Hockey captain Middleton rejects retirement ahead of Rio
England men’s hockey captain Barry Middleton says he has no plans to retire and is looking forward to helping develop the international stars of the future in the build up to the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
Speaking to England Hockey TV ahead of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne, which starts on Saturday, the former Doncaster, Cannock and East Grinstead forward said “I’m looking to go to Rio. I want to play for four more years. Hockey’s my life; it’s what I’ve always done. I feel fit enough to carry on. As soon as I stop enjoying hockey or I feel I’m not helping the team then that’s when I’ll stop.”
“Four years is a long way to look,” admits Middleton, who is looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd again when England hosts the 2015 European Championships. “I’ll probably look a couple of years at a time but I want to help these young guys out and take England forward. We’ve got to fourth in the world but still want to go further and I think we can achieve that.”
Middleton’s first challenge will be to lead an unfamiliar England side at the Champions Trophy this coming week. The three times Olympian, who has been capped 264 times, is one of five England players in Melbourne that competed for Great Britain at London 2012. But with six players set to make their international debuts and a further five having ten or fewer caps, he concedes that while there is huge enthusiasm in the camp ahead of the tournament, the fresh look to the squad may mean a steep learning curve.
“We might be a little inconsistent during the week,” he warned. “But this is the best way to learn international hockey. You can train as much as you want but to come here and get six or seven games will be good for us in the future.”
England Head Coach Jason Lee expects an exciting start to the tournament with a match against the open attacking flair of India first up on Saturday. “India will naturally have been disappointed with their performance at the Olympics,” said Lee of England’s first opponents, who finished 12th in London. “It is pleasing to see that they have been loyal to their coach [Australian Michael Nobbs] and I think there will be longer term benefit from this decision for their squad. I expect to see an improved Indian performance, although they were inconsistent at the International Super Series in Perth last week. They are always a dangerous counter attacking team and I think our game against them could be quite open.”
England will need to negotiate a tricky Pool B in which they’ll face Olympic champions Germany on Sunday following Saturday’s opener against the Indians. The pool phase concludes on Tuesday against New Zealand who will be eager to impress their new coach Colin Batch.
A number of the teams heading to the Champions Trophy are undergoing a period of transition following the London 2012 Olympic Games with England no exception. Aside from Middleton, England’s experience will come from the likes of Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles’ Nick Catlin, who could reach a half century of appearances for England this week and his club teammate Richard Smith, who is approaching a century of international appearances. Hampstead & Westminster’s Dan Fox may also reach 50 international appearances in Melbourne while 20 year old Harry Martin will be one of the more experienced members of the group despite being the youngest.
Lee, who has been in charge of the national team for the past eight years, is conscious that the Champions Trophy will be unfamiliar territory for many of his charges but relishes the opportunity it presents for them to experience international hockey. “I think we have to be realistic in our aspiration,” he said. “We have an inexperienced group and I expect the challenges ahead to be significant. Our programme is very much in transition; however, this is a great learning opportunity in the highest performance environment for the group. It is not just about what happens on the pitch, this is about experiencing the demands of both the physical and mental side of tournament play and the cultural and lifestyle expectations.”
ENGLAND MEN’S SQUAD FOR 2012 FIH CHAMPIONS TROPHY, MELBOURNE
Name (Club) [Position] England Caps/England Goals - GB Caps/GB Goals - Age
Ben Arnold (Beeston) [Forward] 0/0 - 0/0 - 22
Alastair Brogdon (Waterloo Ducks) (BEL) [Forward] 43/4 - 6/0 - 24
Nick Catlin (Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles) (BEL) [Forward] 45/3 - 29/3 - 23
Darren Cheesman (Reading) [Midfielder] 1/0 - 2/1 - 26
David Condon (Loughborough Students) [Midfielder] 4/0 - 0/0 - 21
Adam Dixon (Beeston) [Defender/Midfielder] 58/2 - 29/0 - 26
Simon Egerton (Beeston) [Forward] 8/1 - 0/0 - 27
Dan Fox (Hampstead & Westminster) [Defender] 23/0 - 26/1 - 29
Mark Gleghorne (East Grinstead) [Forward] 0/0 - 10/2 - 27
Michael Hoare (Beeston) [Defender] 0/0 - 0/0 - 26
Harry Martin (Beeston) [Midfielder] 8/0 - 34/3 - 20
Barry Middleton (c) (HGC) (NED) [Midfielder/Forward] 159/43 - 105/35 - 28
George Pinner (Beeston) [Goalkeeper] 6/0 - 4/0 - 25
Dan Shingles (Southgate) [Midfielder] 0/0 - 0/0 - 26
Patrick Smith (Cannock) [Goalkeeper] 0/0 - 0/0 - 21
Richard Smith (Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles) (BEL) [Defender] 64/7 - 29/5 - 25
Henry Weir (Loughborough Students) [Midfielder] 0/0 - 0/0 - 22
Ollie Willars (Beeston) [Defender] 0/0 - 0/0 - 22