily enough was nowhere to be seen- he’d gone back down the steps for another go but this time he wanted to be faster! Hup, hup,hup! Just as well we found our own way back last night or we may never have played Scotland this morning.

The short walk to the dinner and dance was punctuated by a visit to ‘The Road to Jerusalem’, an old haunt of Andy’s when he used to live in Nottingham. The oldest pub in England was a sight to behold with rooms and chambers carved into the rock of the hillside. In the queue we met a mysterious lady from Albania and huge discussions followed over whether Albania does have massive supplies of black market armaments and munitions. We still didn’t get to the bottom of that one.

After arriving at the location and working out how to use the lifts we were presented with a glass of fizz on arrival. The team then threw themselves literally bodily into the celebration. Even Andy was seen briefly skirting the outside ring of the dance floor while the rest threw shapes not seen since Playschool first aired in 1964.

Unfortunately, ex- local Andy proved to be absolutely no use when finding a late bar for a drink and we ended up having to accost a local fellow who was aimlessly wandering around the town to guide us. After a walk of about 5 miles we found a fairly dingy after hours bar which unfortunately didn’t actually turn out to be worth the walk anyway. Therefore, we accepted our fate and walked back to the hotel for a few cheeky late beers.

Of note is the fact that Captain Barrell did not have to put his hand in his pocket the whole night! At the very start of the weekend, knowing the task ahead of us it was agreed that any player to bring home a victory would have a night of free drinking on Saturday. And that was Captain Barrell, a fact he will probably dine out on for many years.

To sum up our weekend campaign in two words would be difficult. So I’ll do it in eleven- ‘A great weekend full of tough squash played in a great atmosphere’, although that may be twelve words. We had been thrown together as individual players but emerged as a team. We had arrived with a huge task and took on the challenge with gusto and with great resilience. The final score didn’t reflect the effort that had been put in by the team this weekend. We ended up with 8 points but each point was hard fought and hard won. Given the predicament the team found themselves in and against strong opposition in every match I think we can be thoroughly satisfied with the grit and determination levied in every encounter.

It has been a pleasure spending the weekend with you guys. My friends: Glenton, Bird, Cording and Kettlewell I can only say it has been a privilege being your captain and look forward to the next time we meet on the court or better still the next time we meet in the bar for a pint!

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