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Great Britain Hockey Story

As hockey fans, seldom do we gain access to a compendium of our national team’s fortunes covering half a century. This book, cleverly crafted by one of hockey’s most respected and enduring journalists, Bill Colwill, offers the reader a tremendous insight into the history of the Great Britain men and women’s teams to the year 2000.

What will first grab your attention will be the sheer colour and vivid presentation of a booklet of 64 pages. Bill, with his renowned attention to detail, also chronicles the playing records of all the Olympic teams and players of this era. This undoubtedly is a challenge for the writer to intertwine existing action shots with the more mundane lists of international statistics.

Central to this booklet is the close connection between Bill Colwill and his subject matter. His prose not only captures the eventful history of Great Britain’s Olympic teams, but also the specific atmosphere of each generation of international play. It is because Bill was a journalist at The Independent newspaper covering hockey on a daily basis, that he was able to present the insider’s view of hockey in the twentieth century.

As a playing and coaching participant during this same era, I have to confess in this review that I may not be 100% objective. Nevertheless, Bill’s coverage of the unfortunate inadequacy of preparation for the Olympics in the 1960s, his view on the sheer tragedy for the individuals caught up in the negative bans and boycotts of the 70s, allied to the thrills and spills of our Olympic medals of the 80s, strike all the cords of sporting joy and desolation that only the Olympiad could engender.

At all times, Bill writes sympathetically with customary understatement on extreme issues, but his probing is invariably effective in demonstrating the contrasts that the world of hockey imposed on the British Olympic scene. Maybe the author could have delved into some of the underlying contentious debates on the dilemma of selecting from four separate national teams, and why it really took so long for our women to come to the Olympic party? Still, Bill Colwill never was one to rock the boat, the text remains positive at all times.

Personally, I would like to have had more words from the playing and coaching icons. Could we have heard from base camp, the views of Denys Carnill, Bill Vans Agnew, Bernie Cotton, Jane Sixsmith, Karen Brown, Roger Self and Graham Nash, all distinguished Olympians?

The Great Britain Hockey Story, brilliantly supported by Peter Luck’s photography, is a feel good book reflecting a topsy-turvy evolution of our Olympic years. You will not read a better account than from anyone as Bill Colwill, who as an admiring schoolboy in 1948, not only then witnessed the special attraction of the London Games, but also became very much a part of them through his coverage.

 

Editor: the opinions presented in this article are those of the individual assigned to review this particular book. They do not represent the views of The Hockey Museum.

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22 October 2015
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16 May 2015
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