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Out with a bang? Or out with a whimper? It was frustrating to watch GB's hockey hopes fade. For all the excitement of the game against Australia, the men subsided with that draw against Canada - a country better known for their skills on the ice.

And the women's path was blocked by a stubborn but limited USA side. It's hard to shake the feeling that opportunity was knocking.

Ranked eighth and 10th in the world respectively, Britain's men and women will claim with justification to have made progress here in China. They each hope to finish in fifth place, which would be a significant achievement in the wider scheme of things. They are making headway.

Four years ago in Athens the men finished ninth, and the women failed to even qualify. We must be pleased that the direction of the curve is upwards.

Given the way the men played against Pakistan, the Netherlands and Australia, there is justified hope. The women's comeback against Argentina offered a similar feeling. They were beaten only once in the pool - and that was by the reigning Olympic champions Germany. No disgrace then.

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And yet. When the chips were down, and they needed to pull out performances to keep them in the hunt against sides that were there for the taking, both fell short. Danny Kerry's women were restricted by precious little movement off the ball, and a worrying tendency to surrender possession.

They seemed to be operating with a predictable, structured gameplan and were lacking in devil up front, bar the excellent Sarah Thomas.

The men were brighter, industrious and often threatening - but the positivity and channelled aggression which marked their matches aganst the big guns wasn't sustained.

Jason Lee told me some of it was down to fatigue, some to the rarified pressure of an Olympic Games. Many of them are young, and will emerge better and wiser. The penalty corner routine needs work. Even accounting for his score against the Aussies, Richard Mantell will not look upon the Games as a success.

From the start, expectations have been played down here in Beijing. The attitude has been one of fulfilling short-term targets rather than shooting for the dream. You can understand why.

Years in the hockey doldrums have taught the coaches and management to be realistic, and build slowly. It is an entirely sensible policy.

I do not question the commitment and desire of those involved in GB hockey. Anyone who saw the emotion etched on Kate Walsh's face at the end of the match with the Americans will know what it means to care.

Likewise the passion and drive of the men in their fantastic draw with Australia. But a small part of me feels that maybe more room needs to be made for the unrealistic, for the dreamer - if only to allow the precious ingredient of belief the space to grow.

Sometimes extraordinary things happen to ordinary people, ordinary teams. Teams who believe, teams who are bloody-minded - and yes, teams who get lucky. It wasn't to be. Maybe it will all come good in London in 2012.

Alastair Eykyn is a BBC reporter and commentator focusing on hockey. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 5:57pm on 19 Aug 2008, redneckdwoman wrote:

    I couldn't use a better word than 'predictable' to describe the GB womens team.
    Interesting how the best player in the team (Sarah Thomas) plays her club hockey abroad, could this mean the EHA may have to take a look at themselves and wonder what is wrong???? probably not... same old antiquated EHA for 2012! yawn...

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  • 2. At 6:02pm on 19 Aug 2008, Chrispy wrote:

    Thanks Beeb for the coverage, but especially the teams for the effort.. that final mens game vs Australia was 'oh, so close' as one commentator might put it. And from that we should draw a lot of heart.

    Australian hockey has been a world beater for some time because of their professional approach. I believe the Australian hockey team we the first to trial the 'ice jackets' that are now so familiar. Gees, they we even dishing them out to Aussie club players at a Singapore Sixes hockey event in '01. They even developed a GPS system for monitoring the movement of their players in training as a way to maximize the ability of players to 'lead' - i.e make yourself available for a pass.

    For all that we're getting closer.


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  • 3. At 6:39pm on 19 Aug 2008, littlehockeydreamer wrote:

    Indeed predictable is the word.....if you did not watch the games you would say a good achievement.

    Watching them all I would say wasted opportunity.

    The women are soo structured that not given chance to play and so predictable for oppo to play against ...that said the front line is not the most potent. Though looking forward to 4 years and how Craddock developments. The actual team has a decent core and could of done better. We were exposed both on attacking and defensive short corners. Pick of the Players for me was Thomas, Walsh and Cullen( all be it a little rigid) a couple of players went missing all tournament.

