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GB 's shocking lack of ambition

by W.Underbar (U11173694) 18 August 2008
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Anyone else taken aback by GB's limited ambitions in these Games? Jason Lee, GB's head coach, is reported as saying that the men's aim all along was "to finish in the top 8" - which conveniently allows him to pretend that everything is still on course, despite the two depressingly mediocre performances against S Africa and Canada.

The truth is that GB have seriously underperformed, for the fifth Games in a row, despite gritty showings against Pakistan and Holland. We seem to be able to raise our game against the strong teams and when we're the underdogs, but the mark of a class team is to be able to see off the small fry, even when they raise their game.

In yesterday's game against Canada, despite the warning signs from the sluggish performance against SA, nothing seemed to have changed. The free hit routines were the same, the short corners were just as unproductive, the pace on the ball was far too slow, and discipline broke down again. Our class players - Middleton, Jackson, Moore - saw far too little of the action: they seemed to be expected both to compete for the ball in midfield and create and finish the chances in the circle.

Jason Lee has been in charge since well before the Athens Olympics. With the sole exception of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Chile he hasn't produced the results. Time for a change, I suggest - whether or not we raise our game against Australia - and time to bring in a coach from a winning culture.

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posted Aug 19, 2008

I agree with those on here who say GB (Men) have improved hugely in the last 2 years. Weve had 20 years of going nowhere (with the exception of a couple of years in the late 90s when the current Australian coach was in charge) - ive watched it and this is much better than the rubbish thats come before. You cant blame Jason Lee for playing a structured game, GB got hammered at the last Olympics by playing all out attack when they just werent up to it. At least GB do have some players with skill who are prepared to attack the circle despite the slow build up and give the oppo something to worry about.

I agree that the EHA have been useless for years, but thats not necessarily true now. Under David Faulkner there is a new more purposeful direction for English / British hockey. And Lee's team, while still a work in progress is fitter, more skilful, more focused and professional than its ever been - theyve clearly put in some really hard and have closed the gap on the top nations which is good news. There's lots more to be done clearly, the style of play needs to develop, lessons need to be learned and some new players brought in to replace one or two who may not be quite up to the standard.

Ward Littell is right, the problem weve had in this country is a lack of quality coaching resulting in poor skill levels and a consequent lack of confidence at the top level. You cant compete on that basis. The good news is that this might also be changing.

So, overall i give the men 6.5/10. Lets see much more over the next 4 years please, there's something here to build on towards 2012.

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posted Aug 20, 2008

While there is no doubt that we have improved from the last Olympics it is highly unlikely that we will ever get any better with the current coach and tactics. In GB we have an obsession with fitness over skill and not just in Hockey. Watch any GB game and you will see players running around defending all over the pitch and when they finally get posession their skill levels are so poor they either fail to control the ball or return posession to the opposition. Watching yesterday my heart went out Barry Middleton, one of the few players in the squad good enough to play in the Dutch league, by half time he was on his knees because of the work level expected of him. How can we then expect him to be creative if he's dead on his feet. Fitness at the top level is important but not to the detriment of skill. We continually pick players based on their ability to run about, forgetting that when we do have the ball they have to be able to use it effectivley. Watching GB players unable to pick up or stop a ball on the point of their stick at this level is embarrassing. Go to Holland and you can see 5 year olds doing it. Our entire game is based on stopping the opposition and not on creating anything. We aim to get penalty corners and then give them to Mantell who isn't even good enough to be in the team and he then misses on a regular basis. Apart from McGregor,Middleton,Hawes and Jackson on a good day, name me any GB player who would get a game for the top four of Spain, Australia, Germany and Holland.

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posted Aug 20, 2008

Red Rover 55, fitness and skills are both essential but otherwise I agree with you that the skill levels of British players (at all levels) are not yet high enough. Like you i saw some GB players gettng in to some great positions only to then miscontrol the ball. Why does that not happen to Australian or Dutch players anywhere near as much? Because they endlessly practice picking up a drilled ball so that it becomes second nature.

