Heading into his last few weeks as captain of GB men, Adam Dixon is still learning the job. Well, when you’re recently given a book on the subject by the man who led GB’s last assault on hockey gold in 1988, what else is there to do but devour it?
Such is the way with hockey, that not every member of the 1988 gold medal team is recognisable. And that goes for the captain Richard Dodds, who “poked his head through the gates” at Bisham Abbey recently with some of the team unable to put a face to the name.
Dixon sat down with 62-year-old Dodds, an orthopaedic surgeon, and watched some old Olympic archive clips as he regaled some of the old stories which still surface every five years when the ‘88 team meet up.
“Richard said that going into Seoul they were known as the team everyone hated to play against,” said Dixon. “If that’s what we have to do in Tokyo and ruffle some feathers then I am all for it. We’re certainly not favourites but let’s hope for an underdog story.
“We fully appreciated what has gone on before and what they achieved in Seoul. Does it add pressure? In some ways, but the fact that someone has done it before doesn’t make a huge difference.”
Learning from Dodds hasn’t been the only sporting mind the GB squad has acquired knowledge from. Coach Danny Kerry has kept in touch with England rugby coach Eddie Jones to such an extent that the Australian was texting during the EuroHockey asking about results.
“We have some great hockey minds in the GB set up but you have to look for inspiration outside the sport to get that one percent or there may be a tactic you never thought would have any relation to hockey,” says Dixon. “If you don’t go searching then you won’t get the answers.”
Dixon revealed that it was a talk with former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss which recently stuck out. “He said leading up to the Ashes achievements it was about creating a sense of momentum. For us, it’s been simmering away under the surface.”
He added: “For us, it’s all about momentum. The summer for England was pretty good minus a medal and the Olympics is all about medals.”
Only four of the 16 from Rio will compete in Tokyo as GB look to write some wrongs from that Olympic low point and the subsequent review.
“In the heat of the battle in Rio, we felt we had a robust culture and got along, but there were certain cracks which emerged,” said Dixon.
A three-man captaincy was implemented after Rio before Dixon was announced as sole captain alongside a five-man leadership which both criticises management and coaches as well as analyses. Dixon says it is a combination which works.
GB are in a European-heavy Pool with three teams which finished above them at the recent EuroHockey Championships – Holland, Germany and Belgium.
“We have been trying to bridge the gap between the top four sides in the world and we have started to show that we are a bit of a nuisance,” admitted Dixon.
“Belgium are the ones who set the momentum but we really challenged them and got under their skin.
“There are no easy games and we have known about the group for such a long time and it’s a case of getting on the pitch and delivering.
“We’re not going to set our stall out and say we are going to win a medal but we can go there with the right attitude of upsetting the established top four and go from there.”