The perils of selection uncovered in Inside The Circle: The Podcast

Pinner Fox 2014 World Cup
Selection is one of the things that makes sport stand out from any other career.

Where else would you spend months and months training to become as good as you can be, only to find out that you haven’t made the final cut?

This is something George Pinner and Dan Fox very candidly open up about in the latest episode of Inside The Circle: The Podcast.

When it goes your way selection is one of the most wonderful things that can happen for an athlete. This is especially the case if you are picked for one of the major events, such as the Olympics or a World Cup.

Recalling hearing he had been chosen to represent England at the 2014 World Cup in The Netherlands, Pinner said: “I remember getting a letter from Sally Munday. You forget that it’s the biggest competition you can play in as an England player – obviously the Olympics is GB. 

“We had that letter and when we turned up to that tournament, you’re playing in football stadiums that have been converted into hockey stadiums and you realise the enormous nature of it and you realise how big a World Cup is. 

“Because you have the Olympics you can sometimes forget just how big the World Cup is but that event was huge for me.”

While that was Pinner’s first World Cup, it was a second for Fox having been called up to the 2010 tournament in Delhi in unique circumstances.

“I’d only played 14 times for England at the time and I was reserve for the 2010 World Cup,” he recalled.

“The preparation was mixed because there had been a serious terrorist threat on the whole tournament – there had been this will they/won’t they put it on, will they move it etc. 

“The team went out to Qatar and trained before going to the tournament while I was at home teaching at the time, doing some part-time work around the hockey. Two days before they flew to India I got a call saying that Matt Daly had broken his foot and that I was next in line if anyone else got injured. So I went to work and told them.

“I remember being sat in the staffroom and saying to someone that until midnight that night I could get the nod and go to India on the first flight. At that very moment the phone rings; it’s Bobby Crutchley saying Simon Mantell had had another bit of rotten luck, been hit on his foot, broken his toe and wouldn’t be able to play in the tournament. So I had to get to Heathrow Airport by 9am the next morning in order to go and play in the tournament. 

“With the nature of our sport those sorts of things sometimes happen. It was obviously terrible luck for both of them but from it came an opportunity for me that I wasn’t expecting.”

As well as reflecing on the good times, in the podcast episode both Pinner and Fox look back on some difficult experiences too.

Just a few months after the 2010 World Cup, the latter received the news every hockey player dreads – that they were being dropped from the Great Britain squad.

While he managed to regain his place to go on and play in another World Cup, two Olympic Games and much more, it is a memory that has stuck with Fox ever since.

“If you don’t get selected it’s always a miserable experience,” he explained. 

“I remember we went to a Champions Trophy in 2010, won a silver medal on the Sunday, flew home Sunday night and on Tuesday I went on holiday. Then I got an email saying I hadn’t been selected for the Commonwealth Games and that I was no longer part of the Great Britain squad. 

“I got this email in a field in the middle of North Wales on holiday with my now-wife and she saw my face drop. It’s never going to be a good message and there’s never going to be a good way of receiving that.”

Having initially struggled to break into the first team with England and Great Britain, Pinner also explained how this has made him even more grateful every time he receives the nod to pull on the international jersey.

“I had four years of not being picked and it doesn’t get any easier,” the 33-year-old said. 

“That’s why when you get picked, even when people tell you you’re a certainty for trips or you’re definitely going to get picked, you still sit around waiting for that email no matter who you are. 

“I remember speaking to Barry Middleton and he never took one selection for granted; even he was waiting for that call up.”

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