In the UK, there has traditionally been little emphasis on developing individual technique and skills. We dont encourage or coach this in our players, even to the extent in my experience of discouraging the expression of those skills as being against the team ethic.

The point is that the even elite players only become elite by coaching, training and developing their skills and learning when to use them. Only when that becomes second nature does it hold up in competition at the highest level.

The reaon that im relatively impressed with the GB men is that they have clearly recognised this and are manifestly trying to raise the games of their players. A few inevitably have disappointed, others have responded very well. Hawes in particular is three times the player he was not so long ago, Wilson, Marsden and Jackson also have shown some real potential, as well as Middleton who is a natural. Personally I think Mantell excels at the back in his control of the game but we can agree to disagree on that. To my mind we seem to be gradually developing a core of players who are not a million miles away from being world class and that is a step forward. If a refreshed coaching staff accelerates that process then great, just dont throw out the baby with the bathwater. I expect GB to continue to improve and to be a genuine contender for medals over the next 4 years. In the meantime, lets keep encouraging our younsters to develop their skills and not be afraid to try things out. We might get somewhere then!

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comment by kal77uk (U1573807)

posted Aug 24, 2008

Is this the usual hockey post-mortem, ghosts of 88 talk. How about hockey going back underground? We will catch up again in 2012. Be honest, the country is not really that bothered by hockey, You are lucky the BBC has the courtesy of giving this sport some airtime and webspace. The success of the sport will be seen in the domestic take up, i predict league attendances will be the same as before, the sport will be defunct in state schools, nothing changes. The points made here I saw four years ago. Same old same old.

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posted Aug 28, 2008

I am no hockey expert but have played other sport at a very decent level and in Beijing I watched a lot of the Olympic hockey ganes involving the GB teams.The men would struggle to beat the Netherlands ladies (the Gold Medalists)-the latter were a team of professionals playing high speed one touch hockey who didnt have to rely on penalty corners to try and win games (which certainly seemed to be the case of the GB Ladies.)
I felt for many of the athletic British men players but they still looked like good clubmen in many cases interspersed with a couple of fine players.
I gave up watching the men after the poor South Africa game where they struggled to beat a team who had previously lost 10-0 to Australia.
The ladies were very much below par in the opening game against Germany in awful conditions but it wasnt surprising as Germany controlled the middle third as GB had no midfield which persisted throughout the tournament. The defence and especially the keeper kept GB in many games they would have lost otherwise but the fact that their top scorer was a defender at short corners clearly shows the lack of ambition of the Coach.
They managed a sixth place finish losing to Oz despite having all the play but nil penetration from 30m out.Oz finished clinically on the one occasion they had an attack in the first half but well done to the Ladies for persistency in holding the USA and Argentina.
There is clearly talent in GB hockey but it needs a mindset change for 2012 including an injection of funds to ensure the teams are professionals and professionally coached-how about the Ladies Dutch team coach being headhunted to replace the current incumbents in the GB setup.I know neither person but watching very fit people with limited skills and no tactics play against people with both was embarassing.
Perhaps a confidential questionairre to each and every player in the two teams on the attributes and deficits of their current coaching setup is required.Or would that upset the status quo?
If the same people remain in place write off London 2012 now.

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posted Aug 29, 2008

Did anybody actually go and watch in Beijing, or are you all just casting your opinions on what you saw via the red button.

What were your predictions before Beijing? Gold for both the Men and the Women? Medals?

I went and saw all the games. I was impressed with some of the hockey played by both GB teams (more from the Men than the Women). I spoke with a number of the players and actually got an insight into their preparation, thoughts, opinions and future hopes.

