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Tributes to Navy's 'Mr Hockey', stalwart of the sport for six decades

23 February 2017
The world of Navy sport today paid tribute to the Service’s ‘Mr Hockey’ who died at the weekend after a short battle with cancer.

Lt Cdr Alan Walker dedicated his life to the sport – so much so that the stadium in Portsmouth where Royal Navy teams play is named in his honour.

Alan joined the Navy in January 1960 as an artificer apprentice, but was soon seized by a passion for both swimming and hockey, the latter especially, representing the RN and Armed Forces; he appeared more than 100 times for the RN representative side between1968-1985.

Off the pitch, he gained Level 3 and 4 coaching qualifications and by the mid-1980s was a much-sought-after coach beyond the RN.

He was England Hockey’s ‘video man’ at the 1986 World Cup at Willsden when the hosts were runners-up and after the tournament Alan was invited to take up the role of Hockey Association staff coach.

Alan was truly Mr Hockey, especially in the Royal Navy, an absolute gentleman who always had time for everybody and couldn’t do enough for you. He will be sadly missed by all.

Steve Lemon, secretary of the RN Hockey Association.

On leaving the Navy that same year, he took up the role of RN Hockey Association Secretary and went on to coach Havant HC, helping them become one of the forces in the land in the 1990s. Just for good measure he was instrumental in resurrecting Gosport HC, who became one of the top sides in the county.

All this helped with his appointment as England U21 men’s manager. He was in charge for 61 matches between 1992 and 1994 – and would have been at the helm for eight more if the team hadn’t be ‘bombed out’ at the Indira Ghandi Memorial Tournament in Mumbai in March 1993.

And throughout, Alan continued his role as the chief coach of the Royal Navy and UK Armed Forces teams. He guided the RN to double Inter-Service title triumphs in 2004 and 2005, inaugurating the most successful run in the team’s history until Alan retired in 2010… which prompted a special tournament in Portsmouth with nine command teams playing in Alan’s honour; the Scottish sides presented Alan with a special kilt in recognition.

Even upon retirement Alan continued his work as vice president of the RN, UK Armed Forces, Gosport and Nordics Hockey Club, acted as a patron of the Hockey Museum, and in his final days was still organising the inaugural fixture for the Nordics Ladies which took place on the Sunday after his death.

“Alan was truly Mr Hockey, especially in the Royal Navy, an absolute gentleman who always had time for everybody and couldn’t do enough for you. He will be sadly missed by all,” said his friend and current secretary of the RN Hockey Association Steve Lemon.

“His dedication to grass roots hockey in the Royal Navy has made it one of the most popular sports in the Service.

“No-one knows exactly how many coaches Alan qualified in his time as a coach educator, it will be way above 500 mark and some say it may even be in the thousands, but it’s safe to say his legacy is being carried out on hockey pitches all around the UK.”

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