A recurring theme in both the men’s and women’s squads going into the World Cup in The Hague seems to be players turning their backs on careers as teachers to concentrate on their hockey careers. Dan Shingles is another player who has done just that. Having made his international debut back in December 2012, the former Southgate skipper is rapidly approaching the 50 cap mark. The Top of the D caught up with him to talk fitness, World Cup chances and his first international goal.
The Top of the D: It’s been a rollercoaster couple of years for you, relegated with Southgate, back in the Premier League with Reading, knocked out of the EHL, adjusting to the Central Programme and now the World Cup. How does that all make you feel? Have your feet touched the ground yet?
Dan Shingles: It’s been up and down in all senses. I’ve yo-yoed between the Premier League and Conference with Southgate and then joined Reading. It was a bit of a disappointing season for us, missing out on Europe and getting knocked out of the EHL so it has been very mixed at times. The England stuff is going very well, though. I feel settled now and have a few caps under my belt; I’m really enjoying being part of a promising squad. There’s no doubt if we can play to our potential we can do well at the World Cup. I’m really excited to be a part of it.
TTOTD: It’s your first World Cup. What are you looking forward to most?
DS: At a big tournament like this there’s so much to look forward to. I think everyone’s seen pictures of the stadium and the setup. We rarely get a chance to play in an arena like that in front of so many people, so that’s certainly something I’m looking forward to.
To be honest the thing I’m excited about most is us performing well as a team. We’ve been showing glimpses of real quality and I know if everyone plays to their potential we can compete with anyone in the world. It’s exciting to think we can really make an impression at this tournament.
DS: It was a great feeling. It was by no means a world class goal or a stunner but it’s been a while coming after 36 caps it was about time and I’m hoping for a few more.
TTOTD: I saw some accusations on social media that you stole it. Did that take the gloss off it?
DS: Vicious rumours. That’s Mark Gleghorne making stories up to try and steal my glory! I was in the right place and I think it was going wide till my touch, so if anything he’s lucky I was there!
TTOTD: How hard have you found it adapting to the extra workload of the central programme?
DS: It was really difficult. A lot of the guys who come up through the age group squads have a history of conditioning whereas I didn’t play my first international game till I was 26. Before that I was nowhere near the levels required for international hockey. It took me a while to get in the shape that you need to be and to get up to the speed too. Training 11 or 12 times a week took its toll but I’m coping a lot better with the demands now and hopefully up to the level I need to be.
TTOTD: Was it a tough decision to go full time and be a hockey player?
DS: It was a difficult decision. I was a teacher at a great school, Langley Park and I enjoyed the job. As soon as you get asked to play full time for your country it’s a no-brainer really. Every day is great when you realise you get to play and train. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
TTOTD: What has improved about you game since joining the central progamme?
DS: My consistency and reliability. Playing in the Premier League is great and I enjoy it but you can get away with things there that you can’t in international hockey. Your touch can’t be loose and you need to be solid and I’ve worked hard to make sure I’m up to scratch on those things.
All the best players are the ones you always want to play against. Jamie Dwyer, Billy Bakker, Jeroen Hertzberger the list goes on. They’re all very tough but it’s a great challenge. We need to focus on ourselves, though.
TTOTD: If England could add one player from another team to their squad, who would you choose?
DS: That’s tough. I think someone like Robert van der Horst. He’s a great all round player: A good defender, good on the ball, a great leader and captain. That’s not saying we don’t have those players, but someone like him would benefit any squad.
TTOTD: Can England win it?
DS: Of course. If you go in thinking otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure. I’m not saying it’ll be easy and we’ll need to be at our best for the almost the whole competition but we have a great chance.
TTOTD: Would the win be tainted if you scored the winner in the final, but there were more accusations of you stealing the goal?
DS: I think I’d be forgiven for that one. Although I’d take a competition of me playing badly if it meant the team got the overall rewards. That’s what’s important. I wouldn’t turn it down if you gave me the chance to score the winner in the final.
The Top of the D would like to thank Dan Shingles for his time and patience in conducting this interview.