My Life In HOCKEY
Iactually applied for the position of men’s coach at Birmingham University, but Malcolm Wood got it ahead of me and they offered me the women’s team instead – what a decision that turned out to be!
We have had some great players, like Susie Gilbert, Sophie Bray and Sarah Haycroft, who went on to play senior international hockey, and I don’t think there is any club in the top division without a player from Birmingham University there. It has been a real success story.
That year we got promoted into the Premier Division in 2008 stands out; we are still the only girls’ side to have ever done that. We keep proving people wrong every year.
I got into hockey in the 1960s. My dad, Roy, used to run a hockey team at a factory in Wolverhampton. He used to play and run it, and my mum made the teas so I was hooked and grew up around the game.
I went to state schools. I played a lot of cricket and football, and actually stopped playing hockey – because there wasn’t any.
I had to make a choice when I was about 16. I started playing again for Wombourne, and it got to the stage where I could not juggle it all.
In those days, the structure was very different in hockey. I played for my club, and then intercounty hockey for Staffordshire. The game changer was the National League and I went and joined Cannock.
That first year, in 1988, I was there when we got promoted into the top division and the club did not get relegated until last season – showing just how good they were for so long.
I was in the autumn of my career when the National League started but it was fantastic to play at that level. I am very proud of being at the club in those early years, knowing that we all helped to get it where it is today.
That first year was unbelievable. It was the stand-out season for me and we had a few parties to celebrate promotion!
The standard in the top division was very good and it was a great opportunity for me to play there – it may have come towards the end but it makes me more relieved in many ways.
We had some great players too, like Ben Sharpe – who was just coming through. It was awesome to see that transition at Cannock because all us old guys could see the great future it had.
I did some umpiring for a couple of seasons and always enjoyed coaching younger players. I started doing bits and bobs at Cannock and my two sons, Andrew and Stuart, were coming through the ranks there and starting to play the game – so I stayed and coached.
Gradually, I started to help more at Cannock with junior players and then I started to take charge of the set-up and it progressed from there.
My playing career was meandering to a natural conclusion in the early 1990s, and coaching in hockey was not such a big thing.
In the early 2000s I opted to become selfemployed in finance but coaching was slowly taking over my life. When I stopped playing I remember worrying about how I would get the same sort of enjoyment – but coaching is definitely as good and you get more enjoyment from seeing others make it.
At Birmingham, it is tough as we have such a high turnover of players. But we have the right culture there and it is all about development and preparing.
We plan a couple of years ahead and we know who is going to leave and when, so we are always ready for any situation.
It is why we have lasted in the big league for so long. Success breeds success and it is why lots of players to come and play for