'Veteran' Martin relishing World League challenge
PUBLISHED: 07:50 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 07:50 15 June 2017
England international buoyed by Rotterdam experience
He may only be 24, but former Old Loughtonians player Harry Martin is already an experienced international for both England and Great Britain.
As he prepares for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals at Lee Valley this week it will be his seventh year as an international player.
“Sometimes I feel like a veteran,” laughs Harry, who has just completed a memorable first season with Rotterdam in the high profile Dutch League.
It has certainly been a worthwhile exercise for Ipswich-born Martin.
“Things are on a different level to back in England,” he said. “In Holland they haven’t got to compete with cricket or rugby, so it is a big thing over there, good crowds and matches on television.
“I learned a lot out there. It is more intense, the players are mostly internationals and we are training four times a week. Things are much more technical and we managed to finish second in the league which is great.
“After the Olympics, the last thing I wanted to do was go straight back into hockey, but this opportunity came up and I just had to take it. I think it was the right decision, going to a different country and trying to make my way in the game,” he said.
Martin will hopefully have improved as a player and his sojourn in Europe helped dispel the memories of what was a bad Olympic Games in Rio last summer.
“We went into the Games confident, but we just never showed what we can do in the tournament,” said Harry. “This will be our first big tournament since those Olympics and we need to bounce back and show what we can do.”
Great Britain finished a lowly ninth in Brazil, while it was Argentina who took the gold medal with a final victory over Belgium.
And the South Americans will be one of England’s opponents in the upcoming tournament, the match between the two scheduled for June 18.
“We didn’t play Argentina in Rio, but they are the Olympic champions so obviously they will be very tough opposition,” said Martin.
“I don’t really know much about their style, but they have some very skilful players and it is going to be a tough match.”
Although there will be overall winners of this competition, which starts on June 15 at the Olympic Park in Lee Valley, the more important thing is to qualify for the final of the competition, which takes place in India in December, as well as the World Cup next year.
And despite that disappointing Olympic display last summer, Martin believes England can do it.
“Obviously we want to win the tournament,” he said. “There is no point going into it just to make the semi-finals, we want to go all the way and hopefully home advantage will play its part.
“We love playing at Lee Valley and with a big crowd cheering us on it could be massive for us.”
It is a long way from Martin’s school days in Ipswich where he first took up the game.
“I played hockey at school, but also played football for my village team which was great, but once I reached a certain level I had to make the choice between the two,” he added.
Martin’s big break in the sport came when he went to Old Loughtonians.
“I was a 15-year-old when I went to play there,” he revealed. “I can safely say that without Loughts I would not be where I am today in hockey.
“They are a brilliant club and I am still in contact with a lot of the lads there, though they are getting on to be veterans now!” he laughed.
“A group of eight or nine of them came out to see me play in Rotterdam which was brilliant. It is a very special club.”
No doubt even more of the Old Loughts boys will be watching midfielder Harry in an England shirt at the forthcoming tournament.
England take on South Korea, Malaysia and China as well as Olympic champions Argentina in their group.
The other sees Canada, India, the Netherlands, Pakistan and Scotland, while there is also another semi-final taking place in South Africa, which will include Australia and New Zealand.
The Lee Valley final takes place on June 25 and Martin and England are hoping to be there.
“We are confident,” he said. “Things have changed a bit since the Olympics and there seems to be a good vibe about the squad at the moment.
“We are playing at home in front of some big crowds, so hopefully that will make a big difference and we can really show what we can do.”
The folks at Old Loughts will be watching very closely no doubt.