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Thames Ditton Ready to Conquer
Sept 12, 2005, by Martin Bronstein



Sadly, it is not a well known fact among the citizens of Thames Ditton, that their small, well-mannered Surrey town is home to England’s champion squash club. Colets Health and Fitness have fielded one of the best club teams in England for the last 12 years, in fact ever since Dave Peck arrived as the squash professional. Peck’s winning record is not only impressive, it is incomparable in British squash.

Dave Peck, Manager of the Winning Colets Teams,
photo © 2005 Martin Bronstein

Since his arrival at Colets in 1994, his shrewd team selection has been responsible for collecting 7 England championships as well as being runners-up five times. One of the honors that goes with the England title is the right to represent England at the European Club Championships, which Colets won in 1998, were runners-up twice and on two other occasions were beaten on points countback after drawing 2-2.

“That was very upsetting, being knocked twice without actually being beaten,” comments Peck, the 39-year old former Bedfordshire champion. “On one occasion we lost on the countback by one point after all the points in all the games were added up. One point! Can you imagine how gutted the whole team were?”

Peck was speaking to Squashtalk two weeks before Colets were due in Paderborn, Germany to contest the 2005 European Club Championships.

Shrugging off the disappointment, the team always came back just as strong the following season. Colets’ record in the Surrey Cup county league first division is also remarkable: champions eight times and runners-up four times. The overall picture makes Peck the most successful squash team manager in Britain if not Europe. No other club comes close to the Colets string of titles.

“The secret is in our strength in depth and our team spirit,” says Peck who is taking virtually the same team to the 2005 European Championships in Paderborn on September 21 to once more try to bring the European title back to Thames Ditton.

“Although our number one, Alex Gough, the Welsh champion, is now into only his second season, the rest of the team have been with us for years. Alan Thomson, [former Scottish International], eleven years, Danny Meddings ten years, Scott Handley six years, and Mark Cairns five years so they all know each other pretty well.”

And there is a band of around 20-25 club members who know the team pretty well: they travel all over England to watch the team play and each year they travel to a different part of Europe to cheer the Colets team against the stiff opposition that the other national champions bring to the event.

“Colets has its own ‘barmy army’ of members who all pay their own way to the European Club Champs. And I can tell you that their vocal support when a match gets tight is invaluable. The players really get spurred on and we’ve had some incredibly exciting battles. Sometimes it gets so tense I can’t bear to watch. I go and get a cup of coffee, but then I have to go back to the court to see what’s happening,” recounts Peck.

Peck acknowledges the financial support of local companies and even some members who contribute to the fighting find. “But it’s the club itself that must take much of the credit because it has always supported the team and given the major financial support,” says Peck.

So at 3.45 am on Wednesday September 21, members and players will gather in the club car park, to be transported to Stansted airport for a 6am flight to Paderborn in Germany to once more confront the best club teams in Europe, some of whom have retained the services of the likes of former world champions David Palmer and Peter Nicol and present world number two Lee Beachill.

“But it is not how good you are at number one,” points out Peck, “it is how strong you are at two, three and four. That’s where you win matches.”

And David Peck should know. He’s the most successful squash team manager in Britain.

(The second part of this preview will appear next week. Martin Bronstein will be covering all the action from Paderborn for Squashtalk)

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