Published: 12:00, 08 June 2020
| Updated: 12:35, 08 June 2020
The 2019/20 hockey season may have ended prematurely but it will last long in the memory of one long-serving Deal player.
Tony Wyman made his debut for the club at the tender age of 16 and has just completed his 50th consecutive campaign.
AJ, as he is known to all within the hockey fraternity, spent nearly half that time as a first team regular and, as skipper of the 2nds, made history when he led the squad through a season unbeaten.
The former teacher, now 66, has played in just about every position during his five decades with the club but doesn't think there is any special secret to his longevity.
A midfielder who these days plays more the back he said: "I was never one of the best players, I just tried hard.
"I think the truth is I've just outlasted everyone and touch wood I've never had any major injuries.
"When I first played for the club (in October 1970) we had three Tonys, one was Big T, one was Tony and I became AJ, because my Christian names are Anthony James.
"Everyone still calls me that. I'm the oldest player at the club and that includes the chairman.
"I once grew a moustache to look older but I don't have to do that any more."
Tony had already had a taste of hockey as a pupil at Sandwich Secondary when he responded to an appeal posted by East Kent Mercury newspaper reporter Rory Clements to reform a hockey club in Deal.
He went along, quickly became a regular and estimates he has clocked up more than 1,000 games since.
Even when he was at university for four years in London he continued to turn out for the club.
His last appearance for the first XI came at the age of 59, and in the past two seasons he has filled every berth except goalkeeper for the 2nds.
His team-mates honoured his achievement of reaching 50 seasons by forming a guard of honour for him before the first match of this year – a gesture he admits was humbling.
"It's a big deal for me to have played 50 consecutive seasons but I didn't expect that," said Tony whose time at Deal also includes a spell as chairman.
Recalling his early days he added: "We played on grass at Victoria Park and I remember after the first game going to the Salvation Army place for jam sandwiches.
"It was a very different game than it is now. The leagues had not started and the rules and the sticks we used are not what they are now.
"We've had some very good players down the years and one of my highlights was when, as a mixed team, we represented Dover in the Kent Festival and won the cup by beating Canterbury 1-0 at Canterbury.
"How I don't know, they were all over us, but there was a crowd of around 300 and we received the trophy from the Mayor of Canterbury.
"My most enjoyable season was 1994/95 when I first captained the 2nd team and won the league undefeated (with 12 wins and six draws) – the only Deal team to have done that
"The season before that the side had almost been relegated, so it was quite an achievement. I think we won most of the games 1-0."
Tony, who was deputy head at Sittingbourne Community College, admitted it was when he had been playing for 47 years he thought he might to be able to push on to his half-century, and he has no plans to hang up his hockey stick just yet though he might not play as regularly.
He maintains his fitness with a regime which includes regular 5km runs around the wall in Sandwich, and a one-mile swim before breakfast every Monday – which he describes as his 'pool pennance.'
A director of the family electrical business, Tony also plays tennis at Sandwich LTC where he is estate manager, golf at Stonelees Golf Centre, and is a keen skier.
He explained: "I'm starting to feel it a bit more than I used to, the game's getting quicker and I'm getting slower but I've always seen sport as something which is there to be enjoyed.
"I've won a few trophies in my time, which is nice, but you can't win every week, you have to accept that.
"With hockey it's the camaraderie, you make friends for life, win or lose you go through it all together."
Tony's brother Martin also played for many years for Deal and admits his sibling has been an inspiration, not just for him but many others at the club.
He said: "My best memory of Tony was the 95 season when we (the 2nds) won the league title without losing a game.
"This was down to having great team spirit, and a belief we could win also Tony's leadership and encouragement.
"It was a truly great season with many beers consumed after matches!
"I am very proud of my brother to still be playing and his dedication to Deal Hockey Club."
More by this authorMark Stokes
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