Sport

Chobham Prepared For Arch Rivals

Coach Gregory says his players are not taking their opponents lightly in Surrey Trophy semi-final

CHOBHAM RFC will be hoping to emulate their last success in the Incentive FM Surrey Trophy to progress through to the final of this year’s competition, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Chobham RFC coach: Ryan Gregory.
Picture courtesy of Chobham RFC

With the Chob lying in mid-table obscurity in the London 1 South, player-coach Ryan Gregory believes there’s no better time than the present to win some silverware to truly celebrate the club’s 50th year anniversary.

The last time Chobham played in the Trophy was several years ago when they beat Sutton & Epsom 26-20 in final. Now the club wants to take a trip back down memory lane when they entertain arch-rivals Camberley in the semi-final on Saturday (18 March ’17).

Despite having home advantage, Gregory and his players are under no illusion of the task ahead and the threat that Camberley pose.

While neither side have played each other in a competitive league game for a number of years, the rivallary is still prevalent; irrespective of whether Camberley play in a lower status London 2 South West division.

He said: “We haven’t played Camberley in a competitive fixture for a good few years now, but they’re flying in their league and are pushing for promotion back to the London 1 South.

“They’re a very young side, and play an exciting attacking brand of rugby. They play with a lot of confidence and have scored a lot of points this season, which why there are where they are.

“If to add into the mix that it’s a local derby too, you can see there’s plenty at stake,” he added.

With the potential of an upset on the cards, Gregory is rightfully not prepared to get into any pre-match mind games and predictions, and remains focused on the job in hand.

“It was important for us to get a win against Maidstone last Saturday (11 March ’17), especially after our second half performance against Tunbridge Wells the previous week,” explained Gregory.

“We know that Camberley will be well drilled and will look to come at us. Therefore, I am treating this Saturday’s Trophy match in much the same way as I would condition the players for any other London 1 South league game.

“Everyone is aware of what happened when we played Camberley in a pre-season friendly back in August, so neither I or any of the players will be complacent; quite the contrary.

“I believe that if we are able to keep the ball for long periods of time, which I know we can, we will win, but it certainly wont be easy,” added Gregory.

The winner of Saturday’s semi-final will play one of Battersea Ironsides or Old Reigatian in the final, which is due to take place on 1 May 2017 at Esher Rugby Club.

IT’S A FINE line between winning and losing, but for Woking Hockey Club ladies coach Mark Robinson, he believes he has the answer, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

With Woking Ladies 1s needing at least one draw from their remaining two division one fixtures against Reading 1A and Wimbledon 1A to potentially avoid relegation, Robinson is calling on some big hitters in the world of sport for a bit of assistance.

Woking HC ladies 1s coach: Mark Robinson

The experienced Woking and England Development Coach is all too aware that psychology and mental

conditioning play a critical role in changing or defining the outcome, so who better to call upon than the likes of a few cult heroes.

In a bid to combat any last minute nerves, Robinson is now leaning on some proven neuro-linguistic tactics to prepare his players.

He has pulled together a three-minute motivational video, which will be screened to his players in the dedicated player room prior to them taking to the pitch against Reading on Saturday (18 March ’17).

He said: “The Reading fixture is a must-win game, plus it’s our last home game of the season.

“I have used motivational tactics before when I was at Havant Hockey Club, so I feel it will appeal to the players and, most importantly, get them in the right frame of mind.

“The quotes used within the videography have been taken from several American sportsmen and women who were all winners on the court and key leaders off it.

“I have been lucky enough to work with and learn from some exceptional mentors myself, with Sue Perry at Sussex Hockey Club possibly being my first mentor and from whom I learnt so much.

“Outside of the game, I have always been inspired by the words and wisdom of big personalities, such as Michael Jordan and Winston Churchill – to name just a few – through their respective leadership and motivational skills.

“It’s all about finding out what makes people tick to help bring the best out of them,” he added.

While Woking’s current league position belies their work-ethic on and off the pitch, Robinson believes that one final push will help his players over the line and preserve their division one status for next season.

And with rivals Staines only one point ahead of Woking in the table – but with a far inferior goal difference – Robinson’s players are well placed to take advantage of the situation if they can prepare themselves effectively.

NEARLY 5,000 runners of all ages took part in the Mercer Surrey Half Marathon and two shorter races last Sunday around Woking.

Thousands more spectators filled Woking Park for the event that started and finished at the Leisure Centre. More than 3,600 runners braved the rain to compete in the main event, which had been named as“The UK’s Best Road Run Race” by independent race review website Racecheck.

