Crutch­ley leaves the door open for Jack­son

The Hockey Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Rod Gil­mour

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.

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