"How the sport got going" - written by Alastair Gordon & Stefan Fuller
Many people ask me how I got involved in hockey and many others ask about the sport's history. So this first article covers the period before the first league was formed and before I founded the British Street Hockey Association, the organisation now known as BiSHA.
Before becoming involved in the sport I had some twenty years experience in sports organising and administration working with young people from all over the country. In 1979, about 5 years after I came to live in London, I came across groups of young guys skating around and playing pick-up hockey near the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.
By chance, one of these guys lived close to me in Earl's Court and we became friends and as a result I went occasionally to Hyde Park to watch him and his mates having fun. However it wasn't long after this that my friend and his family left London and I lost contact with him.
Fast forward now to 1982 and another chance discovery. One Sunday in August I was walking along the Thames river bank near Waterloo Bridge when I came across another group of young black guys playing hockey amongst themselves and having a load of fun. This time they were under the arches between the Royal Festival Hall and the National Film Theatre and I stopped by to take a photo.
It was bright and sunny and the players were dodging in and out of the sunshine and deep shadows making it hard to capture a good action shot. So I failed that first Sunday and went back the next week. Once again, I didn't clinch the shot I had in mind and returned the following week even though I wasn't sure the guys would be there.
But they were. What's more, by this time they were wondering who the hell I was. Eventually, a couple of the guys - Prosper Edutie and Robert 'Speedy' Williams - plucked up the courage to ask which magazine I worked for and if their pics would be on the front cover, and could they could have copies of the photos. I had to disappoint them since I wasn't a magazine photographer, but I did agree to let them have copies of the pictures I had taken.
Talking with them, I soon discovered that there were other ad hoc groups of players dotted about London and that the one thing they wanted to do more than anything else was to see what was then called 'street hockey' become a proper sport and for them to be able to play regular games in a league.
I told the group about my previous experience and how I thought I might be able to help them and they thought it was a great idea. I thought it wouldn't take much time and that I was only committing myself to two or three weeks of my time. How wrong I was!!
It was pure luck that the group of lads that I had stumbled across on the South Bank were soon to become very well known across the country and abroad. This team-to-be were the Street Warriors. At that time the six founder members of the team were engineering students at the South East London Technical College [SELTEC] in Lewisham, south London but, as luck would have it, they were to become a very highly successful team and, with one or two other teams, would dominate the sport for many years to come.
But let's not race ahead too far. Turning their hockey dreams into reality was a real challenge and many problems had to be resolved along the way.
The first problem was that although there were other groups playing pick-up hockey around London nobody had any contact names or phone numbers. Players wanting a game would just turn up at certain outdoor playing areas and take part. One of these areas was Battersea Park in south London where so many players would turn up all wanting a game that sometimes teams were 20+ a-side!! With no referees of any kind, and having to dodge round other park users out walking their dogs or cycling across the playing area it was more mayhem than real sport. But it was 100% fun!!
I thought the best way to get the attention of every potential team in and around London was to organise the first ever London Street Hockey Championship and to have a London-wide advertising campaign which, it was hoped, would be a sufficiently attractive carrot to entice every team to call the advertised number at the bottom of the poster. I discussed this with the main man and spokesman of the Street Warriors, Winston Douglas, and his team-mates, and he and they agreed the idea was sound. We were all very excited.
Then came problem number two. I had drawn up a list of possible venues for the tournament and took time out to visit each one in turn to see if it was suitable and would be willing to let us hire it for street hockey. Venue after venue said no. Most of them refused point blank on the basis that their floors weren't suitable or that the skates [pre-inline quads in those days] would damage their precious floor surface.
It was a nightmare. I had one more sports centre to visit and every venue on the list I'd drawn up had so far given me a resounding no. I wasn't hopeful. In fact, I thought I was fast approaching the end of the big idea.
The last name on the list was the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre. I phoned up, arranged a meeting and soon discovered the Centre had a very enlightened and visionary manager by the name of Steve Wilkinson. I gave it my best shot. Within minutes he saw the potential for street hockey and was keen to give us and the sport a chance.
So now we had a venue. But there was still another problem: I had no money and nobody else had any money either. How could we afford to hire the sports centre, buy trophies and do all the other things to create a successful tournament ?
We talked about it a lot. And once again, Steve Wilkinson came to the rescue. He said we might be eligible for a grant if the tournament was presented as a Southwark Council sports initiative since the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre was within the borough. I readily agreed and we were awarded a grant of £250 and that was how Wilbert Greaves, the 100m hurdles champion, became involved in the event. Wilbert was a Sports Development Officer based at the Elephant and he was a tremendous help in getting everything ready and right at the sports centre.
