By Jonathan Davis
Scottish Hockey National League One is not good enough to support international sport says Scotland Internationalist, Callum Duke.
19 capped Duke said: “The best Scottish players, don’t play in the Scottish league.”
20 of the 28 players listed in Scotland’s senior men’s squad currently play their club hockey outside of Scotland, leading to worries that the domestic game in Scotland is suffering.
Duke, previously of Hillhead HC and Edinburgh University currently plies his trade in Germany with Frankfurt 1880. Duke said: “In Germany, everything is so much more professional. Everyone in your team is much better and there is a lot more competition for places.
“Everything is better, the tempo, the ball speed, the speed of the game, the speed that things change – your thought process has to be much quicker.”
The trend of players moving abroad to play is something that has certainly increased over recent years. Duke said: “I think in the past two years, maybe three, the amount of players playing abroad has doubled.”
The strength of the domestic leagues in England, Germany and Holland is of such a higher standard that it is now the natural progression for any player aspiring for the top of the game. Duke said: “Purely on hockey terms, if you want to improve and push yourself to the highest level possible, I would 100% play abroad.”
On the matter, Scotland Senior Men’s National Team Manager, Eugene Connolly said: “This is the best thing thing for Scottish International Hockey.
“If I take the example of Ireland. Ireland adopted this policy several years ago and their best players were playing in Holland, Belgium, England and Germany. This meant that Ireland reached the dizzy heights of 5th in Europe in 2011, and 6th in 2013, but friends in Ireland say that sadly this has diminished the quality of Irish club and inter-provincial hockey.”
Connolly speaks of the ethical conflict whereby for smaller nations, what may be best for the national squad, may be harmful to the state of the domestic game.
For now at least, in the lead up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the vast majority of Scottish Internationals will have to fly back from their respective clubs abroad for full-time training in April.
Connolly said: “If you look at our national league this year, there has been a leveling down and the overall standard is lower.
“From a national point of view it is very good (to have Scottish players playing abroad), but from the club point of view it is less so. But the irony is that it has actually made for a more exciting and open league than we have had for many years.”