Surbiton skipper seeks yet more success

Sarah Haycroft Surbiton,
Sarah Haycroft is hungry for success, be it with the national squad at the World Cup next year or at the League Finals and in Europe with her club Surbiton. But, while she is eager for a few more medals to adorn her shelves, the Great Britain and England star is also keen that excellence and talent is not centred around London and the south.

‘It’s not good for the game in this country if all the top players and successful clubs are centred around the South. For example, I really want Bowdon Hightown to stay up because we want hockey to be strong across the country. We don’t want a saturation in the south. 

‘It’s a tricky balance because the centralised programme [at Bisham Abbey] is so strong but club hockey can suffer. We have to remember that the clubs are where we have all come from. I think we need to figure out a way to make hockey strong across the country. Ultimately, we want our club system to be so strong that everyone wants to come to the UK to play, as is the case in the Netherlands at the moment.’

But in the short-term, Haycroft and her team are absolutely focused on dominating hockey in England. She is captain of the all-conquering team that won the league by a clear nine points and, until they lost to Leicester earlier this season, had been on a 53-match unbeaten run.

‘It was fitting that we lost to Leicester as they were the last side to beat us before our winning run,’ says Haycroft generously as she reflects back on a fantastic season that sees her side in the final of the Investec Cup, the League Finals and the EHF European Club Championships.

‘In fact, the league is closer than you might think. We always have tough games against Leicester and Clifton ran us really close. The fact that Clifton didn't make it to the Finals shows just how close it all got. There is great talent and depth.’

Clifton will have their chance to de-throne Surbiton in the Investec Cup Final at the end of the April, but between now and then, Surbiton will be upping the ante to an even greater degree.

Head coach Brett Garrard is determined that his charges will have the weapons at their disposal to both seal their league performance with a win at the League Finals, before heading off to Europe to do battle with the finest teams on the continent.

‘We have been to Europe the last two years and not done as well as we had hoped,’ says Haycroft. ‘We were smashed if I’m honest, 6-0. But, I think that was an anomaly because so many of us had been away on international duty that our team suffered. We will do ourselves justice this year.’

Haycroft explains that to prepare his team for three competitions, Garrard has set the standards really high all season in both training and matches. Where the team might have slipped into complacency in the league, now there is a new focus on always getting things right. ‘We have set personal and team standards really high. That has helped us in all our league games,’ says the midfielder.

We do have such an inner belief at Surbiton. We were 2-0 down against Clifton [in the last league game of the season] and we knew we had to buck up our ideas. We knew that we had to stick to the things we had done in training and believe in our systems, and we won 4-3, but actually that tough match came at a really good time for us.’

And with Birmingham University their opponents at the League Finals weekend, all altruistic thoughts of sharing the spoils around the country have been put on hold by the Surbiton skipper.

You can watch Sarah and her team go for glory at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on April 22 & 23 - tickets are on sale now!