Hockey: Sinclair in driving seat for extravaganza

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ANDREW SINCLAIR has proved his fitness and is confirmed in the squad for Inverleith’s European indoor hockey debut this weekend.

The Edinburgh club are No. 1 seeds as they host the three-day EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy at Napier University from Friday.

Sinclair, a former Barcelona HC star, suffered a serious ankle injury helping Inverleith win the Scottish indoor title in 2011.

The Scottish internationalist was told it would be between nine and 12 months before he was back training but returned ahead of schedule. While used sparingly in the first half of the indoor season which has just ended, Sinclair played two matches as Inverleith won the Knockout Cup at Perth last weekend and is ready to line up for European action later this week.

Stuart Neave, Inverleith’s coach, said: “Andrew played two games last weekend as we won the Knockout Cup at Perth.

“He came through without any adverse reaction and is included in our squad. He is a class act having played at a high level domestically and abroad and we’re delighted to have him with us this weekend.”

Inverleith go in against French cracks Lille MHC, HC Kolos-Sekvoya Vinnitsa from the Ukraine, Czech Republic side HC 1972 Rakovnik, Slagelse HC from Denmark, Racing Club de Bruxelles from Belgium and AD Lousada of Portugal.

Graham Stuart will make his European indoor debut at the age of 33 and the former MIM goalkeeper, who played two years in Germany for Frankfurt 1880, is upbeat about the Capital outfit’s chances.

He said: “I was involved with MIM in Europe as a 19-year-old and it’s taken some time to play at this level indoors. In this competition, we play six games in three days. We’ve just played 14 games in our domestic league between early December and the start of February. Basically, that’s nearly half the games condensed into three days so it will be tough and you don’t get away with making any mistakes at this level.

“One bad mistake or one bad result can cost you dear and that could mean the difference between promotion and relegation.”

He added: “This is a new experience for some of the guys in the squad and it is a new experience for the club itself. And there is no doubt that we’ll have to hit the ground running.”

Racing Club are Inverleith’s first opponents and Stuart, who starts a new job as North Lanarkshire Council’s Active Sports Co-ordinator two days after the European event, said: “They are one of the strongest teams in the tournament and it is tough to play them in our opening game.

“If we could win that one and then beat Lousada of Portugal, apparently one of the weaker sides, then we would really be motoring. We’d have six points and doors swing open. We’re therefore looking for a big support. If fans could get behind us and fire up the atmosphere then that would be great.”

Stuart added: “I’m 33 now and these opportunities are not going to come around that often now for me so I’m determined to do everything I can to make it a successful campaign.”

• The EuroHockey Indoor Club Champions Trophy will be played at Napier University’s Sighthill Campus from February 17-19. Tickets are available on the day at venue or via www.ticketweb.co.uk; Prices are £5 for a day ticket and £12 for a three-day ticket. Under-16s can enter free with a ticketholder while senior citizens can enjoy free entry.