But £250 although very handy, wasn't nearly enough to cover the costs expected. However, everybody I came into contact with agreed that the sport had a big potential and that as it was the first ever such Championship a large crowd could be expected which, with luck, would cover all the remaining costs.
With these and many other problems resolved, the poster campaign was a huge success. My phone just rang and rang and rang non-stop. The 1st London Street Hockey Championship took place in front of a sell-out crowd at the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre, one mile south of Waterloo rail station, on Sunday January 16th 1983, truly a day to remember, and a controversial one.
For the record, 12 teams took part yet, sadly, only one team still exists today. The full line-up was: the North London Giants, Panthers, Street Invaders, Ashmead Cruisers, North London Renegades, Exterminators, Demons, East Side Gladiators, Tooting Super Strikes, Wembley, The MIGS and the team that's still going strong ? The Street Warriors, though they got knocked out in the semi finals along with Wembley who later changed their name to Sudan Lions.
For readers fond of hockey history, the Final was truly amazing, a sort of good guys versus bad guys match and just what the crowd wanted. The good guys were the Street Invaders, from Lewisham, south London, and the tough bad guys were the East Side Gladiators who came from in and around East Ham.
The Invaders took the lead after just 35 seconds but the Gladiators came storming back and by half-time it was 3 - 3. In the second half, the Invaders seemed to have the upper hand with captain Mario Carpenter taking his team ahead to 7 - 5. Then the controversy started.
The rules in those days were not only very new but a little different to the ones you are used to, but just like now, some players never get around to reading the rules and are always ready to try pulling a fast one.
So when the Gladiators scored from inside their own half to make it 7 - 6 huge cheers erupted from the partisan crowd. But the Invaders had done their homework and knew the rules better than the Gladiators and appealed to the referee. Angry disappointment in the packed bleachers followed when the goal was disallowed.
Seconds later, the Gladiators scored another great, and legal, goal but with just two minutes left to play they had left their comeback too late.
There were two distinct winners that day. The Invaders won 7 - 6 which was totally fantastic, but hockey itself also won. The income from spectator tickets easily paid for all the expenses and first ever Championship was deemed a huge success.
The tournament was also the first time all the teams had ever been together under one roof and I was able to confirm that every team shared the same dreams for the sport that Winston and the Street Warriors had told me about the previous August.
The Championship also attracted a lot of media coverage. Even The Times had a picture of the Street Warriors in the next day's issue which prompted people all over the country to phone to discover more about this fantastic new sport.
The first chapter of this story covered the beginnings of the sport leading towards first ever Street Hockey Championship in London on January 16th 1983. Perhaps the most important problem that had to be faced before that event could take place was to create some written rules of the game. No form of codified rules existed up to that point though the players in the many pick-up games that took place around London did have some loose agreement about what was and what was not allowed to happen. But that situation could not continue if the first Championship was to be a real success. It's worth remembering that in those long gone days ht e game itself was different in so many ways. For a start, players didn't wear helmets. It seems incredible to think about it now that everyone is so health and safety conscious. But back then, nobody thought twice about it. What is more, the game then was virtually a full checking game and the players wore the bare minimum of recommended protective padding underneath their team kit. First-time spectators and onlookers would always ask how many players got injured and the response was always that the game is more dangerous than it looks. While considering what to do about the need for a set of rules I spoke with the various existing players that I knew to be both passionate about the game and also interested in developing it into a proper sport. They told me the ins and outs of the game as they knew it and I watched every game that was played to get a better feel for the sport. I could immediately see, however, that the few 'rules' they normally played by had huge gaps and were insufficient for a full scale tournament, let alone a proposed league. I then realised that there was no alternative for me but to set about writing a set of rules comprising the existing playing conventions and filling the gaps as best I could by gleaning ideas and credible wording from ice hockey and the rule books of other near relatives to the our sport. It is remarkable, and even crazy, to think now that that first set of playing rules, which were in weekly use between 1983 and 1985, could all be printed on just TWO pages inside the annual quarter-A4 size pocket books that contained the full season's playing fixtures. Nowadays, if there were an identically sized rule book, it would run to more than SIXTY pages!! It's also remarkable how the game continued for so long without mandatory helmets - thanks to player resistance. Until one day, during a particularly fierce and important game, Robert 'Speedy' Williams of the Street Warriors fell and cracked his head on the floor at the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre and blood gushed out. He was rushed to St