Thursday, October 5, 2023

Hockey: Craig Fulton prone to succeed Graham Reid as India boss mentor

Fulton is currently an assistant coach with Olympic champions Belgium, who finished runners-up at the World Cup in Odisha in January.

It looks like Hockey India (HI) has more or less zeroed in on Graham Reid’s successor as chief coach of the Indian men’s team. South African Craig Fulton has emerged as the probable successor of the Australian, who led India to its first Olympic medal in 41 years.

“Even though it is not confirmed yet, Fulton looks likely to take up the job,” an official in the Indian hockey setup said on condition of anonymity.

Fulton is currently an assistant coach with Olympic champions Belgium, who also finished runners-up at the World Cup in Odisha in January.

Fulton became a probable candidate for the India job because unlike him most top coaches are contracted with teams till the 2024 Paris Olympics. “I don’t know if he is going or not but I understand the situation. His contract was from the 2018 World Cup to the 2023 World Cup which is why probably he became a non-controversial choice contract-wise,” an official in the Belgium hockey setup said.

Fulton is also a coach with Belgian club KHC Dragons and guided Racing to the Belgian hockey league title last year. “The league gets over on May 15 so it is possible that he may leave before it is over,” said the Belgium official.

A former international who played 191 matches for South Africa from 1996 to 2005, the 48-year-old also played in the 1996 and 2004 Olympics and the 2002 World Cup.

After coaching stints in multiple clubs in England, Ireland and South Africa, Fulton became the Ireland head coach in 2014. He guided Ireland to bronze at the 2015 EuroHockey Championship and helped them qualify for both the 2016 Rio Olympics – their first since the 1908 London Olympics – and the 2018 World Cup. He was also named the 2015 FIH Men’s Coach of the Year.

After his four-year stint with Ireland, Fulton joined Belgium as an assistant to head coach Shane McLeod in 2018, helping them win the World Cup in Bhubaneswar later that year. He was also part of the Belgian outfit that won the Tokyo Olympics gold and silver at the 2023 World Cup in Odisha.

Fulton’s brother Grant and wife Natalie were also South Africa internationals.

Meanwhile, in Bengaluru, interim coaches David John and BJ Kariappa have joined the India camp and have started training the team starting Wednesday. It has been learnt that Reid’s final day of the one-month notice period was Tuesday. Reid quit after India’s disappointing show at the World Cup in January where the hosts finished joint ninth – the worst show by a host nation.

“He did not come to practice the last two days and told us that his return ticket is confirmed and he will be flying out in a couple of days,” said an India player.

The team will train in Bengaluru till March 6 before travelling to Rourkela where they will play Pro League matches against newly crowned world champions Germany and Tokyo Olympics silver medallists Australia from March 10 to 15.

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