30 Years since Prescot Played its Part in Olymipic Gold Medal Sucess
GB men hockey are playing Belgium on 3rd October to celebrate the famous gold medal win v West Germany back in 1988. Prescot played a small part in this success having hosted the eventual gold medal winners in the build up to 1988 Seoul Olympics (remember Ben Johnson ? that’s the one). David Johnson of Prescot Hockey Club retells story and the part Prescot played in GB’s success below.
Where were the Germans?
Back in 1988 Prescot Hockey Club had state-of-the-art facilities which were deemed so good that Great Britain Mens hockey team played several games at the venue in 1988. Prescot had been around a while already as part of the BICC social club but with the advent of astroturf in the mid 1980s the club rocketed through the north west league ranks as new players joined one of the only clubs in England with an artificial pitch.
In 1984 Great Britain men had failed to qualify for the Olympic Games in LA, in all fairness they just weren’t good enough and the mens game had hardly any media coverage. However, the mens team got a reprieve and a late invite after the Soviet Bloc boycotted the USA Games. With holidays cancelled and players called up late the GB men headed to LA to ‘make up the numbers’. GB stunned everyone and claimed a very unexpected Bronze medal as the hockey event was played on an artificial surface for the first time. Names such as Ian Taylor, Jon Potter, Stephen Batchelor and a little know Sean Kerly came to prominence back in the UK.
Around the same time Prescot’s venue on Warrington Road was converted to this new fangled ‘astro’ turf to cater for hockey, football and 5 aside all year round. In fact two water-based olympic standard pitches were laid in 1985 and hockey began to take off in Merseyside!
Circa 1986 a ladies section was formed at Prescot by current club President, Alan Clarkin. Back in the 1980s most of the ladies and mens clubs ran independently. However, Alan and the Prescot committee at the time had the foresight to create a club with both sections under one banner.
In 1987 and 1988 several England and GB internationals played at Prescot either in interLeague finals or in Cup games against an emerging Prescot Mens team. Word got back to Hockey HQ about the ‘North’ having excellent facilities and it might be a good idea to play a couple of GB games ‘Oop north’ ahead of the Olympic Games?
For their part, The England Hockey Association (as it was known then) approved the plan and Prescot Hockey Club was chosen as the venue for two pre Olympic warm up games in 1988. As GB had taken a surprise bronze in 1984 the team had earned the right to play in Seoul as a ranked team. However, the superpowers of the time were still Pakistan, India, Australia, The Netherands and an all conquering West Germany. Germany had been smarting since their defeat four years earlier and had been on a run of only one defeat in over 100 international matches ahead of the 1988 Games. GB had been building steadily but a medal in ’88 looked like an outside chance at best with other countries ranked much higher.
Prescot hosted Great Britain in August and September 1988 with full international games against Canada and New Zealand. A decent attendance at both games (900+) saw international hockey played in the North of England for the first time. Imran Sherwani, Sean Kerly and Jon Potter starred for GB as they won both their games and sampled some Prescot hospitality in the bar afterwards!
At the Seoul Olympics Germany and Australia were the favourites as they swept all before them, including Germany beating GB in the group stages 2-1. This left Great Britain needing to beat India in their final game to then take on the Aussies who had won all of their group games in the semi final. GB hammered India 3-0 to claim a semi final spot and then pulled off a shock by defeating Australia to reach their first Olympic Final in over 50 years. Sean Kerly scoring a hattrick to break Aussie hearts and to cheer up a watching TV audience back in the UK.
West Germany had defeated the Dutch in the other semi and were fully expected to dispatch Great Britain as they had already beaten them days earlier. However, the Brits dug deep and goals from Sean Kerly and Imran Sherwani (2) ensured a famous victory. In fact, Sherwani’s second goal and GBs third came as the Germans had pushed on looking for a goal to get them back into the game. An enthralled TV audience of millions at home cheered on as Barry Davies immortalised the line ‘Where were the Germans…but frankly who cares!’ as GB sealed a famous and unexpected Gold medal.
Prescot hosted several more Inter League finals from 1989 to 1993 and continue to thrive as a club in the North West. However, thirty years on it’s nice to look back on a little bit of history for Great Britain and the small part Prescot played in the journey to the Gold medal.