SOUTHGATE PEOPLE – Nigel Spencer Knott

This week we feature captain of the  illustrious Tankards, Nigel Spencer Knott. Nigel has been playing hockey since 1954, is a cover star, England player and now captain of the legendary SHC Tankards. Nigel reveals all including his fitness regime for a return to hockey, looking after the family and even finds time for a dig at Tony Mastroddi.

When did you and what led you to join Southgate HC? 

In 1986 Enfield HC could no longer sustain a vets team so I joined Southgate.

Before you joined where did you play?

I was lured back to hockey by a local friend who knew I used to play hockey some years before. His team had started a vets side at Enfield and were looking for a few more veteran, over 40 years players

What have been the highlights of your time at the club?

At Southgate I immediately became aware of the benefit of playing with the more mature players who were sympathetic to the slowing down and off the pitch the social aspects were also more mature.  Transporting younger ones was no longer a problem and living locally was a huge bonus. 

As Southgate HC moved to Trent Park in 1994 I joined and enjoyed some great games in cup matches which included James Duthie, John Shaw and Tony Mastroddi (when he was quite fit). Later being selected to play for England over 60s and winning the European Cup in Rotterdam (2005) I have enjoyed a higher level of hockey with equally slowed down players. This has helped keeping up with Southgate Flagons, then Magnums and then Tankards.

How long have you been captain/coached X team?

I have avoided responsibilities as much as possible having been a committee member, Secretary, Match Sec, Fixtures sec, Chairman, Vice Chairman for 31 years with one club, Metropolitan Police HC and almost 10 years with Enfield HC.  So Captaining at Southgate has been an occasional duty until I seem to have been slotted in as tankards full time Captain, at least I can be sure of a game!

What league do you play in?

Tankards play in the 9th Division South West of the East League.

Can you explain where the Tankards came from and what makes the team special?

Three or four years ago it was decided to ensure that Southgate junior players make the transition to adult hockey more smoothly by playing alongside their fathers and veterans who wanted to play still but were on the verge of being left off the team sheets. Thus three Tankards sides were set up: each with about 4 youngsters, four Dads or 40 to 50 year olds and four over 60s.  After a while it became clear that the 13 and 14 year olds were improving very quickly, the middle age range of those returning to hockey having not played since school or university and fathers returning to hockey were getting fitter and the over 60s were continuing to slow down, some to nearly stationary. Thus the Tankards changed to three levels or standards, now the better two teams have changed names to 3a, 4a.  Another group, the fast and furious but not so skilled became the 5A.  Leaving Tankards Z to be the Tankards.

How has the team been getting on this season?

The side is mid table of their league this season.  Covid-19 has meant that the team has occasionally been strengthened by players from better teams without a match on that day. Of course this works for other sides and Tankards have been faced by opposition sides which have been far better than on a previous meeting.

What have been the challenges that have come with the job?

The challenges are mostly dealt with by a brilliant Match sec, Selection Sec and support email system through Spond. During the week before a match and on the day fitting different standard players to the team weld is very demanding but each player goes home having had a good work out and usually with a smile on his face.

When not captaining or coaching what do you in your non hockey life?

Having retired after 34 years in one job, then 25 years incorporating and running a screening business I help out in a few other ventures. 4 Grandchildren from granddaughter (26 teacher) down to 6 month old boy, also require support of various sorts.

What are your hockey ambitions for your team, for you and for the club?

I first played for Guildford HC in 1958 in the 5th XI during school holidays which guides my ambitions for Tankards, aiming at developing the best opportunities for the teenagers to improve their individual standards so that they can enjoy hockey beyond school and further education.  They won’t all be future 1st team players but they must be encouraged to enjoy their game. Fitness into ones older years is a great joy.  

Now we have been given the greenlight to start thinking about hockey resuming at the end of the month- how are you planning on being ready for the Tankards first game back?

I’ll be at the very first training sessions at SHC, long way off fitness at the moment. Walking the dog for an hour a day is hopeless for keeping decently fit, we’re not allowed out more than that. Ok for younger folk who haven’t had warning letters.

But I have learnt how to use some of the smart tv stuff.

May Southgate HC flourish for another 100 and more years.