Stan Calvert 2016: “We’re going in as underdogs but we’re going to relish that challenge”

Written by Sport, Sport Features

With Stan Calvert 2016 just a few weeks away, representatives from both Newcastle University and Northumbria University gathered for the annual pre-competition press conference. The majority of fixtures are to be played from Monday 29th February, leading up to the finale on Sunday 6th March.

This year, Men’s Football has the honour of being chosen to host the final match of the tournament. The respective captains of both the Men’s Football teams joined Newcastle’s AU Officer Angus Taylor, Team Northumbria’s Student Sport President Brogan O’Connor, as well as representatives from both Ladies’ Hockey teams, Kate Sutton and Emily Watkinson.

Stan Calvert, now in it’s 22nd year, was traditionally an evenly fought affair until 2008, when a period of domination by Newcastle occurred with 6 wins in a row. 2014 saw the cup return into Northumbrian hands and last year the poly retained the title for the first time in their history with a convincing 77.5-48.5 win.

Asked if his side were capable of overturning such a huge margin, AU Officer Angus Taylor responded confidently. “Absolutely. We wouldn’t be entering if we didn’t think we could win. We’re going into it to win and I think we will win.” He continued, “obviously last year, fair play to Northumbria they absolutely thrashed us but… it’s a lot tighter this year.”

Kate Sutton, the Newcastle Ladies Hockey Vice President, echoed that notion. “The whole idea of an event like this is that it can bring out such performances from individuals and teams that you wouldn’t expect normally. It doesn’t necessarily go as you think it would on paper.”

“We wouldn’t be entering if we didn’t think we could win. We’re going into it to win and I think we will win”

Since last years humiliating result at Stan Calvert, Newcastle’s sports teams have shown evidence of much improvement, reflecting in the BUCS table. Last year saw Newcastle finish 11th overall, whereas they now sit 9th, one place behind Northumbria.

Northumbria’s Student Sport President, Brogan O’Connor, believes that Newcastle are likely to pose more of a threat to their title this time around. “From our side, we’re very aware that the BUCS table this time last year were a different story, you were outside of the top 10 and that’s why realistically it wasn’t that much of a spectacle.

“By no means are we complacent, we’re very clear on how close it is and that’s what we want really”, explains O’Connor. “I’m looking forward to an event that could go either way right up until the final few hours.”

This year sees a record number of fixtures taking place on what has become known as ‘Super Sunday’, the last day of the competition. There have been concerns raised that the fixture congestion might have an impact on attendance levels at certain games. Taylor argues, “It might affect some of the events going on that aren’t the finale because obviously a lot of people who will go and watch are the people who are playing themselves.”

The move comes after last year’s Netball finale was hampered by a lack of Newcastle supporters, due to the fact that the result of the overall competition had been decided hours early. “It’s no accident that all of those fixtures are on the Sunday”, says O’Connor, “we’ve obviously placed it there because of the problems we saw last year.”

“This year sees a record number of fixtures taking place on what has become known as ‘Super Sunday’”

She continues, “the great thing about Stan Calvert is that it’s competitive and both Unis love it because it could go either way and each team are fighting for it, so we’re doing all we can to bring that competitive nature back into it.”

The football finale takes place at Gateshead Stadium, kicking off at 7.45pm on the final Sunday of the cup. Newcastle’s Football captain, Tom Espin, described his excitement at the prospect of leading his team out for the final. “To do it in Gateshead, in a decent venue, is superb. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.”

Last year, the clash between the two 1st teams was arguably the game of the tournament, ending in a thrilling 2-2 draw. Espin thinks his side can match their opponents again this year. “We’re going in as underdogs but we’re going to relish that challenge. Last year was really competitive, we had really good support, hopefully we can replicate that with it being at a great venue.”

Meanwhile, his opposite number, Ross McKeown, believes the game is Northumbria’s for the taking. “If we apply ourselves then I think we’ll be fine. I was quite surprised actually about how intense it was and how much of a rivalry it was and I think the venue and the occasion can only help.”

Taylor spoke of his hope at seeing plenty of fans inside Gateshead Stadium, “you’d hope that we’d get quite a big crowd and it’ll be a fantastic event to showcase the varsity competition.” Taylor added, “I think it should be a really good spectacle. The last two years have produced fantastic football matches at Stan Calvert.”

“To do it in Gateshead, in a decent venue, is superb. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it”

Last year’s press conference was dominated by talk of the dropping of certain sports from the competition. The debate continues this year, with Taylor expressing his frustrations at the exclusion of more sports. “We were a bit disappointed about things such as Cross Country, Archery and Women’s Cricket being dropped. We want as many people to be involved in Stan Calvert as possible.”

Taylor added, “obviously I don’t know the ins and outs of all of it but I think it’s a bit unfair on both our athletes who can’t compete in it and the Northumbrian ones who aren’t being allowed to compete in Stan Calvert.”

O’Connor was quick to leap on the defensive, “just to crush that rumour of Northumbria takes sports out because they’re cheating, that’s the complete opposite of what we do.” O’Connor argues, “If we actually put it on paper and looked at all the sports that we’re missing out and you’re missing out it’s actually quite even.”

When asked about the importance each individual fixture plays in the overall competition, O’Connor said: “Each point matters and one University could win it by 2 points. Everyone knows that the team who wants it and prepare the most and are ready on the day will win it. That’s the beauty of it.”

Northumbria arguably go into this year’s Stan Calvert as the favourites to win after last year’s annihilation and their favourable BUCS position. However, O’Connor is hesitant at being branded with the favourite tag, “I don’t think there is a favourite this year and that’s what makes it exciting.

Meanwhile Taylor and Newcastle are fully embracing their new underdog status, but believe that it can in fact spur the University on to win back the Stan Calvert crown. “The joy of winning when it’s not quite expected will far exceed the joy of winning when you are favourites.”

Five Stan Calvert fixtures have already been played, including American Football, Outdoor Cricket and Women’s Rugby. Of these, Newcastle won three and Northumbria two, leaving the score 6-4 in Newcastle’s favour.

Last modified: 15th February 2016

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