England internationals help Portsmouth Hockey Club reach Over-40s National Cup final

A host of England internationals have helped Portsmouth into the final of the National Over-40s cup.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 1:26 pm

After progressing through five rounds to reach the semi-finals, the team survived a tense finale to beat Chelmsford 3-2 in Essex.

They will now face Khalsa (Leamington) in the final at the Lee Valley Olympic Stadium in London on April 30.

The Portsmouth squad is a ‘hybrid’ of current first teamers, players who used to play for the club in their National League heyday, and some from rival Hampshire clubs.

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Portsmouth O40s who have reached the National Cup final. Back (from left): John Oliver (coach), Peter Hayward, Andy Richards, Tom Boswell, Stu Avery, Chris Jackson , Niall Gray, Pete Wiles, Ian Cheshire (manager). Front: Paul Hilton, Ed Faherty , Dave Simms, Chris Butler, Steven Turnbull, John Arnell , Paul Wallis, Jez Bulled. Other squad members not pictured: Chris Ball, Stephen Dudley, Rob Boswell, Ivan Boswell

Though Portsmouth have a vets XI playing on a Saturday in the South Central League, it is totally different to the one who have reached the cup final.

Skipper Stu Avery boasts a single senior GB cap, and played for Havant in the 1990s when they were one of the top clubs in England. He is a current England Over-50s international.

Peter Hayward (O45s, O50s), Andy Richards (O45s), Chris Jackson (O40s), Paul Wallis (040s) and Steven Turnbull (O40s, O45s) have also represented England at veteran level.

Pete Wiles is a former England U18 international, and is one of a number of players still turning out for Portsmouth’s 1st XI in the South Central League. Others are Niall Gray, Ian Cheshire (the O40s manager), Chris Butler and Jeremy Bulled.

Most of those players were in the City of Portsmouth squad when the team won the South Premiership in 2002, then the third tier of hockey in England.

Goalkeeper John Arnell and Dave Simms - the latter, at 55, is the oldest player in the squad - usually play for Portsmouth 3rds on a Saturday. Arnell used to play outfield but went in goal when Chris Ball suffered an injury.

Elsewhere, Tom Boswell has travelled over from his Jersey home to play in the cup run, Turnbull regularly plays for Epsom, and Steve Dudley doesn’t play league hockey for any club.

Paul Hilton (Trojans) and Ed Faherty (Fareham) are former City of Portsmouth regulars who now play elsewhere.

At Chelmsford, Portsmouth took an early three-goal lead before the hosts hit back.

Hayward opened the scoring from a short corner before Gray deflected in an Avery pass after great build up play from Wallis and Butler on the left hand side.

Another superbly created short corner routine saw Gray score his second - this time a deflection at the back post.

Chelmsford reduced the arrears with a short corner drag flick two minutes before half-time.

Portsmouth’s tight back line of Richards, Jackson, Hayward and Bulled came under increasing pressure in the second half, each making fine blocks and tackles.

Arnell also pulled off two superb saves, including one dive to his left from a short corner routine.

Eventually pressure told with Chelmsford finally finding a second goal, leading to a nervous finale. It was Portsmouth, though, who went closest when Turnbull’s shot hit the bar.