Middleton looking towards Rio as he scotches any talk about retirement
[img_assist|nid=5885|title=Hockey is my life|desc=England skipper Barry Middleton has no plans to retire and is prepared to push through to Rio 2016 - photo: hockeyimages.co.uk|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=146]MELBOURNE, November 30 -England hockey captain Barry Middleton says he has no plans to retire and is looking forward to helping develop the international stars of the future in the build up to the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
The former Doncaster, Cannock and East Grinstead forward said “I’m looking to go to Rio. I want to play for four more years. Hockey’s my life. It’s what I’ve always done. I feel fit enough to carry on. As soon as I stop enjoying hockey or I feel I’m not helping the team then that’s when I’ll stop.
“Four years is a long way to look,” admits Middleton, who is looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd again when England hosts the 2015 European Championships. “I’ll probably look a couple of years at a time but I want to help these young guys out and take England forward. We’ve got to fourth in the world but still want to go further and I think we can achieve that," Middleton told England Hockey TV.
His first challenge will be to lead an unfamiliar England side at the Champions Trophy this coming week. The three times Olympian, who has been capped 264 times, is one of five England players in Melbourne that competed for Great Britain at London 2012. But with six players set to make their international debuts and a further five having ten or fewer caps, he concedes that while there is huge enthusiasm in the camp ahead of the tournament, the fresh look to the squad may mean a steep learning curve.
“We might be a little inconsistent during the week,” he warned. “But this is the best way to learn international hockey. You can train as much as you want but to come here and get six or seven games will be good for us in the future.”
England coach Jason Lee expects an exciting start to the tournament with a match against the open attacking flair of India first up on Saturday.
“India will naturally have been disappointed with their performance at the Olympics,” said Lee of England’s first opponents, who finished 12th in London. “It is pleasing to see that they have been loyal to their coach [Australian Michael Nobbs] and I think there will be longer term benefit from this decision for their squad.
"I expect to see an improved Indian performance, although they were inconsistent at the International Super Series in Perth last week. They are always a dangerous counter attacking team and I think our game against them could be quite open.”
England will need to negotiate a tricky Pool B in which they’ll face Olympic champions Germany on Sunday following Saturday’s opener against the Indians. The pool phase concludes on Tuesday against New Zealand who will be eager to impress their new coach Colin Batch.
A number of the teams heading to the Champions Trophy are undergoing a period of transition following the London 2012 Olympic Games with England no exception.
Aside from Middleton, England’s experience will come from the likes of Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles’ Nick Catlin, who could reach a half century of appearances for England this week and his club teammate Richard Smith, who is approaching a century of international games.
Hampstead & Westminster’s Dan Fox may also reach 50 international appearances in Melbourne while 20-year-old Harry Martin will be one of the more experienced members of the group despite being the youngest.
Lee, who has been in charge of the national team for the past eight years, is conscious that the Champions Trophy will be unfamiliar territory for many of his charges but relishes the opportunity it presents for them to experience international hockey.
“I think we have to be realistic in our aspiration,” he said. “We have an inexperienced group and I expect the challenges ahead to be significant. Our programme is very much in transition, however, this is a great learning opportunity in the highest performance environment for the group. It is not just about what happens on the pitch, this is about experiencing the demands of both the physical and mental side of tournament play and the cultural and lifestyle expectations.”
England’s opening match against India gets underway at 5:30am GMT on Saturday 1 December and can be seen live online at www.fih.livesport.tv.
FIH Champions Trophy, December 1-9, 2012, Melbourne (AUS)
Match - Pool - Time (local) - Time (GMT) - Fixture
Sat 1 Dec.
1 - A - 10:30 - 23:30^ - Netherlands v Pakistan
2 - A - 12:30 - 01:30 - Germany v New Zealand
3 - B - 14:30 - 03:30 - Australia v Belgium
4 - B - 16:30 - 05:30 - England v India
Sun 2 Dec.
5 - A - 12:30 - 01:30 - Belgium v Pakistan
6 - A - 14:30 - 03:30 - England v Germany
7 - B - 16:30 - 05:30 - Netherlands v Australia
8 - B - 18:30 - 07:30 - New Zealand v India
Mon 3 Dec. - Rest Day
Tues 4 Dec.
9 - A - 13:30 - 02:30 - New Zealand v England
10 - A - 15:30 - 04:30 - Belgium v Netherlands
11 - B - 17:30 - 06:30 - Germany v India
12 - B - 19:30 - 08:30 - Australia v Pakistan
Wed 5 Dec. - Rest Day
Thurs 6 Dec.
13 - QF* - 12:30 - 01:30 - 1st Pool A v 4th Pool B
14 - QF* - 15:00 - 04:00 - 2nd Pool B v 3rd Pool A
15 - QF* - 17:30 - 06:30 - 2nd Pool A v 3rd Pool B
16 - QF* - 20:00 - 09:00 - 1st Pool B v 4th Pool A
Fri 7 Dec. - Rest Day
Sat 8 Dec.
17 - 5/8** - 08:30 - 21:30 - Loser M13 v Loser M14
18 - 5/8** - 11:00 - 00:00 - Loser M15 v Loser M16
19 - SF** - 13:30 - 02:30 - Winner M13 v Winner M14
20 - SF** - 16:00 - 05:30 - Winner M15 v Winner M16
Sun 9 Dec.
21 - 7/8 - 08:30 - 21:30 - Loser M17 v Loser M18
22 - 5/6 - 11:00 - 00:00 - Winner M17 v Winner M18
23 - 3/4 - 13:30 - 02:30 - Loser M19 v Loser M20
24 - Final - 16:00 - 05:30 - Winner M19 v Winner M20
^ - due to time difference this match takes place the previous day in the UK
* - sequence of matches to be determined after pool matches are completed
** - sequence of matches to be determined after Quarter Finals are completed