Hockey enjoys big boom in Mansfield after 1988 Olympic success

Olympic rings
Olympic rings

IF Family Fortunes asked you to name a British hockey player the odds are that the top answer would be Sean Kerly.

Goal-scoring hero Kerly became an overnight icon after being part of the Great Britain side which claimed gold medal glory in the 1988 Olympic hockey final with a thrilling 3-1 victory over Germany.

But as well as helping propel Kerly into the national spotlight and fame for years to come, the memorable victory also gave a massive boost to hockey in the Mansfield area as kids from across the district took up the sport in big numbers.

It is a moment remembered well by North Notts Hockey Club player Dave Griffin, who said: “We saw a real influx of new players around the age of 14-16 who had seen the men win gold on the tv and wanted to take up the sport.

“The publicity at national level for the sport obviously rose dramatically, but we also felt that at local level.

“The Olympic win helped clubs at grassroots level progress. I was playing for Worksop at the time and we were able to increase our teams from three to five.

“The boom only lasted for six years or so and then we were back down to three teams again, but at the time the Olympic win gave the club a real lift.

“I think that Hockey at that time was considered to be more of a girls sport, which put some boys off. Once they saw the men winning gold that perception changed and many more boys took up the sport who perhaps might not have done so without the win.”

The famous victory also proved to be a timely one in Mansfield, with the new £3m Manor Sports Complex in Mansfield Woodhouse opening the following year to provide top-quality hockey facilities for North Notts Hockey Club.

The gold medal was the highlight of a successful decade for British hockey and followed a bronze medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and silver for England in the 1986 World Cup.

And it was this very spell of impressive results, which built up the momentum allowing club’s like North Notts to capitalise.

Club member Peter Denley said: “My recollection of that era is very clear. The momentum began at the 1984 Olympics in US which was the first time hockey had been played on a synthetic surface.

“Also in 1986 the hockey World Cup was staged at Willesden and England did extremely well.

That set the light for 1988 and all the kids wanted to be Sean Kerly or Imram Sherwani.

“Local hockey became popular with the kids and Mansfield and North Notts bolted on extra teams and training for them.

“In general the young men who started playing at this time have usually continued to play up to this date although most are in their late 30s.

“Many have gone on to play for top clubs and most playing at Midlands Premier and above.

“Chris Goddard,Roy and Mark Greasby for Mansfield and Gary Bradbury and Phil Calcroft for North Notts are just a small number who have continued to play at these levels.”