Thomas' Hospital about a mile away and everyone feared the worst. Luckily the injury wasn't nearly as bad as it seemed and he quickly recovered and was playing again after a few days. But everyone realised things could have been much much worse. In those formative years of the sport everyone was determined that street hockey different. It was nothing like any other sport and it certainly wasn't a fad or craze as so many people insisted. And it certainly was NOT ice hockey. It was not that anyone was opposed to ice hockey per se. It was just that everyone seemed to realise that if street hockey was to progress and have an identity of its own then it must be as different and as distant from ice hockey and other near relatives as possible. This attitude was given a significant boost by the reactions of the then governing bodies of ice hockey and 'traditional' roller hockey to the successful growth of Street Hockey. The ice hockey people studiously ignored us and refused us any help or advice. Their advice was sought at the start but after they gave us the cold shoulder the two sports just ignored each other. As for 'traditional' roller hockey, the then President of the Roller Hockey Association of Great Britain, roller hockey's governing body, wrote a very stinging letter in March 1984 saying they couldn't understand why on earth anyone would want to play street hockey when they could play the far superior game of roller hockey. He continued: "It is sad to think that, when there is so much potential and opportunity open to the sport of Roller Hockey that other developments such as Street Hockey should emerge. . . . . . I have mentioned 'in Committee' about the possibility of the NRHA considering taking 'Street Hockey' under its wing, like happens in the US, but the majority of Executives consider the question not worth raising. " Very sad. As I mentioned in Chapter One, the first Championship was a resounding success all round. Everyone I asked during the tournament shared the dream of playing every week in a proper well organised and well structured league. Needless to say, everyone also wanted the league-to-be to start pretty well immediately without realising that there was much work to do before that could happen. So between the Championship on January 16th and the earliest proposed start of the League in May there was a frenzied succession of meetings to resolve the multitude of problems and get things organised. It soon emerged from these meetings that one group wanted an outdoor summer league and another group wanted an indoor league. Yet another group felt that if they were to play in a league they should be paid for doing so. But that is one dream that remains unfulfilled to this day!! The conflict between the indoor and outdoor groups was soon settled when the weather started playing its usual tricks and the determination to play every week in dry conditions proved too strong to knock down. There was also a certain north-south rivalry to deal with - north of the Thames and south of the Thames, that is. The East Side Gladiators, a strong charismatic team from Upton Park, East London had little or no time for south London or south Londoners. What's more, their spokesman and manager. Papa Johal, had an alternative set of rules and league ideas to offer teams to add to the problems. Eventually even these problems were overcome with the ESG wisely deciding to go with the majority. On Sunday February 6th 1983 I organised and chaired the first ever Team Captains Meeting at the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre to discuss the future of the sport. As The Voice newspaper reported at the time, nine teams were represented at the meeting as well as Steve Wilkinson, the enlightened manager of the Sports Centre, and Mr Butler, manager of the Crofton Leisure Centre in Brockley, south London. . It was at this meeting, faithfully recorded by The Voice, that a unanimous decision was taken to establish a London Street Hockey Association 'to organise the League, promote the sport, attract sponsorship and encourage new teams. ' The meeting also unanimously agreed to the creation of a standard set of rules, the creation of a Summer Street Hockey League the first season of which at least would be played indoors on Sunday afternoons between 2 and 6pm and that it would be based at the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre. The first League faced off on May 8th 1983 with a Divisions 1 and 2 comprising eight teams apiece and a Division 3 of 9 teams. The placing of the teams in the various divisions was based on each of the team's results in the earlier Championship with the top ranking teams going into Division 1, the next tier down going into Division 2 with the best of the new comers, and the remaining teams forming Division 3. Interspersed throughout the league fixtures were Sundays set aside for the all-inclusive League Cup as well as the Koho Trophy. The inaugural fixtures booklet of 1983 is a veritable roll call of illustrious London and a few non-London teams. In Division One were the East Side Gladiators, Street Warriors, Street Invaders, Sidewalk Surfers [from Chertsey] , Sudan Lions [Wembley], Ashmead Cruisers, North London Renegades and MIGS [aka Men In Grey Suits from South London]. Division Two was filled by the Talacre Titans, Brixton Yo-Yo's, Street Hawks, Stevenage Lions, Street Raiders, South Side Trojans, Barbarians and Scorpions [Beckenham]. The hockey season ended in the most exciting and dramatic way imaginable. In the Cup Final, the first of the two season-end finals on Sunday September 25th, the Warriors drew 3 - 3 with a last second equaliser against their arch-rivals and fellow south Londoners the Street Invaders. The vociferous and partisan capacity crowd at the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre were on a