Great Britain under-21’s 3-2 success over India was their “biggest achievement” as a team for three years as coach Jon Bleby hailed his squad’s “commitment and passion” for their Sultan of Johor Cup success.
Bleby is a well-known figure in Malaysia these days, having been at the helm of the under-21 side since 2013 and witnessed a second Sultan of Johor title success on Saturday after another come-from-behind win to beat India, who’ve had three coaches in that time.
“I would say this was our biggest achievement as a team since we won here in 2015,” Bleby told The Hockey Paper.
“The SOJC is an incredibly tough tournament to win and the players did a fantastic job to perform so well and win the gold medal in a really tough final against India.”
There were several notable performances over the last week as Britain went one better than last year after losing to Australia in the final.
Scotland’s Cameron Golden finished the event as Britain’s top scorer, with five goals, James Oates scored a crucial double in the final and was awarded player of the match, and Ollie Payne was handed goalkeeper of the tournament.
“One of the great aspects we get out of this tournament is the players get to experience playing in and dealing with the emotions that come with big pressurised games,” added Bleby.
“I would say we performed much better in this year’s final than last year when we won silver I believe the learnings and experience the players got from last year’s game was significant to being better this year.”
Britain were reliant on Japan failing to score plenty against Malaysia to qualify for the final.
But it was their superb fightback against Australia – in a match which also saw their commitment in a fractious ending – which gave GB a helping hand towards another final placing.
Bleby added: “The players commitment and passion throughout the tournament was excellent. The Australia game was a high intensity affair and a great game.
“I think for the young players who are aspiring to be future Olympians learning how to cope with and perform well in the big games is a priceless experience; learning to win is part of the process of becoming a top player.
“The GB elite development programme is a huge influence on allowing the players to reach their potential and win tournaments like the Johor Cup. The frequent high quality training environment where the players are consistently learning good habits under pressure is the foundation of successes like winning the 2018 Johor Cup.”