LONDON 2012: Captain Walsh takes inspiration from hero Gary Neville
GREAT Britain’s women’s hockey captain Kate Walsh admits she is drawing inspiration from former Manchester United skipper Gary Neville as she prepares to steer her side to London 2012 gold.
ROLE MODEL: Kate Walsh has her inspiration for Olympic success - former Manchester United captain and new member of the England coaching staff Gary Neville (Ady Kerry)
Britain’s women have not ventured into the battle for Olympic medals since claiming bronze in Barcelona 20 years ago. b
But the team have surged through the rankings in recent years following third-place finishes at the last World Cup, European Championships and Commonwealth Games.
And coach Danny Kerry, who today confirmed Walsh as captain of the 16-strong squad, and his fourth-ranked side also secured silver at this year's Champions Trophy and gold at the recent Olympic test event.
However, Walsh still believes a little Red Devil is required to stoke the Olympic flames.
“I am a big Manchester United fan and I love Gary Neville," she said.
"I am reading his autobiography at the moment. I love the whole ethos and mentality at United and if I was a footballer I would want to play there because we share the same values.
“When I image how Gary Neville was on the pitch that is what I want to aspire to. He gave everything every time he went out there and he always wanted to win. That is something I hope I bring to this team and lead them with that mentality.
“I don’t speak my mind like Gary Neville does, but I love that about Gary and it makes me want to listen to him more during his football punditry.
“I also admire Andrew Strauss. I think he is very calm, and obviously being England cricket captain you have to be aware of everything going on around you on the field. His knowledge is fantastic, as is his ability to change things during a game. He also knows his players inside out.
“I read somewhere what his former captain Michael Vaughan told him. As a captain, sometimes you need to put a mask on and assume that neutral level.
“You may be inside bubbling with anger or frustration or be desperately upset, but you have to cope and show the players that, actually, everything is fine.”
Walsh has witnessed a whole host of captains relinquish their coveted armband in other sports' national sides since she was assigned the skipper’s role in 2003.
Hockey’s fourth most capped English player will lead arguably the fittest and best women’s hockey side ever produced by this country into the Olympics but she admitted it has not been a smooth ride since making her debut 13 years ago.
“Captaining the squad is fantastic but it is not always plain sailing. There are really hard times, and not qualifying for Athens was devastating and I still get upset about it now,” added the 32-year-old.
“We started to do really well in 2002 and came fifth in the World Cup and looked like we were about to turn the corner.
“So to be ranked number one going into the qualifying tournament and then not qualifying was just awful. As a young captain, I had to literally take some of those players off the pitch, such as Mandy Nicholson and Jane Smith.
“They were just real icons of British hockey and that was their final chance at competing in a Games. But you have to take a step back and look at what we have achieved, and also look at what we can achieve.
“You certainly feel, as captain, that you have to perform. But I think every player wants to perform. It would be wrong to put that extra pressure on myself."
© Sportsbeat 2012