knife-edge during extra time when the Final could have gone either way. But it didn't. Instead it went to a nerve-tingling penalty shoot-out which ended level-pegging thus forcing a replay three weeks later. The Division One League Championship ended on Sunday October 16th with a dramatic battle between the Street Warriors, the team whose character and charisma had persuaded me to become involved with the sport the sport the previous year, and their arch-rivals and fellow south Londoners the Street Invaders. The Warriors played a relentless game of attack and defence in the knowledge that the kudos of winning the very first League Championship hung in the balance. The Invaders gave nothing away but the Warriors chipped away again and again at the Invader's defences eventually clinching the title 5 - 3. For a team that had never been out of the two top positions in Division One it was a tremendously exciting finale to a memorable season. It was also very unlucky for the East Side Gladiators who had held the No. 1 spot the longest and previously beaten the Warriors 8 - 1 in the league. In Division Two, Tooting's Street Raiders lashed the South Side Trojans 8 - 1 to finish their season unbeaten and promotion to Division 1 to look forward to the next year. Finals fever continued on Sunday October 23rd, in front of another sell-out crowd at the Elephant when the Warriors beat the Sudan Lions 3 - 2 in the fiercely fought Koho Trophy Final. But the Final that everyone was really waiting for was the Cup Final Replay on November 6th. Incredibly, in front of another full house at the Elephant, the Street Warriors and Street Invaders again drew 3 - 3 at the end of normal time and, amazingly, the score still remained level at the end of extra time. But it was Robert 'Speedy' Williams - now more than fully recovered from his head injury - who scored the clincher and the hat-trick for the Street Warriors. Though the hockey may have been over, the celebrations were certainly not. The LSHA's first and much looked-forward to Presentation Evening of trophies and awards was held on Thursday 10th November at the Lyceum Theatre [now home to Disney's 'Lion King' musical] near Covent Garden. Tickets were just £5 per head and included a full buffet supper - those were the days!! Jeff Thompson, the then World Heavyweight Karate Champion, presented the various trophies and awards and the famous Saxon Sound System provided the dance music. All in all, everybody had fantastic night . At the end, everyone agreed that it was a wonderful way to end the inaugural LSHA hockey season and that it had been a truly successful and memorable year for the sport.
From the earliest days of the sport the national media were taking an active interest.
The first ever newspaper report appeared in The Times of Monday, January 17th 1983 following the success of the first Street Hockey Championship at the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre the previous day. The report consisted of a 7x6" photograph of the victorious Street Warriors with a caption acknowledging their win over the Street Invaders, their south London rivals.
The photograph resulted in many incoming phone calls from around the country from people interested in finding out more about the sport and wanting to take part. One of the calls was from a Mr Derek Cooper of Warrington who explained that he was helping two groups of local lads - Rollinstock and a team called JJB.
This call was really good news because it confirmed that the sport was not just a London phenomenon, as some people thought, but other ad hoc teams existed elsewhere in the country. No one realised it at the time but the Warrington players were good and well trained and within five years one Warrington team would become the best in the country. Another call came from the Sussex Warriors who first started playing in October 1980 in a local Burgess Hill car park.
These two calls lead to other important events being organized. First, on Sunday 28th August 1983, there was a London versus Sussex Challenge Match. This event nearly did not take place because the Sussex teams played with five players a side and used a puck whereas London teams played with a ball and six players. However, in the interests of competition compromises were made and the tournament took place at the Elephant & Castle Recreation Centre and a very nice glossy souvenir programme was printed complete with biographies and photographs of each team.
Sussex was represented by the Burgess Hill Warriors, the Crawley Chiefs, The Snakes, Crawley Gladiators, the Agents from Haywards Heath and the Apaches, also from Burgess Hill.
The London teams, selected from Division 1 and Division 2 of the London League, were: the Street Invaders, from Lewisham; Talacre Titans, from Camden; the Barbarians, from Clapham; the Street Raiders, from Tooting; the Street Warriors, from Lewisham and the East Side Gladiators, from East London and Essex.
The other big tournament that resulted from those early phone calls was an England South versus England North Tournament. This event was the brainchild of Chas Braithwaite the then manager of the south London-based Ashmead Cruisers team and the Team Manager of England South 'A' and 'B'. Derek Cooper, of Warrington, was the manager of England North 'A' and 'B'.
For the record, the England South 'A' team consisted of Goal Minders - D. Miles [Ashmead Cruisers] and A. Cotterell [Street Warriors]; Defenders - L. Bollarinwa [Barbarians] M. Minnott [Ashmead Cruisers], E. Joseph [Talacre Titans]; Left Wing - P. Robinson, Capt [Ashmead Cruisers], A. Antoine [MIGS]; Right Wing - C. Allen [Street Invaders], T. Humphreys [Barbarians]; Centre - J. Cobbins, [Barbarians], H. Diggens [Ashmead Cruisers]. Fred Fowler and Jim Donnerlly were, respectively, Assistant Manager and Trainer for both teams.
