This season marks 50 years of Alan Grey's association with Brighton and Hove Hockey Club. A popular and familiar figure to many, whether helping out with the juniors, supporting the club's XIs from the sidelines at Blatchington or chatting hockey and umpiring in the bar, Alan's years at the club have seen many changes and characters. We caught up with him to ask about some of them.
BHHC: What first brought you to Brighton and Hove Hockey Club?
Alan: I came to Brighton in September 1968 as Head of Geography at Varndean Boys Grammar School (later Varndean Sixth Form College). Luckily it had a hockey team, some of whom played with BHHC.
I taught in Petersfield from 1960 to 1968, adapting my soccer coaching award to hockey, but I was then a near top-class athlete (long jump) so my hockey career only started at the age of 30 on arrival in Brighton.
The Brighton Team Secretary regularly asked if there were any boys who could play on Saturday – in January 1969 it was mock exam time so I could only offer a teacher!
Thus begins the 50 years!
BHHC: Over the 50 years you've been associated with the club, what have been the major changes you've seen?
Alan: In those days BHHC had only two men's sides, rapidly becoming three, then four, teams. I managed to advance to the first team quite quickly but my main contribution was to captain the second XI in two spells for a total of seven years. Many Varndean players started their club careers, for example Sean Rowlands (Olympics 1988) and Paul Harvey (England Under-18s), who is now a veteran with BHHC.
This link with Varndean paid dividends when the College became England Schools Under-18 Champions in 1984.
BHHC: Do you think the game is better these days for players?
Alan: I played on grass, then Redgras and finally at the end of my playing career on astro (just). Preston Park to Stanley Deason (Ugh!) to Blatch Mill (Great!) but really the development of the women's and junior teams is the best so the club has made massive strides over the years. The ability of hockey to adapt has made it a much more exciting sport and skills are far better.
BHHC: Nowadays you're to be found helping with the development of young players and umpires. What characteristics and skills do you look for in potential future stars?
Alan: As a teacher and coach I have always given priority to the development of young players and now young umpires – as Sussex Young Umpires Coach and coordinator. I look for a good knowledge of the game but how to apply it to their play or umpiring. A sense of responsibility is a key factor.
I was involved in Sussex Junior hockey for a long time, both administratively and as the manager of the boys’ Under-18 team who three times won the South Championships in the 1990s and 2000s. BHHC and Varndean made many contributions over the years.
BHHC: Who have been the players and administrators at the club you've most admired, enjoyed playing and socialising with?
Alan: There are far too many people to mention but here’s two:
Don Bristow – I introduced his sons to hockey and in return he firstly became an important officer with BHHC. On my retirement he got his own back by introducing me to bowls!
Then there is Graham Edwards, never a hockey player but an A-level geographer at Varndean! What a great contribution he has made to the club.
Thanks to everybody at BHHC over this half-century. I’ve lost count of how many.
BHHC: So what about the next 50 years?
Alan: Hockey is only part of my life in old age, dominated by fresh air. I’m still involved with Geography and Geology with a part–time job with the Sussex Wildlife Trust at the Seven Sisters Country Park. Hobbies include gardening, landscape photography and travel to remote areas. All of these - plus hockey at BHHC - keeps me ‘young’, happy and fit!
Congratulations to Alan from all at BHHC.
Updated 12:28 - 8 Apr 2019 by David Chappell