South west London hockey stars backed to shine at the Commonwealth Games

Players from south west London’s hockey clubs will form more than a third of the England men’s squad at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Surbiton’s Brendan Creed, James Gall, David Goodfield and goalkeeper Harry Gibson were all named in the 18-man group announced on Monday.

Phil Roper, Henry Weir and Ian Sloan, all from fellow men’s hockey league premier division side Wimbledon, push the area’s contingent to seven, but coach Ben Hawes is surprised more of his team were not selected.

Three-time Olympian Hawes said: “I would have expected maybe one or two other players from our squad to be there, but I’m not close enough to the reasoning of why they’re not.

The three guys who are selected certainly deserve that and will absolutely do a great job.”

Surbiton 1st XI coach Mark Pearn, who won bronze with England at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpa and competed in two Olympics, hopes Surbiton’s England internationals follow in his footsteps.

He said: “I’m delighted that these guys will have an opportunity to play in the Commonwealth Games.

“Longer term they’re going to be looking at the Olympics and this is a great platform for them to be at a multi-sport event.”

England begin their campaign against Malaysia on April 6, but Surbiton’s male representation at the Gold Coast Games does not end there.

Alan Forsyth, Chris Grassick, William Marshall and Nick Parkes have been selected for Scotland, while Lewis Prosser and Gareth Furlong are in the Wales squad.

This means 10 players will miss the Surrey club’s final match of the season at Beeston next Saturday (March 24) although the England internationals have been unavailable since February.

The champions have relied on youth in their absence but are on a two-game losing streak, including a 5-4 defeat to Hampstead & Westminster last weekend.

“We had five under 18s in our squad of 14,” Pearn said.

“These guys are stepping up and they are doing their best in difficult circumstances.

“We’re just trying to hang in there and get a play-off place, then we’ll have our full side back to try and defend the title.”

Before Beeston, Surbiton host East Grinstead tomorrow (Friday) and Pearn knows it could be now or never if his team are to seal a play-off place.

He said: ”With us being so short on players next week we can’t rely on that final game.

We’re all focussed on getting something out of this weekend’s match.”

Surbiton have dropped to second after leading the table for most of the season, but Wimbledon’s campaign has sparked into life since Christmas.

The club were bottom of the league after five matches, but five consecutive wins have propelled them up to fourth.

Wimbledon travel to Sevenoaks on Saturday as Hawes’ men aim to go one better than last season, when they lost to Surbiton in the championship final.

He said: “Our aim is to win the championship play-offs at the end of the season and you only have to be in the top four to qualify for that.

“We never felt we were out of contention even when we were bottom of the league.”

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