Article by John Willmott
John Shaw is the greatest hockey player that I have ever seen and I can assure you that I’ve seen many. John also just happens to be the most capped player that Southgate Hockey Club has ever produced with 207 caps for GB and England and is a double Olympian. I had the privilege of being our 1st XI Manager for a short period in 1989 and he was one of that team. We have since become close friends and he regularly comes to stay – so of course I could be accused of bias!!
John has been with the club since 1981 and continues to be the Head Coach of our Juniors and he has remained totally loyal and dedicated to our club, so much so that he now commutes weekly from his home in Exeter!!
John is 59 and was born in Penang Malaysia, his father was a helicopter pilot and his mother was a WAF. They left Penang when he was aged 6 and moved to Germany until aged he was 11 after which they moved to England.
His first club was Salisbury and then the Old Tauntonians who played in Southampton and his final club move was to Southgate in 1981. After 3 years with Southgate he was selected to play for GB at Willesden in 1984 before playing in the Champions Trophy in Karachi. He then played in the London World Cup in 1986, an event that many of us were involved in and visited.
After that John played in the European Cup in Russia and then played for GB in two Olympics, Barcelona in 92’ and Atlanta in 96’. He has 107 GB caps and 100 England caps – a fantastic record.
John has devoted his life to coaching at Southgate where he started Junior hockey in 1997. John has also worked very closely over many years with our other exceptional club coach Martin Foxall and works closely with Liz Moss, to make it all happen so effortlessly!! In addition, he was for 14 years, the coach to Oxford University men’s and women’s teams and during this period he also coached Slough Ladies who became National and European Champions.
So what about the person? John is a very humble, shy, unassuming and quiet person. He does not enjoy the limelight! He also has a great sense of humour!! He holds very strong beliefs in what is right and wrong on the hockey pitch and he hates foul play. He is without doubt one of the kindest people I have ever had the good fortune to meet and I know that many others consider him in the same way. He is very much a family man and is never happier than when with his wife Amy and their 6 year old daughter Poppy. He is very proud of his son Jordan who has just married and who is making a success as a singer songwriter in the music business.
So what was it about John’s hockey that made him so special? Well in my opinion it was his ability to run with the ball whilst not having to look at the ball. He could then spend his time on the ball, ducking, weaving and dummying his attackers such that he could just fly past them and then deliver a fantastic pass. John personifies hockey as “poetry in motion”, his playing style is such a pleasure to watch. He once told me that he honed this skill during many, many hours of practice on a squash court with a tennis ball. His ability to dummy other players does not only refer to the man bearing down on him, but he can also dummy other opposition players who are nearby, they then find themselves in the wrong position and so cannot stop him moving forwards. This “John Shaw Wobble” (as I call it) is both legendary and unique and why it makes him the best player I have ever seen.
Southgate has had a few dedicated members who have stayed with the club for many years, through thick and thin, but there have been none that have been as dedicated to Southgate Hockey Club as John Shaw has been, he has coached so many of our club members for so many years. All of us at Southgate are so very fortunate to have known this charming man who is a true expert of our lovely game.
John F Willmott
Past President SHC