Bitter and Sweet

Stephen Smeeth reflects on the successes of this season and the bitterness it brings from some others.

Another campaign has been and gone and another success story with a new group of players to go into the history books and be discussed for years to come. 

What a ride it has been.

In October / November it’s almost obligatory for us all to criticise and write the team off, but yet again hockey has a way of coming at you fast, and boy it didn’t half. Every successful roster has its own unique feel and fans will have their own favourites, but this group just had something. I know it’s cliche, but they had the right attitude and it’s infectious. 

I don’t want to dwell too much and dissect the games as the AVFTB guys do a great job with that all season long. 

I do wish to extend some thanks to Andrea Owens and co for being so welcoming to us on our visit to Coventry, proving once again that you’re never alone on a road trip. We were encouraged to behave how we felt comfortable – I can’t applaud that enough. 

The main point I wanted to touch on is this constant bickering and sniping from (some) rival fans regarding our success. Yes, I get that this is part of sport but it’s excuse after excuse after excuse. Whatever happened to gracious in defeat? 

2019 it was Cardiff who blamed their capitulation on the laptop game. “Cheats” or “you won it unfairly”. Unfair you say? So… you would rather the clear goal be wiped off and you potentially win the game – unfairly? Double standards and clear entitlement. 

Challenge Cup final 2022 “you had home advantage and it was midweek” – I probably can let that slide because most of you weren’t around when the final used to be midweek and are only used to having the location on your plate. I hate using this example but 2018 we went through hell to attend a final we weren’t even given a chance of winning. You seem to deem it logistically possible when it’s a CHL game midweek in Europe though. 

2022 Sheffield claimed “you only won because of our injuries” – while that is speculation, I reject it entirely because every team in the league can use arguments like that. Our roster never changed all through our injury battles. We never brought extra in other than Jonathan Boxill for a few shifts over Christmas. You deal with the hand you’re dealt, yes you got hit with injuries and other shenanigans, but you were swift in replacing them. You came to Belfast and matched us, you looked solid and I was worried about going to your barn as I felt the Steelers team had clicked. If you couldn’t rise to the challenge then so be it, don’t demean the hard work and consistency we had just because you couldn’t find a way, look inwards. 

Finally – Giants fans: Never ever worry about gloating and enjoying the moment for fear of it coming back to bite because I can assure you, it will. So, when you have the opportunity in front of you then go for it both barrels. Just don’t forget the bad times. I have experienced rival teams’ lids and sticks on the ice such as Drew Fata GWG at Playoffs or Cardiff winning on our ice. I’ve felt that sick feeling and I’ve enjoyed the euphoria too. 

Enjoy your off season and thank you to KOTG/AVFTB for the platform. 

Massive thanks to Stephen for taking time to write to us.

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Words: Stephen Smeeth

Photos: Dean Woolley

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