England co-captain Ian Sloan believes that the young guns can have a “positive impact” on the older heads’ World Cup hopes against Ireland.
Danny Kerry has thrust several youngsters into the 2018 World Cup fray. Zach Wallace (18), Jack Waller (21), made their international debuts barely two months ago, and travelling reserve Rhys Smith (21) are the youngest players to be selected. England are also fielding the likes of Will Calnan and Luke Taylor.
“The best praise you can give them is that they’ve looked like they’ve played 50 or 100 times,” Sloan told The Hockey Paper on the eve of England’s must-win encounter against the Irish.
“The confidence they’ve shown and level of comfort on the ball has been really promising. I think they can have a positive impact on Friday.”
As Sloan admitted, “knock out hockey has come a game earlier” in a highly-anticipated game. It has come about following England’s 1-1 draw with China, who also drew 2-2 with Ireland.
England are currently bottom of Pool B on goal difference courtesy of their 3-0 defeat to Australia.
“It’s about having that feeling of if we win, we’re through and if we lose, we’re out,” added Sloan.
“It excites the group and if we win then we know the momentum and belief going into the next knockout match is something we can utilise.”
Sloan is also way of what Ireland is capable of at the Kalinga Stadium. “They are reliable and don’t make many mistakes. Their bravery in defence is something to admire. But we’ve got belief and we’ve improved with each game.”
— England Hockey (@EnglandHockey) December 6, 2018
Mark Gleghorne, meanwhile, says England will go “hell for leather” into battle with his younger team-mates.
“The new guys coming in have been so excitable,” said Gleghorne, who is rooming with Wallace. “It really rubs off on you. As you get older, it’s about expressing yourselves.
“One of the best thing is that they go out and play their game. Preparing them for these type of games is about little chats. Each player reacts differently to the physical challenge, the off-the-ball sledging, whatever it may be.”
David Ames, a former Irish player like Sloan and Gleghorne, also praised the youthful nature of Kerry’s squad.
He said pre-tournament: “They are doing superbly and it’s a joy to watch them. At that age, I must have been a bit more fearful of people around me but they have shown no fear and they don’t care who the opposition is.”
“It’s a sense of freedom, they are lucky enough to be part of a GB programme and playing at the highest level, why not make the most of it. If they dwell on it then they will struggle, but they have taken ownership.”