Loughton hockey player James Bailey’s international experience is in stark contrast to that of England captain Barry Middleton but he insists a mixture of youth and experience can help them to World Cup glory.
The 23-year-old, a former Davenant Foundation School pupil, has not long finished his studies at the University of Bristol but finds himself among England’s 18-strong party for the World Cup in The Hague.
Bailey, who has less than ten international caps, might be in for a watching brief in the Netherlands with two goalkeepers selected and George Pinner now the first choice.
That isn’t affecting him however with Bailey caught up in the excitement of England’s campaign, which sees them face Spain, Belgium, India, Malaysia and world No.1s Australia first up in Pool A.
England beat Australia to bronze in January’s World League Final and will be led by Middleton, a veteran of over 300 international caps, with Bailey adamant the blend of old and new has them on the cusp of something special.
“When you start playing you always imagine doing these sorts of things and getting to the top but to actually get there and be at a World Cup is amazing really,” he said.
“It’s been good to come into the squad. The transition to having been at university to being a full-time athlete was a big change but it’s been great fun.
“It’s a really tight squad and we all get on really well so it’s been a good year. There’s a great mix of youth and experience and I’ve grown up playing with a lot of the guys and they’re good mates really.
“I think we’ve shown recently that we can compete with the best teams in the world even when we’re not playing our best which is one of the marks of a good team.
“I think we’re all starting to click at the moment and when we do I think we could do something really special.”
Bailey is one of 11 players on England’s 18-strong squad not to have World Cup experience – four years ago they lost to the Netherlands in the bronze medal match in India.
And, while intent on helping England to win the world title for the first time ever in any way he can, Bailey admits any form of medal would represent success at his first World Cup.
“We’re looking to go there to win it but any medal would be amazing,” added Bailey. “You have got the older guys like Barry and Ash [Jackson] who have been really supportive and developing a special team environment.
“There are no cliques and there is no segregation, we’re all basically in it together. Barry regularly scores against me in training so I learn from that.
“But just his whole professional approach and how long he’s been doing it for is a testament to what a great player he is.”
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