Barry Middleton is putting personal milestones to one side as he prepares to lead England at the World Cup.
The 30-year-old, a former Hall Cross Academy pupil, became England and Great Britain’s most capped player in Saturday’s warm up defeat against Australia.
Bessacarr born Middleton stepped out for the 308th time, surpassing Russell Garcia who previously held the record at 307, but the former Doncaster Hockey Club star is focused on team matters.
England have never previously lifted the World Cup. They have been drawn in Pool A alongside Spain, Belgium, India, Malaysia and reigning champions and world number one ranked side Australia.
Middleton helped England beat Australia to bronze at January’s World League Final having lost to New Zealand in a semi-final shoot-out and the captain believes they can soon set an example for England’s footballers to follow in Brazil.
“Preparations have gone well, we are probably where we need to be heading into the World Cup,” said Middleton, who will lead his team out against Spain in their World Cup opener on Saturday in The Hague.
“As a country we probably still have a bit of a complex about penalties.
“We’ve been practising them and I think we’ve had to because there are new rules with it being shoot-outs now more like it is in ice hockey.
“Hockey is such a close sport between the top four or five teams now. If you are going to win it, you are probably going to have to win one game on penalties.
“Hopefully we can set an example for the footballers.
“All these things like caps along the way are nice when you look back on them fondly but when you are in it, you don’t really worry too much about it,” he added.
“For me the most important thing right now is our preparations for the World Cup and ultimately results in the World Cup.”
Middleton heads up an England squad with no fewer than 11 set to make their World Cup debut.
But he believes England have the right blend for success having lost in the bronze-medal match to the Netherlands four years ago.
“It’s a new team that have come together since the London 2012 Olympics and where we have come from 18 months ago is amazing to see,” said Middleton.
“It’s our job to look after the younger ones but we actually want to let them be free as well.
“One of the good things with the younger guys is they can bring their energy to us older guys.”
England’s head coach Bobby Crutchley said of Middleton: “As a captain, he leads by example and is incredibly selfless; all the lads in the squad have a huge amount of respect for him. It’s been great to watch his leadership of the group develop across the five years since he took the captain’s armband back in 2009.”
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