The England South 'B' team were Goal Minder - D. Bryant [Barbarians], Defenders - H. Levy, Capt, [East Side Gladiators], K. Williams [Crawley Chiefs], A. Browne [South Side Trojans]; Left Wing - L. Thorlby [North London Renegades], P. Edutie [Street Warriors]; Right Wing - D. Byfield [Ashmead Cruisers], M. Pratt [MIGS]; Centres - K. Green [Ashmead Cruisers], R. Williams [Street Warriors].
The England North 'A' team consisted of Goal Minders - Glen Worrall; Defenders - John Cooper, Sean O'Hara; Left Wing - Paul Gibbson; Right Wing - Dave Brook; Centre - Dean Clarke, Capt; Subs - Jez Wilson, Guy Cell.
The England North 'B' Team were Goal Minder Dave Churm; Defenders - Brian Fogg, Jimmy Nuttall; Left Wing - Ruff Price; Right Wing - Paul Oulton, Capt; Centre - Gary Whitaker; Subs - Paul Pritchard, Mark Lowe, Michael Thornton.
The Times' photo and caption mentioned earlier heralded many other press reports in that first year. A full page feature written by Matthew Engel in the Guardian helped spread the word even more. Other articles followed in the Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, the Independent newspaper and even the then highly influential Face magazine ran an excellent feature in their July issue with photographs of the North London Renegades in action. On July 24th 1983 the Sunday Times colour magazine ran a series of photographs taken by Red Saunders featuring a series of powerful and moody shots of the Street Warriors and pictures of the Street Invaders in action alongside words by Duncan Campbell.
As far as local London newspapers were concerned their sports editors were happy to help but all said it would be impossible to have a reporter attend all the matches every Sunday. This meant that this writer had to watch every match attentively and take notes in order to write up each match in each division and submit the resulting copy to each newspaper by their midday deadline every Monday morning. This was no easy task, but it was one that was achieved without fail throughout 1983 for every Sunday and weekly for the next four years.
Besides the national and local press, television also wanted a slice of the action. Noel Edmunds' Late Late Breakfast Show broadcast on BBC 1 on Saturday 15th October 1983 was probably the first to jump on the bandwagon with a show produced from the Elephant & Castle Sports Centre featuring the North London Renegades and the M. I. G. S. [aka Men in Grey Suits]. ITV's Game For a Laugh, which was filmed at Crystal Palace Sports Centre in south London was another early adopter of the sport. Even BBC2's Newsnight programme got into the act!!
The beginning of the National Championship is another area of great curiosity for everybody and it is interesting to recall which teams and players had the honour of being the first to take part.
The first Nationals took place in 1984 in Liverpool and were organised and
co-ordinated by the London Street Hockey Association since the British Street Hockey Association was still more than a year away from being formed.
The key reason the event was staged in Liverpool was because the LSHA had previously been contacted by Mersey Sport, part of the Merseyside Council for Voluntary Service, because they saw Street Hockey as a way to introduce disengaged young people in the local community to a fast and exciting new sport. Furthermore, the Liverpool Garden Festival was to be staged during the summer of 1984 and it was thought that the Nationals would fit in well with the sports programme that had been organised as part of the Festival.
The benefit for the LSHA was access to two excellent venues, the chance to promote the sport in an area where only one or two embryonic teams existed and, hopefully, win some good PR for the sport locally as well as everywhere the participating teams came from.
The financial obstacle of how the LSHA was going to be able to afford to stage this major national championship was soon solved.
In the earliest days London's teams were dominated by players ethnic minorities and so it was hardly a surprise when David Hughes, the London editor of The Gleaner, Jamaica's biggest selling newspaper, got in touch. He was very interested in the sport and in the sponsorship potential and arranged a meeting with Neil Morris, the brand manager for Red Stripe lager, which took place at the Gleaner's offices on Friday 11th May, 1984.
Shortly afterwards the LSHA was able to announce that the first National Championship would be sponsored by Red Stripe. This was good news indeed and meant that the arrangements for the Championship could proceed at full speed. In fact, Red Stripe were so pleased with the outcome of their first Nationals that they decided to sponsor the next two Championship as well.
That first Red Stripe National Championship took place at Everton Park and Kirby Sports Centres on Saturday and Sunday July 28 and 29th, 1984 with sixteen teams taking part who mostly stayed at Liverpool University for the Friday before and the Saturday night of the event. The teams were drawn into four groups of four and were to play 20 minutes each way.
SUSSEX WARRIORS - formed in 1980 and consisted of M. Holman, G. Harvey, T. Barrett, K. Brown, S Tansley, A. Passington, P. Browners, N. Davis, and captain Nigel Quilley.
STREET RAIDERS - formed in Tooting, south west London, in early 1983 and consisted of Kenny Ferris, David Orlebar, Tony Bailey, Jay Henry, Norval Crawford, Mervyn Webster, Terrence Ferris, David Sobola, Salim Badshah, Trevor Ireland, Jeffry Gayle and Alvin Ferris, Coach.
