After making 223 appearances for England and Great Britain, Glenn Kirkham has announced his retirement from international hockey at the age of 31.
Kirkham competed in two Olympic Games and following London 2012 he decided to take some time away from the centralised programme to focus on his family and teaching career and has recently decided that he will not be rejoining the international squad.
Kirkham is part of a select group of individuals who have made over 200 international appearances, a feat which he achieved over a nine year period following his debut against Belgium back in 2003. He has been one of the most consistent members of the squad in recent years winning bronze, silver and gold medals in major tournaments. In 2009 he was part of the squad who became European Champions after defeating Germany 5-3 in the final.
Speaking about the difficult decision to retire from a sport he loves, Kirkham said: “After having a break from international hockey following the London Olympics, it now feels the right decision to call time on what has been a thoroughly enjoyable and challenging international career. The break has given me the chance to spend more time at home with my family, and also return to full time employment, and having done so I now feel I'm unable to fully commit the time and energy required to return to the international programme.”
He added: “I feel very lucky to have been able to play at the very highest level and represent my country at two Olympic Games. I have been able to travel the world playing a sport that I love and have played since the day I was old enough to stand and hold a stick. England and Great Britain have made huge progress on the pitch over the last ten years and to have been involved in the group during this time has been incredibly rewarding.”
Following Kirkham’s announcement, international and club teammate, and close friend Ashley Jackson said: “Glenn did not always receive the attention he deserved away from the pitch given his abilities on it. Not only is he one of the best people I know away from hockey, his attitude at training, during matches and in tough times always lifted any team he was part of. His ability on the pitch was recognised by his teammates and all that played against him. I am thankful to have spent so many years playing alongside Glenn and am grateful for everything he has done to make me the player and person I am today.”
Although Jason Lee is now head coach of the women’s team, he led Kirkham throughout his playing career as head coach of the GB and England men’s team. He said: “Glenn is one of the players that always impressed me with his immense focus and drive. I first started coaching him when he was about 17 years old during the days of the regional academies all the way through to what turned out to be his last ever international some 15 years later in the bronze medal play-off at London 2012. He was someone who brought huge energy, as well as quality, to his work and in my opinion became that player which the team could rely on in any circumstance to keep us going. Although not recognised as much as others because he wasn’t often a goal scorer, he was one of the key architects of the GB & England men’s team progress over the last 10 years.”
Kirkham also added his thoughts on the current men’s squad, now under the lead of Bobby Crutchley: “I feel sure that the men's team is in a good position with a nice blend of exciting young talent and experienced players to push on and qualify for Rio Olympics in 2016. I wish Bobby [Crutchley], the management and player group the very best of luck for the challenges ahead.”
“I have many people to thank for their support throughout my international career. All those at England and Great Britain Hockey, in particular David Faulkner [Performance Director from 2005-2012], Jason Lee and the coaching group, and to all those team mates who I've had the pleasure and honour of playing international hockey with. I also owe a huge amount to The Perse School, Cambridge, who have been the most supportive employers I could have wished for throughout my senior international career. Finally, and most importantly, a thank you to my family. In particular my parents, brother and sister, and my wife Marie for all their support, encouragement and understanding.”
Deciding to make his initial break from international hockey a definitive one will allow Kirkham to spend more time with Marie and his young daughter Freya, and for him to continue his role as Assistant Director of Sport at The Perse School and competing domestically for East Grinstead HC.
Kirkham will be hoping that his club side, East Grinstead, will make it through to the Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Finals at Wembley Arena on Sunday 2 February. You can find out more about the event here.