By Sarah Juggins
When Bobby Crutchley left his position as Head Coach to the England and Great Britain men’s hockey squad it created a difficult decision-making situation for Danny Kerry who, as Head Coach to their women's team, was in the middle of World Cup preparations and who, as Head Coach to Great Britain was midway through an Olympic cycle.
As a result Kerry delayed applying for the role until the very last day before applications ended. “I felt a huge amount of loyalty to the [women’s] squad,” says Kerry, “and I felt very positive about going into the last two years of the current Olympic cycle, so it was a decision that certainly didn’t come lightly.”
But eventually the lure of a new challenge proved too much for the Rio 2016 gold-medal-winning coach and, after long talks with England Hockey Chief Executive Sally Munday, Kerry successfully applied for and got the job. “It's a role I feel I can bring a lot of experience and skills to and, if I’m honest, I feel it is time to put myself and my career first,” says Kerry, who has been Head Coach to the women’s team since 2006, with just a year away from the role in 2013-14.
Kerry says he is “genuinely excited” about the men’s squad and where they are right now. “They are nicely positioned to surprise a few people,” says Kerry, with unmistakable relish in his voice.
“I was very open with the men’s squad when I met up with them. I explained that part of my job will be to create uncomfortableness around people in the squad, to push and challenge them hard. There are currently some very good players in the squad and some very promising and talented youngsters on the horizon.
“And watching the lads train in these last few weeks, they have been absolutely brilliant. They're pushing themselves and they're willing to learn. Those in the squad recognise that there is competition for all places and part of my time in the past week or so has been to observe and identify gaps in the squad.”
The men’s international scene is currently dominated by Australia but Kerry says the margins between the teams are small. The problem is that while the gap between the top ranked teams may be small, it is a gap that is going to be difficult to bridge. Part of the solution may lie with the players’ mentality.
“There is definitely the potential for us to to close down those small margins but one problem is that people put teams like the Netherlands and Belgium on a pedestal and we need to stop that. My job is to stop players putting people on pedestals, only then will we be able to bridge the gap.
“We need to think in terms of going toe-to-toe with the other teams. And I have some plans to introduce some new stuff in the coming weeks and months that is very different. That is all I am going to say, people will have to just see what happens.
“But going into the World Cup, I am not going to be drawn into predicting how we will do, but attitudinally we have nothing to lose.”
England open their Odisha World Cup, Bhubaneswar 2018 campaign on 30 November against China. They also face the world number one team, Australia and Ireland, who are ranked 10th in the FIH Hero World Rankings.
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