Middleton goes into World Cup as England's most experienced player ever

Bucks Free Press: Barry Middleton Barry Middleton

BARRY Middleton has just become the most capped hockey player in England's history but the Marlow-based star says breaking his country's duck at The World Cup would mean far more.

He passed 1988 gold medalist Russell Garcia's tally of 307 caps for England and Great Britain during a warm-up game against Australia at Bisham Abbey last week.

That was his 203rd game for England and he has also played 105 times for Great Britain, but the 30-year-old wants a World Cup gold medal for all his efforts.

England push off against Spain on Saturday and will also play Belgium, India, Malaysia and reigning champions and world number ranked side Australia in the Netherlands. But they beat Australia to bronze at January’s World League Final after losing to New Zealand in a semi-final shoot-out, and the captain believes they can soon set an example for England’s footballers to follow in Brazil.

He said: “Preparations have gone well, we are probably where we need to be heading into the World Cup. As a country we probably still have a bit of a complex about penalties. We’ve been practising them and I think we’ve had to because there are new rules with it being shoot-outs now more like it is in ice hockey.

“Hockey is such a close sport between the top four or five teams now that if you are going to win it, you are probably going to have to win one game on penalties in some way. Hopefully we can set an example for the footballers, although the pressure on them is much greater.

“All these things like caps along the way are nice when you look back on them fondly but when you are in it, you don’t really worry too much about it.

“For me the most important thing right now is our preparations for the World Cup and ultimately results in the World Cup.”

With over 300 international caps to his name as well as the experience of three Olympic Games, Middleton heads up an England squad with no fewer than 11 set to make their World Cup debut.

But, with a mixture of old and new, captain Middleton believes England have the right blend for success having lost in the bronze-medal match to the Netherlands four years ago.

“It’s a new team that have come together since the London 2012 Olympics and where we have come from 18 months ago is amazing to see,” he added.

“It’s our job to look after the younger ones but we actually want to let them be free as well. One of the good things with the younger guys is they can bring their energy to us older guys and have that innocence to youth that hasn’t been there before.”

Pensions are one of the UK’s leading auto enrolment pension providers and the proud partner of England and Great Britain Men’s Hockey. Follow @NOWhockey or go www.nowpensions.com

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