400 and counting - England's Middleton continues to go strong

The previous highest by an Englishman was current assistant coach Russell Garcia with 307 caps.

Barry Middleton (left) joins legends like Teun de Nooijer, Dilip Tirkey, Waseem Ahmed and Jeroen Delmee to play 400 matches.   -  Getty Images

Barry Middleton has been around forever. Having made his international debut in 2003, the 33-year old will play his 400th international on Monday, becoming only the fifth player and first Englishman in hockey history to achieve the distinction.

“Yeah, when I started, we were ranked quite low as a nation. Have had a good journey in the last 10 years or so, coming up the rankings and coming to tournaments now and being involved in semifinals and finals of competitions. But I am the old man in the side now. I don't understand what they are saying sometimes because of the way they talk, I just laugh and it seems ok,” Middleton laughed talking to Sportstar.

Reaching the 400th milestone would be special — the other four players to do so include legends like Teun de Nooijer, Dilip Tirkey, Waseem Ahmed and Jeroen Delmee — and Middleton admitted as much. Before it, however, there were two more crucial games for England to get past, against Germany and host India. But Middleton, who gave up captaincy recently, insisted that the team was on the right track.

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"The team is in transition. We just started under a year ago and this team still grow for a while. It's good fun at the moment, we have a good thing going. The team feels it can make progression in the next year. We still got some exciting talent in the junior set-up that will be coming through in the next 3, 4, 5 years. We've got the talent, the team is looking good but it's all hard work. The excellent thing is that we are a good team and if we make progress we have a chance of going somewhere. We start here and go through the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup before the Pro League starts,” he added.

The Pro League remains a tricky subject despite the FIH backing it with full vigour as the next big thing. Middleton was diplomatic when asked about it. “That's one of the things that needs to be worked out, there are things that need tweaking, I don't think anyone knows what the finished product looks like at the moment. But for me and rest of the team, the year before that have massive things before we get into Pro League,” he said.

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The previous highest by an Englishman was current assistant coach Russell Garcia with 307 caps. Middleton passed that mark three years ago. His trusted partner in the midfield, Ashley Jackson, has called it quits from international hockey but Middleton has no such plans at the moment. “Look the stadium here and when this is going to be full, it will be awesome. I think we are lucky as England and as Great Britain, with the Scottish and Welsh guys coming in who don't have the same programme, when they come in they remind us pretty quickly what we have. So it's worth it,” he concluded.

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