The Hockey Paper's Rod Gilmour spoke to East Grinstead men's assistant coach Tim Deakin about how he has returned to the pitch in recent seasons ahead of a Premier Division double header for the club this weekend.
Following in the footsteps of the great Barry Middleton, Tim Deakin made his debut as a 15-year-old for Doncaster. Twenty years on and Deakin’s club hockey career, as with Middleton, is still fervent both on and off the pitch, despite initially being forced to stop playing after arthritic pain in both knees during a “pretty horrible” low point.
The 35-year-old is currently assistant coach with East Grinstead men, who play an evening home clash against Men’s Premier Division league leaders Surbiton on Saturday. It will be an important match on two fronts for the club, which will also double up as part of their ‘Play in Pink’ campaign and raising money for breast cancer.
“We don’t get to play under the lights that often in the league these days and hopefully we will have a big crowd and an incredible atmosphere,” said Deakin.
After leaving school, Deakin joined Cannock from Doncaster. He spent four seasons there, which included a national league title and the Euro Hockey League in 2008. Thereafter, the former England U21 player experienced three seasons playing Spanish club hockey before returning to the UK as Surbiton captain.
The travels continued when he moved to East Grinstead in 2013 before his first forays into coaching with Oxted and Teddington. Last September he moved back to East Grinstead and stepped back from head coach this season where he is now assistant to Dave Beckett. The work-life balance suits Deakin, who also has a full-time role as director of sport at City of London Freemen’s School.
A successful career in club hockey has had its down moments after Deakin was threatened by retirement after knee issues in what was termed as early-onset arthritis. He best describes it as having “no cartilage on the outside of his knee caps”.
Doctors advised him to slow down, while in recent years Deakin took up cycling and long distance running as a way of dealing with no hockey at the weekend. His knee problems and the bone rubbing have evaporated, simply by being able to build up the muscle again and losing weight.
He now appreciates the game more: “I’m much more relaxed where previously it was completely non-stop,” he revealed.
“It’s apparent in my coaching and I see things differently now. Every time you go out on the pitch you should enjoy it and I always try to have a smile - what’s the point if there is no joy in the game?”
Thanks to his fitness, Deakin has even made a Premier Division appearance for East Grinstead this season. With more zonal play and less man-marking in the modern game, Deakin says he can keep pace. “I’m probably fitter than I was even six years ago,” he admitted.
Deakin won’t be on the sidelines on Saturday night and will be watching the livestream from the south of France.
East Grinstead can call upon their South African goalkeeper Richard Curtis after they were forced to field an outfield player in goal, when Sam Lloyd was forced off the field with concussion against Old Georgians in their last match.
The club had a quiet summer transfer window but they have been boosted by Canada’s Olympic duo Fin Boothroyd and Jamie Wallace this season.
East Grinstead currently sit second bottom of the division, with one point from their four opening games. Deakin says that the team have been playing better than their results suggest, with spells in games which have outshone some of their performances in last season’s curtailment.
There can be no bigger test as they attempt to kick their campaign into gear than a clash against Surbiton, with Mark Pearn's side aiming for a fifth straight victory.
East Grinstead go pink
Bea Chappell, one of East Grinstead’s U18 members, has been championing the club’s 'Play in Pink' campaign, helping to raise over £4,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness. The club is now urging supporters to wear pink over the weekend as the campaign comes to its month-long conclusion with the Men’s and Vitality Women’s Premier Division games taking place at Saint Hill.
Both matches will be streamed on East Grinstead’s YouTube channel on Saturday 23 October.
- Women: East Grinstead v Swansea, 13:30
- Men: East Grinstead v Surbiton, 18:00