Duncan Mackay

Welcome to the England Hockey men’s team blog. I’m Jonty Clarke and have been playing senior international hockey since 2003. I’m a forward and one of two accountants in the team, but don’t let that put you off!

Currently, we’re between tournaments. The World Cup was in India in March, where we finished fourth and beat Australia along the way. In good old English tradition, however, we lost our semi-final to Germany. Having started the tournament very strongly, we were extremely disappointed to come away without a medal.

We’re training hard right now, aiming to peak for the Commonwealth Games in October, but also with one eye on the Champions Trophy in July. This tournament is held for the top six teams in the world; our finish at the World Cup secured our qualification for the tournament, which will be held in Mönchengladbach, Germany.

Some of us aren’t training hard at all, actually. Key defender Richard Mantell, for example, broke his ankle during the World Cup match against Pakistan, so he’s out. His brother Simon, however, who missed the whole of the World Cup, has now recovered from a broken metatarsal and has resumed training.

Barry Middleton - the captain - and Ashley Jackson - the World Young Player of the Year for 2009 - are finishing their club season in Holland, where they play professionally. Their club HGC, from the Hague, has made it into the play-off final against last season’s European champions, Bloemendaal. Both play key roles for their team, with Ashley finishing as the top scorer, in what is widely regarded as the strongest league in the world. We certainly look forward to their return to the England squad.

Aside from that, there are a number of people nursing other injuries, largely as a result of the heavy running sessions that we’re going through right now. Some players seem to make it through all the tough times, however, like our very own "iron man" Ali Wilson and goalkeeper James Fair. It is very rare to see those guys sitting on the sidelines.

It’s a stressful time for some of the younger guys in the squad, such as Ali Brogden and Richard Smith, who have exams at university. Nick Caitlin, for example, the youngest member of the team from the World Cup, is studying history at Nottingham University. He thinks life is tough at the moment, but I remind him that he isn’t doing too badly compared to those of us who are working full time as well as fitting in all the training.

Nottingham is home to Ali Wilson, Adam Dixon and George Pinner, who all play for Beeston Hockey Club, which is playing host to the Women’s Champions Trophy and a men’s four nations invitational tournament in July. These guys hope to be fit and healthy and to be selected for that invitational tournament. Playing in front of your home crowd always adds something special to the experience of playing for your country.

Before we get to Nottingham, we’re travelling to Holland for two friendly games against the Dutch. There’ll be a number of players hoping to get a chance to prove their point in those games and to get selected for the rest of the summer. Some of those guys hoping to get a chance to impress will be Richard Springham of Reading HC and Simon Egerton of Bowden HC. Both have been around the squad for a couple for years now and have had to be very patient in waiting for their chances.

Whether or not they get that chance is down to head coach Jason Lee. Jason has been coaching both GB and England since taking over a few months before the 2004 Athens Olympics. Following those games, there were wholesale changes in the player group, and Jason has been instrumental in taking us from 11th to sixth in the world rankings and to the Eurohockey Nations Championship gold medal in 2009.

Jason has quite a unique manner with the players and has changed considerably over the years. At first he was quite the dictator -until he instilled in us the habits that he sees as essential for playing at the topmost level. Now he allows us much more freedom on and off the pitch. He trusts that the squad has been together long enough and has enough experience to know what is acceptable and what is going to work and what isn’t. Obviously, he retains control and isn’t averse to pointing out in no uncertain terms when things are going wrong. Generally, however, he’s a pretty laid-back head coach these days.

As an accountant, I work for BDO, who have supported me through the last five years of my hockey career. Many in the squad have understanding employers, without whom committing to training would be a real problem.

Iain Mackay is a trainee accountant; Glenn Kirkham, Dan Fox, James Fair and Matt Daly are teachers; Nick Brother works in the city; Ben Hawes manages a Dutch clothing label in the UK; George Pinner works for a well-known chocolate brand based in Birmingham; and James Tindall is an electrician. Rob Moore has been known to do a bit of modelling in his time but generally is part of a group - including Ali Wilson, Adam Dixon and Simon Mantell - who seem to get by doing not a lot aside from the odd bit of coaching here and there.

Clearly, there is a broad mix of backgrounds and interests within the squad, but we have a fantastic team spirit. There’s a shared dry sense of humour among the group, and you won’t have to wait too long to hear a healthy dose of sarcasm and probably a few quotes from The Office. It’s either that, or everyone laughing at the latest antics of Richard "Ratman" Alexander, who always seems to relish in being the centre of attention when it comes to mucking around.

Forward Jonty Clarke represented Britain at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and has been capped 28 times by GB

British Hockey is represented by davidwelchmanagement.com