ROBERT Barr shudders when he recalls how Grange froze in their debut in Europe’s top club tournament five years ago.
The Scottish internationalist is determined not to allow that to happen again when the club launches their second European Hockey League campaign in Barcelona on Friday in a group with Dutch masters Rotterdam and German champions Berliner. The 33-year-old defender is confident the club now have a much stronger squad to compete in the sport’s version of football’s Champions League.
The club’s blend of youth and experience encourages the former Scottish Universities star, who has played on the international stage in South Africa, Italy, Pakistan, Russia and Switzerland, to be confident of an upset.
Grange are in one group of eight. The three teams in each group play each other once in round one of the competition, with the top two progressing to round two when the tournament switches to a knockout format.
Barr, nicknamed “Bru”, admitted that Grange, who finished runners-up to Paisley-based Kelburne last season in Division One and the Scottish Cup, have to step-up their game but he believes this tournament has come at an ideal time for the players, who are determined to wrest the twin domestic titles from Kelburne this season.
The Grange skipper said: “It’s a huge step-up from domestic Scottish hockey to the top of European hockey. I remember five years ago when we played Terrassa. A few of the boys froze and we went 3-0 down quickly. That was the score at half-time and we got it together in the second half, holding them 0-0 and having two chances to score, which was an achievement. We don’t want the guys to freeze this time.
“It’s a privilege to be in the competition and to play against the cream of European hockey.
“Rotterdam were the most consistent team in Holland last season, finishing top of the table but losing out in the play-offs. Both Rotterdam and Berliner are packed with Olympic medal winners and international players but we can’t be in awe of them.
“There is no expectation on us at all however we must take any chances that come our way.”
Grange go into the challenge following a 6-1 home victory over Hillhead at Peffermill in their opening Division One fixture last Saturday.
Barr scored two goals, both from penalty corners, and experienced Phil Sully also chipped in with a double. Key midfielder Gary Cameron and new Irish striker Adam Fallis also netted.
Grange rested a number of players on Sunday for the Presidents Cup Final at Peffermill against city rivals Inverleith, which they lost 3-0.
Barr added: “We have a much stronger squad this season and we also include a number of highly-promising younger players, some of whom have international experience in the Scotland Under-18 and Under-21 set-up.
“Grange will be playing two of the world’s leading club sides this weekend and that must be good for the hockey education of the team. This is a great opportunity for us to learn. It is also a chance for us to see for ourselves how much we have to learn and work at to reach the top.
“We must, overall, enjoy and learn from this experience.”