Forsyth urges Surbiton to make their mark in Europe

Alan Forsyth, the Surbiton striker means business this season. He’s already helped the reigning champions to the top of the league after seven games but whilst he’s got his eye on retaining the domestic title for the third season in a row, the Scotland star has loftier ambitions, too.   

“We want to retain the title but we want to do something special in the EHL too. We’ve got a lot of work to do but we definitely have the squad for it. Everyone will be back for the competition so it’s really exciting.”

Great Britain’s Alan Forsyth. Great Britain v Belgium – Toshiba TVs International, Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre, London, UK on 03 October 2018. Photo: Simon Parker

“In terms of English clubs, only really Wimbledon and Reading have done well in the EHL. We want to get as far as we can and be the team who makes an impact.”

There’s a sense of unfinished business when the Scotland star talks about the competition. He featured in it on a regular basis during his time at Kelburne but last year, his current club Surbiton were forced to withdraw from the tournament due to their squad being decimated by call-ups to the Commonwealth Games.

“We just didn’t have the numbers in the squad because Scotland, Wales and England were all in the Commonwealths. That took out about 13-14 players from our group so we just couldn’t compete. Our women’s team have been in Europe the last five years or so and we want to start to qualify regularly like they have. We want to get there and compete. Not just for the club but for English hockey in general. We want to have a club in the EHL performing consistently competing with the top teams in Europe.”

With Surbiton boasting a number of international players from the home nations Forsyth is right to want to compete with the top sides in Europe. However the difference between success and failure in the EHL often hinges on the performance of the non-international players. The Scotland striker highlights the role played by Will Fulker; Director of Colts Hockey for the seemingly endless conveyor belt of home-grown talent Surbiton has access to.

“The club’s always had a massive bonus with our youth development, it’s a big strength. Will Fulker’s done an amazing job bringing players through so we always have that pool of talented players to call on. Rory Calnan has been brilliant this season, Connor Williamson too. There are plenty of players coming through like those two and I think the boys we have this year have done well. Not just the juniors but players like Ben Boon and James Royce, too. I think they have 10 goals between them already they’ve been great.”

The subject of goals inevitably leads to discussing Forsyth’s own exploits in that area. Winner of the top scorer award on seemingly a yearly basis the Scottish star has started the season in blistering form once again, bagging 12 goals in the opening 7 games. As you’d expect his focus is on the team’s results however he sees his goals as being his part in bringing that team success to Sugden Road.

Great Britain’s Alan Forsyth. Great Britain v Belgium – Toshiba TVs International, Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre, London, UK on 03 October 2018. Photo: Simon Parker

“I’ve always said winning is the most important thing but my role in the team is to put the ball in the back of the net so if we’re winning and I’m doing it I can’t complain really.”

With such an impressive record scoring goals domestically and internationally I ask him for an insight into how he manages to find the net with such regularity, what is the secret? It seems the goal scoring ability is one he has inherited from his mother.

“I’ve always scored goals through youth level up till now, even when I played football I’ve always had an eye for goal. My mum says I got it from her. She played for Scotland and played for GB and played football. She’s always been a bit of a goal scorer and I always watched her from the side-lines so I obviously picked something up from her.”

Interestingly, looking at the breakdown of Forsyth’s goals, very few, if any, come from penalty corners. Often the top scorers’ charts are dominated by specialist drag flickers but in Forsyth’s case they largely come from open play. Is he tempted to start taking responsibility from set pieces to further boost his already impressive tally? The answer is as emphatic as one of his finishes on the hockey field:

“No chance. I’ve tried. It just doesn’t work. Being able to drag flick is a specialist skill to have. Many people have said to me to try it and I have, I just don’t have the technical ability for it. There are too many good flickers and I’m too far down the line now. I don’t have it in the locker. It just doesn’t work.”

If Surbiton are to make their mark on European competition this season, you can bet Forsyth’s goals will have played a pivotal role in those efforts. They just won’t be from penalty corners.

This interview featured on The Top of the D podcast. For details of where to listen click here. 

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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