"He is the King!" Bobby Crutchley gives his thoughts on Barry Middleton

Crutchley & Middleton
Former England and GB men's head coach Bobby Crutchley explains why Barry Middleton will be remembered as one of the sports all-time greats.

For those not old enough to remember, Barry John was a legendary Welsh rugby fly half and, despite winning a relatively meagre 25 Welsh and 5 Lions caps, his mercurial performances were legendary and he was subsequently nicknamed ‘The King’ by rugby fans.

‘Barry John’ Middleton (named after the aforementioned player) produced similarly mercurial performances for GB & England hockey that will no doubt become increasingly legendary as time moves on. However, unlike his namesake, his senior international career spanned an incredible 15 years and a staggering 432 international caps and therefore there were many of us lucky enough to share it! 

There is no doubt in my mind that Barry could have returned to international hockey after his break, been selected for his fifth Olympic Games and become the most capped international hockey player of all time. His decision to retire now is partially explained by the fact that individual accolades, such as these, were never a motivation for him. He was the ultimate team man. Throughout his whole career, he trained harder than anyone else, made sure new members of the squad were integrated and listened to everyone’s opinion, no matter how much experience they had. On the pitch this team ethic was highlighted by the highest work rate, defensive diligence and high levels of bravery; he just happened to have brilliant attacking skills as well!

From 2003 Barry was an ever-present on the international scene and usually not too far away were his most dedicated supporters, Roger & Sheila - his Mum & Dad. It was pretty clear where Barry got his sense of fun and enjoyment from!

When Jason Lee made him captain after the Beijing Olympics, at the tender age of 24, he led the team with incredible humility and in 2009, at the European Championship, became the first England men’s captain to lift a major trophy for more than 100 years. This, along with many other highlights, will live long in the memory.

Barry retired as the second most capped international hockey player of all time, while on the other side of the world travelling with his wife Becky. I have no doubt he did it so no one could make a fuss of him. Despite this, his contribution will not be allowed to slip away quietly and  his influence on the GB & England teams will last for a long time yet. I am sure the current group of players will be trying to do things a bit more like ‘how Barry would have done it’. 

For us England & GB hockey fans he is The King! Although he would probably hate me me saying so.