Bishop's Stortford Hockey Club - Tony Gray

Tony Gray 1945 - 2014
Tony Gray 1945 - 2014

Tony Gray joined the Club in the early 1960s. Elected as Team Secretary in 1967/68 and a member of the Management Committee in 1976 and ultimately a Vice President. Since retiring from playing, he regularly supported the Club teams playing at Hockerill School but would retreat to the Golf Club for practice if the game was not of sufficient excitement. A single handicap golfer, which emphasised his eye and hand coordination as displayed during his hockey playing days.


 

 Tony (front and centre) captained the BSHC 1974/5 1st XI that earned top flight status in the inaugural East Leagues the following season


Colin Barber (Past President) recalls drafting in a young Tony Gray to make up the numbers for a Saturday morning game against Colchester. It soon became apparent that Tony was a young player of promising ability and he quickly became a regular to the first team. Starting as left half and later moving to centre half, he became a good, reliable and well liked member of the club although often the butt of friendly banter due to his slightly bowed legs!

 
Tony pictured 4th from the right

For some years Tony Gray worked for Fyffes/Wilkinsons (the local banana depot at Great Dunmow) which meant he had limited availability to play good hockey on Saturdays. So he took Sunday hockey very seriously, as did others who played in 'The Bishops'. This was a very good Sunday side with teachers at the College, who found they had limited availability on Saturdays with school commitments, also enjoyed playing on Sundays. CIM Jones (England & GB) and later Brian Underwood played with the Bishops on Sundays, and brought them talented youngsters like Matthew Swayne, James Duthie, Charles Eaton, and Tim Smith.

 

'Peter Rook recalls Tony Gray as the oldest ‘Bishop’ who had the common sense whilst the rest of them were young and foolish - Richard Tofts, Murray Houlder, Charlie Eaton, Colin Watson, Mark Surridge, Peter Rook, Andy Tonkin, Graham Wells. As they had nothing else to do, they played hockey on both Saturdays and Sundays. Quite often, Tony Gray's Sunday side had better results than the Saturday side, a fact that he was happy to point out proudly to the Saturday captains Mike Brearey and Richard Lace. Alas the rise of the ‘Leagues’ gradually saw the demise of serious Sunday club hockey but Tony was by then working for Pearl Assurance and could play on Saturdays.

 

Mike Brearey, who captained the Saturday side in the 1970’s, and his wife Irene recall that Tony was a regular baby sitter for their two boys - what wouldn’t he do for a decent meal and freedom of the drinks cupboard! They did however feel it was going too far when Tony was found teaching them to play cards for real money! He was very generous, however, and took the boys with him on his trips to watch Spurs on a number of occasions.

 

Here are some one liners that sum up Tony Gray the player:

·         Tony was the ‘Senior Pro’, admired greatly as a very skilful player who almost always ‘kept the ball’ and rarely lost it.

·         He had a great ability to time a pass like those old fashioned inside forwards of yore.

·         Although not blessed with electric pace, he was quite feisty and ‘mixed it’ in the tackle and more often than not came out with the ball.

·         He was one of those players who if you were in trouble you could pass the ball to, and he would get you ‘out of jail’.

·         For those who played against him he was a formidable competitor.

·         Can you picture his 'dummy', looking one way and passing the other, rarely seen on grass even if familiar today on astroturf, and his chuckle when he sold someone that 'dummy'

·         Tony was, after all, a long serving and loyal servant of the club.

 

Although regarded in recent years by older BSHC members as a bit of a recluse, we all share happy memories of time spent with Tony on the pitch at Cricketfield Lane in front of the Pavilion; time spent at the bar in the then new Charles Edwards Pavilion; and occasional social excesses in the town and ‘on tour’.

 

 

This is a compilation of memories of Tony Gray provided by his BSHC contemporaries within 48 hours of the news of Tony’s passing. If you have more memories of Tony, please e-mail them to bernie@berniecotton.com