For those not quite up to the 13.1 miles (21km), there was the inaugural 5k event that attracted just short of 500 entrants. The same number also took part in the 2k Kids’ Race.

Andrius Jaksevicius, running for Belgrave Harriers, came first in the Half Marathon, finishing in 1hr 9min, 49sec. Just under a minute later, Stephen Blake from Woking Athletics Club crossed the finish line to claim second place. Stephen said: “It’s a brilliant event, I’ve done it the last three years now and it’s getting bigger and better every year.”

Helena Eastham, the first woman across the line in 1h 22min 26sec, said “I’m very happy with my time … This is the best half marathon I’ve done, it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Surrey Half Marathon 2017

Among those taking part was Tony “The Fridge” Morrison, who completed the race while carrying a 42kg (93lb) fridge on his back. Like many of the year’s runners, Tony was raising money for charity and dedicated his achievement to a close family member who has been diagnosed with cancer.

The 5k race was won by Ben Bishop of Woking AC in 16min 59sec, with Mark Rowland of Waverley Harriers third and James Spencer of Woking AC third. Katie Hopkins was the first  girl home and finished 7th overall.

Woking children performed well in the kids’ race with Nathan Holmes, George Christmas and Sava Vujnovic finishing second, third and fourth. Top honours went to Harry Hyde of Farnham. Out on the run course there were five water stations manned by a small army of volunteers and local cadets.Hundreds of local residents took to the streets at various “Cheer Stations” to applaud runners and provide high fives and jelly babies!

A particular thanks is extended to two of the live bands who performed on the route every year – the Surrey Youth Brass Ensemble and Ukejam.

Race Director Toby Jenkins and his team of organisers – Rory, Becky and Hollie – extend their thanks to these businesses for supporting the event, and also to all the runners, volunteers, marshals, spectators, bands and staff “whose spirits were not dampened by the weather”

JUDY Murray visited the David Lloyd club in Woking to give a tennis training workshop to local children on the first stop in a six-day tour of the country.

The mother of world No1 singles player Sir Andy and former world No1 doubles players Jamie, gave a one-hour masterclass for the health and fitness clubs’ junior members.

The sessions are aimed at increasing participation in tennis and sport in general and encourage youngsters to get more active.

Judy said: “The same motor skills underpin every sport and these can be developed in a fun and natural way through family play.

“A child’s first port of call when they want to try any activity is the parent so the more we can engage the whole family, the better.”

Dave Clarke, Head of Junior Tennis at David Lloyd, said: “It was terrific having Judy down here today.

“It is great to see how Judy simplifies coaching for all levels, while managing to keep the sessions fun and engaging.”

David Bulgin, David Lloyd Clubs Group Racquets Manager, said: “We are very excited to be working with Judy Murray in her new role as coach consultant.”

SINCE his appointment as Woking Academy Manager in June 2015, Scott Harrison has overseen plenty of progression within the youth ranks of the junior Cards, writes Lewis Winter.

Last summer he made the bold decision of forming an under-23 side – or ‘Woking Reserves’ – and placed them in the Suburban Premier League to give players as young as 16 their first taste of men’s football.

The young Cards, who have often been joined by members of Garry Hill’s first-team such as Chike Kandi and Frazer Shaw, have not disgraced themselves and are mid-table with eight games remaining.

Success story: Charlie Carter (picture by: David Holmes)

The under-18s and under-19s have had enjoyed more success, with both competing for their respective league titles. The under-18s have also reached two semi-finals; the first of which will be against Chessington & Hook United or Westfield in the Surrey Youth Midweek Floodlit Cup.

And Harrison couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone in his second campaign in charge.

He told the News & Mail: “It is exciting. It’s been a better season than probably we were expecting.

“We knew we recruited better, we lost some good players at the start of the season; some of those were educational reasons, while others were not prepared to fight it out.

“To be fair the boys who have come in, were lads that we didn’t really look at first of all because we went and found other players, but to their credit they’ve stepped up to the mark.

“It’s now about how far they want to take it. Reaching two semi-finals this season and also fighting on two league fronts too, I don’t think I could ask for more. Hopefully we can finish the season by winning something,” he added.

Harrison admits lifting a trophy would be the icing on the cake for him, his staff and his playing squad, but he knows his ultimate aim is to nurture players for the first-team.

Charlie Carter is the most recent example of the academy’s success, being a regular under Hill this season.

The Surrey Senior Cup has given several more of Harrison’s squad a chance, with centre-back George Brown, midfielder Declan Appau and the exciting and versatile Charlie Hester-Cook all having appeared for the first-team.

