Beeston’s James Albery is part of a talented under-21 GB team hoping to make a big impact at this year’s Junior World Cup.
The 21-year-old started his youth career at Old Loughtonians, in Essex, before moving to Cambridge City when he was 13. Primarily a half-back or full-back, Albery admits to playing “a bit in midfield and a bit everywhere, really”.
And he is confident the crop of exciting youngsters can make an impact at the World Cup, which starts in Lucknow, India, on December 8.
“The squad we have is a really exciting one,” he said. “We’ve all been together for a while now – a lot of the team went to the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia when we won it [in 2015] and there’s boys there I’ve played with since I was 13.
The triumphant Sultan of Johor campaign was a particularly notable achievement for Albery, who described it as a “huge win”.
He also recalls promotion with Cambridge to the Conference East from Prem A, when he was 15 as being among his best early career memories.
“I was quite young at the time and absolutely loved that side,” he said. “The set-up at Cambridge is class and getting promoted with them was a great experience for me.”
Albery credits his Cambridge City coach, Nick Thompson, as being the catalyst for him playing at the highest level.
“Without him, there’s no way I would be playing to the standard I’m at,” said Albery. He basically taught me everything I know, on and off the pitch. He was absolutely class for me.”
His hockey career began at a young age. Growing up in a hockey-loving family, he fondly recalls having a stick in his hand from the moment he could walk.
“I used to go down to Hertford Hockey Club where my dad Tim played, so just got involved in there,
“I probably started playing properly at about five or six, when I could join in sessions properly.”
After moving from Hertford, Albery played for Old Loughts for three years before making the educational move to The Leys School. Subsequently, he switched clubs to Cambridge City.
He is studying sports science with management at Nottingham Trent University and said Notts-based Beeston was the main reason for him choosing Trent.
“I picked my choices around where the hockey was and got in touch with Beeston – they were very keen for me to come and they put me in contact with the people at Trent.”
Albery broke into the England under-16s when he was 13 and progressed through the under-18s to the under-21s.
He credits that international experience with making him a more-rounded player, as it exposed him to a wider array of playing styles.
“In this country, we play one style of hockey, a very English brand, but when you come up against the other teams, like in Asia, there’s a lot of different style of play which you don’t see in the national league,” he explained.
Albery said he was confident about the talent in the British ranks ahead of the World Cup. But his ambitions don’t stop there. He dreams of winning Olympic Gold and having a successful international career.
“I want a long career with the seniors, hopefully be successful with the seniors, go to World Cups, Commonwealth Games, be as successful as I can be, but also play in a team that I enjoy playing in.”
l SSE’s Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen.