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A Friend in Deed - Grandpappy
At the end of December 2011 Tony Hand was appointed head coach of the GB side with a view to competing in the World Championships in 2012 in Slovenia, and tournaments in 2013, 2014 and 2015. That makes him about fifteen months into the job, although he was an assistant GB coach in 2008.
Andy French, Ice Hockey UK General Secretary said of Hand’s appointment, ‘We had a long list of high-calibre applicants, and it was a very strong field of candidates. Tony stood out from the rest. He is a legend in British ice hockey and is well known throughout the ice hockey world.’
However, GB were recently relegated to Division 1B in the World Championships in Budapest after losing all of their 5-games. Hand said, ‘We are disappointed as a coaching staff and as a team. I had a chat with the boys and they are devastated. We were not good enough in the tournament, but we will bounce back, I am sure. We need to find a way to improve and we need to bring fresh players in. Our offence let just down this tournament.’
Hand’s first coaching position was with Dundee Stars in the British National League and has since spanned spells with Edinburgh Capitals and Belfast Giants in the Elite League. He joined the Manchester Phoenix in 2007, also in the EIHL at the time, and then took them into the EPL in 2009 and was named EPL Coach of the Year in 2010. Last season the Phoenix finished as play-off champions.
Why all this background? Because there have been calls for Hand to stand down from his coaching position. Was this from the governing body, fellow coaches, players, the media, fans, or just who exactly? Actually, ‘a good friend’ - so more of a call; a singular voice – who expressed the opinion quite spitefully by going to the press.
Now if I were Hand’s good friend and thought he had fouled up I might, out of consideration for his feelings and the relationship, have taken him to one side for a quiet word in his ear. Even then only if I felt qualified at some level to proffer such advice. Similarly, if I were running the national side and an unqualified friend offered technical guidance I would probably say something like ‘much appreciated, thanks very much’ and then poke a finger in his eye.
The point is, how can anyone call themselves ‘a good friend’ and then go out of their way to ensure the opinion they feel the need to impart and which for some unfathomable reason they believe is of interest is best conveyed by means of a public medium. So, when he said, ‘It is hard for me to say this as Tony is a good friend,’ it comes across as a bit hollow and, in fact, rather too easily said.
To rub salt into the insincerity wound he added, ‘But he is the coach of an English Premier League team at Manchester, and doesn’t see the Elite League players who wear the national shirt.’ What is he babbling on about? The implication, of course, is
Hand is ‘only’ an EPL coach as if this should automatically disqualify him from the post regardless of those in the know who appointed him feeling he was the right person for the job regardless of pedigree.
Also, what can, ‘doesn’t see Elite League players who wear the national shirt,’ possibly mean? With only three EPL players in a squad of 22 surely they are hard to miss? In fact, Hand specifically praised some of them so clearly noticed they were there.
Sadly, the denouncing continued, “Every coach and every player asks the same question: ‘Why is Tony in charge?’ ” Do they all? Well, search as I might, I have been unable to find a comment from any coach or player to support this claim so clearly there is
no general clamour from this group for Hand’s resignation or removal.
So basically all this bunk means two things. Firstly any friendship based on such a lack of consideration and loyalty is about as dependable as stuffing a ferret down your trousers and was done for one purpose: self-serving. There are numerous definitions
of such egotistical behaviour, none of them pleasing and include such characteristics as an inflated opinion to which, thankfully,
few listen. But the most apt definition is ‘a person whose ego exceeds both his intelligence and his capacity to see beyond his own personal interests.’
Secondly, such ravings do nothing to promote the interests and future of British hockey at a time when all fans should be standing behind the national team and offer some sympathy for the players and coaching staff who gave their all despite the results. In fact, all such unsubstantiated waffle does is undermine the sport which has enough to contend with as it is. With only a 3-day camp before one of the most important competitions in hockey which also clashes with domestic commitments is unbelievable in modern international sport, and hardly Hand’s fault who summed it up: ‘As a nation we have to look at how to improve our national teams. Obviously that comes from the whole country.’
Some common sense from Hand, then, as you would expect, but I leave out the name of the good friend rather than fertilize his ego with yet more publicity.