    The Men when they were allowed played some great hockey but bottled it on the easier games. Yet again it is structure structure structure. The best player in the team in Middleton wasn't allowed to show what he can do as he does in the Dutch league

    I thought attacking short corners were so poor, why Mantell takes them beggars belief there are far better takers in the team....he is soo slow and half way in the did by the time he takes it.

    4 years to go to the big party and new coaches are needed to move us forward. Lee and Kerry don't have the credentials to take us forward. Just look at the 4 teams left in both tournaments they playing far more dynamic hockey...all be it the Dutch Men rely on Taeke to get them through.

    Unfortunately like the previous person, the EHA are not the most forward thinking and decisive people.

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  • 4. At 6:43pm on 19 Aug 2008, W.Underbar wrote:

    Opportunities missed, in my opinion. How could fatigue, or even inexperience, be given as a reason for those two dismal performances against middle-of-the-road teams (SA and Canada)? Only Jackson and Wilson lack significant experience, and Jackson played promisingly in his first big event.

    This team's been preparing for four years, and Jason Lee was even allowed to take the players out of last season's league hockey, to ensure they arrived in Beijing in the best possible physical shape.

    It's true that we lack one or two genuine world-class players, who would make a big difference, but our domestic game is still not strong enough to produce a regular flow of talent.

    When we played positively, as against Pakistan, Holland and Australia, we looked competitive. Against the lesser fry, we reverted to moving the ball slowly and predictably round the back, and couldn't raise the pace of the game when needed. And just 3 PCs converted out of 21 tells its own story.

    Jason Lee's target - of finishing no worse than 8th - was far too modest. There aren't more than four or five top class teams in the world. Unfortunately he failed to motivate his team when it really mattered. I suspect it would be wise to bring in a new coaching team now, while there's time, with experience of winning at the highest level.

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  • 5. At 7:06pm on 19 Aug 2008, dr_horse wrote:

    Isn't Matt Daly Canadian?

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  • 6. At 7:20pm on 19 Aug 2008, kal77uk wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 7. At 7:21pm on 19 Aug 2008, fastgut wrote:

    I can't help but feel that despite some of the comments on here we have actually over-achieved in the olympics. The quality of our domestic leagues in this country just dont compare to those of our european counterparts. Just look at the talent stuffed into the dutch league. Aussies, Germans, Indians, Pakistanis and yes even a couple of the more talented brits. Whilst this disparity remains how can we expect our teams to rival other nations.

    Of course they will get tired over the course of the games...they are not used to playing at the intensity both physically and mentally. As most sportsmen/women will tell you when you face teams stuffed full of talent you can be as fit as you like but in the end all it takes is one mistake and thats it gone. When you dont have the talent or firepower to respond what do you have left?

    Fingers can be pointed at coaches, individual players, the tea lady but to name a few. In the end its down to talent, something we just dont have in depth. Maybe its time to appreciate what the girls and guys have done in getting this far. Both have improved immeasurably since the last olympics and if this trend continues for the next 4 years we will be in good shape.

    Having said that if it does happen it will be in spite of the EHA rather than because of it. It is an organisation chronically lacking in leadership and direction full of paid up members of "The Old Boys Club" in much the same way the RFU was when Woodward took over. Having overseen the huge success of these olympics in general I wonder if he would fancy the job.................

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  • 8. At 8:40pm on 19 Aug 2008, threshold50 wrote:

    The performance against Australia was much better than previous games. Considering his age, Jackson did extremely well but surely now is the time to make some changes. The 'hod carrier' let GB down big time, not once but twice. He doesn't look fit for one thing and his over the shoulder tackle was stupid. There are other talented forwards out there like Tim Davenport or Dave De Prez that deserve a chance.

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  • 9. At 9:35pm on 19 Aug 2008, Sortit wrote:

    kal77uk - Did you not play Hockey at your state school like most others had the opportunity to, or was yours of the Approved variety?

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  • 10. At 10:24pm on 19 Aug 2008, scamp51 wrote:

    Wait one please, ok we might be predictable but the men drew with Australia and lost to the dutch by an odd goal given away in a moment of madness.
    In the world cup we punched above our weight, and have out performed ourselves here.

