Home advantage is something that cannot be measured. It certainly seemed to play a part in Argentina’s success in the 2014 Hockey Champions Trophy, with the passionate crowds creating an intimidating atmosphere for any opponent, and Susannah Townsend of Great Britain hopes that a similar atmosphere will be generated in the Olympic Park in London when the women's Hockey Champions Trophy 2016 comes to town.
“The Champions Trophy will be a tournament where each team will set out to start to build some momentum going into the Olympics,” said the midfielder. “For us, we are at home, with our home crowd and playing at a stadium where we have had a lot of success. Personally I love playing at home in London, having the home support in one of the best cities in the world makes it a pleasure to play in! When we step on to that pitch we only have good memories but for this tournament we won't be resting on our past successes.
“It is now a year on [from England's EuroHockey success] and we will now have to look at what happens next. Lee Valley has an incredible atmosphere and really is one of the best hockey venues in the world so for each team they will relish playing in London before Rio."
Fast becoming one of Great Britain’s most effective midfielders, with speed and agility on her side, Townsend feels that the current squad is one that has been given time to evolve. “Since New Year we have had an intense training block, but this hasn't been any different to the last four years. The beauty of our programme is that we have had four years as a squad in the build up to an Olympics games, this means that time is on our side and nothing has had to be rushed. We have planned and prepared and are at a stage we want to be at prior to Rio.”
The stability in the Great Britain side is reflected in the fact that this will be coach Danny Kerry’s third Olympics in charge and the thoughtful and meticulously prepared coach has been signed up as women’s head coach until Tokyo 2020.
It is clearly an appointment that Townsend is delighted with. “Danny is a fantastic coach. As players we all look to develop every single day and Danny is meticulous in doing the same with his development. We are improving as players and our coaches are also improving as coaches. Stability at this time in preparation is a good thing and having this decision made early has benefited the squad as it avoids any speculation and also allows the coaches and players to focus on the task in hand, which is Rio.
“After the New Year we had a physical training month, this was interspersed with hockey and physical training as well as team bonding exercises. This was a very tough month especially in the freezing cold, it is a month I will always remember though as tough times like that bring a team together!
“We also played six test matches in the freezing cold against Australia; this was invaluable. Playing against world class opposition and spending some quality time on and off the pitch as a squad proved to be a great experience for the team.
“We are a very close knit group. We spend every single day together and know each other inside out. I believe this sets us apart from many other teams. Our European success of course gave us belief and confidence but we had this before. We are very aware of what it takes to be successful and we live by those values each day. I can't give away our secrets on how we will be playing but it goes without saying that tactically we can set up in anyway but you can guarantee we will play with confidence, fight and determination.”
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