TALACRE TITANS - formed in 1981, formerly the Warriors, and based in Camden and Kentish Town, north London and consisted of Eddison 'Thunder' Joseph, Deon 'Low Life' Lawrence, Alex 'Lightning' Romeo, Andy 'Stix' Gray, David 'Capricorn' Joseph, Rodney 'The General' Roberts, Rory 'Apollo' Johnston, Peter 'Big Boy' Nestor.
ALL STARS - formed in 1981 at the Honor Oak Youth Club in south London and consisted of Dave 'Cubie' Walwyn, Flyer, Beco, Crossley, Martin, Mark Edwards, Deanver, Cosmo, Dean 'Littleman' Hanfrey and Jason 'Chin' Fitsall.
STREET WARRIORS - formed in 1982 at a technical college in south London and consisted of Alvan Cotterell, Junior Campbell, Jimmy 'JJ' Wilson, Winston Douglas [Capt], Raymond Wilson, Robert Williams, John Chetty, Prosper Edutie, Ian Fagg and Roger Coke.
LIVERPOOL TIGERS - formerly known as the Kirby Tigers and consisted of Pete Bucknall, Stevie John Benton, Terry Moran, Martin 'Yoza' Hughes, Graham Cockroft, Neil Parry, Kevin Watts [Capt], Mark Wilson, Frank Cant and Greg Meredith.
BLISTERS BUFFALOES - formed in Hull, Humberside, in May 1983 and consisted of Andy Lasckey [Capt], David Guest, Mike Woollas, Paul Ellerington, Paul Burgess, Adam Thompson, Raymond Dixon, Mike Waite, Tim Healand, Gareth Billany, Dave Stephens and Rob Payne.
PIRATES - formed in Warrington but the player's names are unknown. Does anybody know ? This team won the Picketts Lock Tournament in 1984.
BRIXTON YO-YO's - formed in the summer of 1982 and based at the Dick Shepherd Youth Centre in Tulse Hill, south London. Another set of nameless players, do you know who they were ?
MEAN MACHINE - formed in 1984 from ex-Rollinstock and JJB team players and consisted of Paul Gibson, Terry Wilcox, Sean O'Hara, Vincent O'Hara, Mike Twiss, Gary Morris, Dace Horton and Glen Worrall.
STEELERS - formed from players in at the birth of Street Hockey in Warrington and consisted of Mike Elwin [Capt], Stephen Bibby, Michael Thornton, David Brookes Robert Twiss and Johnny Capstick.
RAMS - based in Rainhill between Warrington and Liverpool and formed in early 1983 consisted of…. ??? Do you know ?
THE MUSTANGS - formed after one of the Warrington teams put on a demonstration in Maghull, their Liverpool home and consisted of…who knows ?
APACHES - formed in February 1981 and based in Burgess Hill and East Grinstead, Sussex and consisted of Mark Ross, Paul Liddel, Ken Duncan Ross, Jon Smith, Mat, Nick Smith and Sean Scott [Capt].
EAST SIDE GLADIATORS - formed in 1980 out of the Manor Park Rams and Seven Kings Scorpions both from the east side of London and consisted of 'Todd' Barrow, Chris 'Surf' Cookie, Roy 'Cooke', Andy 'Boss' Cotterill, Lloyd 'One Punch' Daay, Donovan 'The Rock' Gordon, 'Papa' Johal, David 'Baron' Lafond and Douglas 'Redd Foxx' Barrow.
SNAKES - from Crawley, Sussex formed out of The Chefs, the first team in the area and consisted of Dave Tindall [Capt], Jeremy Turner, Paul Curtess, Paul Armstrong, Ashley Craven and Phil Coucher.
The first semi-final between the Street Raiders and Street Warriors saw the Raiders' Kenneth Ferris score in the opening minute with a powerful slapshot and it was obvious that it was going to be a very close game indeed. Prosper Edutie for the Warriors equalised and moments later Winston Douglas slapped a pass off Junior Campbell into the net.
With the score 2- 1 to the Warriors the Raiders had to increase their attacks but the Warriors' defence was too effective and opening were few. The Warriors, scenting a place in the Final, mounted a vicious attack that produced another goal from Winston Douglas.
One of the few openings the Raiders found enabled David Orlebar to put away a superb goal in their last major offensive before full time. In the closing moments, Robert Williams gave the Warriors their 4th goal from a devastating backhand shot thus guaranteeing their place in the Final.
In the other semi-final, the East Side Gladiators took on the deceptively young but powerful Mean Machine from Warrington. The opening half was fast and tough and the Gladiators seemed to dominate. Their first goal came when 'Todd' Barrow slapped the ball squarely into the net then the Gladiators Captain, Roy Cooke, took the next two goals with a flourish to great cheers from their massed supporters.