    So we are in the playoff instead of the semis, we are not good enough for that - yet. We need better conversion rates at PC's and better ideas at breaking down minnows eg Canada and SA

    We need to learn to win hard games, and learn to play different styles of hockey. Middleton and Mantell in dutch hockey can do us no harm.

    Get the top rank in our section of playoffs and work on that

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  • 11. At 10:29pm on 19 Aug 2008, Dragthatflick wrote:

    I think Alastair has produced a fair assessment. The commitment and team spirit of the women's team can't be faulted. It could be argued that they could well have qualified if it had not been for one very poor half against the Germans.

    kal77uk simply does not know what he is talking about.

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  • 12. At 11:14pm on 19 Aug 2008, cannsie wrote:

    I too think that Alistair has summed up the GB hockey teams performances well. I can't pass much comment on the men's team as I only watched one of their games but women have exceeded their expectations.

    I found the women's performances frustrating as they have come close to the semi finals, the scoreline was disappointing against the Germans, that cannot be argued but there has been a few notable performances by players in the team. There are some key players in the team that are still young, Cullen is still only 22 and has been part of the world XI for the past two years. Craddock also impressed me - I can't wait to see her perform at 2012.

    As a summary to the women's performances I feel that with a greater PC conversion rate and the ability to take more of the chances in open play that were created we would have made it to those semis. What they have proved is their ability to fight to the end and still get results when they haven't been on top of their game for example the fight back against the World no.2s Argentina and the last gasp winner against Japan.

    I am most frustrated by the comments on this blog, the national governing body have not been 'EHA' for a long time now. As for coaching and player development you've got to look no further than the work the centrally contracted coaches are embarking on to create an elite coaching pathway which will aid player development also. EH are beginning to put a great coaching, playing and umpiring/officiating structure into practice that I feel will begin to really shine in time for 2012

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  • 13. At 07:22am on 20 Aug 2008, feralAus wrote:

    kal77uk What absolute rubbish you talk about. How many of the hockey players in all the different olympic countries actually fit into your idea of a hockey player?

    Did all the Ducth players go to puiblic school?

    What about the Australians or the Spanish?

    Get real man or is it just that you prefer to kick a ball rather than use your head?

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  • 14. At 09:41am on 20 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    The British hockey teams sound suspiciously like the England football team. We expect more from them than we realy should, they are incredibly predictable and perhaps overated? They also live in the past of 1988, a bit like 1966.

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  • 15. At 2:13pm on 20 Aug 2008, littlehockeydreamer wrote:

    Cannsie agree we some points re Ladies team, they have got some goood players which is good for the future, and roll on 2012 for Craddock.

    There are also some exciting yound girls to come in which is good for competition in the squad.

    However PC's are the bread and butter of hockey and we were poor.. Who make sthe decisions both attacking and defensive...the coach!!! yes the team need to implement but the routines were poor. Yes achieving 5/6th is great but the way we played for me was dissapointing as no one apart from Thomas had any real flair.

    Re EH or EHA who cares we needed to get bailed out by one guy to keep the EH a float!

    Yes there are plans but don't agree that we necessarily have the right people in charge.....Faulkner has a lot to be desired as a leader. The EH plans are normally railroaded in with out any concern to the clubs who keep the EH afloat.

    Unfortunately we don't have the calibre of coaches in the country as at the moment. For example in Ladies premier league last year I may be slightly wrong on figures but 4 teams were with out a coach prior to the season.

    Are Kerry and Lee the right people? they don't have any great experience prior to England and they seem to work from a manual.

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  • 16. At 2:23pm on 20 Aug 2008, Karacticus_Potts wrote:

    Like most who have posted an opinion I have so that kal77uk is as intelligent as the 'Hod Carrier'!!!

    Let's not beat around the bush people GB is just not good enough. The domestic scene is a five team affair [Reading, Cannock, East Grinstead, Surbiton and Loughborough Students] outside of which the hockey is mediocre at best. Our so called international players [bar Middleton, and maybe Hawes] would struggle to make the 1st XI of many of the top club sides in Europe!! The call to have players based in UK is ridiculous; Middleton applys his trade in Holland and it shows - far superior thinking and reading of the game/ opposition.

