[img_assist|nid=7560|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=72]BISHAM ABBEY, March 14 – England Hcokey have marked a change of direction with the appointment of a pool of assistant coaches working with both the men’s and women’s squad.
Jon Bleby, Craig Keegan and David Ralph have been appointed to the role of assistant coaches to work with the England men’s and women’s squads.
In a shift away from recent practice the three new appointments will see Bleby, Keegan and Ralph working across both the men’s and women’s squads for the 2013-2016 Olympic cycle. The trio will join Karen Brown to complete the assistant coach team and together they will support head coaches Jason Lee [women] and Bobby Crutchley [men].
During this time they will work to prepare the squads for all international competitions taking in the 2013 and 2015 European Championships and the 2014 World Cup and Commonwealth Games. Their first major tournaments will be the women’s Investec World League Semi Final in Chiswick, London June 22-30 and the men’s World League Semi Final in Johor Bahru in Malaysia, June 29 – July 7.
England Hockey performance director Danny Kerry said: “I am delighted with the blend of coaches we have selected for the programmes moving forward. The quality and depth of candidates interviewed was significant. David Ralph, Craig Keegan and Jon Bleby each come with their own unique qualities and they all share the belief and ambition of what we can achieve together.”
“We will be looking to use our national coaching workforce in a unique way over this coming cycle and I believe this will benefit both the programmes and the development of the coaches. I am excited about what this new coaching team will deliver.”
At just 33, Jon Bleby is the youngest of the new recruits, however with 91 caps for England and Great Britain, an Olympic Games and numerous coaching achievements already under his belt, he is certainly no stranger to the international hockey scene.
After retiring from playing international hockey in 2008 Bleby started out as an assistant coach to both the Loughborough Students MHC and the England Under 18 boys National Age Group Squad. In just five years he has gone on to lead the England U18 boys to victory at both the Easter Four Nations Tournament and the UK School Games.
Commenting on his new appointment Bleby said, “I am absolutely delighted and honoured to be taking up the position of assistant coach and cannot wait to work with the new coaching team and players. There are many exciting challenges ahead and I am really looking forward to giving the role my very best efforts.”
Born in Burnie, Tasmania in Australia, Craig Keegan represented his state on the field for over a decade before moving to England when he was 26 to take up a player/coach role with Beeston Hockey Club. With a reputation as an attacking midfielder, Keegan topped the goal scoring tables in the English Leagues and in his role as coach he enjoyed great success, achieving consecutive promotions with both Beeston and Belper.
In 2008 England Hockey appointed Keegan head coach of the National Performance Centre in Loughborough and he has since gone on to coach both the mens and womens National Age Groups Squads as an assistant and head coach. Last year Keegan led his Under 21 women’s side to a bronze medal at the European Championships.
Keegan is delighted to be given the opportunity to join the senior coaching team, “I very much feel we have an outstanding squad of players to work with, some have a huge amount of experience, whereas other players are new to the programme and have great potential. I see this as an opportunity for us to further develop and challenge the good work done over the last few years.”
The third member of the newly appointed team of coaches is former Scottish international David Ralph who notched up 126 appearances for his country as well as playing club hockey for Premier Division sides East Grinstead and Loughborough Students.
Originally appointed as assistant coach to Jason Lee for Loughborough Students MHC in 1999 and more recently in 2006 as England Under 21 mens assistant coach under Bobby Crutchley, Ralph already has experience of working with England’s two head coaches.
After taking over from Lee as head coach at Loughborough in 2003 he led his team to National Indoor success four times and he also replaced Crutchley in 2007 to head up the England Under 21 men’s team until 2011 taking them to two Junior European Championships and a Junior World Cup.
Reflecting on his appointment, Ralph said: “I am delighted and honoured to be joining the coaching team and I am looking forward to working with the players. I know we face some tough challenges ahead but I relish the opportunity I have been given to play my part in the team. I would also like to thank Loughborough University for the support they have shown me over the years.”
The assistant coaches will start their new roles with England Hockey when the international squads return to training in April.