I would be heartbroken if we were relegated

IN HIS OWN WORDS; SEAN KERLY
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The Independent Online
The gold medallist at the Seoul Olympics and prolific Great Britain striker has returned to hockey after a six-month hiatus and will be playing the forthcoming season for the Second Division club, Richmond.

I would hardly say that I'm back in the sporting spotlight once again, but I certainly had a wry smile on my face when the phone calls from the newspapers started again. It was very unexpected - after all, I'm just an oldie who is set to play for a Second Division hockey club.

I haven't played a full game for more than six months, and I won't be playing again until the beginning of February, but I'm really looking forward to it. My return is basically a favour to Steve [Batchelor, Richmond player-coach and fellow Olympic gold medallist] but it didn't take much for him to persuade me. If I continue to enjoy it and Richmond do well, who knows how long I'll stay?

I played 25 minutes for Richmond in a cup game against Olton and West Warwicks about a month ago, and there's a funny story about that match.

I came on with about 25 minutes remaining. With my first touch I smashed a ball into the circle, it flicked up off an opponent's heel and I went at it with my stick but managed to hit the poor chap on the head. It was just bad luck. We then had a short-corner, which I managed to flick into the corner of the net: so I flattened one man and scored, all within a minute of coming on. I couldn't believe it. Steve and I then had a nice little interchange between the two of us, and he managed to put the ball away for a 2-1 win. It was just like the good old days.

As for fitness, I need to improve my lungs a bit and I have certainly lost some muscle bulk. The new system, which allows rolling substitutes, really helps oldies like me, however.

If anything, it is my experience that will help Richmond. Their players have great ability, but Steve thought I might have an influence on the way they play. So a lot of my input may well be on the training ground. But one person can't do very much. We need a bit of luck, and perhaps my presence may lift the spirits a bit. I would be heartbroken if we were relegated - I've never played at a club that has dropped a division at any level, and I don't intend to start now.

Whatever, it's fantastic to be part of a team again. I had played hockey for 20 years, and I often felt at a bit lost at the weekends after I had retired. I've also got certain responsibilities now - my young family comes first. But it would be rather nice if hockey could still fill a big part of my life. You are retired for a very long time, and so I want to play for as long as I can.

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