PFH Exclusive: Interview with Jon Wyatt of England and GB x11|
January 15, 2002
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Jon Wyatt is the anchor at the heart of England and GB?s defence. He is a consistent, smart hockey player who has enjoyed international success while developing a career outside hockey.
PlanetFieldHockey talked to him about his approach to the game, club hockey and the current England squad who are preparing for the 2002 World Cup.
NAME: Jon Wyatt
CLUB: Reading (12th season)
INTERNATIONAL GAMES: 101 games for England caps, 77 games for GB
1ST CAP FOR ENGLAND: Feb 1995 vs. Kazakhstan (lost 0-1!)
ANDREW GRIFFITHS (PlanetFieldHockey): How did you get started with hockey?
JON WYATT: I first played hockey aged 18 months (video evidence with a sawn down stick and plastic football in the back garden!), and played my first game for Dad's team aged 9. Dad played, and we used to go and watch him every Saturday when I was a kid. Then due to his work, we went to Sydney to live for 2 years when I was 12, and that's where I played my first regular season (for Northern Districts under 13s).
AG: Who were the biggest influences on your career?:
JW: 1. My Dad who first introduced me to the game and was keen for me to make the most out of any talent that I had. And 2. Jon Copp, coach at Reading and internationally for many of the last 10 years.
AG: Where do you work?
JW: I work for Accenture, a multi-national Management Consultancy (formerly known as Andersen Consulting) as a Strategic Consultant, now in their Global Strategic Marketing team. They have been particularly supportive and generous with giving me time off for major tournaments and to fulfil my training program.
|Jon Wyatt in action against Australia at the Sydney Olympics
AG: You took a little time off from international hockey last year. What was the purpose of that? Do you have a different perspective or appreciation of the game coming back after some time off?
JW: After playing virtually continuously for the previous 6 years (club season followed by summers of international commitments), and particularly after the stresses and effort of the Sydney Olympic year, I needed a break and a chance to recharge the batteries. I was getting stale and not enjoying my training, and as the year following an Olympic Games is a quieter year with no major competitions, it fitted with a chance to have a rest. I also wanted to put in a decent stint at work to advance my career and as a way of repaying them for the support they showed me during the Olympic campaign when I took a sabbatical for the entire year. I took the opportunity to do something completely different that was both challenging and fulfilling in a way completely separate from my hockey career - I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, raising just over £2000 for the charity ActionAid, in the process. It was a fantastic experience and to raise that amount of
money was also tremendously rewarding. I have now returned to hockey with a renewed vigour and enjoyment, and the time off has certainly fulfilled its purpose. I realise more now how lucky we are in the western world after seeing the poverty of Africa first hand, and I intend to pursue the talents I have been fortunate to have been given, as far as I can.
AG: How do you balance your competitive hockey career with work?
JW: As mentioned previously, I have only been able to do this through the generous support of Accenture. On a daily basis they are flexible enough to allow me to train as well as work, and I have just taken my third sabbatical in 6 years, to concentrate on the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.
When I returned from Sydney and it was looking harder for me to combine my consultancy career with the hockey, they were supportive in an internal move into their marketing team which allowed me greater flexibility, and shorter, more predictable hours that means I can plan my training around work.
AG: How does the England team look in the lead up to the World Cup? What are your strengths? Are there any perceived weaknesses at this point?
JW: I believe that this England team is better than any I have played in over my career. We had a good Champions Trophy in Holland before Christmas, and were competitive in all of our games. Converting chances was the key that we didn't manage to quite achieve out there, and was the difference between us winning and losing games by the odd goal. If we can sort that out ? and the signs are good so far with Danny Hall hitting form, and Ben Sharpe returning to strengthen our forward play after a long lay off - then we have a real chance of making the semi-finals in KL, particularly with the draw which has been favourable to us. We have always prided ourselves on our defence and the difficulty that teams have in beating us, and we have now added to that with some good attacking structure. These basic building blocks allow the flair players like Mark Pearn and Jimmy Wallis to show what they can do - which is now truly World class. In terms of weaknesses, we haven't consistently found the net at corners since Calum Giles retired after the Olympics, but the hitting strengths of Tom Bertram, combined with the flicking of Dave Matthews now gives us an as yet unproven, but
potentially successful routine. This could be the key to our medal hopes in the heat of Malaysia where chances will be rare, and corner conversions are vital.
AG: How does the English style of play currently stack up against the top countries?
JW: Well, using the recent Champions Trophy as evidence, pretty well. We only conceded more than three goals once - against the irrepressible short corners of Pakistan - and came very close to defeating both the Dutch and the Australians, losing out 3-2 on both occasions. We have learnt from that experience, and with the return of a number of experienced players from long term injury, we are significantly stronger now than we were in November.
