GB keeper speaks ahead of his first FIH World Level event
Four long years after making his senior international debut at the tender age of 20, it seems likely that talented English goalkeeper George Pinner will finally be given the chance to shine at an FIH World Level event.
Following years of just missing the cut, Pinner’s luck changed when Jason Lee rewarded years of intense training and sacrifice by naming him in the Great Britain squad that will challenge for the Owen G Glenn FIH Champions Trophy, which begins next weekend in Auckland, New Zealand.
Although it has been a long wait for the now 24-year-old, the call-up is certainly not unexpected. The tall, athletic shot-stopper has been a star performer for his English club side Beeston, the current champions of England and quarter finalists in last season’s Euro Hockey League. The selection is a massive boost for the Nottingham based keeper, who has been named alongside England and GB regular James Fair.
With just over one week to go until the start of the Champions Trophy in New Zealand, George talks about his excitement ahead of the tournament, his ambition to play at London 2012 and, amongst other things, his passion for chocolate.
FIH.CH: Hi George, many thanks for talking to us. Congratulations on being selected for Owen G Glenn FIH Champions Trophy. You must be incredibly excited about the prospect of playing in your first World Level event.
GEORGE PINNER: “I am really looking forward to it. Like the rest of the squad I've been training really hard the past few weeks as well as last season so it’s great to get the nod. A Champions Trophy in New Zealand is a pretty cool place to go for my first major tournament!”
FIH.CH: Are any of your friends and family coming out to New Zealand to see you in action?
GP: “Unfortunately it’s just a little bit too far for people to go, especially just before Christmas. I know a lot of them will be aiming to watch the live stream from back home.”
FIH.CH: What is the mood like in the GB camp ahead of the tournament? Have the preparations been going well?
GP: “It’s a really exciting time to be involved with hockey in the UK, especially with the London 2012 Olympics just around the corner. Everyone in the squad is desperate to be selected come next August. This creates a really positive atmosphere in the camp as we are all working hard towards a common goal. For us, the Champions Trophy is just another rung on the ladder towards aiming to peak next August. We have been back training together as a squad since September and as our coach Jason Lee has already said we don't expect to be at our best in New Zealand. However, everyone in the squad wants to continue to be amongst the medals in the build up to 2012 so hopefully that will be the case.”
FIH.CH: Many of the world's best goal-scorers will be on show in Auckland, including two winners of the FIH Players of the Year Award in Teun de Nooijer (NED) and Jamie Dwyer (AUS). As a goalkeeper, how do you feel about the possibility of facing the best strikers on the planet?
GP: “It’s a really exciting prospect. I want to test myself against the best players in the world … it’s the only way to find out how good you really are. I get to train with and compete against some great players over here in England but it’s always nice to test yourself against players known around the world for being the best in the business.”
FIH.CH: Great Britain have been drawn into Pool B where your team will face Pakistan, Spain and world champions Australia. How do you rate your Pool B opponents?
GP: “Every team at the Champions Trophy is very good, and all of those squads probably believe that they are capable of beating anyone on their day. Australia are probably the standout team in our group because of what they have achieved in recent years, but none of the games will be easy. Like I said, i think every team backs themselves to beat everyone else and we are no exception to that. It should be a really exciting group and tournament.”
FIH.CH: The tournament in New Zealand will be the last major event for Great Britain before the London 2012 Olympic Games. Strong performances in Auckland would surely give you a fantastic chance of making that final squad for the Games. Are the players feeling pressure knowing that they are fighting for their place at the Games?
GP: “As a player you always want to perform to your best whether that is in training, a one off test match or a major tournament like the Champions Trophy. For me personally I'm pleased I have been selected having found myself as third choice for the last few tournaments, so I want to take any opportunity that I get to try and cement my position and then go from there. I think everyone is aware that the Olympics are only just around the corner and that time is running out to prove yourself. However, I don’t believe people see it as negative pressure. A player’s desire to make that final 16 drives them on to become better players and that has a really positive impact on the squad. The competition for places means that those who do get selected will be the best they possibly can be.”
FIH.CH: So, on average, how much training are you doing on a weekly basis in the build-up to London 2012?
GP: “We train as a squad three days a week down at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre [West of London], but also have gym sessions and club games around that. A typical week involves a gym session Monday morning either at Bisham or at the nearest English Institute of Sport gym, which for me and the other internationals from Beeston is just down the road in Loughborough. On Tuesdays we head down to Bisham again have a morning pitch session with the team before the goalkeepers have a two hour afternoon session which includes some extra speed and conditioning work. Wednesday mornings is another gym session followed by an afternoon of rest ahead of a full on Thursday and Friday. We have two pitch sessions on Thursdays; these take place on the fantastic new pitch in the Olympic Park which is really exciting. Then it’s another pitch session at Bisham on Friday morning before a weights session in the afternoon. Saturday is mainly resting with some activity recovery, while Sunday is when we play our club games. We have been really lucky that an increase in our Lottery funding has meant with can all commit to a more intense training programme. This will give us the best chance of winning a medal next summer at London 2012.”
FIH.CH: Finally, we understand from your team-mates that you have a passion for chocolate ... tell us more!
GP: “Yeah, for the past two years I have been working for Cadburys, who are the official treat provider of the 2012 Olympics. I actually got the job through the EIS performance lifestyle department. Cadburys wanted to help athletes progress their careers alongside their training … I applied and was lucky enough to get a job. I had two great years but with this year’s increase in training I decided to leave the company so I could focus all of my time and effort on hockey. Given the new nutrition plans we all follow leaving all the free chocolate behind probably isn’t a bad thing, although a few people both in the squad and back home are pretty gutted they no longer get their chocolate fix!”
The Owen G Glenn FIH Champions Trophy takes place from 3-11 December at North Harbour Hockey Stadium in Albany, Auckland. Eight of the best teams in the world will compete – with 24 games being played over the six days of the competition. The FIH will be bringing you all the news and results from the tournament via our Event website - http://www.fih.ch/en/competitions-147-owen-g-glenn-fih-champions-trophy-champions . For information about purchasing tickets for the event, please visit www.championstrophy.co.nzBack