Hockey: Foreigners hold key to glory

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The Independent Online
YET ANOTHER sell-out is expected at Crystal Palace this evening for the sport's night of the year. Indoor finals night has always been hotly contested and this year, with an increasing number of foreign players playing for English clubs, predicting the finalists becomes increasingly difficult.

Twice-winners East Grinstead have been finalists on seven occasions and runners-up in the last two years. They are in the same pool as Southgate and the defending champions, Reading, who beat them by the odd goal in 17 last year.

The north London club has, in the past, made the occasional flurry into the indoor game without much success. This year, with Germany's Eiko Rott as captain and coach, fellow countryman Torben Gottschau and Austrian Grant von Mayer, along with Australia's Max Diamond and Todd Williams, they should provide sterner opposition.

Grinstead also have their foreigners - South Africa's Jamie Brown and the Belgian Ed Cabay, but their strength is likely to come from the experience of Richard Leman, Richard Organ, Mahmond Bhatti and goalkeeper Jon Clark.

Their manager, Steve Kent, said: "We are quietly confident. We have a blend of Grinstead experience and international youth." It would be a brave man to place money on the finalist from this pool.

Old Loughtonians, winners in 1995 and 1996, have been drawn in the easier pool and should make the final with something to spare. They have an experienced squad with outstanding players and it is difficult to see Barford Tigers or Hull standing in their way of a final appearance.