England are the Men’s European Hockey Champions tonight after beating Germany by five goals to three at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen. Two goals each for Ashley Jackson and Richard Mantell, and one for the ever impressive Barry Middleton sealed a memorable victory in front of a full house at the EuroHockey Nations Championships Final. The result gives England their first ever European title.
There was further reason for England to celebrate at the awards ceremony after the final when two of the team’s most impressive players picked up individual awards. James Fair, whose saves against the Netherlands in particular proved critical to England’s success, was awarded Goalkeeper of the Tournament and Ashley Jackson picked up the award for Player of the Tournament after his seven goals in five matches helped England to gold.
In the post-match press conference, Head Coach Jason Lee put England’s success down to their ability to learn quickly. “We learned from what we did poorly against the Netherlands in the semi final and corrected those things for today when I thought we played much better,” he said.
“I’m quite a pessimistic person by nature but I really thought we deserved to win it. The crucial part of the game was the start of the second half when we struggled a bit but we made some changes and started to take the game away from Germany.”
Jackson, whose two goals helped seal the win said afterwards that this is just start of England’s journey. “We said after playing as Great Britain at the Olympics that we want to build all the way to 2012 but that we want to do that winning medals along the way. This is the first tournament since Beijing and we have got our first medal.”
In the women’s competition England took the bronze medal after beating Spain for the third European Championships in a row. A goal in either half from Chloe Rogers and captain Kate Walsh won it for England who held on well after Silvia Munoz’ goal with just over ten minutes remaining.
Speaking afterwards, captain Kate Walsh was honest in her assessment of how England played: “It wasn’t a great performance if I’m honest. It was probably our worst of the tournament and we made it tight for ourselves towards the end. We’re pleased to have won the medal though; I think to have come out of this game without winning would have been devastating to us.”
Walsh scored once from the penalty spot but it could have been two had her second effort not been saved. “One from two – what can I say? I should have scored and then from me missing that one Spain went up the other end and scored themselves. But we had some experienced players out there today and they knew what to do in the last ten minutes. All in all we’ve had a good tournament and this is a great way to end it.”
Head Coach Danny Kerry agreed with his captain’s assessment of the match. “It wasn’t a great team performance,” he said afterwards. “We struggled to break down Spain and we were way off how we played against Germany in the semi final. But it was a tough, tough game; it wasn’t pretty but the players stuck to the task and once we got our noses in front we were good enough to keep them there.
“Overall, the players have applied themselves well for such a young side and they can look forward to some well earned rest now."