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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 16:39 UK

Clarke targets 100th England cap

Jonty Clarke
Jonty Clarke scored two goals for Great Britain at the Beijing Olympics

England hockey forward Jonty Clarke is hoping to gain his 100th cap at the forthcoming European Championships.

Clarke, who needs five more to reach this landmark, told BBC Essex: "Getting to 100 caps is a nice milestone and is something that will be pleasing."

The Eurohockey Nations tournament, for both men and women, takes place in Amsterdam at the end of August.

Rochford-born Clarke, who made his England debut in 2002, is the longest-serving player in the current squad.

Originally from Southend-on-Sea, he now plays for Reading Hockey Club, having started at Old Southendians.

"I think there will be some sort of memento for reaching 100," he said. "But I don't know what that is."

Clarke needs to play five more matches to gain his century.

There will be two capped-training games against France in mid-August and then three pool games in Amsterdam.

Finishing with the two classification games of the tournament, he will have plenty of chances to reach the landmark.

EUROHOCKEY NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP OPPONENTS
Aug 23 v AUSTRIA Came seventh at the recent Champions Challenge II in Ireland
Aug 24 v GERMANY Lost out to Belgium and came 4th in 2007
August 26 v BELGIUM Surprise bronze medallists at the Manchester tournament
Aug 28-30 classification matches

Clarke, who has hit 17 goals in his 95 games for England, was part of the Great Britain team at the Beijing Olympics.

Clarke bagged two goals against South Korea to seal a fifth-place finish - the best result for a British team at the Olympics since winning gold in 1988.

"I was really, really happy to score those goals," he said. "Partly for me, because I hadn't scored any at the Olympics, but also for the team.

"The difference between coming fifth instead of sixth was quite big for us."

But it has not been too hard readjusting to normal life.

"Going to the Olympics is such a massive focus for you," he added. "It takes up your life.

"There is a little bit afterwards with a 'what now' feeling. For me I've just sat my final accountancy exams, so that's helped to give me a focus back into normal life."

The 18-man squad includes a number of recent additions.

Loughborough Students' Richard Smith, Beeston's Adam Dixon, Reading's Iain Mackay, and Bowdon Hightown's Alastair Brogdon have all made their debuts this year.

"We've been integrating those younger players slowly as the summer has gone on," said Clarke. "Our performances have got better and we can start to threaten those top teams."

England won a three-game Test series 2-1 against India in Birmingham at the end of July.

The European Championships start on Saturday, 22 August when England play Austria in their opening game on the second day of the tournament.

England's best performance at the Eurohockey Nations Championship was second in 1987 when they lost on penalties to the Dutch.

The last European competition was staged in Manchester, when the England men's side finished a disappointing fifth.

A top-four placing would secure a place at next year's World Cup in New Delhi.

All of the English players who went to Beijing and have not since retired are included, Barry Middleton having taken on the captaincy.



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