The Mean Machine refused to let the Gladiators overwhelm them. Time and again their attackers thrust forward but they always lacked the finishing touch.
Another Gladiators goal from Any 'Boss' Cotterill gave the team a commanding 4 - 0 lead at half-time; then the team received a shock.
In a tremendous display of stamina and skill two of the Mean Machine's most recent signings put the team firmly back into the match. First, Dave Brookes and then Jez Wilson both scored goals helping Mean Machine recover lost ground the sending the crowd into a frenzy of delight.
A second goal from Dave Brookes brought loud chants of 'Liverpool…. . Liverpool…. . ' from the local support and when he scored his hat-trick, equalizing the score at 4 - 4, the crowd went crazier still. Only minutes before, Mean Machine were on the brink of defeat, now they were within an ace of victory.
During 5 minutes each way extra time both teams missed many chances in their eagerness to score. But eventually a brilliant goal from Andy Cotterill took the Gladiators into the lead again and, in the same period, Chris 'Surf' Cooke clinched the team's place in the final with another shot that the Mean Machine defence were unable to stop.
As Gen Worrall, Mean Machine Captain, said afterwards, 'It was the hardest match we have ever played and the Gladiators are a great team'. Ever gracious in defeat!!
And so the Final came down to two London teams. The East Side Gladiators from East London and the Street Warriors from south London and there was certainly no love lost between the two. And the atmosphere inside Everton Sports Centre was simply electric and both teams were in a fair position to claim the National Championship title first.
The Street Warriors got off to a flying start when Winston Douglas penetrated the Gladiators' defence twice in the opening minutes to take his team defiantly into a 2 - 0 lead. With the crowd pounding the rebound boards and rooting for both teams Prosper Edutie scored an amazing trio of goals one after the other which took the team rocketing ahead to 5 - 0.
The Gladiators, once more feeling the chilling tendrils of defeat, had to work hard to find ways round the strong Warriors defence and then past their near-invincible goalie Alvan Cottrell.
Lloyd 'One Punch' Daay started the Gladiators rescue when he slammed the ball directly into the goal from midfield. Then 'Boss' Cotterill followed with another, and Roy Cooke further helped the recovery by taking the score up o 5 - 3.
By now both teams were feeling the distance; tiredness and the oppressive humidity of the sports centre, were beginning to take their toll yet they still strove to give their 100% in their totally professional approach to the game.
The Warriors felt the pressure intensely and fought hard to plug the gaps that had given the Gladiators their goals. An impressive shot by Winston Douglas restored the Warriors composure and took the score to 6 - 3 then moments later Prosper Edutie found the Gladiators goal virtually undefended and casually flicked the ball into the net.
With the score now 7 - 3, and the Gladiators in the doldrums, Roger Coke, defender, came forward over the centre line t slap the ball deeply into the net seconds before half time.
Revitalised by the break the Gladiators bounced back by taking advantage of the Warriors slack defence. Chris 'Surf' Cooke and then 'Todd' Barrow both scored stunning goals followed by two other unstoppable goals from 'Surf' and 'Boss' that had the Warriors looking very vulnerable with the score gap closing to 8 - 7.
The closing moments of the first National Championship were even more exciting as the Gladiators came very close to equalising. But time was against the Gladiators. Their final bid for victory had come too late and the Warriors were not the spent force they imagined.
Deafening cheers followed the Warriors as they used their last reserves of energy to increase their attacks on the Gladiators. With the thought perhaps of an ice cold Red Stripe in the offing Robert 'Speedy' Williams managed to score a final and decisive goal for the Warriors taking the score to an unusually high 9 - 7.
And so the 1984 National Championship Final was over demonstrating once more the amazing ability of the Battersea-based Street Warriors to achieve their desire to be the best Street Hockey team in London and the country.
Clutching his can of Red Stripe after the match Team Captain Winston Douglas agreed: "It was by far the hardest game the Warriors have ever player". Robert Williams, Warriors attacker, added: "Both teams had their chances, but it was who put them away that counted". Though, in the end, it was fitness and their intense desire to win that stood them the edge for the Championship.
THE BISHA NATIONALS. . .
Firstly I think that we must truly respect the Street Warriors and the Talacre Titans for their consistency in winning the trophy. The Street Warriors having won it 8 times and the Titans 8. It must also be noted that pre 1997 this was the only National Championships of any worth as back then there was not the fragmentation within the sport that now exists. This makes the amount of times that they have both won it even more impressive.
