As part of Redbrick Sport’s ‘Women’s Summer of Sport 2017’ feature, online editor Nancy Frostick spoke to England’s Sophie Bray about the upcoming EuroHockey Championships in the Netherlands

3rd year History and English student and online editor of Redbrick Sport. Might not have the skills to pay the bills, but once played at Wembley. Usually rabbiting on about women's football.
Images by fourthandfifteen

Team GB’s gold medal in women’s hockey at the Olympics last summer was the unexpected highlight of an unprecedented games in Rio for the nation’s athletes. One of multiple UoB alumna and hockey stars on the winning side in the thrilling final penalty shoot-out against the Netherlands was SV Kampong and England forward Sophie Bray. As England head to the Netherlands to defend their EuroHockey Championships title this summer, Redbrick Sport caught up with the former UoB student to see how the team’s preparations are coming along.

Q: After a really successful few years with Great Britain and England, there have been a few changes to the squad with some new players coming in – do you think this will change the team dynamic ahead of another major tournament?

A: At the end of any Olympic cycle there are always retirements and after Rio this has been no different. We will certainly miss the girls who have retired very much but the year after the Olympics is the time to rebuild. We have some young, fresh talent coming through who have brought a new energy to the group and I’m looking forward to playing with them. We will see if training hard for the last six months, getting used to the centralised programme and being full time athletes pays off. All of them are making great progress and I think a number of them are now ready for a tournament and that’s the next test for the group going forward this summer with the World League semi-finals and the Europeans.

Q: Who do you see as your main competition at the EuroHockey Championships?

A: I think it’s going to be a very tightly contested tournament. You’ve got the Dutch on home soil, who will take some beating especially after two years ago with us beating them in the final. I’m sure they’ll want revenge. Then there’s a young Spanish team that have got great potential. I think over the next four years running in to Tokyo they are going to be a side to watch. Then you’ve got the Germans who are very strong in Europe. They are a very well organised and structured team and kept a lot of their players from Rio, so they will be a test as well. The other nations could cause an upset too so there’s not going to be any easy matches, it’s going to be a tough competition but I’m really looking forward to it, especially with our title to defend.

I love playing out in Holland, the hockey culture out there is huge. My current club has nine hockey pitches, forty men’s teams and forty women’s teams

Q: You have been playing abroad in the Netherlands for the last few years – how has this strengthened your game?

A: I love playing out in Holland, the hockey culture out there is huge. My current club has nine hockey pitches, forty men’s teams and forty women’s teams and a huge junior section. In terms of strengthening my game, it has given me the opportunity to play with different players and you learn new things from playing against different people. Under a new coach it’s a different environment to learn. The style of play is quite attacking which suits my game and I really enjoying playing week-in, week-out in a high level of competition.

Q: What are your personal goals for 2017 for club and country?

A: Personally I’m building to the World Cup in my home city of London and I’ve got over a year to give myself the best possible chance and be the best player I can become come the World Cup. That’s the focus day-in, day-out in every training session. After Rio there was a little bit of time to take a break away from the sport but I’m ready to go again, I’m fully charged and looking forward to the challenges that will come my way in the next year and beyond.

Q: Finally, what do you miss about studying at UoB?

A: I still can’t believe it was nine years ago that I started there. I had an absolutely incredible three years with so many fond memories and there was also some great success on the hockey pitch as well. I miss being on campus and studying in the library with your mates and then going to training with your friends and being such a close community. It’s just one big place where you feel so at home. I will always look back with great memories.