Ex-Harleston Magpie living the World Cup dream

Tim Whiteman and team-mate Barry Middleton go through their paces.

Tim Whiteman and team-mate Barry Middleton go through their paces. - Credit: Archant

Bungay hockey player Tim Whiteman has revealed how he thought his World Cup dream would simply materialise into nothing as he prepares to make his debut in The Hague.

Whiteman has been playing hockey for over two decades – his first club was Harleston Magpies – and even featured for England at under-21 level, but has had to wait to break into the senior team. The 27-year-old, a former pupil at Bungay High School, finally made his England debut at the World League Final back in January, having spent time coaching for a living before moving into teaching.

That has now all changed and his international bow was no baptism of fire as England defeated world number ones Australia to win bronze at the World League Final in India. Whiteman is part of an 18-strong England squad bidding for just the nation’s second World Cup medal in the Netherlands, but admits he’d given up hope of ever being able to do so.

“I’d played through the age groups and I got to 25 or 26 and just thought ‘well, if they haven’t asked now they probably won’t’,” said Whiteman.

“I think we knew there would be changes in personnel when [head coach] Bobby [Crutchley] took over, but I genuinely never thought that I was going to get offered a chance. I played relatively well in the assessment days, but even then I was probably a bit of a gamble so I’m probably indebted to Bobby.

“At the assessment days they looked at probably 50 or 60 people from all over the country and I felt like I played okay, but I didn’t think I was outstanding. So when Bobby called it was pretty incredible and I thought ‘wow, things are going to change’. I had a lot of questions for him and he was like ‘okay, calm down, Tim, we’ll sort all these out soon’.

“It just feels amazing to be going to the World Cup. A year ago I would have just joined the system and I never thought I’d even get that far.”

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Whiteman and England will face a tough set of matches after being drawn in Pool A alongside Spain, Belgium, India, Malaysia and Australia. However, with the defeat of Australia at the World League Final still fresh in his mind, Whiteman believes England have the chance to do something special.

“Australia have been at the top of the international tree for a long time and everyone knows how good they are, so to get a win against them was massive,” he added.

“Results like that make you think ‘wow, we’re in a team that could actually make some history in England terms’ and that’s really exciting.

“I was teaching before this so it’s all a bit surreal and, while I wouldn’t rule out going back to it one day, for now I’m living the dream being here.”