KENNY Bain, a Rangers supporter, attended a match at Ibrox on his last trip home from Amsterdam and sat among 43,000 people applauding a lot of goals being scored against meagre opposition.
As a hockey player, Bain is used to his goals being applauded by no more than a couple of hundred people, even when he scores them in the world’s strongest league, the Hoofdklasse. Next summer, however, selection and fitness pending, he will experience what it is like to be the recipient of a noisy, partisan support, and the showman in him admits that the attention will not be unwelcome.
“It sounds quite cocky, but I am one of these guys who loves people watching me play,” he says. “I’m a crowd-pleaser and I like to show people that I can do things well. I’m not talking about skills that are out of this world, I just enjoy the attention, and there is nothing better for a sports player than to walk off the field and be told ‘well played Kenny’.
“Hockey is massive over here in Holland and we sometimes play in front of a couple of thousand. I’ve played in so many big games and I’ve had disappointments and successes, so I’m more than ready for whatever is going to come up at me at the Commie Games. I’m a big-game player and whenever there is a crowd I tend to come out and go for it.”
Scottish hockey players will have the best of both worlds when they grasp this unprecedented opportunity to showcase their abilities on Glasgow Green. They can bask in the acclaim when things go well and, unlike the majority of athletes who compete as individuals, they won’t have to stand alone, sombre and sheepish, if things go wrong.
The men have been drawn in Pool A alongside Australia, who have won men’s hockey gold in all four of the Games where it has been contested, as well as India, Wales and South Africa. Wales came in when Pakistan stepped out, and Bain fancies the chances of a young Scotland side in that match. He also believes South Africa as “there for the taking”. India and Australia he describes loosely as “unbeatable”, something he won’t be allowed to say nearer the time.
Bain, 23, has lived in the Netherlands for the past four years, playing and coaching the game he loves. It means he is out of the thoughts of Team GB selectors, but he has built a life and it is not one he would casually relinquish.
He plays for Hurley and coaches at another club, Naarden, drives a scooter and lives with his physiotherapy student girlfriend, Victoria, his best friend and fellow Scotland player, David Forsyth, and a cat, Sassy, “who keeps the house mouse-free because Amsterdam is riddled”.
Being away from Glasgow has its ups and downs. He will be able to avoid the Games hype that will inflate like a balloon next year, but it can be hard for Bain to watch Scottish hockey struggle because top players have gone to England or the Netherlands to make a living. “This is definitely the place to be for hockey. It’s the third-biggest sport over here and everywhere you look you see somebody on their bike with a hockey stick. There is so much funding, too. The only thing that pains me is that the Scottish league loses a lot of big names,” he says.
“It’s difficult to see people playing at home and struggling, especially my old club, Kelburne. Watching them play against Oz, who I played against two weeks ago, and watching them get slaughtered like that, with my brother playing for them, was hard. I know hockey is getting better and better over in Scotland, but it takes time.” A young men’s national team needs time, too, to bed in, but Bain, who now has 112 caps, has been upbeat ever since Derek Forsyth, father to David, took charge.
“Ever since Derek has taken over there has been much better communication – some of the coaches we’ve had in the past have just said ‘right, this is what’s happening’ and if you didn’t do it, you were screwed. There is more understanding and you need that, with so many players living outside Scotland,” he says.
That potential career highlight is now only eight months away, and the excitement in players like Bain, who missed out on the London Olympics, is tangible. “It only really hit me in the summer when we trained at the new National Hockey Centre at Glasgow Green for the first time, and I thought ‘Christ, this is going to be really good’,” he said.
“I played against India in Delhi and when they had their national anthem playing in front of a 20,000 home crowd, we all had goose bumps. As soon as we had the ball, it was silent, and when they had the ball the crowd erupted.
“If the Scottish crowd can match that passion it could really get into the guys’ heads and maybe spark something new for Scotland as a hockey team.”