A National League Hockey Club, part of Holcombeians Sports Club

Rest in Peace, Mike Haines

It is with great sadness that we confirm the recent passing of Mike Haines, who passed away peacefully in the early hours of Tuesday morning at the age of 80. 

Mike was a stalwart of Rochester & Gillingham Hockey Club, having joined R&G in the early 1960s and held his first committee role whilst he was still a teenager. Mike was a talented hockey player and having started his hockey career as a goalkeeper, he went on to be formidable outfield player at first-team level throughout his playing days. While still playing at first-team level for R&G in the early 1980s, he stepped down from first-team duties to form a junior development team, which allowed Mike’s son Steve and a number of other junior players the opportunity to start their playing careers, some of whom are still playing regularly for Holcombe currently. Mike was also heavily involved in committee work throughout these years and was part of the team that successfully secured and developed a Clubhouse as a base for R&G at Langton Playing Fields in Gillingham in the early 1980s. The first Hockey Club in Medway to have a clubhouse with a pitch right outside.

Mike returned to first-team duties at R&G, taking over as 1st Team Coach/Manager when Steve progressed into the first-team at the age of 14 and he continued in this role until Steve moved on to play in the London League (pre-National League in 1988). Mike then followed Steve’s hockey career but returned to R&G when Steve retired from playing at National League level, where he was playing for Bromley, following the birth of his eldest daughter (Mike’s first Grandchild). Mike and Steve then formed an inspirational partnership with Steve as Player/Coach and Mike as Manager. R&G men’s first team managed to achieve some incredible success with a couple of promotions in successive years in the late 1990s, with very limited resources and unfortunately without a club base.

In 1999, it was clear that R&G no longer had a sustainable future, without a pitch or appropriate club base and after discussions at committee level, R&G completed a merger into Holcombe Hockey Club. Mike continued his committee-level work in the role of Vice Chairman, a role that he held for well over ten years until he withdrew from hockey activities. During Mike’s time with Holcombe, he was Men’s First-Team Manager and along with Steve as First-Team Player/Coach and Director of Hockey, steered Holcombe from Kent/Sussex League level into the National League, notably achieving four promotions in four seasons, which is unsurpassed. He kickstarted the Sunday morning Junior hockey sessions in 2000 and the formation of the club Summer League, he managed the Women’s First Team for a number of seasons and was disappointed that he didn’t quite manage to get them promoted to the National League before he retired. He was a regular member of the club working party and assisted with opening and closing the club for functions, deliveries, etc. and continued his committee role until retirement. In general, if there was a job that needed doing, Mike would do it!

Outside of Holcombe, Mike also managed the Kent Under 18s, Kent Under 21s and the full Kent Senior Team for well over 15 years and he was instrumental in breaking down barriers to entry for junior players that didn’t go to certain schools and didn’t play for the top clubs at the time. Junior players from within all of the Medway clubs were afforded opportunities based on their hockey ability rather than their background due to Mike’s tenacity. There are a number of such players within the club that are testament to this. He also ran the Mid-Kent Indoor Hockey League for many seasons, prior to artificial turf pitches with floodlights taking over for midweek evening training.

All in all, Mike was one of the most respected members of local and Kent hockey and this was recognised in 2004 when he was awarded the Unsung Hero of the Year Award by BBC South East. Mike was completely taken aback by this well-deserved accolade, and this remained one of his proudest achievements, such that he even told one of the nurses about it three weeks ago while in hospital.

Mike’s kind, generous and supportive nature has been felt by so many over the years and he will be sorely missed not only for what he stood for but also because of the lasting impact that his efforts, commitment and boundless energy has given to our sport. He truly was one in a million.

Our thoughts go out to Mike’s wife, Margaret, who over the years has laundered so many sets of hockey shirts that she couldn’t begin to count them, to his son Steve who formed such an incredible managerial partnership with Mike in steering Holcombe forwards, to Mike’s daughter Claire, to Steve’s wife Cathy who also played for R&G and more recently for Holcombe, to his four grandchildren, Emily being the only one that decided to play hockey and to his great granddaughter Freya who was born just twelve hours before Mike sadly passed away. 

Details of Mike’s funeral will be communicated once known. We will be in regular contact with Steve over coming weeks and will advise in due course.

Some of you will know that Steve has been assisting Old Williamsonians’ Men’s 1s over recent years and it is ironic that OWs will be visiting Holcombe Park on Saturday afternoon. As a mark of respect to Mike, we will be holding a minute’s applause before the match which is due to start at 4pm.  Please do take this opportunity to show your respect for Mike and all that he has done for hockey and for Holcombe by joining this fitting tribute on Saturday.

The following is a personal tribute from Graham Robertson:

Mike and my paths first crossed on the sloping grass pitch of Langton Playing Fields in Gillingham, probably in late-1960s or early ’70s, now part of the golf course. He graced the pitch in the distinctive green and white shirt of R&G. He started as a goalkeeper but was one of those rare breed of goalkeepers who could play the game. Myself, I would get a nose bleed if I went beyond the circle. He was also a reasonable golfer and a very good cricketer with Frindsbury. With the advent of the Truman’s South Hockey league we didn’t meet again until the opening of Holcombe Park. He was obviously instrumental in the early success of the Men’s 1st XI and then the Women’s. But it was in the upkeep of the premises that myself and Mike met the most, repairing goals or nets and other bits and pieces. He would often turn up in his Volvo estate and trailer and we would load it up with stuff for the tip. Over a well-earned cuppa, we would have long chats about the way the club was progressing and his passion for it was clear. With Gary Owen, he progressed the club from one division to another. The club owed Mike so much. We would be on the phone sorting out gate-keeping duties for deliveries, phone mast engineers, contractors etc. long before the Holcombe Health Clinic arrived to help out.

His other passion was his birds. He had aviaries in his garden and would spend hours out there with them. 

My condolences go to his family. and they can rest assured that Mike was a one-off and they should be very proud of everything he did for the hockey fraternity.