“We have to think what the reason is and what we are doing it for,” said Harrison.

“We want to get players into the first-team; we want to support Garry Hill and Steve Thompson with players. They have been brilliant in bringing players through and trusting our judgement.

“I think Charlie, George and Declan are good enough to make it – as long as they stay grounded, do the simple things and listen to experienced players around.”

Thompson showcased his support by watching the under-23s defeat Uxbridge 2-0 last Thursday, casting his eye over the future of Woking FC.

Harrison is hoping all his players have what it takes to make it in the game, but knows it’s a tough task for anyone aiming to be the next Charlie Carter.

“I hope they all are the next Charlie Carter,” commented the Academy boss.

“But they have to understand it is a hard level to play at. Charlie went away, worked on himself physically and made himself bigger.

“He seems to have learnt the game and he’s listened and worked hard.

“My players need to do the right things and take their opportunities like Charlie has.

“There’s a pathway in [to the first first-team], but they have to keep believing that we are doing the right things,” he added.

EXPERIENCED Woking FC Assistant Manager Steve Thompson knows only too well that individual mistakes are proving very costly this season, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Thompson, who has had a long association with Woking; both as a player and being part of Garry Hill’s management team since 2011, acknowledges that The Cards are simply leaking too many goals from individual errors.

Woking Assistant Manager: Steve Thompson

Speaking with the News and Mail last Sunday, Thompson eloquently said that there’s only so much you can teach the players. The rest is down to them.

He said: “Since January – and the Boxing Day defeat against Aldershot Town – Garry and I have been happy with the players’ performance and how they’ve played as a team.

“We have no qualms about their level of effort, but the quality does need to improve; we are simply making too many mistakes, which reflects where we are in the table.

“We didn’t play badly against North Ferriby last Saturday; neither team really dominated, but we didn’t make the most of our chances.

“I didn’t feel that we were in any danger, and then the ball is in the back of our net from a throw-in, which is not something you spend your time coaching the players at training. You expect them to deal with things like that.

“We have a strategy on who plays and how we set up, but you can’t tell a player to jump to head a ball; he either does or he doesn’t. If the result of him not jumping means you concede a goal, there’s not much that you can do about it from the sidelines. It’s down to their decision-making on the pitch,” explained Thompson.

This Saturday, The Cards travel to mid-table Boreham Wood, who have the fourth best defensive record in the Vanarama National League, but the second worst goal-scoring ratio. Only North Ferriby United have scored fewer goals.

And with Woking having scored in all but four of their 36 league games to date, but also conceded the most number of goals in the league, it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top.

“Boreham Wood are a difficult side to play against as they play counter-attacking football,” said Thompson. “They always have plenty of men behind the ball, which is why only Lincoln City, Tranmere Rovers and Aldershot Town have conceded fewer goals.

“If you look back over the last few seasons, we’ve always scored plenty of goals, but we’ve always conceded plenty of goals too. That was never really an issue, though, prior to this season.

“If we can avoid making too many individual errors in our remaining games, I think we’ll be ok,” he added.

British Paralympic Champion Hannah Russell MBE is encouraging people in her local town to sign up to take part in the 30th anniversary charity Swimathon on 7-9 April at Woking Swimming Pool.

Swimmers can challenge themselves to the 5k, 2.5k or 1.5k Individual or Team 5k or 1.5k distances and raise funds for Marie Curie (formerly Marie Curie Cancer Care) – the official partner of the Swimathon.

Russell, 20, who won two gold medals at the Rio Olympics thanks to success in the S12 50m freestyle and S12 100m Backstroke, said: “Swimming has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. However, the Swimathon is particularly poignant. Not only is it a brilliant way to improve your fitness levels, I have also had family members and friends experience breast cancer, so raising money for Marie Curie helps everyone’s health.”

For the former Woking Swimming Club member, swimming has enabled her to follow a sporting pathway like no other – from the people she’s met to the challenges she thought she’d never conquer.  She said: “Sport teaches you to set targets and to have the right attitude and commitment to reach those targets.  The Swimathon is no different, so I would encourage people to sign up, set themselves a target and go for it. It’s all in aid of a really good cause too,” added Russell.

Emily Akeroyd, Marie Curie Community Fundraiser, said: “We’re so grateful for Hannah’s support for this year’s Swimathon. She is a tremendous athlete and we hope having her support will inspires others in the area to sign up. The money raised from this year’s event will help Marie Curie to provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness and their families.”

Last year, the charity cared for and supported more than 50,000 people affected by terminal illness across the UK.  It employs more than 2,700 nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals – providing expert hands-on care, emotional support, research and guidance for those with a terminal condition.

