Crutchley leaves the door open for Jackson
LEADING goalscorer Ashley Jackson has made a dramatic late international U-turn and decided to omit himself from the Great Britain’s men’s squad for the Tokyo Olympic cycle.
One of GB’s most gifted players of all time, Jackson was a surprise absentee from coach Bobby Crutchley’s new-look squad, which was announced on Monday.
In November, the East Grinstead midfielder had outlined his intentions to complete a fourth Olympics after GB’s disappointing ninth-place finish in Rio.
Now the 29-year-old has decided to take more time out from the centralised programme, with Crutchley leaving the door ajar for a potential return.
But questions remain over his late withdrawal from the 27-strong squad. “I’ve been in contact with Ashley quite a bit and our discussions have been very positive,” Crutchley told The Hockey Paper.
“He’s done three Olympic cycles and it’s not unusual for a player to want to take an extended break. He doesn’t feel ready to come back and so he has made the right decision for him. He has chosen not to be available and I haven’t picked him. If later on he feels he wants to come back and he can add value, then we can revisit the situation.”
In an interview with THP last month, Jackson opened up on his Rio experiences where he said he was relishing the prospect of the next four years.
“To say the programme failed would be unfair,” he said then. “There would have to be subtle differences and small changes to make things work for Tokyo. I just want to get
cracking and make things right.”
Tellingly, he also admitted that he had “no interest” in being around Bisham until the New Year. But Jackson has now reneged on his initial promise and will take more time away from the centralised programme.
Crutchley said: “He wants a bit of time away and it’s not my role to persuade him to come back. It’s my role to prepare the next group of athletes for the challenges ahead.
“Plenty of athletes have taken an extended break and come back and been successful.”
Jackson is currently in India where he is playing for Ranchi Rays in the Hockey India League, while team-mate Nick Catlin has returned to the UK after his travels abroad.
Catlin was another notable omission from the men’s squad programme. The talented midfielder, another standout for GB in recent years, had also told this newspaper of his desire to be involved for the 2020 cycle. He was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
Catlin and Jackson’s exclusions mean that Crutchley oversees an initial squad with an average age of just 25.