Olympic medallist predicts bright future for international hockey in Wakefield

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Former Great Britain captain and Olympic medallist Norman Hughes has predicted a bright future for international hockey in Wakefield.

Hughes, who is now a coach at Wakefield Hockey Club, was present at his club’s College Grove base last weekend to see England men take on the Netherlands in the three-match NOW: Pensions Nations Cup series.

ENGLAND EXPECTS: Action from England's clash with the Netherlands at College Grove.

ENGLAND EXPECTS: Action from England's clash with the Netherlands at College Grove.

The Netherlands, who won the bronze medal at last year’s Olympic Games, edged the series 1-0 thanks to a 2-1 victory in the first match and thrilling 3-3 and 4-4 draws on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Huge crowds gathered at the Eastmoor Road club for the matches and Hughes says the series went so well that England Hockey officials hinted a return to use the city’s top hockey facilities in the not-too-distant future.

“It all went really well, we had a crowd of around 800 on the Saturday and 700 on the Sunday and they were treated to some very close games with lots of excitement,” he said.

“We had people enjoying top international hockey at our facility from Wakefield, across Yorkshire and as far afield as Cumbria and even further afield.

“We had great feedback from officials and from both teams which was fantastic to hear and they hinted that they could return to use the facilities next year.

“That would be fantastic for Wakefield as a city to see more top-class hockey and also for the hotels and other establishments that will host the players and supporters.”

Next year is going to be a big year for the sport with the World Cup in Holland and Commonwealth Games in Scotland taking place, giving Wakefield the chance to host training camps and warm-up matches for England or other international teams.

Wakefield Hockey Club will be well prepared, with last weekend’s international matches following on from other high-profile events over the last 12 months.

After installing a new international and Olympic-standard pitch, the ‘smurf turf’, and upgrading its existing pitch, Wakefield hosted the China women’s team before London 2012 and went on to host the EH National Men’s Cup Final in May.

“We can’t complain at what we’ve been able to host over the last year,” said Hughes.

“We’ve also got to thanks to the volunteers over the weekend because there were 40 of them and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

As well as getting the chance to host England’s latest three-match series, their first on home soil since the Olympics, College Grove’s facilities received a further boost with England Hockey leaving their Olympic dugouts and technical delegates area as a legacy.

England U21s also went up against their Malaysia counterparts as warm-up matches for the senior side, with the matches proving just as eventful with a penalty shoot-out deciding the series in England’s favour.

Speaking after the game England senior captain and player of the series Barry Middleton said: “I’ve been really pleased with our level of play here this week.

“We had a couple of bad results in Hamburg and I think some doubts had crept into the team, so it’s great to get these scores against a side as strong as the Netherlands.”

The series acted as preparation for England’s participation in the TriFinance EuroHockey Championship in Belgium later this month.