Ollie Payne's family couldn't even handle the pressure of him competing

·3-min read
Commonwealth Games - Men's Hockey- Pool B - England v Ghana - University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash centre, Birmingham, Britain - July 29, 2022 England's Ollie Payne reacts REUTERS/Phil Noble (Phil Noble / reuters)

Ollie Payne’s grandad had to leave halfway through one of England’s previous group games because he could not cope with the tension. It was a good job he wasn’t in attendance for their remarkable match against India.

The England goalkeeper from Totnes, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support,has brought as many friends and family as possible, including grandparents Ron and Val.

But they were not in the stands for the big game against India at the University of Birmingham, and that was probably a good thing.

Payne said: “Half of Devon, I think has come up. (My grandparents) have been up but grandad watched one half of a game and then said his blood pressure was too high so he had to leave.

“They are home now but might come up to the semi or final, whatever we’re in. I said to him, I’d prefer him alive than coming to watch our games.”

Up against their biggest rivals in the group, England looked well off the pace as they trailed 3-0 at half-time, Mandeep Singh scoring twice on the counter-attack as India picked their hosts off at will.

A strike from Liam Ansell early in the third quarter looked like it would be a mere consolation when Harmanpreet Singh restored India’s three-goal lead.

But from there, England pounced on India’s indiscipline, including two yellow cards in the fourth quarter.

Phil Roper cut the deficit to two with a brilliant individual score before Nick Bandurak’s double earned the draw in a game England arguably could have won at the death – leaving Payne struggling to find the words to sum it up.

He said: “There are loads and loads of emotions. We shouldn’t have started poorly but the character to come back and do what we did was pretty special. It was a pretty special day to be part of. I haven’t played in front of a home crowd like that, ever.

“At half-time, there was an element of calmness but also a rocket as well. We know how good this side can be, I think we showed that in the second half. The first half wasn’t anywhere near our best. Result aside, that performance is something we can be proud of. That’s what we can take away, our forwards look like they are starting to really kick up a gear and are a real threat. And it’s playing with that freedom and a bit of bite. I’m very proud, very frustrated.

“Hopefully we can keep playing with freedom like we have today and ride that crowd, which is unbelievable. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

England may need Wales to do them a favour if they are to top the group and potentially avoid favourites Australia, with India currently in control of the group on goal difference.

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