    Yes, there are players currently playing in our national league who merit a chance on the international stage - some are exceptional Darren Chessman, Harry Jawanda, but the majority are not any better than the ordinary players who currently wear the nations badge.

    We need is the following;-
    1] to get our best players playing in the best leagues in the world - Holland and Germany.
    2] a change of guard at the HA - the 'Old Farts in suits' have not got a clue about the modern game.
    3] the ceasing of the pooling of the country's internationls into the 5 teams [stated earlier] to ensure there is more competition within the league, and that the youngsters at the 'so-called' lesser clubs are inspired and have 'icons' to look up to.

    James 'Hod Carrier' Tindall can be left to shoulder [no pun intended] the blame of the failing of the GB men alone; after all it is a team game, but the fact that he was chosen to play in the following fixtures demonstrates that there is no discipline or sanctions at this level. No player is bigger than his club, and definately not his country - he should be dropped from the team and told in no uncertain terms that his behaviour will not be tolerated.

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  • 17. At 2:46pm on 20 Aug 2008, Karacticus_Potts wrote:

    The Ladies team is a different kettle of fish alltogether.

    I believe with the right coaching and pooling of hockey resources the ladies could do wonders on the world stage. Like most hockey clubs, best coaches are appointed to the male side - even if they are poor.

    If the nation wants to experience the hockey highs of 1988 then the HA must invest in the best personnel for the ladies; the men will never win any major honours again.

    The ladies game was akin to the way their coach conducted himself when he played ie predictable and uninspirational; from Mel 'Clueless' Clewlow's 'I gonna smash the ball down the line with every once of my strength no matter what' to Joanne 'Doncaster' Ellis 'I am a forward but haven't got a clue as to what I supposed to be doing'. The only shinning lights in this tournament were Kate Walsh, Jennie Bimson [did injury rule her out?] , Chloe Rodgers, Helen Richardson and Beth Storry. But despite this somewhat scathing criticism they are in a far better position than their male counterparts.

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  • 18. At 4:12pm on 20 Aug 2008, Karacticus_Potts wrote:

    feralAus -

    I feel the need to defend kal77uk a tad, even though he is misinformed. Believe it or not your inference is wrong. I was speaking to a dutch colleague of mine a few months backon the hockey subject, to ascertain athe dutch view of the game, and he informs me that in Holland the game is played by those who can be categorised as middle-class and above.

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  • 19. At 4:26pm on 20 Aug 2008, Garfy wrote:

    Fatigue?

    Jason Lee should be sacked for that comment alone!!!!

    All the players were taken out of club hockey and dedicated to GB so the training and conditioning was down to Lee and his team.

    If they were fatigued, which I find VERY hard to believe, who's fault is that?

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  • 20. At 5:01pm on 20 Aug 2008, purpleLurch wrote:

    Hard to imagine that the women narrowly lost to Germany in Manchester and beat USA in Azerbaijan. What a difference a year makes. Mind you, the difference is mainly the forward line - not much else has changed. Sarah Thomas was a revelation and thank heavens they allow goalies in this game. We needed ours. So, 6th place. Flatters to deceive? To be honest, Holland are in a class of their own but the rest didn't really shine. Did somebody say Argentine are ranked second in the world?

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  • 21. At 7:28pm on 20 Aug 2008, kal77uk wrote:

    I indeed was educated in the state sector. I do know what i am taking about--Both GB teams failed, some of you are deluded and think they actually won something (which is what i meant by hockey is stuck in the dark ages).

    I heard Dave Faulkner today say GB hockey was going somewhere before 2012 (when asked to comment the Beijing gold medalists). A brick wall in a one way street comes to mind.

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  • 22. At 03:02am on 21 Aug 2008, feralAus wrote:

    kal77Uk, Are you absolutely ignorant of the results both teams achieved?

    So far they both played 5 games at the Olympics and coincidently achieved the same results of 2 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss. To qualify for the Olympics required both teams to win games . What you actually mean is they did not win Gold, Silver or Bronze!

    However they did win something. Go on accept it !! Or are you stuck in your "its only a win if we get a medal" syndrome?

