STALWART Sudbury hockey player Tim Blackburn has been called up for the first time for the England Over-45s competing in a four-team international tournament in Northern Ireland this weekend.
And he has been speaking about his pride and honour at the call-up, which he says reflects well on the whole of the Sudbury Hockey Club set-up and brings recognition to the town.
But his debut does not come without a cost.
The Over-45s players have to meet all their own costs for the Belfast trip and an even greater expense for flights and hotels if he plays well and is selected again for the Europeans, held over seven days in Germany in August and the World, or Asian, competition in Singapore later in the year.
Tim, 46, gets his chance after trials in Oxford at the end of May, which featured two hours of training and two hours of games against players with previous international and regional experience.
“It was quite exhausting,” he admitted.
Originally 21 players were put forward, but this was eventually reduced to a 16-man squad for Belfast, which involves England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
“I feel really honoured and it is great for a small club such as Sudbury,” added Tim, who said he is grateful that his employer BT at Martlesham Heath has been flexible in allowing him to juggle holiday times to fit in with hockey.
“I think my selection is fantastic for a small little old town like Sudbury. It helps to put our place on the map.”
He has played for Sudbury Hockey Club for some 30 years, mostly for the first team, captained the veterans, represented the East at over-45 level and is still club treasurer.
And he still remains totally grateful to Mick Bashford, his former teacher at Sudbury Upper School, for introducing him to a “great sport”, describing him as an unsung hero.
But he reserved most of his praise for the hockey club itself, which, he said, produced a great social and family environment.
Tim is a multi-talented sports player. He was a keen footballer, plays tennis for Lavenham and cricket for Cavendish.
At Sudbury Hockey Club no-one is more pleased at Tim’s call up than chairman Jim Carnegie, now in his 70s, who was playing for the first team when Tim first came to prominence.
“The club is delighted,” said Mr Carnegie. “He has remained loyal to us and there is no doubt in my mind that he could have joined a national league side, but chose to remain loyal.
“Tim reflects what the club is all about. But he is not good about selling himself.”
Mr Carnegie said the club’s sponsors, jewellers Jonathan Lambert, would support Tim in his England aspirations.
He is not the first Sudbury player to earn recognition. Geoff Nott, Paul Golding and Ian Brown in the past have all won England or Great Britain call-ups for the outdoor or indoor game.