Firstly, I would like to begin this report by thanking all those who were involved in making this tour possible.
Secondly, I would like to apologize for the time it has taken me to write up the report back from the tour and to thank you for your patience which is much appreciated.
It is a tour that is second to none and has a life lasting effect on the boys that get to go on the tour. Not only do the boys get to improve their squash and gain much experience but we also gain much maturity and the attributes that many people spend their lives trying to gain but never accomplish.
We developed friendships not only within the team but also with people from overseas which will be treasured for many years to come. I would like to think that the squash community in south Africa has been tightened by the five friendships created on the tour, also the international squash community as there were many connections made overseas which I am sure will be made use of and kept alive.
The tour kicked off with a great start, a function being held at John Davenports house which started with a doubles match against the 2004/2005 Knights squad who needless to say got cleaned off the court by the new and improved team.
After having a sweat we followed on with a dinner and drinks which was second to none with lots of banter about prior tours and how this guy did that and who managed to get the most bagels and so on. All in all it was a great start which allowed us to chat with ex Knights to get as much info as we could about what we were getting ourselves into and how to manage ourselves on the tour which is quite demanding on the body(and liver..).
The following day was a long and anxious day waiting for the time to pass before our flight to the UK. Finally the hour had come to join the rest of the team and await our flight to the UK together as a team at the O.R.Tambo Airport. None of us could have guessed the impact the tour would have on our lives individually and as a team.
After a long and eventful flight we landed in the land of the wet and clammy.
Joe Richardson, who had done most of the organizing on the British side of the tour, was waiting for us at Heathrow ready to test the ability of our walking shoes. We pretty much trekked halfway across London or so it felt to get to our hotel with bags in hand.
Our first ten days of the tour were spent in London itself which was very eventful and full of surprises:
- Derek managed to sprain his ankle in the first match we played!! (Well done Derek for your speedy recovery. In just ‘5’ days Derek was back in action and cracking niks from everywhere)
- Jimmy and Marco managed to get lost in the tubes
- Marco managed to get freaky with an engaged lady after her hens party in a McDonalds at 4am in the morning!!
- Met a man by the name of Peter Chalk who took us to a place that we will never forget
- Derek managed to lose to a 56 year old, however he was a man by the name of Hiddy Jahan who was previously the world no.2. (We’ll let this one slide Derek.)
We played a total of 8 fixtures during our 9 days in London and managed to win all but 1, which we lost 5 – 0 to the Jesters whom we played at the RAC which was one of the many very extravagant clubs which we played at. The team was very strong with Tim Garner representing their team at no.1.
The quality of squash in the first week of the tour was of a high standard and the word was beginning to spread that the team had only had one loss and our opponents began strengthening their teams to ensure they would be able to beat us in the weeks ahead.
On the road
After our stint in London we set off by road for the rest of the tour in our big blue Citroen 7 seater which was a Beauty. It was definitely a pro of the tour to have the whole team in one car when traveling, which allowed us to experience more of the tour together than rather being split up.
The team had now become a unit and everything was going great guns. By our 13th match we had lost only one to the mighty Jesters, however many of these victories had been marginally won and they were by no means easy fixtures.
The next highlight of the tour was our match at the Isle of Wight, which was eventful with a trip on a ferry and five South African youngsters squeezing into the Phillips residence. I would like to thank the Isle of Wight folk for their support at our fixture which was well attended. A special thank you to a young lass (not named) who supported one of the team members for a little longer than his appearance on court.
The morning before our match at Guernsey was brutal. We woke up well before the sun was to rise and caught a ferry ride back to the mainland to catch a flight to Guernsey.
After arriving in Guernsey, on a much appreciated short flight in comparison to our previous flight, we awaited our host Peter Bridgeman who made our stay one which we shall never forget.
A definite highlight of the tour had to be our trip to Guernsey which was well publicized and attended. We not only played against the Guernsey team but also attended a coaching clinic where we had the chance to help the island youngsters with their squash.
