Reasons for hockey coach Graham Reid’s resignation: Performance, team selection and tactics

FORMER AUSTRALIA International Graham Reid became the first and, perhaps, the biggest casualty of India’s debacle at the hockey World Cup after he resigned Monday as chief coach with Hockey India saying this marked the beginning of a “new approach” for the men’s team.

Reid, who guided India to a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, informed the players about his decision Sunday night. On Monday morning, he met Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey to submit his resignation.

Along with Reid, the foreign coaching support staff — analytical coach Gregg Clark and scientific advisor Mitchell Pemberton — has put in its papers, too.

The trio’s resignation comes in the aftermath of India’s embarrassing World Cup campaign on home soil after they lost to lower-ranked New Zealand in the playoff for the quarterfinals. The team finished joint ninth along with Argentina while Germany went on to be champions after they defeated Belgium in the final Sunday.

After his resignation, the 58-year-old Reid said he had “enjoyed every moment of this epic journey”. “It is now time for me to step aside and hand over the reins to the next management,” he said in a statement.

While the World Cup performance is being considered an immediate trigger for the move, tension had been brewing behind the scenes within the hockey camp for a while.

It is learnt that the players, in a closed-door meeting late last year with Hockey India officials, had expressed dissatisfaction over Reid’s selections and tactics. Some of these points were reiterated following the exit from the World Cup, it is learnt. The coach, on the other hand, was said to be frustrated after some of his choices — especially with regard to support staff — were overruled by Hockey India.

At that point, the national governing body believed a change of coach close to a World Cup would have negatively impacted the team. But after a shock loss to New Zealand in a campaign where India began strongly but lost their way, Reid’s position became untenable.

Reid became India’s coach in mid-2019 on the back of another disappointing World Cup. At the time, he was the team’s 26th chief coach in 25 years.

In a recent interview with The Indian Express, he had joked that he expected to get fired within the first three months of taking over but he ended up becoming the longest-serving foreign coach of the team and injected Indian hockey with stability and self-confidence.

The team’s Tokyo bronze was India’s first Olympic medal after 40 years. However, the performances since then had been mixed and the premature exit at the World Cup came as the final straw.

Last week, when asked if he would continue as the India coach, Reid was non-committal. “I have signed through till Paris (Olympics in 2024). I have signed a contract. But we’ll be reviewing, I assume, at the end of this (World Cup),” he had said.

In his meeting with the team Sunday night, Reid is learnt to have told the players to put the disappointment of the World Cup beyond them. “He told the players to work harder than ever and stay committed. He said he had full faith in their potential to win bigger medals,” a team source said. “It was an amicable meeting. He told the players he will be resigning, but did not get into the reasons behind it.”

Tirkey, the country’s most-capped international and a former India captain, said it “is now time for us to move on towards a new approach for our team”. He, however, did not elaborate on the strategy.

India are scheduled to host world champions Germany and Australia in the FIH Pro League in March but the year’s next big target is the Asian Games, which is an Olympic qualifier.

A coaching change so close to the multi-discipline event can get tricky but Hockey India secretary-general Bhola Nath Singh said it was done in the best interests of the team. “Whatever is happening is for the good. And going forward, too, we will take decisions that will be in the best interest of the sport,” he said.

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