In a few days’ time Danny Kerry’s England squad begin their Hockey World League Finals campaign. Kerry has given a chance to impress to four relative newcomers in Grace Balsdon, Olivia Paige, Suzy Petty and Erica Sanders but there is another new name on the squad list: Hollie Pearne-Webb.
It might be a different name, but the defender insists it’s “the same old me.” however you look at it, the Olympic gold medallist is a fine player for Head Coach Danny Kerry to have at his disposal.
It has long been clear that Pearne-Webb is one of, if not the best defender in the world, an opinion reinforced by her collecting the player of the tournament at the EuroHockey Championships in the Netherlands this summer.
“I was really surprised to win that award. I certainly didn’t go to the competition thinking of winning a player of the tournament, but it was a nice surprise.” says the England No20.
“My overall aim is always for the team to win medals but of course I was proud. It’s not often defenders win those and even rarer for someone from outside Holland to win an award like that in Holland, so it was a real honour.”
Despite such a prestigious personal accolade, anyone thinking the Olympic Gold medal winner would become complacent or rest on her laurels is very sorely mistaken.
“I’m always very critical of my performances. You’ll never hear me say anything more than “I think I’ve done ok.” I prefer to think that way because I want to keep improving and keep doing the best I can. I’ll never ever come off and say I think I’ve played well it’s just not my nature.”
Despite her humility and her drive to be better, Webb once again forms a key part of the England squad heading to New Zealand to compete in the Hockey World League Finals. Danny Kerry has added some new faces to the group who Pearne-Webb describes as “very talented” and “very exciting” adding that having seen their quality day in day out in training she is “looking forward to playing alongside them in a tournament environment.”
When asked what she thinks the new players will add to the group the 27-year-old doesn’t hesitate:
“Pace. That’s what. Seeing the amount of pace and skill our up and coming players have is exciting for us, frightening for our opponents.”
“Our training environment is one of the best in the world and it really prepares players for the tournament situation. They compete with some of the best around day in, day out in training; so it’s the same in the tournaments, too- they come up against the best. They should be ready but as a senior player I’ll be doing my best to help them through it.”
For those wondering, the scorer of the winner in the Olympic Final and a player closing in on 150 international caps recently got married to her long-time partner, Tom, hence the addition of Pearne to her surname.
“I rather like the Webb part of my name, so I was keen to hang onto that. Having seen Richardson-Walsh fit onto the shirt before I knew Pearne-Webb, would be ok so that’s what we decided to go for!” beams the defender during our interview at England’s Bisham Abbey training base.
— Hollie Pearne-Webb (@HollieWebb1) October 25, 2017
“Hopefully it’ll be new name, same player. I don’t think I’ll be radically different. I might pop up in the opposition circle now and again, I do in training sometimes so why not? Seriously though, it’ll be the same old me out there!”
With Pearne-Webb continuing to play some of the best hockey of her career and surrounded by Danny Kerry’s blend of experienced heads and exciting up and coming stars, England’s Hockey World League campaign promises to be a fascinating one.
One thing is for sure, Webb or Pearne-Webb, it doesn’t matter. England are lucky to have one of the world’s best.
England start their Hockey World League campaign on November 18 vs Germany. Full details of the tournament can be found on FIH.ch.