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National League Promotion for CUHC Men’s Blues

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Recently, promotion to the England Hockey National League East Conference was confirmed for the Men’s Blues, as a result of fantastic performance in the 2019/20 season. The team finished 2nd behind league winners West Herts who only failed to win 1 match all season; a loss to the Men’s Blues on the 7th December 2019.    

The 2019/20 season started off as many others had; six weeks of preseason and a tour to Nottingham to play against two high quality university sides – the University of Nottingham 2s and Nottingham Trent 1s. A few key players had moved on but were replaced by a promising new crop. It was hoped that an extensive preseason would have the team prepared for their first league game at home to West Herts, however, this was not the case. The quality of the West Herts team was unknown prior to push-back and the Men’s Blues were blown out of the water in a shock 10-1 loss. This poor result was followed by 1 win in the subsequent 6 matches leaving the team in a surprise relegation scrap. Not the start to the season that was expected of a side with intentions of competing for the league title. 

Training sessions became more focused on key areas for improvement, the poor run of form was put behind them and things started to come together. Long-time coach Charlie Bannister’s patience and huge investment of time and effort for the team began to pay off. It started with a gritty 2-2 battle in the Cambridge derby, the match against our pitch sharing rivals Cambridge City on the 2nd of November. With belief in the process growing, the Blues went on a run of five straight wins to finish 2019, culminating in the aforementioned away win against the eventual league champions. This 4-3 win at West Herts was well deserved and confirmation that the team was beginning to gel; giving them the confidence to go into the second half of the season with their heads held high.

8 wins out of 9 including an 8-1 thrashing of Ipswich East Suffolk the day before a 5-0 victory over the Dark Blues meant the Men’s Blues climbed the table with ease. Due to the curtailment of the league caused by the pandemic, the final game of the season was cancelled, but the team had secured 2nd place long before then. Despite this, there was a sense of disappointment and regret about the lacklustre performances at the beginning of the season meaning a shot at the title and confirmed promotion was out of reach. The prolonged disruption of the pandemic has continued into the 2020/21 season, with too few games played to accurately determine final league standings. The decision was made by the Mr Cricket Hockey East Leagues committee to accept the 2019/20 season standings and give promotion to the two best placed teams from that season into the newly restructured national league set up. While usually the league winners are the solely promoted team, 2 additional teams are also needed for the coming season to populate the newly added National Conference League – the 3 leagues at this level from last season will be increased to 4 – which lies at the third tier of mens hockey in the country. Cambridge University Men’s 1s were chosen as this second team.

All of this means that at the start of the 2021/22, National League hockey will be played by the light blues at Wilberforce Road for the first time in 13 years; an immense achievement and one that is fully deserved.