After the dust had settled over an unexpectedly triumphant end to our last season a series of painful questions soon came to the fore for the O.S Squash team: Were we condemned to sit at second-bottom place (perched precariously above Repton) in the competitive Old Boy Squash hierarchy of London evermore, or were there other, possibly Etonian, scalps that we could set our sights on claiming? Did the laws of synchronicity imply that a hard Brexit could result in our captain, Ben Stirk (M 1991-96), embracing a style of leadership less like that of his more moderate heroines or would he instead begin paying greater heed to the edicts of Nigel Farage devotee (and honorary vice-captain) Rupert Parry (Ch 2004-09)? Would the steady supply of new recruits for the team begin to dry up now that we’d scoured the capital for keen players for two years running? Most crucially, would the recent overhaul in kitchen staff at the Lord’s Tavern have an adverse effect on the quality of our post-match burgers?
For many months these concerns cast a long shadow in the minds of the more thoughtful members of the team. It was eventually accepted however that we could only hope to counter the slings and arrows of fate by ploughing onward, so we readied ourselves for our first fixture of the season. This was to be against the Tonbrigians at their home ground in Southbank.
The squash facilities here, while abundant, could undeniably benefit from a little refurbishment. This makes on-court playing conditions especially difficult as the balls have a tendency to ricochet off the front wall in directions that frequently leave more rigid adherents to Newtonian orthodoxy utterly perplexed. This foible caught us off guard and it wasn’t long before we were 4-0 down with only the ‘first-strings’ from either side left to play one another. With characteristic valour Jonny Williams (R 2004-09) rose to the challenge and managed to overcome his opposite number in straight sets; though his win was somewhat pyrrhic as the final score read 4 to 1 in their favour.
Two quick-fire losses followed this debacle; against the Etonians and Harrovians (both 4-1). Nonetheless plaudits must go to David Jenkins (R 2003-08) and William Briggs (O 2005-10) who displayed some exquisite tactical nous and pulled two very hard fought wins out of the bag in their respective match-ups.
Next up was our first (and last) game in the prestigious Londonderry Cup which was to be against the Old Sherbornians. We had high hopes for our cup performance this year, not least since we’d heard precious little about the team we’d been drawn against and had heard rather too much about Millfield and Lancing: the teams which we’d been unfortunate enough to draw in the first round for the two years preceding this. First onto the court was Maximilian Baccanello (Rt 2001-06), a portrait artist and highly rated new entrant into the squad, who played some dazzling stuff and earned a well-deserved win over his opponent. The next four games didn’t pan out quite as well, but there was a silver-lining to the desolate spectacle that unfolded as Max remarked afterwards that it had inspired him to consider putting together an exhibition meditating on the intricacies of non-fatal execution.
There was no denying it: the first portion of the season had been an unmitigated disaster. Salopians, while irrefutably gifted and well equipped, have sometimes been accused of being too casual in their approach to life. This veneer is but a superficial layer that encloses the Salopian exterior however, and as soon as genuine moments of need arise the coating invariably peels away. Such was the case for us as once we’d licked our wounds and appreciated the severity of our situation our performances began to drastically improve. Wins against the RAC, the MBBs (both eminent squash clubs operating in London) and Repton fell in quick succession, with both Henry Brown (M 1997-00) and Rupert Parry (Ch 2004-09) succeeding in winning all three of their games in these fixtures.
Next on the calendar was our annual pilgrimage to Shrewsbury School to face the current pupils: a hugely fun encounter that we’ve come to greatly look forward to. Attempts to field our usual team were thwarted however as unseasonal snow rendered our cars, trains and private jets completely immobile for the weekend. Fortunately there were some well situated team members who managed to get to the school and play a tightly contested affair which resulted in a marginal loss for the Old Boys.
Our vein of good form, though interrupted, continued and saw us reverse our previous results against both Tonbridge and Harrow, a feat made possible in large part by some stellar performances from Ben Stirk and Robert Cross (S 2008-13) which helped tipped the balance in our favour.
This season has been our most successful to date, having borne witness to a number of victories that were entirely out of our grasp just last year. The supply of new members has not dried up as we’d initially feared and eager players continue to pop out of the woodwork or simply relocate to London before getting involved. We’re always eager to add more to our ranks, so if you are looking for an amusing and rewarding blend of social and physical exertion then please get in touch. Our current playing squad contains a wide range of skill levels and expertise, and we can always find competitive games for players no matter how new they are to the sport. We also host regular open nights at our home turf in Lords Cricket Ground; and the sumptuous feasts (complete with uncompromised burgers) that follow them make a strong case for attendance alone.