In his first ever international tournament in 2009 Adam Dixon headed to the Wagener Stadium to knock out the hosts in the semi-final before clinching the EuroHockey title with a 5-3 win over Germany. Now, in 2017 and having spent a season playing his club hockey in the Netherlands, he is back at the scene of that triumph aiming once more to upset the host nation in the semi-finals.
As a fresh-faced youngster in that all-conquering England side Dixon says he “sort of drifted through” the tournament in 2009 but now, as one of the senior squad members he feels the onus is on him to step up to the plate:
“As I get older there are fewer situations or environments I haven’t witnessed so I think I’m more relaxed. I’m one of the more senior members of the squad and I try to make sure I am calm and that those around me are too.”
“I don’t think we’ve hit our stride at this tournament yet. We have more to give and we can score some great goals which we showed at Hockey World League in London. Hopefully we can show it again and hopefully I can play my part in that.”
Dixon’s experience of playing in the Hoofdklaase last season was an enriching one and has taught him a few new tricks as the No16 explains:
“I had an unbelievable time in Holland. I just wanted a change of scenery. To meet new people, experience new coaches and be away from Bisham for a bit having been there for 8 years or so. The style of play we adopted was a bit more attacking than I’m used to. I was encouraged to get forwards more which I enjoyed and hopefully I’ve shown that side of me since I’ve been back with England.”
Of course, with many Dutch teammates and friends from his time over here, inevitably there will be some rivalry and good-natured ribbing now that England and Holland are paired together once more:
“I’ve received a few messages from the Rotterdam guys. Mostly good-natured stuff, to be honest. It’s building up and I know it’ll be special. If you can’t get up for this sort of a game in this environment you probably shouldn’t be there. Everyone knows the size of the task at hand and it’ll be something special. We want to go and spoil the party.”
With a new look group playing in this tournament, much of the talk has been about England’s lack of big game experience. Some of their players are still cutting their teeth on the world stage, but Dixon, who celebrated his 200th cap at this tournament insists Bobby Crutchley’s side will be ready:
“Most of this squad know what Holland are about. If we want to beat them we must focus on ourselves. Be clinical and make the most of our opportunities. We know what makes them tick. If we remain a unit and play with energy and buzz they can worry about us.”
“We’re confident. It looked like we might play Belgium then it swung to Holland. I think they’re the favourites but we’ll be ready. If you want to win this you must beat the best. We did it in 2009 on golden goal and beat the Germans in the final so we’d take a repeat of that!”
Will history repeat itself at the Wagener Stadium? Will Dixon add another European Gold to the one he already has in the trophy cabinet? We will start to find out as England take on the Netherlands tonight in their semi-final, 7pm UK time.