Doncaster hockey legend Barry Middleton expects the forthcoming World Cup in India to be wide open.
The event, which starts later this month, will provide a challenging test for England, who are ranked seventh in the world.
But having watched the recent Women’s World Cup, in which Ireland – ranked 16th at the start – made the final, Middleton believes his team have every chance of success.
“For us, it isn’t that who’s ranked first will win it,” said Middleton, England’s most capped player of all time.
“The women’s World Cup has shown the way it is now, and the format means you don’t have to be the number one team in the world rankings to be in the final or win it.
“For us it’s about trying to be the best we can be and annoy some of those teams above us, and embrace that things can happen, enjoy it.
“Our team have shown that when we’re there and we’re fit and we’re enjoying ourselves then a lot of good things can happen.
“We’re going to go and train big now and see where that can take us.
“Aims and expectations we always set quite late, but for us it’s about being the best we can be, training properly, and having no regrets when we set off on the plane to India.”
Middleton, 34, has a vast amount of experience playing at the highest level of hockey and has represented Team GB at four Olympics.
Considering his future, the Doncaster Hockey Club graduate admits it would be too difficult to leave the sport and has a desire to guide the next generation of players to success as the sport grows.
“There’s definitely a few more months in me,” said Middleton, who has also won two consecutive Commonwealth Games bronze medals with England.
“As I’m getting older I take it a year at a time and see how my body is, listen to how it’s feeling, how I am mentally.
“For me it’s about getting to the World Cup and after we’ll see where everything is at.
“It would be great to make my fifth Olympics, it sounds nice when you say it like that!
“That’s a little way away, it’s more about the training and getting your head down. The tournaments are some part of it but getting through the day-to-day is the hard bit.
“For me I’m certain I’ll stay in hockey and do some coaching, so I’m looking to learn as much as I can over the next few years to take that step into coaching when I finish.
“I’m trying to drag out the playing as much as possible, or that’s what people tell me!
“Hockey is very different from when I started playing. It’s just going to keep on getting more exciting and it’s on us to sell the sport in the right way.
“We know that for it to be successful we have to go and win things and play exciting hockey.
“We enjoy it more if we can play exciting hockey, but if you want to get other people excited in the sport it’s about showing how good the sport is and showing how much skill and speed there is in it.
“It’s been growing for years and years but it’s just getting better and better.”