Andy Bull and Harry Martin, both players now establishing their positions in the senior international squads, and Alice Sharp who also won the Award in 2008, are the 2010 winners of the Higgins Group UK Youth Hockey Awards. We should not be surprised to see all three of these young players gracing the Great Britain teams at the 2012 London Olympics.
Andy Bull (GB, England & Loughborough Students) and Harry Martin (GB, England & Old Loughtonians) were impossible to separate and were declared joint winners – the first time the prize has been shared in its seven-year history. The “exceptional quality” of the candidates could not be split by the judging panel which was faced with two 18-year-olds who in Bull had been picked for England in the elite Champions Trophy Tournament in Monchengladbach.
So highly rated are both players by GB/England head coach Jason Lee that they earned their Great Britain caps in the Four Nations tournament at Nottingham in July, Harry before representing England.
Andy has made the step up from being Under-18 captain in last Easter’s Four Nations tournament in Hannover to earn five senior England caps and four GB caps in the summer. He won a silver medal at the Champions Trophy in August, England’s best finish in this tournament. He was also a travelling reserve for the Commonwealth Games. Andy started with his mum Paula and dad Graham coaching at Bury, and he soon leapt from the Jaguars through the squads before going to Bolton, Brooklands MUHC and now with Loughborough Students under player coach Jon Bleby. He is at Loughborough studying sport and exercise science.
“This award is brilliant,” said Andy: “I didn’t expect anything of the sort. It’s a massive privilege. It has been a cracker of a year. Looking back I am at quite a different place to where I started. The transition from juniors to seniors has been such a massive experience. Getting my first cap knowing I had made it absolutely thrilled me. And walking on to the pitch in Germany for the Champions Trophy and getting the silver medal was immense. It was all a bit surreal. It is just brilliant to play with all our top guys. London 2012 is obviously on the horizon and hopefully there is a lot more after that.”
Harry had represented England at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Midfielder Harry came under the wing of Olympian Julian Halls at Ipswich School and the Essex Old Loughtonians club. From an early stage “he demonstrated that his stick skills and hockey brain were far in advance of his years”, said Loughtonians club representative Martin Williams. He still travels 140 miles to train with the club. He gained his full GB and England cap before reaching the age of 18.
Commenting on the Award Harry said: “Playing in the Commonwealth Games against India in the semi-final was the absolute highlight of my time so far and I learned that playing in front of 30,000 people is the main thing that I want to do and though we still feel a bit sick about not getting a medal and going so close, it has encouraged me to press on. The London Olympics is obviously the big thing at the moment.
“It is fantastic to win this award. So many things have happened since India it still hasn’t sunk. It is a great honour when I see some of the people who have won it before.”
Higgins Group finance director Paul Lewellen said: “I think Andy and Harry are two of the most outstanding candidates that the Higgins Group have ever been associated with. They are of exceptional quality. To have reached their standard at their young age augurs well for hockey in this country all the way to and past the Olympic Games. We wish them all success.”
Hockey Writers’ chairman Peter Luck said: “The judges just could not split these two outstanding players. Good luck to them for England and Great Britain.”
In third place was Brendan Creed of the Bowdon club and Altrincham Grammar School. Brendan also has a superb CV and was part of the Long List for the Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately, he suffered a stress fracture injury and hopes to be playing in the New Year. Even while he has been injured he has qualified as a Level 1 coach.
Alice Sharp (England Under 21, Birmingham University and formerly of Belper HC) sustains the notion that hockey is a family game and she is a big part of that now. The Birmingham University midfielder came top of the polls as far as the judging panel was concerned for being plucked out of the Under-18 programme and into the England Under-21 squad where her performances helped win a silver medal in the European championships, England losing out to Holland in the final last summer.
Alice’s mother, Jackie, played for Belper and so a young star in the making was born as Alice joined up with the minis and went on through the ranks under coach Tim Barlow and played for their first team at the age of 16. A pupil of Ecclesbourne School, her brother Joe is also in the England Under-16s with two sisters Rachel and Emma are both playing for university sides. Dad Jerry does the running around!
Alice, studying economics at Birmingham, is coached by Phil Gooderham, who said: “Alice slotted straight into the England team where she held her own playing in midfield against the other countries’ best players.”
He added: “Alice has a great attitude, tremendous hand skills, eliminating players easily and rarely losing possession.”
It’s not all top-flight competition for Alice. “Obviously I have aims which I need to work towards. It was an enormous step up to the England Under-21s but a great challenge. I also like the social side of hockey and having a good balance in my life. I just want to keep playing and enjoying the game. I am surprised and very happy to win this award.”
Cannock’s Jo Leigh, formerly of Wakefield and Belper, came in a close second in the awards. Jo was selected for England Under-16s a year young in 2008 and won a silver medal in the Europeans at The Hague in July 2008. The judges were very impressed by her nomination from GB & England international Martin Jones at Repton School and have no doubts his predictions of senior international honours will come true. Loughborough Students Josie Inverdale, captain of that England Under-16 team in 2008 and then winning a bronze at the European Under-18 in 2009, also featured highly with the judges eventually awarding third place.
2004 Rebecca Herbert / Darren Cheesman
2005 Nikki Kidd / Ashley Jackson
2006 Maddy Hinch / Dan Barstow
2007 Sophie Bray / Liam Doidge
2008 Alice Sharp / Ben Arnold
2009 Sarah Haycroft / David Condon
2010 Alice Sharp / Andy Bull & Harry Martin
Source: The Hockey Writers' Club
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