In this second part of ‘View From The Crowd’ I’m chatting to SRF (Streatham RedHawks Fan) who has been a loud, proud Streatham supporter for a long time, catching the hockey bug ten years ago when offered tickets to see a Streatham game and then becoming, like so many of us, well and truly captivated.
In reflecting over the past ten years there have been many memorable moments but the most outstanding and enjoyable time SRF can remember was the year Streatham beat Slough in the struggle to avoid relegation. One of the most noteworthy things for SRF was the support from fans, which was unwavering. The Streatham v Slough game was particularly exciting to watch – exactly how it should be.
When I asked what the outstanding memory was from last season for Streatham I was expecting an exceptional goal or a surprising, hard-fought victory but instead felt moved as SRF described the disappointment of seeing Will Sanderson (Streatham’s long serving netminder and fan favourite) being left on the bench week after week, being refused ice time and then finally leaving the club. Seeing a talented goalkeeper sidelined certainly seemed to have a detrimental effect on some fans and even some teammates, which unfortunately made it memorable for all the wrong reasons. It is perhaps a reminder to us all that not every stand-out or memorable moment from a fan perspective is positive and that not everyone will see things from the viewpoint of the coach.
As we all know, the league set up for 2017/18 has put the cat amongst the pigeons and SRF feels that the new league is a challenge too far for the long standing NIHLS clubs and commented that what was a previously successful and competitive league has been destroyed as teams that had worked so hard to remain within it have been forced to leave due to financial reasons.
SRF agrees with those who have commented elsewhere in various blogs and on social media that the league will now be very much split with the ex EPL teams dominating and was surprised that league management did not implement financial controls so the EPL league could run for one season with seven teams. The future of the NIHL in the north and south could then have been debated more thoroughly and had the league put options forward for consultation teams would have had plenty of time to adequately reflect on the consequences and perhaps come to different decisions.
With the new season just a few weeks away SRF is satisfied that Streatham have made some good signings and is really hopeful that the new players gel quickly in pre-season training and the early matches to make it happen for the club.
It will of course be a challenge to follow the game for some initially as time will be lost checking the programme to identify so many new players during play. SRF feels that’s frustrating from a fan perspective, especially for those who like to shout encouragement to their favourites.
With favourite players in mind SRF singles out Joe Allen as key to the squad this season. Not necessarily renowned as a top points scorer Joe is seen as a loyal hard-grafting Streatham player who fans will continue to identify with. He’s ridiculously quick and can cover the entire ice in a flash.
As we all know, every year clubs say goodbye to players, some of whom make a particularly big impact on fans. For Streatham this off-season has seen much change and SRF singled out popular D-man Jack Tarczycki as the player that will be most missed siting his strengths as a great all rounder who is happy to play anywhere, is never afraid to get stuck in and is always happy to chat to the fans after the game. Jack, along with a number of other core players will be sorely missed by the Streatham faithful.
As far as the coaching set up goes, SRF readily agrees that Streatham needed a new face on the bench and very much understands that a coach should be allowed to coach. As a spectator though, SRF struggled with watching a new coach come in part way through the season, bringing many players from the disbanded Wightlink team and then casting aside so many good, long serving players, denying them the chance to shine.
For this, next trickiest of seasons for a club who made a very hard choice in staying in the NIHLS1, SRF says the games against the EPL teams will be the hardest to watch with the potential for some heavy losses and the more competitive and interesting games to see will definitely be those against old rivals Invicta, London and Milton Keynes.
As a long-term fan SRF felt that despite the best efforts of some, last season’s atmosphere down at the rink in SW16 was a little more diluted than previously and for some fans it was a disappointing year with so much change. With the additional challenge of potentially big deficits against the better quality teams this coming season, supporters may look to go elsewhere and SRF feels that could become quite challenging for the club.
Reflecting on this, SRF would like to see more chances for supporters to engage with players at Streatham such as post game photo calls and autograph opportunities, and hopes the club might arrange a meet and greet for the fans before the season starts. This would be especially beneficial to families who don’t go to the pub after games and for everyone to get to know the new players. If flyers advertising events as well as games were distributed regularly to local supermarkets, retail outlets and take-aways it might also help to gain the support of new fans locally.
As the Streatham faithful ready themselves for what is likely to be a difficult season in south London there is still optimism as SRF predicts a realistic sixth place behind the ex EPL teams, remaining thoroughly competitive with the original NIHLS clubs.
A massive thanks to SRF. You know who you are although nobody else does of course. You have managed to be honest and forthright in your comments which you said you found hard to make and although you may feel a little jaded right now I’m sure there will be good times to come.
Finally, good luck to the fans, players and management at Streatham IHC ‘The RedHawks’ for the coming season, stay loud, stay proud and keep the faith.
photo credit Joe Allen by Dave West