Scotland men’s hockey captain Chris Grassick has hailed his teammates for their landmark year in 2017, and insisted there is more to come from the Blue Sticks.
As a result of their success, Scotland have been named as finalists for the Team of the Year award at the Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards 2017 on December 7.
The Scots won every game en route to winning the Men’s EuroHockey Championship II in front of a full house at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre in August and qualified for the top tier of European hockey for the first time since 2005.
Earlier in the year, against all the odds, Scotland qualified for the World League Semi-Final in London after emerging through two qualifying tournaments. They were the lowest-ranked team in the tournament and although they didn't make the World Cup, they held their own against elite opposition, taking leads against both Pakistan and India.
Home crowd inspiration
The 27-year-old Grassick, who hails from Edinburgh, admits the relief of finally reaching Europe’s top tier in May quickly subsided as he burst with pride at lifting the EuroHockey Championship II trophy in front of a raucous home crowd.
Chris said: "In terms of results it is definitely the best year I've been involved with the national team.
"It's off the back of a team that has grown up together over a long period of time. There are six or seven guys who have played together from their mid-teens and they are now late-20s.
"Qualifying into the A Division has been our biggest bugbear over the past couple of years. Managing to do that this year was a real highlight for us.
"We've always fallen at the last hurdle so it was great to finally do it.
"Playing at home was definitely an advantage, it really helped us. As the competition went on it probably inspired a few of the lads to play as well as they possibly could.
"You don't really win too many things as a Scotland player. That was a bit of a strange feeling to lift the trophy but it was amazing and something that we all want to do again.
"It was such a proud moment, and it was through so many different people's hard work.”
Chris is one of only a few Scottish players who are full-time professionals, having been with the GB squad for four years. But the former Inverleith Hockey Club midfielder insists there is plenty to be positive about for the Scots ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
He added: "The overall strength of the team has improved, it's definitely one of the best teams Scotland teams I’ve played in.
"I think we can definitely still improve. There are a few younger players who will push the experienced players for places.
“I think there is a healthy group of about 25 guys in the squad that will be looking to get picked for the Gold Coast. The competition is really healthy."
Find out more
The Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards will celebrate the inspirational clubs, schools and individuals in sport on 7 December at the Doubletree by Hilton in Glasgow. For more information please visit the awards website.
If you are interested in hockey and want to know more, visit the Scottish Hockey website.