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14th Knights tour of the United Kingdom

The Fourteenth Knights Tour of the UK began on the 28th November 1988 and finished on 22 January 1989.  The six man side consisted of the following players:

  • Graeme Carrington (TVL)
  • Sven Klusner (NATAL)
  • George Massyn (DEFENCE)
  • Martin Morris (TVL)
  • Dean Sanders (NATAL)
  • Neil Wilson (Captain) (WP)

Unfortunately Mike Farrer, originally selected as captain of the side, fell seriously ill and as a result was unable to make the tour.  Fortunately his place in the team was very ably taken by Graeme Carrington at very short notice.

The team departed from Jan Smuts airport on the 28th November, arriving at London, Heathrow, on the 29th November.  We were met at the airport by Mr Dick Hawkey, who took us to our Paddington Hotel - Compton House.  The itinerary was, as usual, extremely busy, playing 17 team matches and one tournament in the 25 days before Christmas, and then another 19 matches in the 23 days after the Christmas break.

We were all anxious to get used to the English conditions as soon as possible, as we had been told how different they were.  It was only when we played our first match in the Middlesex Open Tournament,  that we realised how correct everybody was.  The ball was colder, heavier and slower through the air, so that we all soon learnt that volleying as much as possible, as well as playing a lot more touch shots, was the way to win.  Three of the team managed to reach the last sixteen of the Middlesex Open, the other three struggling more to find their feet in the different conditions.  We were very soon all given an indication of the strength and depth of the English squash.

The period up till Christmas was spent in London, using Compton House as a base, playing clubs in and around London.  In this time we played mostly club sides, as well as a few County sides.  We found the club sides varied a lot in standard, depending on the league commitments of the players.  Generally, however, our opponents were of a good standard, and we gained valuable experience in our matches against them.

What we all found was how our standard of play went up and down over the period of the tour for no apparent reason.  What we all learnt from this was how to hang in there when we were playing badly, resort to the basics, and come through a winner in the end.  We also learnt how to motivate ourselves for each match, which was difficult over the long period, but essential if we were going to play good squash.

We rotated our order as far as possible, depending on how players were playing, how strong they felt, and the opposition we were up against.  In this way we all had games against very good English players.  Our record up till Christmas was as follows:

  • PLAYED 15
  • WON 12
  • LOST 3

Unfortunately due to political pressures, 2 matches were cancelled - those against West Worthing S.R.C and Herts Country Club.

Apart from all the sightseeing, highlights of the first half of the tour included a weekend away to the South of London at Middleton-on-Sea, seeing a rock concert at Wembley Arena, a night out at a Nightclub with the Jesters, a trip to Cambridge with Dick Hawkey, and, of course, visiting as many English pubs as possible.

The five day break over Christmas was very much needed by all of us to get some rest in, as well as some serious partying.  This we all did and regrouped at the Compton House Hotel on 28th December, all very keen for the second half of the tour.

We collected the two hired cars from Stoke-on-Trent, where a special rate had been organised by Dick Hawkey, and left London on 29th December for Wales.  We spent 3 days in Wales (including New Year), playing 2 matches against strong sides and losing both.  After an excellent New Year in Swansea, we left Wales and started travelling up North on the West side of England, playing at Market Drayton, Birmingham, Manchester, Blackpool and Carlisle.

We all really enjoyed this section of the tour, with highlights being a hockey match at Market Drayton and travelling around in the Lake District.

Up till this stage, our record was:

  • PLAYED 23
  • WON 17
  • DREW 1
  • LOST 5

The weather had so far been extremely good to us, with no days below freezing temperature and very little rain.  It was when we travelled up to Scotland that we expected temperatures to drop and to hopefully get some snow.  Unfortunately that was not to be.  We played 3 matches in Scotland - in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh, of which we won 2 and drew 1.  Whilst we were in Edinburgh, one of our cars was broken into and our kit stolen.  Luckily, however, we were all insured and they did not steal our passports and traveller's cheques, so we were able to replace the bare essentials and get by for the rest of the tour.

From Scotland we travelled back down into England, playing at Newcastle (Durham & Cleveland), Stockton, Halifax, Worskop, Nottingham, Leicester and Northampton.  This was a fantastic part of the tour, with all our hosts really making an effort with us and trying to find the best sides they could to beat us.  Highlights included a trip around the Dunlop factory - watching rackets being made, meeting and playing Brian Beeson, No. 14 in the world, drinking a couple of Castle Lagers at Trent Bridge S.C. in Nottingham with some of the other South African players based there, and going to watch the Manchester United vs West Ham football match.

On 21st January, six very tired squash players travelled back down to London, after having dropped the two hired cars at Stoke.

Our final results were as follows:

  • PLAYED 33
  • WON 24
  • DREW 2
  • LOST 7

Financially the tour is becoming more and more of a burden to those chose, so we have included some ideas and recommendations to try to help reduce this problem as well as some recommendations to improve the tour.

All in all the tour was a superb success, and was enjoyed by one and all.  We would like to thank everybody concerned for making this tour what it was - a fantastic experience, one that will never be forgotten.  In particular we would like to thank Chris Richards, Kendall Jarvis and Dick Hawkey, without whom the tour would not have taken place.

The Knights Tour is unique, and can only be good for South African squash, in that it supplies excellent match experience, as well as making that International contact, which is so important for the future of South African squash.  Thus every effort should be made to continue this fantastic tour into the far distant future.

Posted by : Neil Wilson at 19:19:PM on Thursday 16 February 1989
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