Friday, May 24, 2024

The true significance of Roger Self comes to life in Seoul Glow

I thought I knew everything about hockey, before seeing the cover of Seoul Glow in WHSmiths, during a Christmas shop. I bought a copy and rediscovered lots of things I already knew and a load more I’d no idea about, writes STUART LODGE.

England and Great Britain had no structure capable of winning anything well before Seoul. I can remember England playing Wales, in a 1975 Four Nations encounter, at Clifton College, Bristol. It was a good 4-1 win for the hosts, but nothing to write home about. In 1978 a Three Nations’ indoor tournament was hosted in Bristol, with England, Wales and West Germany. To paraphrase the, “.. and where were the Germans?” quote, Wales more impressive than England!

The decision not to participate in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, following a long and unsuccessful tour of India and Pakistan was controversial and USA’s withdrawal too, plus financial issues, made their presence felt four years later.

The true significance of Roger Self came to life, a seemingly ‘establishment appointment’ by the Hockey Association; his decision to appoint David Whitaker as coach was pure genius. But then everything changed; Self’s selections and unprecedented motivational skills basically launched another era of Hockey and his willingness to persuade players’ employers to grant them time off was just amazing.

The 1984 Atlanta Olympics, for which GB hadn’t qualified and only getting invited following the withdrawal of USSR, was ‘the bit of luck’ Self and the rest of us needed: bronze was brilliant in the context.

I can remember that October 1 morning in 1988. I was up early watching the Olympic final and not really believing what I was seeing. At the final whistle, the phone rang, with the sports editor of the Bath & Wilts Evening Chronical asking ‘when I’d got up!’ I responded and he quizzed me on the significance of Great Britain 3-1 win over West Germany. I gave him lots of copy for the coming week. Just remember that Bath Rugby Club were the bees’ knees back then and we basically kept them off the back pages!

The introduction of Hockey Leagues around England took place the following season and the rest is history. Rod Gilmour summed up the euphoria magically. One small issue is the compare and contrast of the two goalkeepers, Ian Taylor (No.1) and Veryan Pappin (No.2); as a ‘keeper myself I have my own view on their talents.

Just to say that Pappin is referred to as ‘the Scot’ on more than one occasion. My memories of Pappin date from when he played for Cornwall, his career in the RAF took him to Scotland and it was residential qualifications that resulted in his place in Scotland’s team et al. Meanwhile, Whitaker may be the best hockey coach ever, able to teach 12-year-olds the basics and ego-rich superstars with equal aplomb.

Seoul Glow is to be complimented for giving Self, Whitaker and all squad members the credit they deserve. Self did the impossible, turning a bunch of talented individuals into a ‘club team’ and getting employers and clubs to release them when needed. This is a problem the Football Association cannot solve in the run-up to internationals, European and World Cups. This is the best book about Hockey I’ve ever read.

Seoul Glow (Pitch Publishing) is available from all good book stockists

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  1. Great stuff re Seoul and RIP Selfie who was a legend and great friend of mine who I was honoured to help to get to LA in 1984 when we came from nowhere to win the Bronze Medal and then of course GB went on to win Gold in Seoul

    Just a small point re article, I was playing for England at Clifton College in 1975 and think we beat Wales 5-1 with Selfie as Wales manager; well, Selfie and I played for same club, namely Redditch, and Selfie was not amused as Wales dominated the game but England won easily and worse for him, I scored a goal !!

  2. THANK YOU FOR THESE comments and reflections and yes, maybe not all of my piece is technically correct, but…it was a very long time ago! What we must all accept is that Hockey generally and UK Hockey has moved to a ‘different league’ – no pun intended. What we are failing to to do, is sell it to the population at large…we need more Hockey on television and more words like “…and where were the Germans? But frankly, who cares?!?”


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