Roger Self OBE

Roger Self                    Guernsey Press

Roger attended Elizabeth College from 1950 until 1959. He made 4 appearances for Guernsey, his first appearance being in 1958. He scored 105 runs at 26.3 with a high score of 56. As a bowler he finished with 59 – 13 – 173 – 10 with an impressive economy rate of 2.93. In 1961 he put on 62 with Alan Hunter and the following year he added 76 with Stan Cleal, both for the 6th wicket.

He was a talented sports player in hockey, cricket, football and squash. He was to make his mark in hockey when he became the manager of the GB hockey team in 1984 with Olympic bronze medal and then the Olympic Gold in Seoul in 1988.

The following is a summary of his sporting prowess written by Rob Batiste and published in the Guernsey Evening Press on Wed 7th June 2017:

‘THE man who brought a sense of purpose to British hockey.’

That was just one of many tributes afforded to Roger Self, the Old Elizabethan, who died on Monday, 29 years after leading Great Britain to its greatest moment in its previously undistinguished Olympic hockey history.

Peter Stahelin, chairman and chief executive of Guernsey Hockey, paid this tribute. ‘To those of a certain age, locally, nationally and internationally, Roger was synonymous with wonderfully talented and successful GB men’s hockey squads which he managed to Olympic Bronze in 1984 and then memorably Olympic Gold in Seoul in 1988. ‘He brought Olympic quality and memories to Guernsey in a 10th anniversary match featuring many medallists. ‘His legacy still bears fruit and he will be remembered as one of the greats of British hockey.’ Self, who joined Elizabeth College in 1950, was one of the era’s most talented sportsmen be it on the hockey, cricket and football fields, as well as the college squash court. He went on to St Luke’s Training College, Exeter, in 1959.

Before departing for a life in England, he had been a sufficiently good cricketer to win a place in the 1958 full island cricket team, this after he had learned much on and off the field from the legendary college sports master Jack Reddish. As the college’s regular opening batsman in 1957, his final year, he smashed 87 against Victoria College and earned this back-handed praise and criticism from the hard-to-please Reddish in the season review which appeared in The Elizabethan school magazine.

‘A very fast-scoring batsman, particularly strong on the leg side. Made runs as he wished – a pity that sometimes he didn’t wish.’ Reddish then added a few more critical words that the future Olympic coach no doubt utilised as he built his own great hockey sides. ‘For all his ability he will not go far in the game unless he learns to be less temperamental.’ In his first year out of school, Self made the first of several appearances for the full Guernsey cricket side, opening both batting and bowling against Jersey, taking two wickets and scoring 27.

Two summers later he took six for 55 from 20 overs against the Caesareans and in 1962 smashed eight fours and two sixes in a quickfire 56 as Guernsey won a high-scoring game by 63 runs. For good measure he also claimed two Jersey wickets. But rather than teaching, he went into the world of insurance and away from the hockey fields became a director of his own insurance broking companies.

He became a highly successful manager of the Southgate Hockey Club and took them to European titles. Wales also wanted him to manage their national side and he did that for seven years. He was a man in demand and in 1980, after several decades of decline, Self set about changing Great Britain’s fortunes, with backing from the GB hockey board. He hired David Whitaker as coach before a bronze medal was garnered by GB men at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and followed, four years later, by an era-defining gold medal in South Korea.

Just how important Self was to the resurgent GB side as the 80s developed was summed up by Sean Kerly, the former England and GB forward, who said in a 2008 interview that ‘Roger was the key person.’ He added: ‘He was determined to build us mentally strong and supplied the “hockey intelligence”. He used to make and break us, again and again. It was not much fun, but we realised afterwards how important it was.’ In 2004, he became president of the GB Hockey board and was a technical official at the International Hockey Federation.

As president of GB Hockey for three years before retiring due to ill-health, he led the board in developing the framework agreement between the Home Countries which provided not only clarity on GB performance and business matters but ensured openness and transparency in the selection of the athletes for GB. The agreement ensured that GB primacy was one of the principal objectives of all three countries.

‘Roger made a unique contribution to GB hockey as coach, manager and president’, said fellow GB official Bryn Williams. ‘His single-mindedness and vision are one of the reasons why GB is in the best position since the early 1990’s to achieve Olympic success.’ Self was awarded an OBE for the GB team’s stunning Seoul success. However, for the last 30 years he has campaigned, along with captain Richard Dodds, for equal recognition in the Queen’s honours. Three players received honours, but 13 of the Seoul squad have yet to be recognised. ‘They were all amateurs back then and I would like to see equality and every player to be honoured,’ Self told The Hockey Paper this January.

He would have been 78 on Saturday.