London 2012 - Where are they now? Hockey hero Sean Kerly

Thu, 22 Mar 14:56:00 2012

The top scorer of Great Britian's gold medal-winning hockey team of 1988 was, for a short time, a household name who put his sport on the map.

1988 Seoul Olympics Great Britain hockey Sean Kerly - 0

The Gary Lineker of Hockey

One of the best things about the Olympic Games is seeing sports that usually struggle to get any attention at all suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

Such was the case in Seoul in 1998 when the Great Britain men’s hockey team claimed gold.

Victory, which came in the same summer that the England football team was humbled at the European Championships, was made all the more sweet by the fact that the team’s march to glory included wins over two of the nation’s oldest sporting foes – Australia and Germany.

As with every celebrated team achievements there was a stand-out individual who was the focus of most of the attention: Sean Kerly.

A key member of the GB side which had won bronze in Los Angeles four years previously, Kerly quit his job as a marketing manager in the run-up to the Seoul Games in order to have the best preparation possible. The extra work paid off and Kerly starred for the British team in South Korea.

GB qualified from their group as runners-up after a late penalty sealed defeat against Germany. That meant a semi-final against Australia, to whom Kerly and several of his team-mates had lost two years earlier when representing England in the world championship final.

However, Kerly ensured revenge against the pre-tournament favourites by scoring both goals at GB went into a two-goal lead. Australia pulled themselves level but, with the prospect of leg-sapping extra time in the Asian heat looming, Kerly exchanged a one-two with Imran Sherwani and scored the winner.

That dramatic hat-trick ensured at least a silver medal for Kerly and co, but they went one better by defeating Germany in the final. Sherwani scored twice and Kerly got a third as Britian won 3-1. The team’s second goal was greeted by commentator Barry Davies’s infamous line: "Where, oh, where were the Germans? And frankly, who cares?"

Upon returning home the team were afforded a hero’s welcome, and Kerly enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame which, while it lasted, made him as much of a household name as Gary Lineker. The team won the Team of the Year award at the Sports Personality of the Year ceremony that year, while Kerly was nominated for the individual prize.

Unfortunately, the state of hockey in Britain at the time could not maintain the major boost in interest born out of their Olympic success, and it was soon eclipsed once again by the Bobby Robson’s team reaching the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup, when Gary Lineker became the Sean Kerly of football.

Although he missed out on the SPOTY prize, which went to snooker player Steve Davis, Kerly was awarded an MBE in 1992 for his services to the sport.

So what is he up to now?

Find out from the man himself…

"I live in Herne Bay in Kent, which is where I where I grew up and lived until I was 18, when I moved to Reigate. I moved back here some years later though, and now live in the same house I babysat in when I was 14, which is amusing.

"If you plug www.seankerly.com into a browser you can see three states in which I exist these days – my main job, as a self-employed marketing consultant, plus my hockey commentary and public speaking.

"I’ve never really been just about hockey, and it’s the same today. I always worked, from leaving school – I didn’t go to university – with hockey just my leisure pursuit. When it became a little more serious, I still did it for fun – initially playing for your country is an honour, but then it becomes a challenge. It starts off being about playing for the rose on the shirt, as it was back then, and then the focus switches to doing everything you can to win – but it always stays enjoyable.

"My fist proper job was at a travel goods company as a trainee accountant. After learning the ropes I became a transport and distribution manager, which is what I was doing when we won bronze at the 1984 Olympics. By 1988 I was working in marketing, which is what I do to this day. When I was playing I’d change jobs every four or five years and eventually became self-employed: at first everyone’s excited to have a sportsman around but the reality hits – prolonged absences during tournaments, needing time off for training and matches – and in the end you feel like a burden.

"I quit that job for the 1988 Olympics, after which I had my first spell being self-employed, about a year. Then I worked in marketing for an artificial pitch manufacturer, a pottery company in Poole, and an independent school in Canterbury.

"I’ve been self-employed for the last eight or nine years, working mostly as a consultant in web design and marketing. We mostly do websites for smaller and medium-sized enterprises, but there’s a lot of crossover as some clients will use us for corporate events and the like. If something requires specific expertise – say a specific type of coding, or specialist event management – we bring in the right people.

"In addition I do some commentary work and public speaking. After I stopped playing I reacted against hockey, as I didn’t want it to be my only ‘thing’; but recently I’ve re-launched that side of my life, doing more of it as my business partner has been unwell, and I should be commentating on the men’s tournament during the Olympics, although nothing’s fully confirmed yet.

"Speaking of which, I think we have a great chance of winning medals in both the men’s and women’s tournaments this time round. Obviously the game has changed, but the old favourites are still there – Australia are the top side in the men’s game, while Argentina’s women have been great , but the Germans and Dutch are still very difficult for both.

"Our men‘s team has some fantastic talent, winning the European Championships and sitting in the top four; the women finished second in the last world tournament, the Champions Trophy in Rosario.

"Both can win medals if they get it right and go on a good run – but the competition is strong."

Tony Mabert @tony_mabert, and Reda Maher @Reda_Eurosport / E

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