Russell will be at Woking Swimming Pool from 9am on 7 April to meet participants and enable them to see her Paralympic medals and MBE honour up close.

For more details about Swimathon, including how to sign up visit: www.swimathon.org  or call Woking Swimming Pool on 01483 771122

WOKING’S golden swimmer Hannah Russell has been presented with her MBE insignia by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

The five-times Paralympic medalist from the Woking Swimming Club was given the award in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in January.

Hannah, 20, who lives in Ottershaw and attends the University of Salford, won two gold medals and a bronze at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Brazil, and also claimed a new world record.

At just 16 Hannah won silver and bronze medals at the 2012 London Paralympics.

Hannah recently told the News & Mail, “Since returning from Rio in September, the past few months have been unbelievable.  It’s such an honour to be recognised by your country for your efforts and successes but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, coaches and friends.”

Run For The Hills!

Minnows Knaphill seek ace card in real David and Goliath battle at Kingfield

KNAPHILL FC are preparing for their biggest fixture in their history when they take on non-league giants Woking in the quarter-final of the Surrey Senior Cup next Tuesday, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

As the crow flies, only 2.7 miles separate Woking and Knaphill, but the footballing gulf is considerable.

With 83 league places separating the two sides, The Cards’ faithful could well assume that their side has already won the match before they kick a ball on Tuesday night (21 February). However, such complacency has never won football matches.

Woking FC boss – Garry Hill was unavailable for comment

For Woking, who have reached the final of the County Cup on no less than 28

Knaphill FC boss – Keith Hills

occasions; winning the competition 12 times – most recently in 2014, the next result will largely be borne out from a battle of wills.

Knappers’ boss Keith Hills knows that his players are not just out to make up the numbers; they have a point to prove.

While the Combined Counties League is a far cry from the dizzy heights of the National League, several of Hills’ first team squad have come through the ranks of the Woking academy.

Timmy Taylor, Connor Close, Josh Watkins and George Frith (injured) are all players that began their football at the Kingfield Stadium before joining the Knaphill revolution. It’s something that Hills believes could be the ace card up his sleeve.

Incentive

He said: “If there was ever an incentive for my players to show what they’re about, it’s next Tuesday. It doesn’t get much bigger than that for a club like Knaphill.

“For some of the players, it may be the first and only chance they’ll have to play in a quarter final of a cup competition and against a big-name club like Woking. It’s about seizing the moment and not letting the opportunity get the better of you.

“Undoubtedly, some players are going to be disappointed on the night, but that’s football. I can only field 11 players, and I have to pick the team on merit.”

Hills is likely to go with the same team that beat Tooting & Mitcham 1-0 in the previous round of the competition; one that was resolute in defence and potent on the counter-attack.

And if goalkeeper Richard Shelley can produce a similar match-winning performance like he did against The Terrors a fortnight ago, Woking are likely to have their work cut out.

“It was very hard to go to play a team like Tooting, who are top of the Ryman League South, and second-guess whether they were going to field a number of under-21 players or not,” explained Hills.

“It just so happened that their under-21s played the night before we were due to play, so we knew that they would field a strong first team squad, which we were prepared for.

“The lads played out of their skins against Tooting; I couldn’t fault any one of them. Tooting are a very good footballing side; they played triangles around us for the first 20 minutes and made it very difficult for us.

Equation

In the end, though, it came down to a simple equation: we took our chance and they missed theirs, which is why we won the match.

“We know that we’re the underdogs against Woking, so it’s important that my players remain focused, but enjoy the occasion. We’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose, which is a good position to be in,” added Hills.

With Woking languishing just above the drop-zone in the National League, Cards’ boss Garry Hill may well decide to rest on his laurels for once and opt for a mix of experience and youth to help preserve Woking’s league status over winning any silverware this season.

It could mean, therefore, that all three of Woking’s on-loan players; namely: Chris Arthur (Crawley Town), Connor Hall (Sheffield United) and Macauley Bonne (Colchester United), will feature against Knaphill.

Speaking candidly about the cup fixture, David Freeman, Chairman and former manager of Knaphill, knows just

He said: “Next Tuesday is our cup final, there’s no two ways about it.

Reality Check: Knaphill FC chairman – David Freeman

“It signifies where we are now as a football club and just how far we’ve come in a relatively short space of time.

“We’re not expected to beat Woking; we know that, but we’re going to go to Woking next week and represent the club as professionally as possible, both on and off the pitch,” he added.

In stark contrast to Knaphill, Freeman recognises that Woking have got bigger fish to fry – so to speak – given where they are in the league and the resources available to both football clubs.

