Junior World Cup could be stepping stone for India, says Gregg Clark

New Delhi: India`s junior men`s hockey team head coach Gregg Clark today said the upcoming FIH Junior World Cup could be a stepping stone for the country to regain its lost glory and added that long-term planning is the only way out to consistently get good results.

"India has a rich history of hockey and distinct style of play. They won many Olympic medals in the past. That`s the history you want to replicate in the Indian hockey. You got to start from somewhere. May be, this World Cup is the start of that. We can only hope. We just need the structure around it (Indian hockey) to be tightened up," Clarke said here.

Former South African Olympian Clark was appointed the head coach of the junior side in April this year to prepare them for the World Cup starting next month from December 6.

Clark has over 250 international caps and has represented South Africa in two World Cups in Sydney 1994 and Kuala Lumpur 2002, two Olympic Games, in Atlanta 1998 and Athens 2004.

Ahead of their practice match against England at the Major Dhyanchand National Stadium tomorrow, Clark said the English side reaped the benefits of putting in place a long-term plan for their senior and junior hockey teams.

"They are a good side. The senior team has done really well over the last few years playing according to the blue print which the Great Britain hockey and England introduced a few years ago. The junior team is pretty much playing according to that blue print," he said.

"England sat down some years ago and created this blue print. They put together a long-term strategy. This is the first group that started under that style. These boys are coming out of that system. Roelant Oltmans (Hockey India`s High Performance Director) has spoken to the Hockey India for a long term plan. It won`t going to happen overnight. (Terry) Walsh also spoke about...It takes time," he added.

Clark said they are working on their weakness - penalty corners - and the drag-flickers are being trained by penalty-corner specialist Sandeep Singh.

"We constantly work on each aspect of our game. We know it`s an important part of the game. Gurjinder Singh has come back for us. We have good flickers in the team. Sandeep Singh has joined us to give us some expert advice. He has given training to our flickers on a number of occasions. That`s the area we are fociusiing on," he said.

Talking about tomorrow`s match, Clark said, "The training matches are really important to us...Not necessarily the results. Obviously, we want to keep the momentum going. For us, it`s just about the performance. May be, we would try one or two specifics...To introduce them in our pool games. The practice games are really important so as to execute those tactics in a competitive environment," he said.

Clark said the team is confident of performing well against top European sides like Holland and Germany in the World Cup.

"Our team`s bounce back ability is great. The character of this team is very strong. I think that will stand us in very good stead. The morale is quite high at the moment. We are confident of performing well."

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