The night life on the island was fantastic and a couple of the guys managed to get some good ‘old’ fashioned fun loving.
Once arriving back on the mainland we made our way north up to Wales, which was the last of our matches before Christmas. We had now played 23 fixtures in just 24 days and the Knights needed a well earned break. We traveled back to London where the team split up and joined either family or friends for Christmas.
Christmas in London is a truly wonderful time as the English are extremely festive.
The whole of London is lit up with lights and everybody is cheerful and celebrating.
Before splitting up for Christmas we had decided that 35 fixtures wasn’t enough squash and so we organized a friendly match against the ‘South African Nomads’ in London, which consisted the likes of Steve Nicholson, Mark van Kahn, Warren Terry and Jason Barry. The fixture was played in doubles matches and ended up being a hit on the fixture list. The very experienced Nomads then challenged the Knights to an intense night out which ended up in a very long and nauseous trip up to Coventry for the first of our last 11 fixtures of the tour.
The Road North
It felt good to be back with the team again after our Christmas break. There were many stories to be told about our 4 day breaks and the boys were using up the minimal spare time that we had to the best of their ability. The last leg of the tour we were to travel straight up towards Scotland which would be our final fixture of the tour.
A definite highlight on our trip north was our fixture in Nottingham, the home of Robin Hood, which was certainly one of the toughest and nail biting fixtures of the tour.
Three of the five matches ended up being 5 setters which were down to the wire, it was a well fought fixture which the Knights lost just 3-2.
Our next fixtures were played in Pontefract at The Pontefract Squash Club which is the home to some of the best players in the world. We met Malcolm Willstrop for some training in the morning that had the boys running against the likes of Lee Beachill.
Pontefract treated us to a New Years party with ‘The Band’ which were rocking throughout the night with Lee Beachill’s son (+/- 3yrs old) bashing out a solo on the guitar. All in all Pontefract was yet another highlight of the tour and thanks for all the hints and tips Malcolm.
We had one day off in the last leg and this was spent in the City of York which is one of the oldest cities in England. Nick Clifford, who had organized our Nottingham fixture, gave us a full tour of the city. He had been a tour guide in his earlier years and new the in’s and out’s of the city. He was a true Englishmen who used the saying ‘The dogs Bollucks’ and knew his ales and pubs backwards. A definite highlight of the tour.
On our trip so far we hadn’t had too many problems deciphering the English accent, however it seemed that the further north we ventured the less we could understand what the people were saying. By the time we reached Scotland all we had to say to get a positive response was ‘aye’. But before we reached Scotland we played two fixtures at The Windscale Squash Club and The Carlisle Squash Club which were by far our most supported fixtures of the tour.
Both squash clubs had main courts which could hold up to 300 spectators. The fixtures were well advertised and stands were fill for both fixtures creating a fantastic atmosphere for the matches that were played. It was a real treat to have such a crowd watching us play.
The trip was now nearing the end and we had just 3 fixtures to go and only 5 days left until our flight home. Our first fixture in Edinburgh was a memorable one as it was after winning this fixture that we had broken the record for most fixtures won on a Knights tour. It was our 29th victory of 33 fixtures and we went on to win 31 of 35 by the end of the tour. Well done boys, that was quite an accomplishment.
We had a couple days off in Scotland and managed to see many of the great tourist spots such as Edinburgh castle and the Lochs up north which was one of the most scenic drives I have ever made. Thanks to our Scottish hosts we managed to experience the Scottish night life at its best with Pints and Ales being put away nonstop.
The road home
After a rather large night out in Glasgow which proved detrimental to the captain’s health we started our trip back to Reading where we would drop off the rental and make our way to Heathrow for the flight home.
Once again I would like to thank those who were involved in organizing and bringing the tour together and making it possible for us to have gone on the tour:
- The Knights Trust - For sponsorship
- Steve Doeg - For organizing the tour on the SA side and selection
- Joe Richardson - For the organizing of the tour on the England side
- All our opponents and hosts – For their excellent hospitality and fierce presence on the squash court.