Wembley history for Grinstead glory boys

East Grinstead celebrate at Wembley on Sunday. Picture by Ady Kerry

East Grinstead celebrate at Wembley on Sunday. Picture by Ady Kerry

First published in Sport
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Matt Jones admitted it was a humbling experience to be part of history being written.

East Grinstead established themselves as the greatest team in the history of English indoor hockey when they retained the Maxi5s finals crown at a packed Wembley.

This was a record sixth title in a row and a new landmark of nine in total for the Sussex side.

And it was achieved without some top name players including Ashley Jackson, Iain Lewers and Mark Gleghorne who are currently playing in the Hockey India League.

East Grinstead have been the golden boys of English hockey for a few years now, with a string of successes both outdoor and indoor, but this achievement was a new pinnacle for the club.

If going through the domestic league campaign with a perfect eight wins out of eight was not enough, they proved unstoppable at Wembley when double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes was among an admiring crowd.

This really was a team effort but captain Glenn Kirkham and Mark Pearn – long-serving stalwarts of this golden period – were particularly impressive while Czech Republic international Filip Neusser, regarded by some as the best indoor goalkeeper in the world, showed he is worthy of that title with a man-of-the-match display in the final.

And let us not forget another of their seasoned international brigade – Scotland and Great Britain star Niall Stott – who was top scorer in the league campaign before following that up with a hat-trick in a 9-3 semi-final win over Holcombe to kick-off the Wembley action. He scored another goal in the final as Canterbury were dispatched 8-4.

Jones, whose permanent arrival at the club in 2005 helped spark the revival, has managed the indoor side since 1998 and admitted Sunday’s achievement was something special.

He said: “It is hard to put into words how immensely proud I am of the team and management.

“I feel very lucky to be a part of history being made and rewritten every year. It is a hugely rewarding and humbling experience and we want to continue succeeding and rewriting the history books.

“When we won the first title there was a different focus for us, we had a lot of stars in the side and we weren’t thinking about records.

“It got to the fourth and we just scraped through. Then the record books started getting put in front of us. It gave us new, clear focus which we needed and achieving five in a row and eight in total was record levelling in a new era.

“Having achieved that was great but we had more pressure on us this time knowing we were standing on the cusp of something potentially truly great. To have now achieved it with a relatively new-look squad, with some less experienced individuals, with Richard Smith and Adam Harper not involved this year and Ashley Jackson, Iain Lewers, Mark Gleghorne and Andy Bull all unavailable, it is truly something special.

“Certainly there were some standout performances from Kirkham, Pearn and Neusser was stunning between the posts, particularly in the final. But from top to bottom, the players and the management team, gave absolutely everything to deliver a truly professional performance throughout the whole domestic league campaign.”

Stott (three), Adam Jordan (two), David Condon (two), Joe Naughalty and Ross Stott got the goals against Holcombe in the semi-final.

Then Pearn (two), Ross Stott (two), Condon, Simon Faulkner, Naughalty and Niall Stott netted in the final against Canterbury, for whom former Grinstead player-coach Kwan Browne scored a hat-trick.

As if Wembley was not enough, Grinstead have a big fortnight ahead of them. They return to outdoor action with a top versus second clash away to leaders Beeston on Saturday before hosting the EuroHockey Indoor Champions Cup at the K2 in Crawley the following weekend.

Now go to the www.theargus.co.uk/offers/competitions for a chance to win tickets to see East Grinstead in action at the K2 in Crawley.


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