30 October 2019

GB hockey captain Hollie Pearne-Webb says 'it's important to look at the bigger picture' ahead of Olympic qualifiers

Great Britain's women's hockey captain Holly Pearne-Webb believes it is important her team do not 'shy away' despite failing to secure automatic qualification for Tokyo 2020.

The reigning Olympic champions will be embarking on a two-legged qualifier event against Chile in London this weekend.

And Pearne-Webb, who has been captain since November 2018, recognises that the squad is in a period of transition.

She said: "After the world cup last year we had significant injuries to Alex Danson - who was our captain - and several other senior players. 

"This has meant some new, younger girls with less experience have had to step in."

After several changes to the squad, new coach Mark Hagar was appointed after the World Cup last year, taking over from Danny Kerry, who helped the women's team land medals at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.

"It has taken us a bit of time to learn new styles of play and learn with different people in different positions and building those connections," added Pearne-Webb.

"So I think if you have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and go 'ok this is where we are for these reasons and that's fine."

Great Britain celebrating gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics (PA Images)

The squad is facing Chile for the first time ever and will have to overcome the two-legged home tie before having the opportunity to defend their Olympic title.

"I think it is important not to shy away because it is what it is. It's pressurised for them and for us," said the 29-year-old from Belper.

"You can't be too overly confident because Chile are a good side. But we are confident that we will be as prepared as we can be. 

"Training has been pretty similar. The biggest thing is playing under pressure and playing against a different team and playing with pace."

Pearne-Webb has had to step in for Danson after a tough period, and she explains how important it is to lead as a captain in the current environment.  

"One thing with our squad is we’ve got leaders throughout the squad and everyone in this particular squad is really supportive of one another," she said.

"The real challenge of anything is being that person to say things when things need to be said because we just want to help one another all the time. I try and get the balance right and especially for games, putting that game face on and a serious face for training as well. 

"That is something we as a squad are working on is standards and those tough conversations which need to be had in the moment. So again we are all learning to have those and I think for the newer players coming in are just starting to get used to that."

Seven Rio 2016 gold medallists have been selected in the squad for the two games against Chile - Maddie Hinch, Hollie Pearne-Webb, Shona McCallin, Lily Owsley, Susannah Townsend, Laura Unsworth and Giselle Ansley. 

New additions include Scotland's Charlotte Watson and Wales' Leah Wilkinson who are set to play their first international games.

It will be the last opportunity the women have to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

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