“It has been an honour to represent my country for so many years and it has been a dream job for me.”
And so, after 432 caps, 119 goals, four Olympic Games, four World Cups, eight European Championships and four Commonwealth Games, the great Barry Middleton has decided to bring the curtain down on his 16-year international career.
“I have been thinking about this decision since Rio and now is the right time for me to step away from international hockey.” said Middleton.
“Priorities in my life have shifted and I am excited to move on to the next phase. I feel I have given everything I possibly could to get the best out of myself in the last fifteen years, none more so than the build up to the World Cup last December and I’m not sure I could motivate myself to that level again.”
Middleton retires as the most-capped player in Great Britain and England hockey history and the man who captained England to European gold in 2009, but as I said in this “Legends of Hockey” piece about him, merely running through his statistics and achievements doesn’t come close to doing him justice. A player who made his debut in 2003, Middleton’s career has covered Great Britain’s rise from being also-rans to medal contenders and the former captain has played a huge role in that transition.
“It is difficult to find the right words to articulate the contribution that Barry has made to the sport. Barry has embodied everything that the sport stands for: a consummate professional, an inspiring role model for everyone involved in the game and a genuine gentleman who is truly respected by teammates, opposition and staff.” said Great Britain and England Performance Director Ed Barney.
“Sometimes in life you are fortunate to work with or come in to contact with truly exceptional people. Barry is one of those people and it has been England and Great Britain Hockey’s absolute privilege to work with Barry over the past 15 years – he will be sorely missed.”
Middleton is currently enjoying an extended break in Australasia with his wife Beckie, who herself played 104 times for Great Britain and England and clearly the time away from the sport has given him time to take stock and arrive at this decision.
Among the tributes flooding in for England and Great Britain’s greatest player, current Head Coach Danny Kerry commented:
“It was an absolute privilege to work with Barry during the short run up to the World Cup. He is the epitome of world class, a phrase overused and often misunderstood, but not in this instance.”
“We will of course miss the many qualities he brought to the squad. We know Barry intends to stay involved with British hockey which is fantastic. We wish him all the best for the future and are delighted he will be giving back to the sport he is passionate about.”
“Barry has given an enormous amount to England and GB Hockey and the sport has been a better place for his presence.”
He’ll be sorely missed but he has certainly earned his rest and his place in hockey history. One of the all-time greats it seems only right to give the final word to Middleton himself:
“I hope people could see just how much I enjoy playing the game whether at an Olympics or with Sandy and Redders on the cabbage patch back in Donny. Thanks to everyone who has coached, played with or supported me during my career. I look forward to sitting back and watching Great Britain and England knowing that they are in a good place to challenge the best in the world and I will be supporting them every step of the way.”