Scottish Thistles in World Cup Tournament Trophy 8-15 September 2006 Leverkusen

A bunch of ten Scottish Thistles went to Leverkusen in Germany to see some of the Men's Hockey World Cup but particularly to participate in an over-60's veterans tournament running from 8th to 15th September. We also went to support our Scotland team-mates competing in the veterans World Cup competition for National teams. Both veterans' competitiions involved 2 leagues of 4 teams playing each other with subsequent cross-over matches to determine places 1 to 8.

Scottish Thistles were joined by 3 Dutch ones to make up our numbers to 32 to form a scratch team with two extras for substituting. Neither circumstances nor time allowed any practice or training together to help us be prepared for our first game against a side from Alliance H.C. This Club comprises players of several nations who perhaps do not have enough compatriots to make up a national side or who simply prefer to play with friends from other countries. In any event they looked like they meant business having got together a week with several matches & practices under their belts. While not decrying this approach we are glad to report that it proved unsuccessful as Thistles ran out winners by the only goal of the match. Our next game was against Australia "Overlanders" and a 0 - 0 draw slightly favoured our opponents and gave us everything to go for against the Auld Enemy in our final group match. Thistles played very well but never looked like scoring & lost 3 - 0. However Thistles had done enough to be a clear second in the group. We next played another Australian team - the "Downunders" - the winners of their group - but lost 1 - 0 in a game we were never out of. Finally we were pitched against the host nation, Germany, for the Bronze medal & had a choice of relying on our superb defence to give us a chance at a penalty shoot out or go for a win in normal time. We decided on the latter but the final score of 3 - 0 in Germany's favour showed that, with hindsight, we should have tried the former!

So Thistles ended up 4th out of 8 teams, just out of the medals, but beating teams from Holland, England, Australia & mixed Nations. However most if not all of these other teams had pools of 18 players of which 16 could be and were used in any one game. In addition these players were selected from players aged over 60 numbered in hundreds in the larger countries' cases! Substitutions were very welcome in temperatures reaching the 30's but this was largely denied to a Scottish Thistles pool of only 12 who had never played or even trained together before our first game. Not only that but we did not have a single out and out forward in the squad and this severely limited our scoring potential. Nevertheless Thistles players to a man played their hearts out showing that typical Scottish "Bonny Fechter" attitude in the face of these superior numbers and temperatures!!

To say Thistles' performance in these circumstances was miraculous is an understatement. but we tried not to get too "miraculous" away from the hockey pitch where an excellent social time was had by both players and the wives who accompanied them. It was an outstanidng experience to enjoy such a sporting festival atmosphere with competitive play on the field and very friendly conviviality between everybody off it. All we have to do now is come up with a decent National Anthem for Scotland. The Flower of Scotland played at one quarter pace just does not do!!

Scottish Thistles everybody in Scottish Hockey should be proud of are:-

Scottish Thistles squad Leverkusen 2006

Ron Fraser, David Cassell, Ernie di Rollo, David Margerison, Douglas Caren, Sandy Weir, Dave McIntosh, Jim White, Doug Morrice, Alan Strachan, Joop Ris, Martin Vellinga, Theo Schults.

Scottish Thistles 2006 Leverkusen

The team was superbly managed by Chris Smith whose wife Michelle, a physiotherapist, made sure our old muscles and ligaments were properly prepared for the day's hockey action.

Scottish Thistles practising surrender in Germany under Oberleutnant Chris Smith

report by Sandy Weir