It will be a tough start - under very hot weather conditions - for the Scotland Grand Masters over 60’s, as they face Germany today in their first match of Pool 1, at the Euros down in Southgate. And then it’s straight back out again tomorrow for probably a tougher match against Netherlands!
But the Scotland over 60’s squad are a shrewd, canny bunch with solid hockey experience, spanning the last 40+ years in most cases, so it will take a lot to phase these veteran campaigners.
Team-elected captain, Ian B Wilson, epitomises what the squad is all about. He’s been playing hockey since his school days at Glendale secondary in Castlemilk – and now in his early 60’s, and like the rest of the squad, the retired PE teacher is still going strong at club level, including currently captaining Kelburne men’s 4’s in West District Division 1. This is Wilson’s second stint at Kelburne, having played there from the mid 70’s through to 1990 (many years as a first team player), in an adult hockey career/journey that started at Jordanhill College where he studied, continuing with short spells at Cartha Queens Park and Babcocks - before and after Kelburne, respectively - and then “many happy years” at Giffnock, followed by a handful of years at Hillhead. Now he’s back at Kelburne - and on top of his weekly training, and playing, for the men from Paisley, he also finds time midweek to coach the University of West of Scotland squads.
Ian B Wilson is a very popular player and coach, and well respected. There’s no pomposity about the man or his coaching methods; he keeps things simple, embracing players of all ages and abilities. He’s passionate about every game he plays, and looking forward to today’s game against Germany and tomorrow's against the Netherlands, he is completely realistic.
“We've got France and Wales early next week, but this weekend’s two games against Germany and Holland are the really tough ones. Both sides have a lot of ex-internationalists who represented their countries at the top level down the years. The Dutch in particular are always strong in every department, playing really good technical hockey – and they are a physical side too. We have played them twice in the past and lost on both occasions. The Germans are similar; between the over 55’s and over 60’s I have played them four times and lost - but, the last time we played them it was a narrow 3-2 defeat, in a game that could have gone either way”.
So what are the tactics for these two matches? Wilson gives a wry smile, “Well, quite simply, we have to stop them from scoring goals. The plan is not to lose!”.
He might sound like he’s stating the bleeding obvious, but he expands on this. “We are at our best against these teams and holding these teams when we play six in midfield and play in their half as high up the court as we can – and we have a strong enough midfield to do this, because when we sit back and let these teams come on to us, that’s when we struggle. It’s always tough and there’s a lot of discipline and concentration required, but we have to press these guys and try and keep them in their own 25, picking off any loose passes they make. And at the end of the day this Scotland side doesn't lose many goals, and we have a good record having only lost five goals in the last couple of tournaments”.
It will be a tall order for the captain and his men, but he continues, enthusing as he talks names. “With our set-up we always play three at the back – myself, Gerry McBride and Jim Chisholm. We usually go 5 in midfield with John Hay sitting deep and John Candlin playing high, but against the likes of the Germans and Dutch we’ll have striker Hew Bishop dropping back into midfield and go with that six in midfield on a 3-6-1 formation, with either Bernie Morrison or Alistair Ogilvie as the lone striker”.
And what a great midfield there is to choose from, and there’s some well known names, from down the last 40 odd years or so! “Yes, we have a good, solid midfield that we can put out against any team”, Wilson comments, “...including guys like George Finlayson, Derek Johnstone, Stuart Robertson, and probably our most gifted player technically, Glenn Paton".
Early next week the Scots have their other two group matches against France and Wales. Ian is confident that Scotland can defeat both of them. “France are new to the Masters scene and putting themselves together: they are, right now, where we were six or seven years ago. We have played and defeated them twice – both times 7-1. So, we are very confident of victory”.
And Wales? Captain Wilson is very optimistic. “Despite being beaten by them the last time we played them, we know we’re better than them – if we can beat Wales and France that puts us in the mix for a potential quarter-final place. If and when we’re dominating teams we go to a 3-4-3 formation - we’ll take the game to both these teams regardless, and really press them. And if we can get a draw against one of the two big teams, we’ll definitely be in the draw for the quarter-finals”.
Scotland’s *Player to watch*: This is a tough one, as there are so many great players in this side, including the captain himself. And I have personally played with, and played against, a number of them, at club level – so I know some of them really well.
Well, it's really hard choosing, but I’m going to go with Clydesdale’s Alistair Ogilvie. This guy defies his age and plays with the energy and hockey-competence of someone 20 years younger. Whilst he’s not an out-and-out striker, he’s a forward who likes to get in behind defences and will cause them a lot of problems with his movement, game-reading and passing. He should, and will hopefully, cause the opposition a lot of problems over the next few days.
Here’s Ian B Wilson’s take on him: “Ally’s a baseline player, a poacher. He plays the game in the modern stick-on-the-deck style, looking for deflections, always looking to play the other strikers in. The idea is to hit him early from the free hits etc so that he can do this. His strength is collecting on the baseline and playing the ball back to the top of the circle, to strikers Hew Bishop, Bernie Morrison and John Connaghan”.
And finally, we can’t forget the two goalkeepers - Chris Taylor and Chris Kalman. “Yep, what a pity we can’t physically merge the two of them together”, laughed Ian! “Chris Taylor is a great shot-stopper and Chris Kalman is your fantastic fast reaction-saves!”.
Sounds like the squad’s spoilt for choice! All the best of luck to Ian and his men, and best of luck to all the Scotland Masters teams – men and women – competing over the next few days.
Andy Lovat : 09:00hrs: 22/08/2015
Squad: Hew Bishop, John Candlin, Jim Chisholm, John Connaghan, George Finlayson, John Hay, Derek Johnstone, Chris Kalman (GK), Gordon Loudon, Gerry McBride, Bernie Morrison, Alistair Ogilvie, Glenn Paton, Stuart Robertson, Chris Taylor, Jim Watson, Ian B Wilson (Captain). Manager: Richard Higham.