Coops, a personal story. (in installments)
Part 2. Missed Signs and Funny Feelings - but first an email from Robin Stocker.
I have just read Part 1 of your "Coops" story. It was with considerable sadness that I had heard of his untimely decease, albeit some time after the funeral, and I thought I might share with you my memories of when he first joined the club. Bearing in mind that I shall turn 80 in a month's time and that I retired from playing hockey about 34 years ago, you might expect that these might be a little hazy! However, someone like Coops doesn't join the club every day and I clearly remember this large, young lad's arrival, and my brief initial conversation with him, which went like this;
Q: Who do you work for?
A: British Gas.
Q: What do you do there?
A: I dig 'oles.
A: I dig 'oles.
It didn't take us long to realise this lad of few words was far from stupid and was pretty useful between the posts. In those days, the protective equipment of a goalie consisted of pads, kickers and box, and I recall playing at West Park one afternoon with Coops defending the goal furthest from the pavilion (a factor of some significance). The opposition went on the attack and fired in a rocket from the edge of the circle: Coops brought off a brilliant save by taking the ball between the eyes, whereupon he dropped like a stone and play was suspended for some considerable time. Virtually the whole of our team struggled to carry the unconscious Coops off the field and towards the distant pavilion where, to our considerable relief, he gradually came round. Nevertheless it was deemed wise to take him to A & E to get him checked out, and I volunteered to drive him there - perhaps not the most sensible thing since I had a Mini at the time! The passenger seat was pushed back as far as possible, Coops was pushed and folded in and we set off. I recall being worried during the journey in case Coops should lose consciousness again, bearing in mind that I was a nine and a half stone weakling! Nevertheless, we arrived at A & E without further mishap and, after being assessed by the medics, he was pronounced to be OK and we returned to West Park for some well-earned tea.
In more recent years, on my infrequent visits to the pavilion at Loughborough Road, I always received a warm welcome from Coops: I will not forget him."
With best wishes - Robin Stocker.
The end of season tournament and the Dinner Dance is always a opportunity for me to refresh my love for the Club. One of the real problems with not playing is that you can end up wondering at times why you bother. It is all well and good replacing playing with general Club administrative jobs, but I would be a liar if I told you that I don't miss the enjoyment of playing, because I do, a lot. Coops understood this as we shared the frustrations of bodies not fit for purpose, the real purpose that the human body has evolved to perform with such artristry, that of propelling a small ball into a net using a bent piece of wood. The American Indians were the first to realise why they were born, and us hockeyists continue the process of expanding our quality of life through real sport, and by real sport I mean something which transcends the 70 minutes of the match and involves alcohol and lifelong friendships.
Coops was at the tournament
as usual, umpiring and generally being Coops. After the Mike
Price game he came over and we had a quick chat, but he was
looking and feeling a bit rough and decided to walk back across
the grass to the Clubhouse. Little did I know that that journey
would be his slowest and last trip to the Clubhouse. Later
in the afternoon I had a chat with him and he said that he
had had a bad chest for several weeks and that a trip to the
docs was organised for Friday, and that he was going home
as he felt crap. And that was that. Now I am not one who thinks
that we should blame ourselves for events beyond our
control but there are times when you think "if only I had
paid more attention" then maybe things may have turned out
differently. I am not sure how you could change the course
of events, but there is an element of that in my mind, but
it is of couse nonsense to think that one could change anything,
after all, even the doctor couldn't.
What was odd for me was the
Dinner Dance, the day after the visit to the doctors. Always
a top event, and a chance to thank
all the people who help make this such a great Club.
I especially enjoy announcing the Personality of The Year,
as it's a privilege to decide who has contributed the most
over the year and to surprise them with a bottle of bubbly
and a cup that needs polishing. For me there was something
missing, and I wasn't sure what it was. I had a feeling that
all was not well with the state of my universe. And it wasn't.
On the Monday morning the phone rang and halfway through those
chilling words " I have some bad news about Richard", I realised
what was wrong and why things would not be the same again
in my universe which, like the real one tends towards
chaos. It became evident that while we were dancing on the
Saturday night Coops died of a pulmonary embolism alone in
his home, mercifully quickly and painlessly. A very big light
went out of our lives that night, he was our Coops, our Cooperman,
our Richie, our best of friends.
Next time - Coops'
Humour and the
art of Captaincy.