Back to the future for Glenn Kirkham at The Perse School

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 September 2017

Glenn Kirkham at The Perse Upper School, Hills Rd, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Glenn Kirkham at The Perse Upper School, Hills Rd, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Former GB star is new director of sport

Being able to take your pick of two Olympic Games or a European Championship gold medal as a career high probably says all you need to know about Glenn Kirkham.

He is clearly someone who has achieved at the top of his chosen tree – in this case hockey – and is eager to pass on that experience to the next generation.

Kirkham has been doing just that since 2005, for nine years at The Perse School as first PE and games teacher, then head of hockey and assistant director of sport, and for the last three years at New Hall in Chelmsford.

But he is now back at The Perse in a different guise, with the emphasis on leading the department as a whole as director of sport.

“It’s quite a strange feeling really,” said Kirkham, who retired from international hockey in 2013. “There is a lot of familiarity around the place, lots of faces still here from when I left three years ago, but because the school progresses quickly there are a lot of new faces as well, and new buildings.

“It’s one of those where I feel like I should know more than I do perhaps at this moment in time, but it is certainly good to be back.

“Being at a school that was on the same circuit, I did get to keep a close eye on The Perse and have been back a good few times in between.

“It’s a school that is in a really strong sporting position, and the fact that they came in the top 10 ranked as sporting schools by School Sports Magazine, that’s showing it’s not just one or two sports, it’s across a number of sports.

“It’s sports such as cross-country and those types of activities as well where we perform well. It’s certainly nice to be back and in charge of it all.”

After accepting the position earlier in the year, Kirkham has been keeping track of The Perse’s achievements on social media and has seen the continued growth in so many aspects.

And he has also been keeping a close eye on the development of the national hockey teams since exiting the scene, and believes after a disappointment at the Rio Olympics, there are signs that the men’s squad is on the way back.

“It’s gone brilliantly well for the women, and anything will have been over-shadowed by that side of things,” he said.

“There was a big change in the squad anyway, a change of coach as well, so that was always going to be the case that it was going to take a bit of time.

“I think Rio was certainly disappointing from the men’s side of the things. But again that has kicked the boot back into action.

“It’s a younger, less experienced squad but a hungrier squad probably and having seen quite a bit of the major tournaments they’ve been playing in, it does look really positive going forward.

“On the girls’ side of things, it just looks like more of the same really. There is the whole thing about success breeds success but actually you can really see that at this point because any player who comes into the squad is hungry for the medals that the experienced ones have already got.

“Hockey is in a good position.”

And Kirkham should know more than most, having earned 223 international caps for England and Great Britain and appearing at the Beijing and London Olympics.

But what was the pinnacle?

“The home Olympics was incredible,” he said. “The fact that we got much closer to the medals than we did in Beijing, we had a realistic chance and we felt going into it we really did have that chance – that was a major highlight.

“But I suppose though, from an absolute performance side of things, it would be winning the Europeans in 2009.

“That was the one gold I won during my career and, also, Europe is the strongest hockey continent now and it’s a challenge to get into the medals anyway, let alone win 
a gold.

“That was a really special team, a special time and on a performance side, that would be my highlight.”

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