Over the course of last season, we ran a series of features in the Official Matchday Programme with some Arsenal-supporting London 2012 Olympic hopefuls. We continue with hockey star Harry Martin...
Harry Martin may only be 19, but the hockey star is already an established member of the GB squad, having come to prominence for his country last year in the Commonwealth Games in India.
One of the most talked about attacking players the game has seen in a years, the Ipswich-born Gooner creates and scores goals at inside forward for England and also his club, Old Loughtonians - and he told us earlier that it’s the strong Arsenal association at ‘Old Loughts’ that has inspired his love of the Gunners.
Tell us about your support for Arsenal first Harry...
I guess I’ve been a fan ever since I joined Old Loughtonians Hockey Club when I was around 12. They have such a strong connection with the team. If we have a game and then Arsenal are on TV later that afternoon, the whole team will be in the clubhouse cheering the lads on. Once I’d joined Old Loughts you soon feel like a fan. The first match I remember watching and really knowing I was a true supporter was the 2005 FA Cup final when we won on penalties. I think the fact my dad’s a Man United fan made me want us to win even more!
And another England hockey player with Arsenal connections, Darren Cheesman, came through Old Loughtonians, didn’t he?
Yes, Darren was one of the original players who came from the actual ‘Gunners’ youth team there, set up by Arsenal in the Community, whereas I was at a small club in Ipswich originally. Darren’s a huge Arsenal fan and he’s helped me a lot in my career.
Do you get to see Arsenal live very much?
I’ve been down to Emirates Stadium quite a few times, though it’s nearly always midweek because of playing at weekends. I’m from Ipswich and I came to the Carling Cup semi-final with lots of my mates who are big Ipswich fans, at one point I had to put a jumper on to cover my Arsenal shirt as I was stood with hundreds of their fans!
Looking around the stadium, could you imagine playing hockey in front of 60,000 fans here?
That would be amazing. In the Commonwealth Games in India I played in front of 30,000 people - all supporting India! That was an incredible atmosphere, the fans were really passionate but it really spurred me on.
Do you know much about the hockey stadium you’ll be gracing this summer?
Funnily enough, we were down there last week to play on the pitch, which has now been put down. It was a really nice surface, though an unusual colour, blue with pink around the edge – I think it’s done that way for TV. The stands weren’t built yet but I think it’s going to hold around 20,000 fans and having that home support will be unbelievable. Everyone was really excited about going down there last week.
You were in the England squad whilst you were still at school, was that difficult?
It was really hard because after the Commonwealth Games, going back to school was the last thing that I wanted to do. I carried on though and just got to training camps when I could.
How good are GB currently?
At the moment we are fourth in the world, behind Germany, Holland and Australia. We do beat Germany and Holland though.
[laughs] They are a bit ahead at the minute, but we did beat them last year.
Unlike a number of our Arsenal Olympians, you’re involved in a sport where there will definitely be an expectation to claim a medal…
We’ll be pretty disappointed if we don’t get at least to the semi-finals. In fact, in the last couple of tournaments we’ve lost in the semis and there’s nothing worse. It’s good though that we are in a position where we are disappointed if we don’t make a final, it shows we are doing okay. I remember the euphoria when we won gold in Seoul in 1988, suddenly everyone loved hockey! I think there’s huge excitement in the hockey world about the Olympics, it’s massive for us, we all know that. If we do well it will raise our profile. It helps our funding too, although to be honest we’ve been really lucky with funding. I’ve spoken to people who were in the system in the past and they had to hold down jobs as well as train and I’m so thankful we don’t have to do that.
Back to Arsenal and which players do you particularly admire?
Well I was disappointed to see Cesc leave, but you can understand his reasons. Obviously I really like Robin van Persie, he’s unbelievable and I’m a really big fan of Jack Wilshere. I sort of relate to him in that he was quite young to be breaking into England’s senior squad and I was gutted, like all supporters, when we found out his injury was worse than we thought.