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Kirkham targets a medal
Glenn Kirkham is looking to put on a show for Sussex hockey fans – and a medal in the elite division of European indoor hockey would be his dream outcome.
East Grinstead host the EuroHockey Indoor Champions Cup at the K2 in Crawley this weekend, less than a fortnight after becoming national champions for a record sixth time in a row and ninth in total.
It will be an historic occasion as it is the first time this event has been staged in Great Britain and big crowds are expected across the three days, with the action starting on Friday and concluding on Sunday.
This will be Grinstead’s second crack at the elite division, having been relegated on their previous occasion two years ago with a team shorn of six of their seven Great Britain internationals who were preparing for the London Olympics.
Only club stalwart Kirkham was given permission to play in the tournament and he is relishing another attempt to represent England in what is considered the premier indoor club tournament in world hockey – particularly with a stronger team.
And he also hopes Grinstead will be involved in the semi-finals rather than the relegation pool after the initial group stages.
England and Great Britain international Kirkham said: “It is always difficult because you never quite know what clubs will have what players. Obviously with qualification being the year before, you don’t know whether some players will have left the club.
“You can normally say the Germans will be strong whatever. In our group we have the Russians (Dinamo Yekateringbury) who traditionally have been a really strong team but we have played quite a lot against them in recent years, both in the international team and with East Grinstead and so we know how they play which is a bonus.
“Then we have the Belgians (Racing Club de Bruxelles) who we have haven’t played for a number of years. It is the first time since being back in Europe in 2007 that we have played the Belgians. They are a good outfit and are having fantastic success in the outdoor game as well. We also face the Swedes (Partille).
“Looking at our group stages we would hope with a good performance we could get in the semi-finals and then from there you don’t know.
“If we could get to the semi-finals, that would be great. The dream would be a medal. I don’t think we are going to dream about gold but to get a medal would be a really top achievement.”
Kirkham, an East Grinstead player since 2006 who recently retired from the international arena, captained them at Wembley last weekend when they set a new record of English title successes.
He believes Grinstead have learned from their previous experience in the top European division.
The 31-year-old said: “Looking back on it, there were only a couple of us out of the international squads that made that tournament and we came on the back of a lot of outdoor training in South Africa.
“It was disappointing we didn’t have our full squad but saying that I thought we gave it a really good go.
“The things we learned were that there is less space at the highest level and the basics are so good that you don’t get away with mistakes.
“You have to be on top of your game the whole time. Our basics weren’t good enough and that is reason we came down.
“Hopefully we will have a much stronger team out this time around which should give us a good opportunity to do ourselves justice and hopefully get a first medal for an English indoor side in Europe.”
Kirkham would also love the crowd at Crawley to play their part.
He added: “The public have really taken to the indoor game, particularly at Wembley where the atmosphere has been great the last couple of years. If we could get an atmosphere like that at Crawley it would be fantastic.”
For tickets for the event go to: www.eghockey.co.uk/eurohockey