50 years since that elusive first victory
By Phil Bailey.
The 9th August 1970 was a truly momentous day in the history of Welsh hockey.
For 72 years Wales’ men had waited for their first victory against England and, only four months previously, England had again beaten the Welsh by two goals to nil at Eastbourne.
As Wales lined up at Colston’s School, Bristol, most pundits expected England to win once again. This was Wales’ sixty second game against England, and the sixty second attempt to beat them.
The teams had met for the first time in 1899, when England won by seven goals to nil at Kersal Cricket Club, Broughton, Manchester and later that year England again won 3-0 at Newport. Whilst Wales has drawn 2-2 with the English at Penarth on 3rd March 1933 and 0-0 at Shotton in 1988, that elusive victory could still not be found.
It was the 9th August 1970 and, despite the history, Wales started much the brighter and took the initiative when centre forward Marsh, of Redditch Hockey Club, broke through the English defence in the opening minute following a poor back pass but he could not convert the chance.
This should have been a warning for the England defence yet in the third minute Marsh once again threatened. Despite being heavily obstructed by three defenders, Marsh shook these off and sped through to score for Wales.
On this occasion the England coach had decided to play an experimental 1-3-4-2 formation, but this did not stop Welsh pressure and chances in the first half. Angear of Blackheath continued to be dangerous and to expose a lack of depth and cover in the defence.
England also had their chances in match through Oliver, Crowe and French but resolute Welsh defence and poor finishing kept England at bay.
The Welsh left-wing Foulkes and SH Cook of the Royal Marines combined resulting in a shot flashing across the goal which PJ Svehlik of Beckenham HC did well to clear.
Wales led by one goal to nil at half-time but on resumption, England mounted pressure on the Welsh goal.
Savage was reported to have kept the Welsh goal with ‘admirable nerve and judgement’. Reports indicate that Wales fought and scrapped throughout the second half, constantly putting pressure on the England players and not letting them settle and play with any rhythm.
When England substituted JC French for CJ Whalley of Hightown this was the first time a substitute had been used by England in an international.
David Prosser, the Welsh Captain led by example and saved a shot from a penalty corner on the line to preserve Wales’ slender lead. England started to dominate midfield but Welsh grit, determination and solid defence kept them out.
The goal by Marsh in the opening minutes was the decisive play of the game and The Times reported that his goal was ‘enough to open every champagne cork in Wales’.
RL Holland in The Telegraph reported that Wales won because ‘they were quicker into their stride and always dictated the pace’.
The Welsh coach, Roger Self, an icon of Wales and GB hockey deserves great credit with the players for Wales’ stunning victory.
In recent conversation, David Prosser remembers the immediate after match celebrations, giving Graham Dadds, the Chair of Selectors for Wales, a huge embrace as tears rolled down the captain’s and his players faces.
Austin Savage, the Wales’ goalkeeper, remembers at first the authorities wouldn’t recognise the match and result as a genuine international due to the English substitution. After many protestations the powers-that-be changed their minds, and the result stood!
Wales really had ended their ’72 Year Famine’.
50 years after the event Brian Griffiths remembers there were good tussles between the Welsh centre forward Peter Marsh and PJT Svehlik, his clubmate at Beckenham HC, whom he also had also faced in the Varsity Match at Lord’s in 1969. Griffiths also remembers that ‘Marshy’ scored the goal after beating Svehlik ‘all ends up’ and then he then became his brother-in- law!!
Thank you to former Welsh captain, David Prosser, Austin Savage and Brian Griffiths for their contributions to this piece.
A Savage (Oxton)
DJ Prosser [Capt] (Old Kingstonians)
TR Hill (Cambridge Uni)
SP Lunn (Hampstead)
GL Benson (Harborne)
BG Griffiths (Beckenham)
SH Cook (Royal Marines)
GT Poole (Winnington Park)
P Marsh (Redditch)
C Angear (Blackheath)
CE Foulkes (Cambridge Uni)
RN Flood (Old Silhillians)
PJ Svehlik (Beckenham)
K Sinclair (Tulse Hill)
AH Ekins [Capt] (Southgate)
SH Ahmad (RAF)
R Saldhana (Durham University)
RM Oliver (Hounslow)
MJ Crowe (Colchester)
MW Corby (Hounslow)
JC French (Tulse Hill)
CJ Langhorne (Hounslow)
CJ Whalley (Hightown)