Starters’ or­ders

It’s crunch time for the likes of the USA and Trindad & Tobago as Sarah Jug­gins ex­plains

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS -

It’s crunch time as World League 2 gets ready for the off

The fi­nal men’s Hockey World League (HWL) Round Two event is un­der­way in Trinidad and Tobago and, with it, rests Scot­land’s fate.

If the team fin­ish­ing third in Tacarigua is ranked higher on the In­ter­na­tional Hockey Fed­er­a­tion (FIH) world rank­ings than 27th­placed Scot­land, then the Blue Sticks will not be mak­ing their first ever ap­pear­ance in the HWL semi-fi­nals.

For two play­ers who ply their club trade in the UK how­ever, the dream of play­ing in ei­ther South Africa or Lon­don this sum­mer, and still hav­ing a chance to qual­ify for the 2018 World Cup via the HWL route, is very much in their own hands. It is a prospect that the USA’s Adam Miller, who plays for South­gate in the East Con­fer­ence league, is look­ing for­ward to with some rel­ish.

‘We want to take gold,’ says the 25-year-old bullishly, be­fore paus­ing to add, ‘Although a good fin­ish for us would be se­cond place. Qual­i­fy­ing for HWL Round Three is mas­sive for us. It puts us in a place where we might qual­ify for the World Cup.

That would be a real game changer as we would get the chance to play to­gether more of­ten and get more fund­ing. We all want to raise the pro­file of the sport in the coun­try.’

South­gate HC is well rep­re­sented in Trinidad and Tobago as Will Holt and Paul Singh are also part of the USA squad that is bat­tling for a top two fin­ish. They all know that third place is not good enough as Scot­land is ranked two places higher than the north Amer­i­can side.

Miller, whose dual na­tion­al­ity means he has also played for the Eng­land U18 and U21 team, is a rel­a­tive new face on the in­ter­na­tional stage with 28 caps to his name.

How­ever, some­one who has been here sev­eral times be­fore is lo­cal leg­end Kwan Browne, a man with more than 300 in­ter­na­tional caps for the hockey-lov­ing is­land.

Browne first played for his coun­try when he was just 15 and has gone on to rep­re­sent Trinidad and Tobago at Com­mon­wealth Games, Pan Amer­i­can Games and the Pan Amer­i­can Cup on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, as well as in HWL Round One and Two events.

He is also well-known to the hockey fra­ter­nity in the UK. For­merly player/coach at Can­ter­bury, he is now coach to Pre­mier League high fly­ers Hamp­stead and Westminster. He is also the cur­rent Great Bri­tain U23 coach and Eng­land U21 as­sis­tant coach.

For Browne, there is a world of

Qual­i­fy­ing for Round Three would be a game changer for us as we would get the chance to play to­gether more and get more fund­ing

dif­fer­ence be­tween hockey in the UK, or Europe for that mat­ter, and hockey played in the Pan Amer­i­can na­tions.

“The hockey here is so much more un­pre­dictable,” he added. “It is like com­par­ing South Amer­i­can foot­ball with the foot­ball played in Europe. The cul­ture in many of the Pan Amer­i­can coun­tries is all about flow, ex­cite­ment and in­di­vid­ual skills. In Europe, it is a lot more or­gan­ised and struc­tured.’

For the thought­ful coach, the best thing to hap­pen to hockey in Trinidad and Tobago was a mass ex­o­dus of play­ers to Euro­pean

club sides. “It is not so much the skill on the ball but the un­der­stand­ing of the game and the re­al­i­sa­tion of the im­por­tance of ba­sics,” he said.“It is recog­nis­ing the places where you have to be safer with the ball. That is what you learn in Europe.

‘A few years ago we had seven or eight of the team all play­ing out­side Trinidad and Tobago, that made a mas­sive dif­fer­ence, our rank­ing went up to 19th in the world. At the mo­ment there are just two play­ers play­ing abroad, and our rank­ing has dropped to 33. It kind of goes handin-hand.’

Miller agrees that there is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween hockey in the UK and over­seas. For the mid­fielder, the cur­rent com­pe­ti­tion in Tacarigua adds a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion to the game.

“There is real va­ri­ety in the teams you play against,” he went on. “In Europe, I find it is very rigid and al­most over-struc­tured. There is very lit­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween the way most top club sides play.’

The UK-based player added that it was not just the dif­fer­ent styles that he and his fel­low USA club mates would need to adapt to but the tem­per­a­ture would also be throw­ing up its own chal­lenges.

“This is a to­tally dif­fer­ent cli­mate, it is cer­tainly one of the big­gest chal­lenges we have come up against. I have had to try and adapt quickly, com­ing on the back of an English win­ter.’

While the USA is look­ing for a podium fin­ish, Browne would be happy to see his team fin­ish in the top four. He ex­plains that a lack of fi­nance has meant very limited prepa­ra­tions but adds that the for­mat – pool games, fol­lowed by an all-im­por­tant quar­ter fi­nal – could suit the home side.

“It will give us time to get into the tour­na­ment, and then, well tac­ti­cally we know we are very well pre­pared, so who knows…”

It’s Miller’s time! South­gate’s Adam Miller is eye­ing World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion with the USA PIC­TURE: Field Hockey USA

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