Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals Preview 6: Ashley Jackson

In the last of our series of interviews with the key protagonists ahead of the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals on Sunday, East Grinstead's England and Great Britain star Ashley Jackson tells us why he loves the club environment and the big occasion.

2012 is finally here and the men’s GB Olympic hockey squad have seriously amped up preparations since last September but that does not mean that the opportunity to turn out for his club at the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals, and help win a title, is any less important for Ashley Jackson.

Ashley Jackson“I’m back at my club with people who I’ve grown up with and have been large influences in my hockey career. Its good fun and you sort of know how much this means to them because there is no Olympics for them in the summer, this is their Olympics so to speak, so you always want to do well for their sake.”

The Wembley spectacle isn’t lost on the England star since East Grinstead have a superb heritage in this competition winning it the last three consecutive years. The West Sussex club fared admirably without their host of internationals during the first weekend of action and once the travellers returned, results continued to come as they finished undefeated with 22 points.

“We left it to the die-hard club guys and between them, they did really well and competed with all the best teams there and came out on top on that first weekend, so they did us proud while we were all away. The second weekend we had four or five internationals that came into the team, and it was pretty straight forward.”

Despite notching up some big tallies along the way, Jackson notes that there really isn’t a secret to their success,

“You’re only as strong as your weakest link but lucky for us when it comes to indoor, we don’t have too many weak links.

“We have a lot of experienced guys who have played the game and know the game inside out so we’re strong throughout”

Even though the season is short, the chance to play indoors is a welcome break that can help rejuvenate players ahead the business end of the outdoor England Hockey League. There isn’t much time to overhaul the style of play for going inside.

“I think the very basics of it are the same – the stopping, the passing, the putting the ball in the goal and working together as the team you have out on the pitch. To be honest we don’t try to change too much, we just try to do basics very well.”

East Grinstead line up in the first semi-final match against a Reading side that boasts Nick Brothers, Richard Mantell, Jonty Clarke and Nick Catlin amongst their ranks.   As Jackson warns, spectators are going to have to be ready for some serious action from the first whistle.

“I can pretty much guarantee the game will be high scoring and very entertaining with a high pace. I wouldn’t be late because you could risk missing the most entertaining game of the day.”

2012-01-13-Ashley Jackson, Eng v Ned- 500px

Jackson, along with seven other players turning out today, competed for England at the European Indoor Championship in Leipzig in mid-January finishing the weekend in seventh place meaning relegation to the Nations Trophy for the 2014 season. This result, although disappointing, was not fully unexpected as the other nations, Germany, Poland and Holland to name a few, play indoors far more, giving the game almost parity with the outdoor version. The England team played fast, compelling hockey, which Jackson explains, perhaps showed their inexperience in terms of the competition but the plan was to use the tournament as one element within the overall outdoor programme.

“It was a bit of an unknown territory, we didn’t know how we were going to fare against the other teams and I think after the first few games we realised that we could compete but being such a short tournament it was almost already over.”

“We weren’t performing badly, maybe we had a bit of indoor naivety and refused to sit five people inside our own circle, which made it very difficult for them to score but that’s pretty much what we came up against. We came up against people playing a very deep, defensive style of hockey and having not played as much indoor hockey ourselves, we struggled to break that down.”

This experience may not have had the desired outcome for England but it could be a blessing in disguise for the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals with fast, electrifying hockey the order of the day.  And Jackson for one won’t be overawed.

“It’s not really a time when I’m overcome with nerves or can’t look around with a smile on my face. I enjoy these occasions; they don’t happen very often”.

With that in mind the former World Young Player of the Year summed up East Grinstead's chances of claiming glory once again in six words– Big showpiece, still favourites, meet expectations.

History shows that Jackson and co are expertly adept at coping with all of these. If another team is going to get its name on the trophy in 2012, they are going to have to do it the hard way.

Tickets are still available on the door at Wembley Arena, starting at just £10 for U18s and £17.50 for adults.  Doors open at 11:00am. See Ashley's East Grinstead take on Reading at midday, followed by Bowdon v Beeston, the women's final between Reading and Leicester and the men's final.

Words: Kerry Stewart


Hockey on TV this weekend and next week

Sky Sports 2 LogoIf you can't make it to Wembley Arena, watch the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals on Sky Sports 2. Live coverage begins at 3pm.

BBC LogoAnd following the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals, flick over to the BBC Red Button at 6pm to see coverage of Great Britain's women against the Netherlands in the Champions Trophy.  The schedule for the BBC and Eurosport coverage of the Champions Trophy is below.BBC SCHEDULE - FIH CHAMPIONS TROPHY, 28 JANUARY - 5 FEBRUARY

Saturday 28 January
1800-2100 UK - Pool A - Great Britain v Japan – Live on DSat and cable, not live on Freeview but replayed at 2125-2325

Sunday 29 January
1800-2100 UK - Pool A - Great Britain v Netherlands – Live on DSat and cable, and live on Freeview until 2000

Tuesday 31 January
1800-2000 UK - Pool A - China v Great Britain – Live on DSat, cable, and Freeview

Thursday 2 February
4 games at 3.30pm, 6pm, 8.30pm and 11pm - Quarter Finals – Live on DSat and cable, not available on Freeview

Saturday 4 February
Semi finals at 8.30pm and 11pm - Live on DSat, cable, and Freeview

Sunday 5 February
Tbc - classification/medal matches - 7th v 8th 3.30pm, 5th v 6th 6pm, 3rd v 4th 8.30pm and final at 11pm – Live on DSat and cable, but only available on freeview for live final.

EUROSPORT 2 SCHEDULE - FIH CHAMPIONS TROPHY, 28 JANUARY - 5 FEBRUARY

Saturday 28 January
Netherlands v China - Live at 3.30pm
GB v Japan - Delayed at 7:45pm

Sunday 29 January
China v Japan Live
GB v Netherlands - Delayed 10:00pm

Monday 30 January
GB v Netherlands - Delayed 1:00pm
Germany v Argentina - Delayed 2.00pm

Tuesday 31 Janaury
Netherland v Japan - Delayed 4.45pm

Wednesday 1 February
GB v China - Delayed 12:00pm

Thursday 2 February
Two matches - Live

Saturday 4 February
Semi Final 1 - Live at 8.30pm
Semi Final 2 - Live at 11.00pm

Sunday 5 February
3/4th place game - Live at 9.30pm
Final - Live at 11.00pm