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Captain George pins England’s World League hopes on new leadership

PUBLISHED: 07:51 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 07:51 15 June 2017

Phil Roper, George Pinner and Ian Sloane will captain England at the Hockey World League Semi-Final (pic: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for GB Hockey)

Phil Roper, George Pinner and Ian Sloane will captain England at the Hockey World League Semi-Final (pic: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for GB Hockey)

2017 Getty Images

Global hockey event to get underway at Olympic Park

England's George Pinner makes a save from New Zealand's Blair Hilton at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (pic Martin Rickett/PA) England's George Pinner makes a save from New Zealand's Blair Hilton at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (pic Martin Rickett/PA)

Great Britain hockey captain George Pinner hopes the new captaincy structure will start to give England an added advantage over their counterparts when hosting the Hockey World League semi-finals later this month in their bid to qualify for the World Cup.

Goalkeeper Pinner is joined in a three-pronged captain role by Phil Roper and Ian Sloan after previous skipper Barry Middleton opted to step down after eight years in the role.

The new structure was first used by Team GB at the Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy in Malayasia and it worked a treat as head coach Bobby Crutchley and his team saw off the challenge of Australia to pick up the trophy for the first time in 23 years.

Pinner missed out on that trip due to his wedding, but feels putting the structure in place this early will only bode well for the future.

“Getting a win so early on in the calendar is fantastic and hopefully that will act as a springboard to go on, especially beating someone of the standard of Australia as well in a big tournament final,” said Pinner.

“I wasn’t actually there myself as I was getting married, but it’s fantastic to have that confidence booster in the system already.

“Everything is about gearing up to the Olympics as it is the main event for all of us, but you also have the World Cup as well.

“There are some fresh players in the squad and to get this captaincy structure in place early does give us the time to work on it and keep improving.”

The new captain structure isn’t commonplace in sport, but Pinner likens it to Premier League champions Chelsea with John Terry and Gary Cahill, and believes it can only have a positive effect on the team, with Middleton now able to concentrate fully on the playing aspect of the game.

“In elite sport you are always looking at ways in which you can improve and hopefully this new structure can help take us to the next level,” he added.

“It is unusual but not uncommon, you have seen the likes of Chelsea in football this season with John Terry acting as the club captain while Gary Cahill has been the main one out on the pitch.

“This way it spreads the load and it is all about giving everyone in the squad some responsibility, but ultimately it will be down to us three to oversee and deliver the structure we have put in place.

“The role asked a lot of Barry and to do it for such a long time and produce as well as he did under the pressure was fantastic.

“It does free him up a little but I am sure he will still have his say on it all and be there to offer advice and speak up when something needs to be said. To have someone like him to learn off is great.”

The next chance the squad get to test the new structure is at this month’s Hockey World League semi-finals held at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre – the scene of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Pinner and his team-mates will come up against China, Malaysia, Argentina and Korea in their group, with Scotland, Holland, India and Pakistan also in action, and he feels they cannot underestimate the force that is Olympic champions Argentina.

“We all love playing at the London Olympic venue and there isn’t many better places to play in the world,” he added.

“We are very fortunate to have played there and to have such a venue on our doorstep. We have always received fantastic support in all the events we have had there in recent years and to have a strong GB crowd will be a massive boost for us and we hope we can deliver on the big stage.

“You always have to respect Argentina, the Olympic champions, and in particular their set-piece man Gonzalo Peliat. The Dutch are always very strong and the sport is progressing back in Asia now as well. There is no doubt it will be tough, but we hope we can come out on top.

“At the elite end of the sport it is always about how you deal with that pressure that makes the difference and hopefully we can do that to the best of our ability.”

The 30-year-old admitted it was a proud honour to captain his country alongside Roper and Sloan, though he does not feel the role will change, or put added pressure on his own game.

“It is a real proud moment to captain any side but for it to be your country is an even greater honour,” he said.

“The new structure of captaincy means it is more focused on the squad taking responsibility but it really does mean a lot to be named as one of the three captains.

“I don’t think the leadership will change me to much as I have always been a motivator and quite a loud character.

“I like to think if something needs to be said I have said it in the past and equally when someone needs their arm around them then I do that, so I don’t see that as pressure at all.

“Of course there is pressure on myself, though, to still perform to the standard I have set myself over the years and to make sure I make the squad.”

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