400… and still counting for England’s Middelton

Bhubaneswar: England hockey player Barry Middleton became the fifth player in the world to touch the 400-match mark when he took the field against Australia in Men’s Hockey World League Finals (HWLF) game here, Monday. Prior to him only Dilip Tirkey, Dutchmen Teun de Nooijer and Jeoren Delmee and Pakistan’s Waseem Ahmed have achieved the distinction.

The 33-year-old Middleton had in fact had also played against Dilip in an illustrious career spanning over a decade and the Orissa legend was the first to congratulate the England player. “It’s a great feat for any player. I congratulate Barry and wish him many more successes in future,” Dilip said in a press release. “It takes tremendous amount of dedication, determination and discipline to stay in international hockey for so long,” Dilip added.

“I am the old man of the England side now,” Middleton, who started his international journey in 2003, said after the game with a smile lighting up his face. “When I started off, England were not a top hockey playing nation. However, things have changed now. We are regularly making the semifinals and finals of major tournament. That is indeed a big improvement,” added Middleton.

Middleton also stated that England’s quarterfinal opponents in the HWLF will not have it easy. “As a team we are playing well now. We will give a tough time to any opponent,” he stated.

When asked about FIH’s decision to launch the Pro Hockey league in 2019, Middleton did not exude much confidence about the subject. “The Pro League remains a tricky affair even though it is a FIH baby. One can only comment about the tournament once it is in full swing. Then only the merits and demerits of the event can be ascertained,” the veteran pointed out.

Middleton, ‘the old man’ however, ruled out possibility of retiring from the game in the near future. “I am still enjoying hockey and haven’t even broached on the subject,” he said. “I still work very hard because I feel there are no shortcuts to success,” Barry signed off. 

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