FREE PRESS FOCUS: Middleton talks London 2012

Great Britain hockey captain Barry Middleton watches the game against the Hall Cross hockey team. Picture: Andrew Roe
Great Britain hockey captain Barry Middleton watches the game against the Hall Cross hockey team. Picture: Andrew Roe

BARry Middleton can walk down the High Street in Doncaster - or anywhere else for that matter - without being recognised.

The level-headed Bessacarr lad quite likes it that way too.

Great Britain hockey captain Barry Middleton. Picture: Andrew Roe

Great Britain hockey captain Barry Middleton. Picture: Andrew Roe

But in a year’s time things could be very different for Great Britain’s Olympic-bound hockey captain.

Former Doncaster skipper Middleton’s world is about to be turned upside down as he gears up for the biggest sports show on the planet, attending countless London 2012 training camps and publicity events. But only if Team GB land Olympic gold will his life change for the better, according to the 27-year-old - even if it does mean he gets recognised more often!

“These Olympics are just going to be so different from anything we’ve experienced before,” said Barry.

“It’s quite a strange feeling, building up to something so big - obviously one of the major things on your mind is to not get injured.

“It’ll only be the pinnacle of my career if we do well.

“Everyone thinks it’s going to be amazing whatever happens.

“But for me I’ve been to the Olympics and not done very well - and it’s not a great feeling.

“There’ll be so much interest in it next year, and the eyes of the nation will be on us.

“So if we don’t do well it’s going to feel worse than it ever has done.

“The hardest thing will be dealing with the weight of expectation on us.

“But all you can do is get everyone right and focussed on the correct things.”

Middleton was in a relaxed mood when he spoke to the Free Press last month, laughing and joking with his former Doncaster teammates as he lined up in a Hall Cross School Old Boys game.

It was almost like he had never been away.

But since he left South Yorkshire, Middleton has been part of the Great Britain squad that finished a disappoiting ninth at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and fifth in the 2008 Beijing Games.

He also captained England to glory in the 2009 Eurohockey Nations Cup and wore the armband at the 2010 Champions Trophy in India, where England won the silver.

Despite his obvious success, you couldn’t possibly wish to meet a more down-to-earth sportsman than Middleton.

But beneath his calm and jokey exterior, there’s a serious will to win about the former two-time Hockey Writers Player of the Year. Middleton means business.

“I’m enjoying myself at the moment,” said Middleton, who has returned from a spell in the German League to play Premier Division hockey for East Grinstead.

“I don’t have a real job, which is nice.

“I just mess about with a stick and a ball for work!

“It’s a busy time for me and a busy time in hockey, with next year on the horizon.

“And it’s great to be part of a British team who have actually got a chance of winning something.

“The club stuff comes second to the international scene,” he added.

“Everything we do between now and next summer is for Team GB - it’s not for your club, not even for yourself.

“Everything is geared towards giving ourselves the best chance of winning that gold medal.

“It’s less than a year now and it’s going to come round very quickly.

“I’ve won stuff at club level but for me now it’s about trying to win things at international level with England and GB.

“Obviously everything is geared towards the Olympics and doing as best as we possibly can.

“We’ve got a good team.

“We know we can win the gold medal - if we play our best.

“We’re not saying we’re going to win it, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

Britain will face stiff compeition from Germany and Australia for the gold medal next year.

But make a mental note of Middleton’s face - you might just recognise him when he’s next in town.