World Cup 2014: The Top of the D meets Bobby Crutchley.

NOW: Pensions Hockey LeagueBobby Crutchley has been involved with the England team since 2005. He worked as Jason Lee’s assistant coach during a period when they moved from 11th to 4th in the world rankings. When Lee moved across to take charge of the women’s side Crutchley seized his chance and took up the Head Coach position for the men. He has since presided over a fourth place finish in the Eurohockey Nations Championship in Boom and a bronze medal in the inaugural World League competition. As he approaches his first World Cup in charge, I caught up with him to find out his thoughts on the squad’s progress, their chances in The Hague and the possibility of being crowned “Sir Bobby”.

The Top of the D: You’ve been in the job a while now. How do you feel it’s gone?

Bobby Crutchley: I’m really pleased with how it’s gone. International hockey is tough and after London we had a big change of personnel and staff so it was never going to be an easy progression. I think it’s gone really well, though. The players have pushed on and tried to learn as quickly as they can, whilst the new coaching group has freshened things up. Our inexperience has meant we haven’t produced the consistent results I would have liked but the World League went really well and it’s given us a bit of confidence going into the World Cup.

TTOTD: How are the squad shaping up for the World Cup?

BC: I’m delighted with the way the squad have approached the preparation. We had a bad spate of injuries about a month ago but they seem to have cleared up. Hopefully we won’t suffer any more in that area because although the squad selection was tight we perhaps don’t have the strength in depth that the other top nations have. Perhaps we’re a bit nervous about injuries for that reason but that being said, I’m pleased with how we’re looking going into the tournament.

Engalnd HockeyTTOTD: How hard was it whittling the group down to 18?

BC: There are always some players who are unfortunate to miss out, especially the guys who are full time in the squad. They’ve all done well enough to warrant me having a real look at them, but as with all selections there are decisions that are going to be tough. I’m really pleased with the group I’ve selected in general the squad has a nice blend.

TTOTD: Ashley Jackson seems to be really getting back to his best. How crucial is he to the group?

BC: He’s one of our key players. His performance over many years has been of the highest level. You can’t always sustain that but as with any international side you need your top players to perform and he’s been doing that for us and we hope he’ll continue to do it in The Hague.

TTOTD: Who are the teams we should look out for?

BC: Because of the nature of actually qualifying for the tournament every team poses a threat. I know that’s a bit of cliché but it really is the truth. We can beat anyone we’re up against, but such is the quality we cannot be over confident approaching any one of our matches. If you’re putting your money on it, it comes down to the usual sides you’d expect, those who have produced the top results consistently over a long period of time: Germany, Australia, Holland and Belgium.

TTOTD: A lot has been said about some of the squad playing outside of the premier league. What do you think about this? Is it a problem for the England team?

BC: To be honest because we train full time centrally it has little impact on us in terms of performance levels. Whereas years ago our preparation was more based around holding camps every so often, the players playing at the top level at weekends was very important. It’s great that they play in England still and obviously in an ideal world they’d be in the top division but what I have to do is make sure the training prepares them for international hockey so that the club hockey does not become an issue.

140525 ENG AUS 24 (1)TTOTD: Some people have said England’s budget is smaller than other teams. Has this hindered you in any way? Has the preparation been what you wanted?

BC: There’s always more you can do. The international calendar gets bigger and bigger and there’s more pressure on you which means you sometimes have to be creative in how you do things. You have to play to your strengths, other countries may have more money but they don’t have the access to the players that we have. We get great support from the funding we receive and it means we can compete and qualify for these events. So yes, you can always do more, but we’re doing well with what we have.

TTOTD: Can England win the World Cup?

BC: The football World Cup?! If I was a betting man I wouldn’t put my money on it but sport is unpredictable. We have proved we can compete with anyone and although it would take a hell of a set of results, why not?

TTOTD: What would it mean to you to bring home the world cup? Time to be called Sir Bobby?

BC: <laughs> Hockey is a funny world. You come out of a major tournament and you’re brought straight back down to earth, even in your own house people aren’t really talking about your achievements!
I get a sense that hockey is gathering momentum at the moment. Hockey people get behind the national team already and that’s really positive. If we do well in the World Cup then more hockey people will be behind us and maybe we can create some buzz amongst non-hockey people, too. It’d be really nice to see the players make their country and the people who have supported them, proud.

You can follow England’s progress by watching all their games on Sky Sports. Alternatively, keep an eye on for all the updates or follow me on Twitter.

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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