Susannah Townsend - 'We shouldn't fear anyone'

Susannah Townsend at the EuroHockey Championships 2013

Susannah's heading for her first World Cup, as many of England's players are, and we've caught up with the No. 9 to find out her thoughts on the World Cup, Jason Lee and the support of her family.

Susannah Townsend just missed out on the Olympics in London - the England midfielder was one of a cluster of players from the Central Programme for whom the competition came just too soon. However, the Canterbury star has since put the disappointment of her non-selection behind her and become an integral member of Jason Lee’s brave new England side.

A powerful, quick and dynamic attacking player, she has come on leaps and bounds on the field and has carved herself a reputation as one of the more popular and entertaining members of the squad off the field. Having made her international debut back in 2008 aged just 19, she has since collected three medals in her four tournaments for England to date.

This is your first World Cup. What are you looking forward to most?

It’s great that it’s the men’s and the women’s competitions together, it makes it more of an exciting tournament, especially in Holland where the interest in hockey is massive. With Sky covering the competition and the increased following, the team is getting it’s a good chance for us to show people what we can do. Seeing hockey played on a stage like the one in The Hague will hopefully get all sorts of people interested. The publicity is already starting to build up and we have a good a chance so it’s really exciting.

How hard is it to relax and find things to do without losing focus between games?

This trip is a bit different as normally tournaments are over a week, whereas this one is over two. A game every other day means there is a lot of free time for us. Thankfully we spend a lot of time together as a squad anyway, so we’re used to each other’s company. There’s always a game of Articulate going on or a hard drive being passed around with the latest movies or TV series on it so we’re rarely bored. We have preparation to do as well with meetings and video analysis, so although there is a lot of free time, you manage to fill it quite easily.

Who are the people who keep the girls entertained and morale up during the tournaments?

There’s always someone joking around in the group. Sally Walton and Ash Ball are pretty funny but everyone pitches in and we all hang out together. We’re really fortunate that we know each other so well and there are no cliques in the group. You have to be focused, but it’s important to be able to step away and think about other things. Our hotel is by the beach which will be nice, although I’m not too sure about going swimming in the North Sea!

You missed out on the London Olympics but have been a fixture in the side since. What’s changed about your game? What’s improved?

Not going to London was devastating at the time but with hindsight my defensive game wasn’t ready. My attacking game was probably just about there but you need to be an all-round player to compete in those tournaments. I think starting the new cycle was good for me. I’ve had the experience and the conditioning of being involved before and my fitness is now up there. My defending has come on a lot and I’m continuing to improve all the time. I’m really enjoying myself, too. It’s important to enjoy it or there’s no point.

How have you found Jason Lee as a coach now he’s been around a while?

His tactical work is outstanding as you’d expect from a top level coach. He’s also really helped me, too. He’s worked hard on my self-belief. He’s always encouraging me to get on the ball and use my strengths. Even when you’re tired you know you’ll be ok as he’s prepared you to the point that you know where you need to be and what you need to do and you still back yourself to come through the challenge.

People forget psychology can play a big role in sport. Little things can help your confidence and Jason has emphasized that a lot. He allows us to believe in our abilities but also to enjoy our hockey. You can see we enjoy it by the way we play: free-flowing attacking hockey. We’re still learning from him and him about us but it’s been great so far.

Have you all cracked his sense of humour yet?

He makes jokes sometimes but you get used to it and are able to give him some back. It’s nice to have a coach like that and he picks the right times to do it. We have a good time when the time is right but we work hard when we have to and we’re in no doubt as to which should happen when.

You’ve beaten teams like Holland, Germany and Argentina in recent competitions. Is there a real belief and confidence in the group because of those results?

We’ve worked really hard on our psychology and the mental side of things. We discuss how it feels to face the top teams and we definitely have a mind-set that maybe the team didn’t have ten years ago. We have beaten these teams and we know what it’s like to do so, we have a lot of belief in the group. People can say they believe in themselves and the team and not mean it, but with this group you can see they do. There’s a bit of an aura about the team which I think comes across. We shouldn’t fear anyone.

Who are the main threats in The Hague?

Australia have done well the last couple of years. They’ve been building since before London and it’s a big aim for them to win the tournament. To be honest every team in a competition of this quality is a threat. Anyone can beat anyone on their day which is why you have to stay focused and take it game by game.

Where do you think England will finish?

We’re ranked third in the world and the rankings don’t lie. We’ve performed consistently over the last couple of years and picked up medals in every tournament so we go into every tournament aiming to make the podium, the World Cup is no different. There are 12 top teams there and we have a really tough group, but if we perform like we can then we're perfectly capable of picking up medal.

Your family are big supporters of yours. What does it mean for you to have them there supporting?

My family will be there in full force and supporting us with their England flag. My Dad won’t go crazy if we win a medal, he’ll probably cry, though! It’ll be very emotional and he’ll definitely enjoy it once he’s stopped crying!
I’m one of five children, so we each have our own strengths and we each get support in different ways. My family have been fantastic and always there for me - I hope I can give them something to celebrate!

You can follow Susannah and England’s progress in the Rabobank World Cup by tuning in to the games on Sky Sports. Also, check out how we think England matches up against the other teams in their pool here.

Get the dates and times in your diary so you don't miss any of the action - you can find the men's and women's tournament schedules in our International Fixtures section, or all of them together here.