England start their Men’s Hockey World Cup campaign facing off against a familiar foe, but head coach Paul Revington is focused on ‘process’ and not rivalry when his side face Wales in their Pool D opener.
“There will always be some elements of hype where there’s a rivalry or derby but it’s a matter of the players being strong enough and mentally skilled enough to be able to handle that.
“The group we’ve got have shown over a period of time that they are able to do that. As much as Wales is a type of derby game, the same tradition kind of exists with other teams, too. So we will need to approach it with calm heads and stick to what we know we have to do.”
Revington was appointed England and Great Britain head coach back in April and has presided over a Commonwealth Games bronze medal and an impressive start to the latest season of the FIH Pro league.
“We are all excited about where we are right now. From a training point of view we’ve had a really good block through September to December and the Pro League trip, which featured a lot of the England players was really good for all of us. We’ve built a good degree of momentum and they’re excited to take that forward into the World Cup.”
The Pro League games in Argentina saw the return from injury of David Ames, who Revington has named as captain for the World Cup. The England coach is full of praise for the 33-year-old:
“He has fought through an array of different types of injuries. Every time he has been on the canvas, he’s got himself up. He loves hockey. He loves the elite international competition. He thinks, breathes and loves every moment of his life in terms of hockey and that is important for our team and our locker room.”
“He is an exceptional player. I don’t think playing in the Netherlands would have added anything to his game from a technical point of view, because he was already technically outstanding. But from a confidence point of view, the fact that he was playing week in and week out against other international players, maybe has boosted him. However he’s someone that could have played comfortably overseas in different leagues for many years. We’re very glad to have him in the group.”
After their opening match with Wales on Friday 13 January, England will then face India two days later, followed by Spain on 19 January. Top spot would take them through to the quarter finals whilst second or third would mean a playoff to get into the the last eight.
Revington says none of England’s opponents in the group hold any surprises but they will have to adjust to the different styles they will encounter in every game. He also says that England will ‘respect their opponents’ but will be in a position to ‘attack each game.’
Talk of playing on the front foot inevitably leads to the question of whether England can bring the trophy home. Revington is ambitious but also very matter-of-fact in his response:
“I would want to say yes. What I would say is, I’d imagine that all sixteen teams go there with the belief and the knowledge that on any given day they’re able to beat any team. I think with the strength of this group, if they keep their focus, if they keep pushing physically and with a little bit of luck along the way we should have a chance.”