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Roger Self courtesy of Joanna Norton

Roger Self OBE with THM's Evelyn Somerville at Champions Trophy 2016.


Roger Self OBE, who led Britain's men's team to Olympic gold in 1988, died at home on Monday 5 June. He had been suffering from inclusion body myositis for the last 12 years. He was 77.

His wife Hilary, to whom he was married for 49 years, was present at his bedside. He leaves behind five children, William, Joanna, Leonie, Harriet and Natalie.

Roger was a qualified and practising physical education teacher in Worcestershire before he turned his capable hands to the world of financial advice initially as an insurance broker and, after changes in the financial services laws in 1987, as an independent financial advisor. He established his own financial services company, Roger Self Ltd, in Stratford upon Avon. Roger’s son William joined the business and has managed the transition of ‘Self’ (Chartered Financial Planners) over the last decade to become one of the first ever fee-only independent firms of Chartered Financial Planners in the UK

As a player he played for Redditch and Worcestershire but Roger’s coaching ability was recognised by the then Welsh Team Manager Tony Bannister who invited Roger to prepare the Welsh men’s team for the European Nations Cup in Brussels in 1970. He was then manager and coach for the European's in Madrid in 1974 before stepping down in 1977. His ‘no compromise’ approach to both tactics and fitness brought unparalleled success to the Welsh team during his time in charge. He confided in Bryn Williams that his greatest coaching achievement was coaching Wales to winning the Triple Crown the year after Wales beat England 1-0 in Penarth for the first time in decades. His greatest disappointment was being overlooked for the GB coaching job for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Shrewd observers at Southgate Hockey Club, however, invited him to coach Southgate in their second attempt to win the European Club Cup in 1976. Southgate, with a squad brimming with England and GB players the likes of Tony Ekins, Mike Crowe, Mike Corby, David Whitaker, Ian McGinn, Bernie Cotton, David Aldridge, Bob Cattrall, and David Owen, had failed at their first attempt in Frankfurt 1975. Roger got the best out of the team, winning in Amsterdam in 1976 and repeating the tour de force in both 1977 and 1978.

His impact with Southgate attracted the attention of the GB Hockey Board and Roger was appointed GB Coach for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. Sadly, in March 1980 the home country associations voted to support the Government-led boycott of the Moscow Games. Roger was called upon to lead the GB team into the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games at very short notice after the Russian boycott of Los Angeles in retaliation for the USA boycott of Moscow 1980 that let GB in. With David Whitaker now coaching at his side, the team unexpectedly won the Bronze Medal.

Roger continued as GB Team Manager throughout the preparations for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games where history was made as Richard Dodds captained the team to Olympic Gold. Gold medallist and former GB Performance Director, David Faulkner, explained that “with David Whitaker, they were both way ahead of their time in performance coaching and people. He always put the athlete first even if it was delivering a difficult message and without his guidance and wisdom when I became Performance Director, the GB solution (Framework Agreement) may have never been reached”.

The Roger Self/David Whitaker partnership was at the heart of GB success in 1984 and 1988. David recalls these heady days as follows. “What I valued most about Roger during our involvement with him in the management team was his willingness to move with the times if we had good cogent rationale and showed that it worked. Our progress with England between '84 and '87 was testament to that because the GB team of ‘88 was significantly better than that of ‘84. His leadership of GB was outstanding, especially at the strategic level both for the entity that was GB and how to lead players who were amateurs in an increasingly 'professional' hockey world. Without Roger, GB would have died as a powerful entity and we would have lost so much. As I remember well, we had some great debates but they were always focused on doing the best for the players and getting the best out of them. Often challenging but always valuable.”

His interest in international hockey, and his strongly held beliefs on how GB teams should play, continued after he stepped down. He became President of the GB Hockey Board (2004-2008). “GB's recent successes would not have happened without his leadership and willingness (along with others) to tackle the issues and deliver the Framework Agreement.” (Bryn Williams).

Roger also took an active role in the administration of the sport after his team management days, taking an active role on the Rules and Equipment FIH sub committees.

“He was certainly unusual, even unique and I look back on my involvement with him both as a player and coach with much fondness, laughter and thankfulness. I am so pleased to have been involved with Roger.” (David Whitaker)

“His clear hockey thinking, strong views and ability to engender great loyalty from his players, enabled him to set standards of leadership that others could only hope to emulate. He will be sorely missed.” (Bernie Cotton)

His passion for hockey and the people within it will be remembered for a long time as he made such a massive contribution to high performance hockey during his career. The legacy of the GB Framework agreement lives on and there is no doubt the recent Gold medal from the GB Women in Rio has its foundations in that agreement.

Bernie Cotton, 7 June 2017


Discover Roger Self in his own words by listening to The Hockey Museum’s oral history here.

pdfOther Roger Self obituaries:
The Times (click the PDF icon to the right; courtesy of Cathy Harris and The Times)
Hockey Wales (bottom of the page on their website)
Redditch HC

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