Graham Reid keen to establish playing style before Olympic Qualifiers

India hockey team's head coach is aware his players cannot slip up with four months left for the Olympic qualifiers.

Graham Reid during a training session at the national camp at Sports Authority of India in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

If Graham Reid's first three months in his role as India's head coach have been about familiarising himself with the job, the next four will be slightly more crucial. India will have to be in top form going into November's Olympic qualifiers, and Reid is aware that there is no room for slip-ups.

First on the agenda, as the Indian men's hockey team reconvenes for the national camp at the SAI here this week, is defence. With the assistance of former Australia defender Fergus Kavanagh, Reid will hope to work on 'collective defending' -- something that has become a catchphrase of his. "I have talked about the collective defensive mindset that we need," he said. "Irrespective of whether you are a midfielder or a striker or defender, you have to tackle, get the ball off the opposition, and put pressure on them. That is what we are focusing on in the first week. Later on, we will look into the attack and what we do with the ball bit more."

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The next six weeks, leading into India's Olympic Test event in Tokyo, will be an opportunity for Reid to firmly establish his style of play. "I love attacking hockey and high-pressing and getting the ball off the opponent, which is the smartest way to defend. I would like to have a passing game, which we need to work more on. We need to know when to dribble as well. The great thing is that these players have great skills, but now the question is how to get them to do it when required," he said.

If defence is the current area of focus, there is much to work on at the other end of the pitch too. "We need to get better on the conversion rate," said Reid. "We are getting into the 25 and the circle pretty well; now, we need to convert those opportunities into more quality scoring chances. That is the key."

Communicating with his players has not been a problem for Reid. "There are players who can speak English, those who can only understand it, and those who can't speak or follow the language," he said. "Whatever I have to say gets translated. Communication has to be always clear; so I would like to get some English lessons started as well. But it's not been hard to get my message across to the team."