Barry back to his roots

Great Britain Olympic hockey star Barry Middleton
Great Britain Olympic hockey star Barry Middleton
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THE annual Past versus Present hockey game at Hall Cross School is generally a relatively low-key affair.

But when the current Great Britain men’s hockey captain Barry Middleton turns out for the Past X1 the profile of the fixture is going to soar - especially with the 2012 London Olympics now less than 12 months away.

“It’s always nice to come back and play in the fixture but I don’t always get a chance because I’m busy, but I was free this year,” he told The Star.

Now 27, Middleton learnt his hockey whilst a pupil at the former grammar school, which boasted one of the best junior production lines in the country thanks to the likes of PE master Mike Cattrall.

“I was lucky that I went to Hall Cross because I got the chance to play a lot of hockey,” he said.

Middleton made his Doncaster HC first-team debut at just 14, moving on to Cannock in order to play top flight hockey when just 18. Since then he has played in both Holland and Germany and now plays for East Grinstead.

Like most of the Great Britain squad, Middleton intends to pick his games this season with the emphasis being firmly on being in the best physical and mental shape possible come next July in London.

It will be Middleton’s third Olympics - he featured in both the 2004 and 2008 Games - and whilst excited at the prospects of playing in the London Games he isn’t one to lose the focus of why he is there.

“A lot of people have said to me that it must be exciting to be involved at The Olympics,” he said. “But the reality is that you notice a lot of what is going on around you. “You are there to do as well as you can in your particular sport, in my case hockey, and that’s all you focus on.”

Middleton has already tasted success on the international stage, leading England to victory in the 2009 European Championship for the first time - a career highlight to date for the attacking midfielder who won the first of his 100 plus England caps back in 2003.

Although now firmly established as captain of both England and Great Britain, Middleton didn’t always feel that he was a natural leader.

“The England coach had wanted me to captain the side a bit earlier but I thought that I was too young at the time but when I got to 25 I thought the time was right,” said Middleton, twice the Hockey Writers’ Player of the Year.

Middleton, who now lives near Bisham Abbey, says Great Britain will go into the Olympics with a chance of a medal.

“Australia are the top side but we are in a group of five or six anyone of whom could win it.

“We know that we’ve got to play well but it’s good to know that we’ve got a chance. It would be nice to bring a medal back.”

The Doncaster lawn tennis fraternity is mourning the death of George Heath, who has died aged 78.

George lived on the doorstep of the Bessacarr-based Doncaster club where he will always be remembered for the work he did with the club’s juniors.

George is credited with taking the existing junior coaching programme started by Molly Robinson in the 1970s, to another level and played a pivotal role in the development of such as Sarah Makepeace, Suzanne Kingston, Hazel Yeardley, Kerry and David Allen and Paul Robinson.

He also played a big part in the careers of his three children, Paul, Lesley and Vicky.

All three excelled in the sport with Paul winning two National age-group titles and winning the Wimbledon Under-18s boys’ doubles and reaching the quarter-finals of the singles.

Like Vicky, a National Under-12s champion, he played for Great Britain juniors. Lesley played for Yorkshire.

George also played a leading role in launch of the club’s Junior Open Tournament. The week-long event, which has attracted the likes of current British No 1 and World No 4 Andy Murray, is still going strong and continues to attract entries from all over the UK.

George’s funeral will be at the All Saints Church at Harworth tomorrow at 2pm followed by cremation at Rose Hill (3pm).