Published on 15th Oct 2018 by Rachel Garfirth
12.11.1953 - 29.07.2018
This article was written to celebrate the life of Ian Roberts, otherwise known as ‘Robbo’ or ‘Weeble’. He was a huge character in the hockey world and a founding member of the hockey family.
Ian was born on 12 November 1953 and started playing hockey as a teenager. He would practise his skills in the house after school before his mum and dad got home, often flicking the ball up the stairs repeatedly.
He had a vision in the 1980s of creating the best mixed hockey team in the country. It was a vision which had its origins in two world tours; one in 1984 and another in 1989 where he toured with the White Knights, a mixed team that toured the world to play hockey, playing in many exotic locations including India.
Thus the Essex mixed team was born and went on to become one of the strongest mixed teams in the country, winning several regional county tournaments and the coveted National Mixed Championship several times. Ian worked tirelessly for decades to get Essex recognised as the best hockey county in the country, not only for the mixed but for any county team or club team he was associated with.
It was in this period that Ian became involved in coaching, at first for the Essex mixed hockey team and then the South of England mixed team. It was in 1990 that Ian spoke with Jack White and Stuart Clayton who had been involved with the Yorkshire mixed county team and dropped a hint about putting together an England mixed team.
Nobody had ever mentioned this before let alone dream of an England mixed team, all except Ian; this was his dream, his vision and his ambition. Ian met with David Knapp, a men’s Welsh international playing for Guildford at the time and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1991 Ian’s hard work, networking and travelling up and down the country paid dividends when England mixed played there first ever international match vs Wales at Kenilworth Road, the home of Luton Town FC.
The date was the 7 April 1991, England vs Wales, 12:00 push back; this was the warm up match to the Hockey Association Cup final between Havant and Hounslow. Sixteen players – with Ian as manager, Stuart as assistant manager and Sandy Tubby the physio – pulled on the white shirts and thumped the Welsh 4-0.
The team went on to play several more internationals under the guidance and coaching of Ian; not forgetting two England tours to Guernsey and the Far East, which England won. Ian became the first England mixed hockey manager and coach – a position he would hold for fifteen years.
His work to bring an international match to England as well as encourage other countries to do the same was incredible and without him Essex and England mixed would not have been started or continued.
Ian also had a long relationship with the Essex Hockey Association, not only looking after the mixed team, but also the men’s U21 and men’s Essex County touring team. In more recent years he coached many juniors at the Essex Junior Development and Academy Centres, having successes at the County Championship matches with them.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Ian at the end of July 2018. Ian was one of the most dedicated and knowledgeable people in hockey; he was a friend to everyone, a great hockey player in his time, and fair umpire at National League level. Yet most of all Ian was an unbelievable ambassador for our sport, for Essex and for England Hockey.
Published on 14th September by Nicola Hull