Ollie Payne has been described as a “fearless and brave” goalkeeper by his first club coach in Devon following the news that the 21-year-old had been called up to the GB men’s senior squad on Thursday.
Payne, a Durham graduate, will join fellow ‘keepers George Pinner and Harry Gibson in a rare squad triumverate aiming for Tokyo Olympic selection after being tracked by coach Danny Kerry following a string of impressive showings for England and GB under-21s.
Payne made his debut for Totnes-based club Dart HC – where his parents played – as a 14-year-old in the men’s 1s, before playing for Exeter University a year later.
“We could see he was going places and no one was holding him back from progressing,” Tracey Pearce, Dart’s head coach, told The Hockey Paper. “We are all awe-inspired at seeing him picked.”
Pearce hailed Dart men’s camaraderie for giving Payne “the belief in himself” before his subsequent rise, which last month saw him named Men’s Emerging Performance Player of the Year at the England Hockey’s awards.
“He just grew and it’s been fantastic to watch,” added Pearce. “He’s a brilliant chap, has natural [stick] ability and was a dream to coach, like a sponge he absorbed it all. He’s a great keeper, so brave and fearless.”
The former Dart HC shot stopper joins the likes of Jacob Draper, Charlotte Watson, Esme Burge and Jack Waller who have stepped up from the EDP programme.
The newly-announced Holcombe HC player already has some asiprations. He said: “In the short term I just want to get involved in the programme and get up to the level and pace of the game. Then hopefully I can make my debut at some point with the Olympics in mind.
“In the medium and long term, the home Commonwealth Games is something that’s a really big target for a me in a couple of years and then hopefully the Olympic Games after that.”
Payne will now jostle for a place in GB’s Pro League and Olympic squads alongside Pinner and Gibson, who have long been selected as the country’s No 1 and 2 stoppers. The Devonian has pedigree after being named goalkeeper of the tournament during GB under-21’s successful 2018 and 2019 Sultan of Johor Cup wins and helping Durham to promotion to the men’s Premier Division.
GB men’s head coach Kerry said: “I’m delighted Ollie has been able to take up a place with the squad. He has been in our thinking and planning for some time and we are delighted that he is able to join the programme following on from his studies at Durham University.”