There was some fantastic hockey played. GB Men vs Australia was structured and worked. For 65 minutes Middleton man marked Dwyer out of the game, and actually made Australia panic. Ali in goal was fantastic and alert, speaking and organising a much improved defence infront of him. The stats show that limited short corners were conceeded and those that were dealt with easily, from a team that beat The Netherlands convincingly in the 3rd/4th place game (6-2). Granted Canada and SA games were poor but credit to both those team; they did not arrive at the Olympics believing that they were making up the numbers. To say they are lesser Countries is an insult; many of their players have huge talent and can compete. Remember that their coaching staff will also have access to video analysis; studying how GB will play and counter acting the tactics (Canada did very well doing this). GB men will improve for 2012, the players now know they can compete and beat the best in the world. If they had faced either Germany or Spain then I am sure they would have got a result (both finalists were in the "other" pool).

The GB women is slightly different. They will also improve but we need to look at why things went wrong. Personally, and from my observations of being there in person, I did not see link play between the various units on the pitch. Defence was strong when needed with Walsh, Cullen and Clewlow working hard around the pitch. Once the ball was won and distributed their was limited drive to turn defence into attack. I placed this down to playing a structured "possession" game, building play slowly and looking at set pieces (hence the games won on last minute short corners and free hits inside the 25). Some of the players shone - Walker was exciting and always moved to open the passing channels. When prompted, Richardson passed and received effectively, linking the forward line and creating openings. The forwards worked hard, Craddock will become very good with experience and I can't wait to see the development between her, Jo "Figo" Ellis and Danson (who was carrying a few injuries but still played with drive and passion). The reason why success came to Holland, China and Argentina is that they all play with a positive flow going forward. Their attitude was right in attack early, quickly and with a high forward (Holland beat Australia 2-1 in the Group stages by placing one forward in the opposition D, posting up to receive and play off to runners coming through). GB will get there if they adopt the same attitude, and I am sure Danny Kerry will see this in his review. Changes will happen as the squad changes to younger players, just give it time. For 5th/6th GB over powered the Aussies for 20 minutes of the second half, looking for the equaliser. After a video decision and with 5 minutes to go the keeper was changed for another outfielder player and Aus scored their second. However, for most of that game, GB attacked and showed good hockey.

Final point: can we please remember that opinions are fine, but these players/coaches/support staff are always willing to listen to what people have to say if you keep it POSITIVE. Offer a solution; you never know, it might help.

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posted Aug 29, 2008

Not really the best comment to enable topical discussion is it!

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posted Aug 29, 2008

rossco, I'm sure, that just like the majority of posters to this site, we would all have loved to be in Bejing watching live. Time off work and cost were two of my reasons for not being there but I'd like to think my opinion is still valid. I have never ever criticised GB for a lack of Preparation, Committment or Effort from the players, coaches and support staff. My point is, and always has been, that we lack the skills that the medal contenders take for granted. The work rate of both teams is probaly the envy of most countries but when we have the ball we lose it far to easily due to poor skills. If we could improve on that aspect of the game then I am certain we would be in contention for major championships as we are pretty good at all other aspects of the modern game.

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posted Aug 29, 2008

Weve been through a number of your suggestions before, Chezhensi, in particular with the Ladies where there have been enquiries into the Coaches and discussions with the players. In fact you pinpoint the problem which is the skills levels of UK hockey players across the piece which aren't yet good enough. I dont know but i reckon Danny Kerry is probably a good coach, my disappointment is that the GB / England Ladies team have been a good side for quite a few years now, but they have lacked the ability to score goals for several years and they seem to play with a degree of fear that is not warranted.

On the whole, im with Rosco on this, particularly with the Men, we have to remember the pretty average level they are trying to drag themselves up from. Im pretty encouraged though id be the first to say theyve got a way to go but finishing 5th .

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posted Aug 29, 2008

...was a good effort, and i believe that in the future, given the game situations they found themselves in against both Aus and Neths, they might fancy their chances of taking them. It'll take more hard work, but as Rosco says it needs a positive mindset.

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