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  • 23. At 09:45am on 21 Aug 2008, masterHockeyace wrote:

    You all need to sit back and think.
    GB women failed to qualify for Athens - FACT
    GB women qualified for 2008 - and at worse case will come 6th.
    For goodness sake give some credit where credit is due. From non-qualification to 6th place is a fantastic accomplishment.
    Rome wasn't built in a day!
    Some of the comments on here are far from encouraging - negative points of view do nothing for moral, yes there is room for improvement but there always is isn't there?!?! Lets face it, most of you would still manage to criticise even if we won gold!!
    I'm with the previous comment - are people really that ignorant and narrow minded to really not realise what we have accomplished here?

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  • 24. At 11:11am on 21 Aug 2008, purpleLurch wrote:

    masterHockeyace is right in that the GB women deserve some credit for what they have achieved. Kate Walsh was solid and dependable. Sarah Thomas delivered. Beth Storry deserves a sainthood. Alex Danson never stopped running. But finishing in the top half of the competition hides the fact that we were pretty ineffectual in the final third of the pitch. By saying 'Hey! 5th or 6th ain't bad. Give some credit for getting that far' we run the risk of not asking the difficult questions. At times the opposition D was an attacker-free zone. Why? Few opposing teams were troubled by our tactics. Why? The only time we really posed problems was when Sarah T made runs up the right and drove the ball back across the D .... but who was there to do anything with the ball. Alex Danson was the only forward to score, I think, and even then from a set piece. So, yes, they achieved more that half of the other teams. But did they fulfill their potential?

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  • 25. At 5:21pm on 21 Aug 2008, DutchboyBob wrote:

    feralAus (and kal77uk),

    As a Dutchman who played hockey throughout his childhood let me firstly confirm that whilst it is true what feralAus says about Hockey being a "middle class" sport, it is the second most popular sport in Holland in terms of practitioners after football. Basically every boy plays either football or hockey when they are young (often depending on social background).

    For girls hockey is the number 1 teamsport, more popular than football.

    For kaluk77 to say that hockey has limited pull is certainly not true in countries like Holland and Germany, and I dare say England. Also a lot of countries where hockey is big, do not play in commonwealth games.

    Rather than seen as being stuck in the dark ages, it is alive and kicking and for youths it is definitely considered very cool to be good at hockey in countries like Holland.
    Unfortunately in my case my godgiven technical abilities were so limited I would always play in the weakest team of my age-group. Not very cool but hockey had sufficient pull to make me persist until in my early twenties.

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  • 26. At 09:39am on 22 Aug 2008, redneckdwoman wrote:

    Hey look GB women finished in 6th place! thats the best they've finished since Atlanta back in 1996 when they came 4th place. Haven't the 'governing body' invested their funding wisely in 12 years.... Oh and there's the extra funding from the Lottery just look at the difference that's made!
    Not taking credit away from the players as they can only play to the best of their ability but without a 'governing body' that has got the capability of investing wisely having the knowledge or forward-thinking then players that play club hockey in the UK are always going to be well below par when it comes to skills and ability to the rest of the world...
    Will 'Great Britian Hockey' ever realise we have a problem with a 'clique' culture in this sport and until that is removed at the top we wont be seeing much success coming GB's way.....

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  • 27. At 11:50am on 22 Aug 2008, thelovelyhockeygeek wrote:

    I thought it was a good balanced article above of how both teams got on.

    Alot of talk on here about how we're not that great so shouldn't have expected too much, or the league structure isn't right etc.

    However the key point for me, looking at both teams, is that despite not being in the top 4 in terms of ability of players, they had chances to qualify for the semi finals. In all sports tournaments it's not necessarily the best team or favourites that win.

    We had our chances, the men in particular against the Dutch, when we passed up 3 pc's before Holland got their first. The Ladies left it until 2-0 down against Argentina before coming back and showing that they could have beaten them. Then both sides looked poor against lesser teams, the men v Canada and the ladies were played off the park by USA.

    This is why it is disappointing and you can't just look at the overall result and say they did ok. The chance was there to really over perform and take a medal, but was meekly paased up.

