“We are not here to make up numbers, we are here on a journey and if we want to be competitive we know we have the ability to compete against them.” So said Jen Wilson, Scotland’s South African coach, after being asked her views on facing Europe’s elite following the Tartan Heart’s opening 4-1 defeat to Spain on Saturday.
Scotland women had played in a training game against Germany three days ahead of the EuroHockey Championships. It was the first time they had competed as a full squad since being promoted to the A Division in 2019.
For the lowest-ranked side, coupled with a squad which last played any meaningful hockey at the second tier Euro event in Glasgow, Scotland women showed plenty of grit and resolve in defeat to Spain on their return to Europe’s top flight.
- Follow the EuroHockey Championships
- Subscribe to our unrivalled coverage by unlocking our best content
- Full EuroHockey schedule, match times
“We are a team of teachers and students and the hours of preparation as opposed to other teams is off the scale,” said Wilson, who admitted to ‘disappointment’ at the opening scoreline.
“But we are here to make ourselves better and we make the most of that.
“We chose as a team to never make excuses about that, but to grab hold of that challenge. I know they have learnt a lot about themselves and we now need to turn them into positives. The grit and determination is in the team and it is building.”
The squad had only returned to the pitch in January, the pandemic forcing the part-timers on to Zoom for fitness and bonding sessions, unlike their fully-funded European counterparts.
They had even been without the services of their quartet of Great Britain players before meeting up in Amsterdam. However, Scotland were boosted by the return of Sarah Robertson and Amy Costello, who have played in recent FIH Pro League action in recent weeks, while Charlotte Watson is returning from injury, and Emily Dark is an emerging talent from GB’s development programme.
Dark had recently put aside her rising hockey career as she finished as top recruit and top shot in her bid to become an RAF reservist in April and one of the first females in the role.
Dark, who scored in the 4-1 defeat with a low PC strike, said: “All the girls have learnt really quickly on the camps. It was so nice to be back with a crowd and it was a huge difference from all the friendlies.
“Some people don’t think we are as good as we are. We may have lost a few goals but it turns us the other way. None of us give up and we have been super optimistic.”
Scotland play Ireland on Monday before a final Pool game against the fearsome Dutch on Wednesday. The match will be played out with the maximum 3,000 Oranje fans allowed into the stadium due to Covid restrictions and will mark one of the biggest matches in Scotland’s recent history.
With Scotland likely to be fighting out for the lower placings this week – unless they can win over Ireland and Holland – Wilson’s side will still have a chance of staying up in Europe’s top flight if they finish in the bottom two placings, with a qualifying event for the 2023 Championships installed to give lower-ranked nations the chance of promotion.
And Wilson knows that if the Scots can tighten up – they shipped three goals in five minutes against Spain – then they can cause some upsets.
She added: “The resolve from the players showed that you have to be tough with these moments. If you take the five minutes out then our goal was an equaliser.”