YARDLEY HOCKEY CLUB
Yardley Hockey Club began playing during the 1932-33 season as Birmingham Municipal Hockey Club. The Club’s home base was at the Birmingham Municipal Club in Sedgemere Road, Yardley. This Municipal base also housed rugby, football and cricket and later tennis sections as well as ladies’ hockey. The quality of the maintenance of the grass pitches at the Club during these early years was the envy of many other clubs around. Membership of the Club was quite strict in that members had to be employed by the Council – so membership consisted mainly of workers in the Council Offices in the City and teachers. There was a clause in the Constitution to enable the inclusion of a certain number of non-council workers. In those days there were no Youth teams.
Unfortunately, no records of these early years have been passed on. There will not be anyone left alive who could fill in the gaps. We know that up to the outbreak of the Second World War the Club fielded two sides. After the war the Club built up to three sides.
The earliest photograph in our collection is of the 1st Team during the 1947-8 season. There are also a few others of teams in the 50s.
It’s not until the 1960s that more photographs have survived and more written records that give a useful insight into more recent Club history. I have tried to include the best and most interesting bits in this publication. There is a complete collection of Annual Reports and Fixture Cards from the late 60s and 70s to the present day. From those documents a list of the Officers of the Club has been drawn up.
From the list of officials we can work out that during the early years the Club played with three teams. Opposition was drawn from mainly Worcestershire and Warwickshire, playing only as friendlies. Occasional friendly Sunday and Summer fixtures also took place.
It was not until 1962-63 that the Club started a fourth team. In 1970-71 the third and fourth teams were re-named as Swifts and Swallows respectively. The Swallows ceased playing in 1990-91 and then began again as a means of bringing on the younger players as the Badgers side. By 2007-08 the 3rd Team ceased playing due to a lack of players. Later, in 2008-09 the Second team withdrew from the league and then began as a non-league side playing like-minded opposition in the Fathom set-up. So, at present the Club plays with its 1st Xl, a Fathom side and a Badgers side. There are also thriving Under 10 and Under 12 sides.
The Club has been lucky that it does not seem to have had many changes of Chairman. I’m not sure about the very early years but in the late 50s Ron Corlett held the post for 14 years, Jack Smith for 17 years in the 70s until the early 90s. Our present Chairman, Chris Wadhams tops them all with 22 years, so far!!
Other names from present membership with claims to long service as an official of the Club include Jim Sumner who started playing in 1957. Now in his 80s Jim is still going strong as Youth Co-ordinator. Dave Bate was Treasurer for 12 years in the 80s, before handing over to the late Roy Leeson who counted the pennies for 18 years. Pete Brainch, was previously Captain of Swallows and then 3rd team for 16 years in the late 80s and 90s before becoming Vice Chair and then Club Secretary. Glenn Sherard held the thankless role as Team Secretary for a staggering 33 years before the role was disbanded thereafter. I apologise for any other important omissions of names.
The Club has enjoyed its entry into various festivals over the years. In the late 60s the early season was regularly taken up with the Pickwick Festival. Our own autumn festival ran for nearly forty years until we lost the use of the pitches at Sedgemere Road. Easter festivals have always been popular. Club sides regularly entered the local Dunlop Festival which later became known as the Motorways Festival. In 1968 a party of hardy souls entered the festival at Scarborough. This lasted for four years and before the Blackpool Festival took over. Torbay then became popular at first with our own club side, The Normans, then, as numbers dropped, combining with Barford Tigers. Some Club members then enjoyed the social side without the bother of playing. In 2009-10 our own Club side toured again after a break of many years, as The Normans and continue to do so this year.
The Club has always prided itself over the range of social functions offered to its members. Over the years these have included, with varying degrees of success, Barbecues, Beer and Skittles, Barn Dances, ‘Hundred’ Evenings, Curry and Quiz Nights, Dinner and Dances and then Dinners only, and more recently Race Nights. In the early years the Annual Dinner Dance was held in the banqueting suite at the Council House. When it no longer became possible to hold the function there, one or two other venues were tried before we came to the Westfield Court Hotel in Wylde Green. We are now in our 19th year there. The Curry and Quiz has always been popular since it began in 1984-85 and has enjoyed several quiz masters over the years. In recent years the Race Night has proved to be a good event to boost Club funds.
Over the years the Club has played at several venues. In 1990 the City Council decided to get rid of its employees’ sports club. At short notice the Club had to find a new playing facility. After the joys of the decent grass pitches at Sedgemere, the problems with the closure, combined with the increasing demands of the league meant that the Club needed to find Astro facilities. And so, in 1990-91 the 1sts and 2nds began playing at Holyhead Leisure Centre. The whole Club moved to play at the new water-based Astro at the North Solihull Sports Centre, Chelmsley Wood in 1996-97. We were the first Club to use these new facilities. Finally, the Club moved to play at its present ground, at Small Heath Leisure Centre in 2001-02.
In the early years the Club enjoyed a strong 1st X1 playing friendly fixtures. The 2nds and 3rds were pretty good too if I remember. There was no League set-up until 1969-70. I recall that the Club was somewhat hesitant over this move into leagues but felt that they had to join in as everyone else was doing. The 2nd team leagues also started. Thankfully the 3rds did not have a league!! Highlights from the 1st Team league included being promoted as Champions from Division 5 West in 1984-5, and then again in 1994-95 after league re-organisation. In 2002-03 the 1st Team won their league, West Midlands 1, but could not say they were promoted as the Leagues were again re-structured into their present format. Since then the team slipped downwards in 2005-06, and since has been playing in West Midlands Division 2. Thankfully there is no relegation from there! The 2nd Team enjoyed winning its league in 2001-02 but in 2007-08 a lack of players, meant a withdrawal from the League before joining the non-competitive Fathom set-up.
Thankfully the Club enjoys a strong Youth set up. The Badgers side has brought on many young players and then moved them up. There remains an enthusiastic u10 and u12 section. These younger sections have been very grateful for a strong core of coaches and helpers. Some of the young players also get the chance to mingle with more experienced players during the always enjoyable Summer League.
The Club’s commitment its youth has been amply demonstrated with the awarding of the national ‘Clubmark’ and the partnership with the Calthorpe School and Sports Programme. The partnership awarded the Club ‘Club of the Year’ in 2009 for its commitment to providing sporting opportunities for young people.
The future of the Club is somewhat uncertain. Adult membership is dwindling. Club sides are ever more reliant upon the younger players coming through. The young players have to realise that they have the opportunity to shape the Club for the future or there will not be a future. Will the Club survive to celebrate its 90th birthday?
I hope so.
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