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Former England hockey star Roly Brookeman now living on the streets

By Gazette reporter

by Jodie Nesling and Gerry Warren

At the peak of his career Roly Brookeman was unstoppable - a sporting superstar, travelling the globe to play hockey for his country.

The 67-year-old won 98 caps for England and Great Britain and even coached England's U21s before teaching PE and English at St Edmund's School in Canterbury.

But in a soul destroying reversal of fortune, the destitute pensioner is now living on the streets after his life spiralled out of control following the breakdown of his marriage.

Former hockey star Roly Brookeman is living on the streets after being evicted from his tent in Canterbury
Former hockey star Roly Brookeman is living on the streets after being evicted from his tent in Canterbury

To compound matters, a tent he was living in was removed by Canterbury City Council, meaning he had to spend a night in the 24-hour McDonald’s for shelter.

The father-of-two had been living at the White Horse in Chilham but a dispute about rent arrears saw him pitch a tent on council land near St Radigund's Street.

The authority then slapped an eviction notice onto it, saying it would be removed within 48 hours.

Roly says the action has been overly excessive. "I'm not hurting anyone and just can’t believe their aggressive attitude," he told our sister paper the Kentish Gazette.

"I understand other people like me with tents have been given similar notices.

"I could not believe just how officious the note was."

Roly Brookeman played hockey for Great Britain
Roly Brookeman played hockey for Great Britain

Roly says his life went into freefall since his divorce.

"All my problems stem from the break-up in 2002," he said.

"We were the Posh and Becks of Canterbury at one time.

"We had a big house which I then sold after we split up. I couldn't take any more."

The sports star, who also regularly played for Canterbury Hockey Club, then lived in a variety of properties but always ended up back on the streets after falling behind with rent.

"I have a small teachers' pension and benefits to live on," he explained.

Roly in happier times
Roly in happier times

He then tried to make a new life for himself in Spain, but returned to the district as he wanted to see more of his children.

Walking down the city's streets, Roly says he knows most people in the community and always waves hello and stops for a chat.

Fluent in French, charismatic and articulate, it is hard to imagine Roly's chaotic life as he frequently reels off impressions and shares jokes with those he meets.

A natural raconteur, he proudly chats about his sporting career.

Roly represented his country almost 100 times in the 1970s and 80s, playing his final international match at the World Cup in 1982 where he vice-captained the side in India.

The recent absence of sport in his life has been profound.

"I am trying to get myself sorted... I am just asking the city council to cut me some slack" - Roly Brookeman

"I was the captain of the rugby, cricket and hockey teams at school. Playing hockey, I could forget about everything else.

"I am trying to get myself sorted and hope to be able to rent a place in Herne Bay. I am just asking the city council to cut me some slack."

Rob Davies, council spokesman, says the authority has done everything they can to help get Roly back on his feet and had previously secured him a housing association property.

He said: "We last saw him in early June, and we offered him assistance, including details of two suitable local properties, other forms of housing and potential financial assistance.

"He told us he was likely to be away for a while and we asked him to keep us updated on his plans.

"We did not hear from him again and our next interaction with him was when enforcement officers responded to public complaints about an encampment at the Abbots Mill project, which is council land.

"We do not allow people to camp and will serve a notice advising the owner to move their equipment."

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