From 1986-1988 the Championships were held at Granby Halls in Leicester. The facility had two rinks and the main one was purpose built with rounded corners. The floor was painted a light blue which gave a Sport Court visual effect, long before sport court was invented and it also helped with the televising of the event. The main rink also had excellent spectator facilities, which created a great atmosphere, an enclosed arena style. Over this period (1986-1989) it was also televised by Channel 4 who ran five ½ hour programs and it was shown at 6 - 6:30pm, Primetime, over five consecutive nights. Their coverage was excellent with the same feel/camera angles as a top NHL game and with a Canadian commentator. The finals were also sponsored by RED STRIPE ‘86/’87 and then TENNENTS SUPER ‘88/’89. It also worth noting at this point that the event was only in it’s 2nd year in 1986 and prior to this , most teams had played/trained outside. The event had a very professional look/feel and a full colour program was produced each year which had photo’s of all the teams competing and a brief history on them. There were goal judges appointed behind each net and everyone from the Technical Director to the Referees were very professionally turned out. Each team had an official representative assigned to them, which took care of all their needs and made sure they were ready in time for all matches. As the organisers for the event were very professional in their approach so the same was asked for by the teams and there were various guidelines that they had to adhere to, such as no holes in stockings etc and the top teams had matching helmets and gloves. The Finals were always very well supported with over 2000 fans travelling from all corners of the U. K to what they saw as the Wimbledon of their sport. One final that always sticks in my mind was the 1988 game between the Talacre Titans and the Warrington Stealers (A classic North vs South rivalry game)The game ended normal time a draw with both teams swapping the lead at various stages. It then went into overtime and again one team took the lead only for the other to peg them back. With the atmosphere at boiling point the game went into sudden death and with seconds remaining on the clock Rodney “The General” Roberts hit a slap shot from just over the half way line which took a deflection off Robert Twiss’s skates and into the net. The game lasted 55 minutes and was a true epic. After the final whistle I felt totalling exhausted and I was only watching. I am sure that this game was the reason that 1000’s of kids went out and picked up a stick. Of course there were other great finals over the years but this game just had everything rivalry, bad ref decisions (which were talked about for years) excellent goals and tense drama. The other thing to note about teams in those days was that players were very territorial/loyal and if you played for a team it was considered that you remained with them for your career. This, as you can imagine created fierce rivalry between certain teams and only benefited the sport as a whole.
The other thing to note was that there was prize money for the winners down to eighth place, the winners received a cheque for £2000 in 1986. Another thing about the actual structure of the tournament was that there were four groups of four with the top two going through to the Quarter final stages and the bottom two went into another tournament called the plate which ran alongside the main event on the Sunday, this gave the lesser teams something to aim for and winning the plate was still a great achievement. With the Final played just before the actual Championship game.
No one can deny the great feeling and sense of achievement when you reach a major final and you have your name read out to the crowd. But imagine having your name read out into a packed purpose built arena with Television cameras on you and the chance to pick up a cheque at the end of it and also having post match interviews with the media. It was during this period that the top teams and players were understandably elevated to superstar status.
In 1989 the event was moved from Granby Halls to London Arena (a 20, 000 seater stadium). A move which would prove costly. The reason for the move was that the logistics and cost of transporting the television company to Leicester was just to much. The arena was transformed for the two day event into the purpose built rink and despite having 3, 000 supporters, it still looked very empty. The cost for two days hire of the arena was also immense at £34k. This was also to be the last year that the event was televised as Channel 4 felt that there wasn’t enough competition and the outcome of the winners was too predictable, either the Titans or the Warriors thus not making good television.
After 1989 the Championships and the sport as whole went into decline with both the sponsor and the television company pulling out. It took another nine years for the sports pinnacle event to get back to anywhere near the past glory days. In 1998 the event was staged at Ponds Forge in Sheffield with a purpose built rink with sport court and a packed crowd. The event was well run and there were some great games, it would have also been great if a television company was present but I suppose I had been spoilt in the early days and in reality this was the best I could expect from a minority sporting event.
The last few years has seen the Nationals being played at Torbay leisure centre but with the fragmentation of the sport it has taken the edge off what was once a great event. This doesn’t mean that the winners should not feel proud of their achievement as they can only beat what is put in front of them. I hope one day the event can get back to the glory days but as said with so many organisations wanting a piece of the pie, it is difficult to see how this can happen.
I have saved my last words for the man who made the event possible in the first place and the reason that so many kids started playing the sport. There were other people involved in putting on the event such as Alan Christie, Tracy and Daphne Kennerson, Clifford Rowland-Jeffers to name but a few but the main person who had the passion, drive and belief to get the sport to a great level in such a short period of time was Mr Alistair Gordon. I know that I will always be grateful to him for providing me and countless others with endless opportunities within the sport and his ability to put on a first class, professional event.