Mark Pearn collects his Award from FIH President Leandro Negre.
Mark Pearn collects his Award from FIH President Leandro Negre.
(Photo: FIH / Hockey Writers' Club / Peter Savage.)

MARK PEARN, the 34-year-old Great Britain, England and East Grinstead striker and ALEX DANSON, the 26-year-old Great Britain, England and Reading forward have been named UK Players of the Year for 2011 following the annual poll conducted amongst British members of the Hockey Writers’ Club.  Both are currently in the GB Olympic training squads and are no strangers to honours and barring injury look certain to take their places in the GB squads in the London Olympics. There was a record attendance to hear Leandro Negre, President of the FIH, and Richard Leman, President of Great Britain Hockey, make some stimulating speeches before the presentations.

Alex Danson, the former Trojans and Slough player who joined Reading two years ago on returning from a season playing for Laren in the Dutch League has had a highly successful club and international season which was  iced at the end of December with her selection, with her club colleague, Helen Richardson, for the FIH World Squad.  The youngest player to be capped for England when she played against Germany in a 1-1 draw in Cologne on 23 October 2001 at the tender age of 16, she has now amassed 162 combined Great Britain and England international caps at the end of 2011 including the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Mark Pearn's international career started way back in 1995 when he pulled on an England shirt at the age of 18 in Berlin against the Netherlands. It included selection for the Sydney and Athens Olympics and has been rekindled by his recall to the international arena with England and Great Britain during 2011 after a gap of seven years at the age of 34. The call came after a series of fine performances as player/coach of East Grinstead where he moved seven seasons ago after a highly successful career with Reading and a season in Barcelona playing for the Polo Club. Mark had previously won the Award for 2000.

Mark received the traditional Rose Bowl and his cheque at a presentational Lunch at the Royal Thames Yacht Club, in Knightsbridge, London from FIH President Leandro Negre, who flew in from Barcelona for the occasion. Unfortunately, Alex was unable to attend the presentation as she was on international duty with Great Britain in Argentina. In her absence, her award was accepted by her parents, Trisha and David.  On learning of her award Alex commented, “It’s been quite a surreal day and I feel so honoured.  I feel so exceptionally lucky to play the sport I love in the environment I do.  The central programme for me is quite simply the best job in the world. “

Barry Middleton (East Grinstead) and Helen Richardson (Reading) the 2010 winners were runners up with James Fair (Cannock) with  Beth Storry (Reading) in third place.

Plaques and cheques were also presented to Jo Leigh (Clifton HC) and Joe Sharp (Belper HC & Ecclesbourne School) as winners of the Higgins Group UK Youth Hockey Awards.  Martha Baker (Beeston HC & Bramcote Hills School) and James Albery (Old Loughtonians HC) won the newly introduced Higgins Junior awards.

As well as the player Awards, the Hockey Writers' Club Luncheon featured thoughtful speeches from Great Britain Hockey President Richard Leman, FIH President Leandro Negre and FIH Chief Executive Officer Kelly Fairweather. Former Great Britain goalkeeper David Luckes MBE - a key player in the original team behind London's successful bid to host the 2012 Games - was another keynote speaker at the event, announcing the teams that will take part in the London 2012 test event which takes place in May. For more information about this story, please click here. 

The awards were hosted by legendary British television commentator and long time Hockey Writers' Club member Barry Davies MBE.