England go into their semi-final clash with the Netherlands taking on not only the 11 on the field but with almost the whole of the 10,000-strong crowd willing them to lose. Not that defender Michael Hoare will notice once the game starts:
“Personally, once I start playing I don’t notice the crowd. You hear big loud cheers but once I’m in the game I’m in my own little bubble. I’m just playing against my opponent and with the team. I might feel different tomorrow but I think I’ll be OK.”
Hoare who will be winning his 94th international cap has seen most things in the world of hockey but believes this will be a fantastic learning curve for his younger team mates:
“These are the matches you want to play in. I’m pleased for the new lads to have this opportunity, to play Holland in Holland is a great experience. We’re all excited.”
The Wimbledon defender, who competed at the Olympics in Rio described some of his new team mates as “a breath of fresh air” but also reserved praise for some players who have been around longer:
“The new lads have helped in terms of bringing us together as a team. We have a lot of talent in the group and some good defenders like Liam Sanford and some good ball carriers like Brendan Creed and David Goodfield. Players like Phil Roper and Ian Sloan who’ve been around for a bit, they’ve got a new lease of life and are different players from this time last year. We really take the game to teams now and when it comes off, it’s exciting.”
Hoare admits that the side have plenty to learn but that there is enough quality and talent in this group to ensure they should not fear anyone.
“All the pressure is on the Dutch.” says the No12. “They’ll be up for it and wanting to put on a show for the crowd. 99% of the stadium will be against us but we’re looking to put in a good performance and a display we can be proud of. We have nothing to lose here.”
Which begs the inevitable question, can England upset the odds and dump the Dutch out in their own back yard?
“I believe we can do it. We must be on it for the whole game. Absorb pressure when we need to, control the game when we need to and when we get the opportunity in attack we must hurt them and take our chances.”
Sounds like a solid strategy.