Glasgow 2014: Linda Clement prepares to end career

Linda Clement hailed her team's spirit after they fought back from 2-0 down. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Linda Clement hailed her team's spirit after they fought back from 2-0 down. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
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Scotland women’s hockey captain Linda Clement is preparing to call time on her glittering career, though she is well within sight of an astonishing 250-cap landmark.

It is almost certain that Scotland’s concluding Commonwealth Games match tomorrow, for fifth place, will be a swan song for the 34-year-old Watson’s College PE teacher following the 2-1 defeat by England which ended medal hopes on Glasgow Green.

Clement told the Evening News: “I’ll officially make a decision after the Games, but yes, this will be my last tournament.

“To play at a home Commonwealth Games has been really, really special.

“The home crowd have been outstanding, especially today.”

If confirmed, Clement will bow out before this summer’s European Championships in Belgium, where she expects her colleagues to deliver.

“There’s a lot of talent in the team and we have taken a lot of belief from these Games. The team can go on and do something special,” she said.

First capped in 2000 and Scotland’s captain for a decade, the forward could easily have bowed out with a medal had England and Team GB keeper Maddie Finch not been inspired as the hosts tried in vain to pull back a two-goal deficit after half an hour.

Nikki Kidd did drill the ball home from a penalty corner just before the interval and for much of the second half the Scots threw everything at their opponents without achieving vital breakthroughs.

“It was disappointing not to get more out of the game and sneak into the semi-final [because] we said at half-time go out there and leave nothing behind on the pitch and have no regrets.

“A lot of things we look back on and think ‘wish we had done things a little bit differently’, but on the whole the girls will hold their heads up high after putting a lot into that game.

“When Nikki scored from the corner it was a great feeling. At that stage we had plenty of time and until the end we played as if we believed we could get something out of it.”

There were reddened eyes as the Scots took their leave of the arena and Clement added: “It is a mixture of pride and frustration.

“Right now there’s mostly disappointment. There’s hurt because we came to do something special and get into top four.

“We’ve got a game still to play so we go away and prepare, taking some pride from the guts shown in taking the game to England and, in the second half, dominating for spells.”

Adding to the angst was a sense of injustice at the award of England’s second goal, with the Scots using their one permitted video review to claim the penalty corner in the lead-up shouldn’t have been awarded. Catriona Ralph earned a two-minute spell in the sin-bin as protests erupted, but the decision stood.

Clement said: “The review was to do with the short corner award which we felt was contentious.”

Laughter broke out in sections of the 5500 capacity crowd when England also asked for a review six minutes later.

To most it was obvious Nikki Kidd had been brought down over the outstretched leg of an English defender and the Scots had the last word with a stunning strike.

On the turn-around Clement led the offensive, forcing a double save from Finch, and the ball frequently whistled around the visitors’ goal-frame.

Alas Scotland, needing a win to avoid being eliminated on goal difference, ran out of time, but could content themselves with making a mockery of world rankings which have England ten places higher at sixth.

Scotland coach Gordon Shepherd paid tribute to his battling side.

“It was a fantastic performance, one I’m very proud of.

“We prepared so well for this game, we had a game plan that very nearly came off. In the second half, I don’t know if I’ve seen them play with such conviction, they were amazing.

“We had the corners, we had the open play chances. We had six corners, so no-one can say we didn’t create chances, but we just didn’t execute, that was the only thing.”

Meanwhile, Scotland international hockey’s loss is expected to be Watson’s College’s gain as Clement prepares to bow out with an unprecedented 241 caps and concentrate on further developing the sport at school level.

Helped by her coaching, Watson’s have recently won the East of Scotland and Scottish Under-18 Indoor titles, the East of Scotland Knock-out Cup, the Scottish Schools’ Cup and the Goldenacre Invitation Sevens.

Scottish hockey, clearly, hasn’t heard the last of Linda Clement.