AG: Which teams do you think will present the toughest competition at the WC in Malaysia?
JW: Undoubtedly the toughest challenge will come from the favourites Germany, who were significantly better than all others in the Champions Trophy. In terms of our pool, the toughest games on paper are Australia and Korea, and despite having good games recently against them both, we are under no illusions as to their strengths. Playing Malaysia at home is always a very different prospect to playing them away from their home support, so we expect that to be a very tough game too. To use the well known cliche, there will be no easy games, but for us the most important thing will be to beat the teams ranked below us, because we will always raise our game to play the tougher teams. In recent Olympic Games and World Cups we have not qualified for a semi final berth due to poor results against the "lesser" nations, so if we can correct this, we will have an excellent chance of a top four finish, and hence of a medal.
AG: Will you be playing beyond the World Cup, to the Commonwealth Games and possibly to the 2004 Olympics?
JW: I am undecided at this time what the future holds in terms of my
international hockey career, but it would be a fantastic experience to play in a Commonwealth Games in my home country, in the year of the Queens Golden Jubilee. In terms of the Olympics, that is still two and half years off, and much can happen in that time, so I am currently focussing on the World Cup, and aiming to finish as high as possible as this is almost certainly going to be my last World Cup!
AG: Who are the players who you most enjoy playing with on the England team? Do you have close friends on the team? Will this influence your decision on how long you keep playing?
JW: We are fortunate now that the whole squad get on very well, and I enjoy the company of all members of the team. Obviously it is fantastic having so many club teammates involved internationally, but we train together as a squad, or in regional centres with players from all National League clubs so often now, that we all get on very well.
AG: Reading has had great success over the past 10 years in English hockey, winning the league twice, the cup four times and the indoor title once. To what do you attribute this success? Who do you think is the team most likely to challenge you for the title this year?
JW: This success is attributed to a very good coach in Jon Copp, and a group of players who are both talented, and have a desire to achieve success together and train very hard to achieve that success. We have always encouraged players who join us to become active members of the club, and hence they have all developed a tremendous club loyalty and wish to succeed for reasons beyond their own reward. We still believe that we have not reached our full potential, and our aim is to win the European Club Championship in the next 3 years. This obviously means that we need to win the domestic competition, and that is our focus for this year. As last year, I see Surbiton and Cannock as the main competition for the Premiership, with Guilford as my outside tip to make the play-offs despite their poor start to the season.
AG: What do you think makes a good hockey player?
JW: Basic talent, a desire to play FOR THE TEAM, and someone who will pout in the hard work to turn any natural talent into true ability and skill on the pitch. They must also be a good listener, and able to take advice and use it to their improvement.
AG: What makes a good hockey team?
JW: A collection of players who are stronger together than is the sum of their parts. This means that a less talented group of individuals who play and work hard as a team, will always overcome a group of talented individuals who play on their own. The collective desire to run for each other and do what is best for the team will ensure that success is achieved and can be shared by all players, coaches and management alike.
AG: What do you think needs to be done to make the game more attractive to spectators? Do we need more rule changes? Fewer rule changes? Anything else?
JW: I am not one of those who believes in making changes to the game to make it "more attractive" to spectators. I believe we have a very good game and that given the opportunity to watch hockey, such as an Olympic Games, the general public thoroughly enjoy watching our fast and exciting sport.
However, here in England, and in many other countries, it is not in our culture to watch hockey and support our local side on a Sunday afternoon. Whereas in Pakistan or India, and some other countries, it is more in the culture and the crowds in those countries can be huge. Hockey in the UK is a players? sport, and whilst many people enjoying playing hockey, very few would ever go and watch a match - and that's fine by me! After all, I am lucky enough to play my chosen sport at the top level, and was able to go to university, and can still walk down the street totally unknown. With increased spectators and television would also come the invasion of privacy that so many top sportsmen from other sports have to endure as part of their lives - and which I have no wish to be forced to deal with! Having said that, I think more could be made of international tournaments and matches here, and the support that we received when playing Holland prior to the Champions Trophy in October last year showed that if international games are held here, people (incidentally, they were almost exclusively hockey players who know all the rules, so would not be effected by any changes to "simplify" the game) will come to watch and enjoying so. It would be nice to be able to put on these chances for youngsters to come and
see the game at the very top level more often, and may encourage more
supporters to travel abroad when we play in big tournaments away from home.
AG: What ambitions do you still have in hockey?
JW: To win a medal in a World Cup or Olympic Games.
To win the Commonwealth Games.
To win the European Club Championships.
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