    The things that stood out for me, in terms of area for improvement:

    1. The mens pc's being taken by Richard Mantell. He was excellent in the World Cup in Germany, but was poor at the Euro's and carried this on again here. I hold Jason Lee totally responsible for not changing this, especially after Jackson put one away so confidently in the opening game. Could have a huge impact if we got our conversion rate to somewhere like 1/3.

    2. Continuing to allow the fat hod carrier to play, despite his obvious spikey temperament and uncontrollable ego. Even let him carry on after his yellow card v Canada. Is he best mates with Lee or something? I have to admit he showed some decent skills and scored a couple of good goals, but I'd also question what the likes of Jackson, Kirkham and Middleton make of his general behaviour and whether they'd be more comfortable with him out the squad.

    3. The ladies team insisted on making those mass substitutions, with forward players having little chance to shine, just being asked to run around like a maniac for 7 minutes before being replaced. Not a fan of this at all. Sure people need breaks in those conditions but Kerry overdoes it.

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  • 28. At 4:49pm on 22 Aug 2008, Karacticus_Potts wrote:

    thelovelyhockeygeek

    you assessment of the GB teams appear to be spot on, although I do question as to whether Jackson can hold his nerve when it counts; against Canada the last play of the game [the GB penalty corner] he fluffed the corner by failing to keep the ball on his stick. yes he is young and has time and room for improvement, but I think LeeBoy was making the right calls with the limited talent at his disposal.

    'at the end of the day' [the famous premiership's players expression] it's the same old story our teams flatter to deceive. let's hope that there is radical change before 2012, so that we can emulate the Chinese and get to the final in our own back-yard!?!??

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  • 29. At 7:56pm on 22 Aug 2008, Starscream25 wrote:

    Okay, i'm not usually one to wade into debate on the internets but a few things touched upon here have kind of wound me up: 1) The negativity aimed at both the men's and women's teams and 2) The "we're all dooooomed" view of the domestic game in England.

    After a five year break i have decided to get back into hockey; watching the excellent performances from the men and women in China has further motivated me to do this. I think both sides are making steps towards the worlds top 4 / 5.

    The men are a young side and looked a genuine attacking threat. Given time players like Middleton, Jackson and Wilson could be excellent international players (arguably Middleton already is). Gone are the overly defensive tactics of recent years. They came close to beating Australia...credit where it's due.

    Regarding the 'state' of the domestic league: In the five years i've been away i think the (mens) national league has improved a great deal. Flair players are able to have more of an impact, the game is no longer simply about power and pace.

    Give both the men and women time and space to develop and let's see what happens in 2012!

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  • 30. At 1:08pm on 25 Aug 2008, goaliebradders32 wrote:

    You guys moaning about the state of the domestic game may have a point to some extent; Yes the majority of internationals come from Reading, Surbiton, Loughborough... and even the number of them at Surbiton and Cannock haven't stopped these clubs continued decline.. Surbiton often fall into mid-table obscurity and Cannock are soon to follow.

    I struggle to understand why then, Surbiton has twice the number of players in the GB setup that Reading, the countries best side for the last few years. We don't have the problem that football has; all our sides are rammed with British players, why are we selecting them from the teams that underperform.

    The same could be said of the women's game. I'm no major follower of it so feel free to discard my opinion here. Charlotte Craddock did very well at these games and will no doubt be a fixture in 2012, but where did she come from? She plays for Cannock in what was, last season, the 3rd tier of hockey. Surely there are top flight players with more of a claim to a place. (Not in any way to discount from her performance.)

    Forget this negativity though, the fact is that things are changing in English hockey. The introduction of the National Performance Centres this year means that young players can be watched more closely and talent identified. It will also increase the number of players with funding and access to facilities. We will have a much better chance of finding and selecting the right players for 2012, and we can improve upon our good performance in Beijing.

    There are plenty of talented young English players, including Catlin and Harper who got a free trip to these Olympics out of it as well. Theres plenty of young guys most probably have never heard of with a claim to similar treatment and a place in 2012, the likes of James Blackwell, Chris Griffiths, George Pinner, Marc Edwards. Despite the criticisms and (even my own) frustration, things are on the up for England hockey and GB.

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