|30 Jan 2017|
Historically, recruitment into the various Old Cranleighan sports clubs has come from school leavers upwards. The OC Hockey Club have on occasion drafted in schoolboys, mainly during the decade when the club all but decamped to the School for home league matches before the astroturf was built at TD in 1993. The emergence of the junior section in recent years has seen young players from there start to move up into the senior teams, an easier and permitted progress which is much harder for the OC Rugby side.
Until now, the youngest OC to play in a hockey league game was probably David Knapp (who managed a hat-trick on Saturday, almost 43 years after his debut). In March 1975 a planned recruitment drive resulted in Knapp, who was almost 16, being picked up from home by club stalwart Tony Loveland and driven up to TD for a game against Barnes.
The youngster was made to feel welcome and all went well for the first five minutes. The a ball was hit into some thick brambles next to the old grass pitch. Loveland gave Knapp a sideways look and then said: “Oy Knapp or whatever your name is get the f***ing ball or I won’t give you a lift home.”. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Knapp stayed with the club, although Loveland was relieved of recruitment duties.
On Saturday, Knapp’s record was broken when two members of the Lower Vth turned out for the OC Vamps in a league game against Surbiton. Rosie Walker, who has just turned 15, became the youngest league goalscorer when she scored with her first touch in the second minute, later adding a second in the 7-4 win. Aimee Williamson, aged 14 years and 10 months and the daughter of the founder of the OC HC Ladies, became the youngest OC league player. And things have progressed as both were made to feel very welcome and both have said they are keen to play again.Rosie Walker scores her second goal
The youngest of all to play competitively for the OCs is believed to be Raul Ballesteros, nephew of Seve, who represented the Old Cranleighans in the 1996 Halford Hewitt at the age of 14 years and six months. A number of others even younger, usually sons roped in when teams are short, have played for constituent clubs but only in friendlies.