British Olympic coach Jason Lee hoping to guide women side through World League semi-finals and qualify for next year's World Cup
Having led the men's side at London 2012, Lee is now focused on seeing the women's team progress to the 2014 World Cup in Holland
The cavalier spirit of the British men's Olympic coach, Jason Lee, made the build-up to last summer’s tournament an exhilarating contrast to the unfulfilling England football which had just gone before at the European Championships. “We could finish first or ninth,” Lee said of his charges at the time.
Well, their eventual fourth-placed finish hadn’t quite come into the equation but some of the hockey was thrilling and this weekend Lee is back, this time coaching the England women's team who are entering the biggest moment since the Games for British hockey. The Investec World League Semi-Finals, in which England open against South Africa at Chiswick tonight, with Australia tomorrow and Spain on Tuesday, find Lee's players needing a top-three finish to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Holland.
Not all of the names who found briefly entered the national conversation at the Olympics have stayed around. The ebullient corner striker Crista Cullen has retired. But Georgie Twigg and Kate Walsh are among many who remain from the Olympics bronze medal-winning squad and then there is the young prospect whose inclusion typifies Lee's spirit of adventure. Lily Owsley, who was sitting A-levels as Lee was speaking to The Independent this week, is untested at this level and the call-up may have come too soon. But Lee has seen raw talent, goals and the pace which saw her finish second the national under-19s championships at 800m, opting for a career in hockey because of her preference for team sport.
"It's a risk having her, she's very young and inexperienced and I don't know whether she can do it," Lee said of the Clifton player. "But she started scoring goals when she joined us and I want to see what happens. She's playing at a standard well above her age."
Lee has involved his wizard short corner specialist Ashley Jackson in helping the women build on their bronze but it is an aspect of sporting culture absent in the men’s set-up which has impressed him since he made the switch, having concluded that ten years with the men’s team was long enough. “Yes, the men are stronger,” Lee said. “But the big difference is how the girls operate as a group. The guys are much more egotistical and the challenge is to get them playing as a team. The team ethic is stronger with the women. We’re working on getting the aggression right. It’s a fascinating exercise.” Lee insists the attacking game which is the only one he will coach. “It’s the way I am,” he said. “I believe in trying to dictate the pace of the game. We tend to score a lot but we can concede a lot.”
Qualification is not a foregone conclusion for England, for whom this has been a mixed period of results. In the other group are Olympic silver medallists Argentina, China, the USA and Italy. The all-important World Cup qualification games begin after the group stages, next Thursday.
Tickets for England’s matches are still available through englandhockey.co.uk
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...