Tributes to Slazengers and Wakefield hockey club great who inspired future players

Former Wakefield and Slazenger Hockey Club player Bob France, pictured on the right hand side (end) on the bottom row, has died.
Former Wakefield and Slazenger Hockey Club player Bob France, pictured on the right hand side (end) on the bottom row, has died.

A “LARGER than life” hockey player, who was dedicated to the game he loved, has died.

Bob France of The Shutt, Horbury, played as a centre forward for Slazenger and Wakefield hockey clubs and helped inspire future generations.

The 68-year-old had worked as a maintenance engineer at Slazengers’ Horbury Bridge factory and as a steward and groundsman at the company’s Sports and Social Club in Horbury.

He lost his battle with cancer at Wakefield Hospice on Monday morning and leaves behind wife Mavis, children Claire and Lisa, son-in-Law Darren, and grandchildren Emma, Isobel and Seth.

Slazenger Hockey Club chairman Geoff Birkett said: “Bob was a larger than life character that will live in our memories for many many years to come.

“He will be particularly remembered by the youngsters who have grown up at the club over the years and whom he had a big influence upon.”

The club hopes to stage an annual Bob France Trophy veteran’s match against Wakefield Hockey Club.

The former Snapethorpe Primary and Secondary schools pupil gave up playing rugby as a teen due to knee problems and turned to hockey.

He started at Slazengers at 18, where his skills as a centre forward, saw him move to Wakefield in 1970, where he captained their first team. He then returned to the Horbury club for the end of his career.

In later years he still dusted off his stick for an annual run out at Bridlington’s Easter Hockey Festival.

Mr France was also a keen fisherman and interested in wildlife and nature.

A funeral will take place at 2pm on Monday at Wakefield Crematorium, followed by a celebration of his life at Slazenger Sports and Social Club.

Donations, in lieu of flowers, can be given to Wakefield Hospice.