Important meet, says coach Clark

It has been sometime since the Junior Indian men’s team played on the international circuit. The upcoming Sultan of Johor Cup is their first tournament in three months and the players had spring in their feet as they went through the paces at Major Dhyan Chand National stadium on Thursday.

Coach Gregg Clark was understandably pleased to get an opportunity to assess his wards ahead of the Junior World Cup at home in December and admitted that every match would be important for them from here on. 

“It is nice to be finally going for a tournament. We have been in (a) training camp for a couple of months now. But every coach will like to have more competitive matches as part of preparation.

“It will give us an accurate indication of our performance level as we haven't played since the beginning of June after the tour of Europe," Clark told reporters at the Major Dhyanchand Stadium here.

The team has been boosted by the return of captain Manpreet Singh, Kothajit Singh and Mandeep Singh -- they were all part of the senior team in the just concluded Asia Cup in Malaysia.

Clark said while their return augurs well for the team, they would need a couple of weeks to integrate these players in the side because of their absence.

“The next couple of weeks will be a transition for all of us because we haven't had these guys. But they will be important players for us in the World Cup," he said.

The South African was satisfied with the progress of the players and was hopeful of making it to the final.

“I think we really have a talented group of players here, many of whom will play hockey for India in the future," he said.

“Yes, there are a few technical changes I would like to work on. Indians technically still need to catch up with the modern hockey set up. “

There was also focus on goalkeeping at the training. “I want the goalkeepers not only to make good saves but also (to) manage the defence. We are on right track,” Goalkeeping coach Dave Staniforth said.

Manpreet said he was ready to lead the side. “I learned a lot from Sardar Singh about how to manage the players and how to carry one self,” said Manpreet.

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