Forsyth & Grassick on the mentality shift that led to European gold

Scotland Win 2017 Euros
Going into the 2017 Men’s EuroHockey Championships II in Glasgow, Scotland had one aim – to win a gold medal in front of their home fans.

They had been trying to earn promotion back to the top tier for a decade, narrowly missing out on three of the five chances they’d had as they finished third (only the top two are promoted).

But, whereas previously they’d only hoped of securing their place back in the ‘A’ division, heading into this competition Scotland’s mentality was completely different, as Alan Forsyth and Chris Grassick explained in the latest episode of Inside The Circle: The Podcast.

“When we went into the 2015 Euros we thought we’d like to win it but we were just focussed on getting promoted. But in 2017 we wanted to go out and win it. Promotion was key but we wanted to win it,” explained Great Britain forward Forsyth.

“Everyone had that mentality and it was a different feeling in that squad. We knew we could win it.”

Grassick, who was Scotland’s captain at the time, added: “The biggest thing about the start of that week was that previously we’d think ‘if we win this game and they lose that game then we might play so-and-so in the semis’. 

“But that wasn’t part of the ethos; whoever we’ll play we’ll play, we can beat anyone in that tournament. We just wanted to get on with it.”

That mindset was immediately evident on the pitch as they beat France – ranked higher than them and seen as favourites – in their opening game, Forsyth scoring in a 2-1 victory.

The Surbiton player then scored a hat-trick in a sweeping 6-1 win over Portugal before his late double saw them top their pool and qualify for the semi-finals with a 2-1 win over Ukraine.

Russia were their opponents and, with just 11 minutes remaining, it looked as though they’d finally achieved promotion as they led 4-0.

However the Russians – who themselves were hoping to bounce straight back up to the top tier after being relegated in 2015 – were not done yet as they scored three quickfire goals to set up a grandstand finish.

“We were comfortably ahead, all over them and we don’t really know what happened,” Forsyth recalled. 

“We probably thought we’d won it. They had a really good flicker, scored two corners, got it to 4-3 and then it was like ‘wow, this could get pretty interesting.’ 

“They then got a long corner but didn’t get the ball for five seconds and then the full-time hooter went. If they’d got the ball they could have put it in and anything could have happened.”

Having hung on for victory, it looked as though Scotland’s ultimate aim of securing gold was not to happen as they trailed 1-0 in the final to a Welsh team who had overcome France in a similarly frenetic semi-final.

But Ben Cosgrove drew the hosts level with 11 minutes to play before a fine goal from Forsyth took Scotland to gold, sparking wild celebrations amongst players and fans alike.

“We’ve been trying to do this for 10 years so to do it with everyone there that helped you along the way – coaches, previous coaches, friends and family – I loved it because everyone could enjoy just being there together at the pitch after the game as well which was nice,” explained Forsyth.

Grassick added: “That’s part of the pressure, knowing how much Al’s mum and dad had invested in it, other people’s parents, friends and family. 

“They know how important it is to us and that’s probably what makes it that bit harder but sweeter when you get there because they appreciate the hours you’ve put in, what it means to you. Doing that at home makes it ten times better.”

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