Tragic Alex Graham praised his team-mates in his last interview

Alex GrahamAlex Graham
Alex Graham
Steelers have been a rollercoaster club from the moment they materialised big, brash, and new, on to the Sheffield sporting scene, back in 1991.

I've been fortunate enough to have reported on them since those early beginnings.

Those ups and downs have made for a breathtaking ride.

Some of the downs have been pretty deep.

But never...never, has there been anything as devastating as the loss the organisation and its fan base have had to endure this week.

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Twenty-year-old homegrown winger Alex Graham's incomprehensible death has sent a shock wave through the club like nothing before.

It all seems absurdly unlikely and equally unfair.

One fan telephoned me on Monday night and said: "Alex Graham? I just can't get my head around this.

"Frankly, I give up trying to reason how things like this can possibly happen."

Coach Aaron Fox and his team are wrestling with such emotions after the death of a young athlete he thoroughly believed in and was aiming to personally guide to greatness.

The task of producing a team for next season falls to Fox.

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Despairingly, he now needs to replace the 20-year-old Brit's spot on the roster.

But that professional obligation does not compare with the human dynamics involved - the overwhelming horror associated with the loss of someone so young, a kid with everything to live for.

Graham had been maturing from boy to man.

As a junior player, he had driven relentlessly through the Sheffield hockey system with vigour and purpose.

Then he notched his first professional goal for Steelers in February, 2020.

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Last season, playing mainly for lower league Sheffield Steeldogs, he was called up by Steelers for 15 league games and three play off matches.

Undeniably, he was on his way to accomplishing his dreams.

In a recent, unpublished, interview he chatted with me about his ambition to go on to great things with Steelers.

He knew that the only way he could accomplish that was via hard work and dedication.

It was a challenge he relished with a twinkle in his eye.

Discussing how he would bridge the quality gap between Steeldogs' NIHL division and Steelers' EIHL level he said: "At the Dogs, it had got to the point where I felt I wasn't pushing myself day in day out, night in night out.

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"NIHL wasn't an easy league to play in, but I always wanted to play at the highest level possible. I wanted to push myself to get that full-time contract."

He recalled how Sheffield ice veterans Jason Hewitt and Jonathan Phillips had been his role models as he grew up, on the hockey circuit.

"Hewy gave me a lot of wise words which helped me a lot.

"Jonna was a natural-born leader, he would put his arm around me or anybody who needed it."

Those who helped him will feel bereft today.

Fox summed it up saying he "was shocked and devastated to hear the news of Alex passing.

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"My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and teammates during this extremely sad and difficult time.

"We had big plans for Alex this year and his future was so bright.

"He was a pleasure to coach and I enjoyed watching him grow as a player and mature as a person. RIP 21 you will be missed dearly."