LX Hockey Club – The Early Years

The following has been taken from an article prepared by Gerald Wilkinson, a founding member of the LX Hockey Club, which appeared in the 2015 LXer Magazine; 2015 was the 20th Anniversary of the formation of the LX Hockey Club.

This article provides a more detailed history of the early years of the LX Club since its inception back in 1993 and subsequent formation in 1995.  Clubs do not just happen; there is usually an opportunity spotted to fulfil a need; a nucleus of people to have a common aim and an enthusiast or two to get things going.  The LX Club is no exception.

There were of course veteran teams performing within existing clubs, though not that many back in the 1990s.  And even within those teams there were very few players over the age of 60.  So how and why did the LX Club come into being? The spark of an idea arose during an ‘Golden Oldies’ Over 50s tournament at Hattem in Holland in 1992 at which Ian Russell, Tim Brooking, Brian Woolcott, along with the late Graham Phillips and Gerald Wilkinson were competing for the Puramatons (a combination of Puritans, Llamas and Pistons) from England.  At this tournament the Zestigplussers of Holland had an over 60s team taking part and after our match with them the captain asked if there was a possibility of an English team of over 60s being raised so that a match could be arranged between us.  In other words, a challenge from the Dutch!  Gerald’s retort was – as he was only 58 at the time, Tim and Brian were even younger – that it would take at least two years to find enough players of the required age.

What happened next was an invitation from the Ronchin Club of Lille in France to take part in an Over 60s tournament to which the Dutch Zestigplussers had already been invited.  It was subsequently realised that it was the Dutch who suggested that we should be invited.  A considerable latitude in age was to be allowed regarding those players who were struggling to reach 60 years of age.  Brian Wolcott and Tim Brooking were two who were just under age.

There was no LX Club as such at this time although a ‘committee’ meeting was convened in 1993 to consider the possibility of forming a club.  This meeting was attended by Tim Brooking, Brian Ware of the National Physical Laboratory HC, and H. Chapman, President of the Llamas HC.  There were apologies for absence from Ian Russell and Gerald Wilkinson who had other commitments.  At this meeting Brian Ware was elected to take on the secretarial duties and requested to write to the Hockey Association (HA) of England asking that, if a club was formed, would it be permitted to produce a team to represent England.  Not a particularly diplomatic approach unfortunately, as the answer was an emphatic ‘No’, worded in such a manner as to say, who do you think you are!  No more meetings of this nature were held, but Ian Russell, Tim Brooking, Brian Woolcott and Gerald Wilkinson scoured the country for over 60s players for the tournament in Lille as it seemed an opportunity not to be missed and by the time of acceptance we had mustered 13 players who were aged 60 or thereabouts.

The tournament in Lille took place in February 1995; the LX Club team won the tournament without losing a match even though some other teams also had players well below the 60 age mark.  It was during this tournament that the English players held a meeting in the Etap hotel in Lille, which was our residence for the weekend, and it was agreed that Peter Boizot (who was not present) would be invited to be President, Ian Russell would be Treasurer, Tim Brooking Fixture Secretary and Gerald Wilkinson Team Secretary.  And so the LX Club was formed and has sent teams to the Lille tournament more or less consistently ever since.  The club’s reputation grew due to the fact that of the first 30 matches played not one was lost.  The word spread around hockey clubs that hockey after the age of 60 was possible and applications came from all over the country until by 1998 it was possible to field three teams.

It was about this time that the constitution of the LX Club was set out in printed form which stated that the club would be the vehicle for providing teams to represent England (officially or unofficially) with membership rules and criteria for selection, etc.  There was before then a misunderstood perception that one needed to be an LX Club member to be selected for an international match.  By including the word ‘vehicle’ it made it clear that the selectors were also looking beyond the club membership for players of the required ability and standard.

The LX Club really came into prominence when in 1998 the Dutch Hockey Association decided that, in conjunction with the senior World Cup to be held in Utrecht that year, they would organise the very first World Cup for Over 60s.  The England Hockey Association (EHA) received the invitation and passed it to Howard Davis to organise a team to represent England at this tournament.  Howard had played in the GB team at three Olympics, captaining the team in two of them, and was the guest of honour at the LX Club’s 20th Anniversary party at Oxford in 2015 where he accepted Honorary Membership of our club.

Howard explained to the EHA that he did not know of sufficient players aged over 60 to make up a team but he knew who could and he passed the responsibility of producing a team to represent England on to Gerald Wilkinson.  Gerald was well known to Howard as he had played in the England over 40s team in European tournaments in the 1970s which he had sometimes captained.  Trials were held at Reading HC and the squad of 18 players (16 per match) went on to win the World Cup competition by beating Australia, Germany and then Holland in the final.  Medals were presented by Juan Calzado, the FIH president at the time.  This was probably the time that the EHA, and subsequently England Hockey (EH), realised, perhaps reluctantly, that the LX Club knew what it was about and how to win matches and tournaments, as the early records of success demonstrated.  If it wasn’t for Howard Davis’s involvement in 1998, the success of Grand Masters hockey in England would probably have taken a much longer time to evolve.

Although the LX selectors had achieved a worldwide reputation by winning tournaments, England Hockey (who succeeded the EHA) decided in its wisdom to take over the control of the national team selection process, probably because Masters hockey, starting from the younger age group of 35, was beginning to have more prominence on the international scene. The LX Club could justifiably be proud of the fact that it put Masters hockey on the map in England and soon achieved, with an outstanding record of tournament successes, an enviable worldwide reputation which continues to this day.