Phil Benton, from Alderley Edge Hockey Club, on an ‘undesirables’ side set to celebrate 50 years of continuous touring
The Undesirables – Cogito Ergo Sum. Although ancient stone tablets show two figures standing opposite each other in a now familiar hockey pose with a shaped piece of wood reminiscent of a hockey stick and a round object it is doubtful that Rene Descartes played hockey in 1637 when writing Discourse on Method. Were he a touring hockey player he would undoubtedly have played for The Undesirables.
The 50th anniversary of The Undesirables will be celebrated next year after Malcolm “Kembie” Kemble (Edgbaston), William Beard (Bournville) and Jimmy Sharp (also Edgbaston) returned to Birmingham following their entering a team into a six a side tournament at RAF Innsworth.
A tournament winning performance with the associated post victory euphoria resulted in a three-way agreement in Jimmy’s father’s garage to form a touring side.
Allied to the name of the team was the introduction of the very apt Descartes quote. To be invited to tour with The Undesirables you needed to have the right physical and mental aptitude to wear very cheap shirts that were canary yellow.
In addition you needed to have played a decent level of hockey and to enjoy the social side of the game .
The original rule of being a Midlands invitation side was extended to incorporate other areas of the UK as members moved out of The Midlands to other regions for a miscellany of reasons but in particular when university courses were finished by playing students.
Playing to win was another key element, albeit in the right spirit, with many years passing by before the first card was brandished. 1974 saw the first visit to Weymouth with attendance following on for the next 16 years until astroturf and The National League dented the appetite for grass and Easter festival hockey.
The annual trip to The Crown Hotel in Weymouth was always an Easter treat that was eagerly anticipated and enjoyed by all participants up until Easter Monday breakfast by which time wallets were empty.
As the years advanced club rules were established but very much on the hoof with the decision of the chairman absolutely final, with rules being formed in the chairman’s mind that were applied at the AGM even though no one else knew that the rules existed.
Our AGM, held at The Crown on the Saturday evening, became a “must attend” event by many other teams and individuals playing at the festival in addition to Stourport and Penarth ladies who also stayed at The Crown. Paradoxically those outsiders who did attend had to pay an entrance fee, were fined for breaching our rules. Stourport were fined whether they attended the AGM or not as non attendance was considered mighty rude.
All attendees had to sing the Ace and Cool song with new members christened by consuming an Undesirable drink.
Weymouth had a unique angle with an indoor tournament on Easter Sunday that was soon spurned by The Undesirables due it kicking off at the ungodly hour of 08.30. Some sides bussed in top class indoor players whose highlight was to win the day long tournament which in some quarters was taken uber seriously. Our visit to a pub on the way to Dorchester for lunch was a far more sensible and leisurely way to spend Easter Sunday before the final games on Monday.
Over the 16 years of attending the festival our playing records were in the region of P 96 W 51 D 22 L 23 Goals F 142 A 96. In the region of 88 players wore the colours which included our taking a second “development side” down in 1990 called Spotlands.
The Undesirables had the honour of being the festival side in the festival game on two occasions and regularly provided players to the side selected to oppose the festival team.
Over the years we played against many different teams including The Boars, Dipsticks, Vikings, Exiles, Muffins, Dabblers and Poisoned Dwarfs to name a few. The highlight of our playing history however was the fleeting visit and beating, 3 – 1, of the all conquering Southgate side who were on their way to The European Cup on the continent and presumably catching the ferry in Weymouth.
Sadly not all the players who ventured to the Dorset coast for the Easter break between 1974 and 1990 are with us and rest in peace Nobby Stiles and Dick Goode, two very larger than life characters and mainstays for many years.
The extraordinary experiences of hockey and the associated fun saw The Undesirables branch out to other festivals and tournaments which saw the hard core and newbies travelling at intervals over the summer to Cardiff (end of May), Stone (mid June), Deeside (August), Gloucester 6s (late August).
One by one the festivals ceased to exist and there was a need to look further afield to Three Rock in Dublin, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Jersey, Eindhoven, Prague, Bournemouth and The Far East, namely Kings Lynn.
Unlike many, if not most, of other touring sides, The Undesirables still exist and participate in the Alderley Edge vets festival in early September with Malcolm Kemble still a playing participant 50 years since his being part of the formation regime the Undesirables continuing to be social off the pitch and competitive on it, albeit with mixed results over the last few years.
With there being less festival hockey and more of a centralised hockey calendar the ability to tour has reduced and the Undesirables have slowly got collectively older, however as the 50th year of the Undesirables approaches the current chairman Ian ‘Jocky’ Wilson is looking at ways of celebrating this milestone.
If anyone knows of a suitable festival that could accommodate the Undesirables in their celebration of 50 years of continuous touring, Jockey and the committee would love to hear from you. Email
Do you have a feature or story idea? Send your news. Get in touch!