Specific caps number would add to hockey’s history

Plans have been drawn up to give England and Great Britain players personalised hockey player numbers that will represent their place in the sport’s international history.

Falling in line with other sports like cricket, the shirts worn by individuals in both men’s and women’s teams will be able to carry the number which records their personal place in the numerical list of all-time international players.

However, according to Mike Smith, the curator at The Hockey Museum, before the embroiderers can start their work, there are several key issues that need to be sorted out.

Of prime importance is building the official list of players who have taken part in all internationals since they started being played in 1895.

Despite the impressive number of shelves stacked with archives at the Museum in Woking, a definitive list of all the games played and the names of the those taking part does not exist.

And as well as making an appeal for extra match details, he is also seeking funds to help him employ professional archivists to carry out that work.

Yet before they can start their work at least three key decisions have to made about whether international caps should or should not have been awarded to matches that were on calendars around a century ago.

And with the early women’s games there will be a discussion on similar lines to the one held by International Cricket Council shortly after it was formed in 1909.

By then internationals were already being labelled as Test matches played between two representative teams but when they started was a big question.

That was because the first recorded international cricket match between England and Australia in Sydney in the winter of 1876-77 involved a tour party, financed, captained and chosen by James Lillywhite, with a similar tour captained by Lord Harris taking place two years later.

They were awarded cricket Test match status by the ICC, but whether a similar status should now be handed to the England women’s hockey team which toured Australia and New Zealand in 1914 could be the subject of much discussion.

The Hockey Museum does have on display a skirt worn by one of the players when an ‘English XI’ took on the Australians, a match which the Aussies regard as the first ever international their ladies played.

However, the All England Women’s Hockey Association has not counted it as an international because the team was not necessarily the best available at the time. The squad only consisted of players who had both the time and money to go there not necessarily the best hockey skills. Should these players now be awarded an international cap?

“There is a lot to be discussed,” said curator Mike Smith. “Which is why I am appealing for help in unearthing archives that will help build the international lists and some funds to enable the Museum to employ professional archivists to make sure they are compiled accurately.”

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