15 May 2019
Photograph: Justin Bowie
The event takes place between 4-10 August
The event serves as the second tier of international European hockey, and for Scotland’s women, the goal will be to utilise home advantage to get back to the Nations Championship in 2021 after a crushing relegation two years ago.
Veteran goalkeeper Amy Gibson was there to experience that heartbreak in 2017, but is confident Scotland can strike back this time.
She said: “I’m feeling positive. It’s a great new group of players that we have, the coaching staff are really positive in everything they do, and they’re giving us a good mentality in how to go out there and win games. I think it’s going to be a great spectacle.”
She added: “I’m particularly looking forward to playing the Czech Republic, it’ll be a bit of a grudge match. They got us relegated from the A Division two years ago, that was a brutal match.”
Unlike Gibson, youngster Kerry-Anne Hastings, daughter of Scottish rugby legend Scott Hastings, is a lot newer to international competition. Nevertheless, she is excited for the Euros this summer.
Scotland’s women in training. Photograph: Justin Bowie
She said: “I’m kind of new into the squad, so everyone’s been very welcoming. The team have been really supportive. Whether it’s your first cap or 50th cap, they don’t look at you any differently. They encourage you throughout the whole game, and vice versa.”
While some would view hosting the tournament as added pressure with increased expectations from fans, Hastings believes it’s the opposite for Scotland:
“I think there’s added support, if anything. It’s like having another player on the pitch with the crowd supporting you. I think it depends as a player how you react to that. Some players react a bit under pressure, but actually it’s all perceived pressure. I think it’s more positive rather than negative if anything.”
While Scotland’s women play to a professional standard against hockey’s most skilled nations from across the globe, many of the squad’s players cannot sustain themselves through the sport alone, and have to maintain other jobs as well. Balancing hockey with the demands of a professional career or student life can be incredibly demanding, and an extraordinary pressure for anyone who wants to play the game at the highest level in Scotland.
Gibson said: “I’m fortunate enough to have for the last maybe six years not really done anything but hockey. It’s been easier for me that way. I think the thing that people who have full-time jobs struggle with is the rest and the recovery, and that’s so important for athletes. That’s been the biggest benefit that I’ve been able to have by just focusing on hockey, and that’s allowed me to make my peak performance count.”
Hastings has experienced life both as a student and in work while playing hockey. She admits: “It’s tough, it’s very difficult. It’s all about the communication though, and making sure you’ve got a good support network around you who are understanding, and can give you leeway when you need it.
“The thing is you just crack on, every single day you get up and keep going and see what happens,” she adds. “And if there are problems, then you just need to face them as best you can with the help around you. Scottish Hockey have been very supportive with that, and any workplaces I’ve been with have been understanding.”
The last few years as a whole have been remarkable in many ways for Scottish Hockey. The Glasgow National Hockey Centre was designed and opened specifically to host the Commonwealth Games when they came to the city, and the sport has undoubtedly been one to benefit from the lingering legacy of 2014. Hosting major European competitions has now become the norm for Scottish Hockey as they continue to expand and grow.
Scottish Hockey CEO David Sweetman said: “I think this is a fantastic opportunity to bring world class hockey to Glasgow again. One of the legacies that we set out after the Commonwealth Games in 2014 was having a fantastic facility for hockey.
“Over the last six years, four years, you will have seen a massive change in how we do events,” he adds. “When we host other sides, we’re really trying to make it a spectacle. Our fans who love the sport have a fantastic opportunity to come and see us play, but there’s also an appeal for someone that’s new. We’re fast, we’re dynamic, and we’re naturally equitable.”
Scottish Hockey’s Communications Officer, Paul Elliott, echoes these sentiments: “The spectacle that surrounds everything has definitely improved. It’s the stuff that surrounds the game that we’ve really ramped up over the past year. And we’re taking it up a notch for the Euros. We’ll have lots of exhibitors, lots of come-and-try events, a big sound system, a DJ – we’re trying to make it an entertaining spectacle not just on the pitch, but around the pitch as well.
“Glasgow’s quite diverse, and there’s a lot of people from other countries who live in the city and enjoy hockey who will hopefully come along and support their nation and make it a real carnival atmosphere,” he adds. “Lots of tickets have been sold already, so it’s a really positive sign for us. We’re really looking forward to what’s going to be an amazing event.”
So what does Scottish Hockey have planned for the future, once the Euros have come and gone?
Sweetman said: “Our membership has grown 90% in the past five years, which is a remarkable level of growth. Now, from a performance perspective, our desire is to get one of our teams, whether that’s male or female, to the World Cup in 2022. If we do manage that, it would be the first time in 25 years for the women, and the first time ever for the men.
“That’s aiming high, but we’ve got some great players and some great coaching staff to help support that aspiration.”
Yet for now, the focus remains on this summer. And Kerry Anne-Hastings believes that success lies ahead for Scotland’s women: “With us having home advantage, yeah, I’m definitely very confident.”
Time will tell whether Scotland can live up to expectations.
Video: Renée Bleau