In 2001, Knaphill were plying their trade in the Surrey Intermediate League at a time when Woking had reportedly paid Crystal Palace £60,000 for striker Chris Sharpling. And four years before that, The Cards sold defender Steve Foster to Bristol Rovers for £150,000.

Ascendency

Yet despite their humble beginnings and lower league status, The Knappers remain in a position of ascendency and a shinning example for other football clubs to follow in when it comes to togetherness and attention to detail.

“We’re here where we are today because of the unity we have in the club and the bond the players have with each other,” explained Freeman.

“Over the past two to three years, there’s been a real sense of togetherness at Knaphill Football Club. And while it would be unnatural if people always saw eye to eye all of the time, football should harness a sense of belonging, which is why I genuinely believe that we are stronger together. It’s not about one individual.

“The committee and I set out to run this football club as professionally as we can. People will always look at what you’re doing and judge you on that, so I want to set the bar high.

“I know that we have inadvertently inspired other clubs to replicate what we do, but that is something to be proud of. It’s about continuing to do the right thing and let everything else take its course,” he added.

Woking FC commercial manager – Geoff Chapple
(Picture by David Holmes)

Former Woking manager, now commercial director, Geoff Chapple, says Woking will take the cup fixture against Knaphill seriously. He admits, however, that current boss Garry Hill will consider the club’s National League programme and is likely to avoid picking players that might be nearing suspension.

All of Woking’s loan players have been given permission to play in the County Cup by their parent English Football League clubs.

While Knaphill continues to set its sights on gaining promotion to the Ryman Football League within the next two years, the Woking fixture will always herald a significant milestone from where the club were, to where they are now.

For some, it’s the shape of things to come; and who knows, if they continue the way they are, Knaphill could even be playing Woking in a league match before the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup.

 

*Pictures by Andy Fitzsimons (unless stated otherwise)

THE GRASS isn’t always greener the other side, which Woking RFC coach Pete D’Cruz can testify first hand, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

A gardener by trade, D’Cruz believes that having the right grass roots and player retention have been the driving force in his side’s quest for promotion.

Woking, who currently reside fourth in the Surrey 4 league table; only four points behind second placed Horley, are now in the ascendancy.

On Point: Woking RFC coach Pete D’Cruz. Picture: Geoff Banks

Following impressive back-to-back wins against Haslemere and Raynes Park this year, D’Cruz’s side has amassed 112 points in their last two games, with only six points in reply.

Having narrowly missed out on promotion to the Surrey 3 last season, the Woking coach is confident his side can go one better this season.

He said: After finishing third last year, we knew that we could push again for promotion again this season. That was always a goal of mine, which is shared by the whole team.

“Unfortunately, very early on this season we lost several first team players through injury, which didn’t help; especially in the run up to Christmas where we lost our way a little.

“Continuity was always going to be key, and we haven’t really had that this season. However, I am encouraged by our last few results and the return of a few players from injury. It makes all the difference, as the last few results have shown.

D’Cruz has been particularly impressed with Justin Dougherty, who has seamlessly moved from being a number 10 to a scrum half.

“Justin is a very talented player,” said D’Cruz. “He has the natural attributes to play anywhere he wants to and has done very well at scrum half.

“It’s also great to welcome back Callum Wogan, who has made a big difference to the side at fly-half.

“The league is very strong this year; probably the strongest it’s ever been, so we need our best players on the field,” he added.

D’Cruz believes the key to success is two-fold, which is borne out of giving the players more responsibility to help develop their patterns of play on match days, as well keeping the fulcrum of the squad.

Although the Woking boss believes that none of this would be possible without the WAGs – to coin an infamous term – who remain the unsung heroes behind the scenes.

“It’s all to easy to overlook the support that the Woking players regularly receive from their wives and girlfriends to enable them to train twice a week and play on Saturdays,” explained D’Cruz.

“We may still be an amateur club, but we try and instil an array of professionalism throughout, which requires a commitment from the players. Therefore, without the support from the players’ partners – who may be at home looking after their young children – none of this would be possible. For this, I remain eternally grateful to them.”

When asked about where the club sees itself in five years’ time, D’Cruz commented: “Woking is an ambitious club, which is underpinned by a proactive committee who want the club to gain promotion and even develop a third team.

“This is testament to not just the first team squad, but the second team too who are also vying for promotion from the Surrey Combination 2 South West division.

“Players that join the Woking tend to stay put for some time. I believe this says a lot about our ethos and quality of rugby, but also the social side of things too,” he added.

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