Hockey is a remarkable sport. There can be few others where an octogenarian can play against or in the same team as a 14-year-old.
Tring Hockey Club is a small, friendly club doing its best in tough times for the game – sharing clubhouse facilities and the use of a rather worn astroturf at Tring School.
Recently it marked an incredible milestone for one of its stalwart players, with veteran member Gilbert Grace celebrating his 86th birthday.
Gilbert, of Grace’s the hardware shop fame (even greater since receiving a mention from Mark Steel on Radio 4 recently) has played the game since his schooldays and is now into his 76th season at the club.
He first played at the age of 11, in the winter of 1947, called into action by his father who was a player short for a game…and he has remained a Tring player ever since.
As a way to mark the occasion the club 1st XI selected Gilbert in the squad to face Berkhamsted 3rds and the elder statesman took the pitch after a goalless first half.
It’s possibly stretching things to say he was instrumental in the first goal for the home side, but a mere five passes after a timely tackle from Mr. Grace, Tring were a goal up – going on to win the game by five goals to nil.
After the game, and a hearty ‘three cheers’, members from both men’s sides and some of the ladies gathered at Tring Park clubhouse to celebrate with beer and cake and a feeling of tremendous warmth for a man who has given so much to the club and the game as a whole.
Away from his beloved club Gilbert has represented England at a wide range of age groups and among his many medals is a gold from 2010’s Hockey Grand Masters in Cape Town.
Who is to say he won’t represent them after he passes ninety?
Tring welcomes new players for both its mens and ladies sections, with coaching at Tring School on Wednesday evenings, and for juniors there is a session from 9.30am.