Albery savouring Olympic call-up five years on from losing place on GB programme

Albery is one of seven debutants in a 16-strong men’s squad bound for Paris 2024.

By Tom Harle

James Albery says having international hockey taken away from him has made an Olympic call-up all the sweeter.

Albery is one of seven debutants in a 16-strong men’s squad bound for Paris 2024.

But it could have been so different with the 28-year-old losing his place on the GB programme in 2019 and forced to lean on his club Old Georgians.

“It was a tough time,” said Albery. “I had to regroup and decide if it was something I wanted to do.

“But as soon as I decided, I believed I could make it back with a lot of hard work and a lot of application.

“My club came through for me and I got a job at St George’s College in Weybridge - they were amazing, they gave me all the time I needed to fulfil my training commitments. I definitely wouldn’t have been back here without them.

“It ended up being a good few years, I enjoyed myself and didn’t lose track of the fact that this is where I wanted to be. I’m proud I managed to get through it and it makes this moment even better.”

The men’s squad features a mix of youth and experience with skipper David Ames and striker Sam Ward set to represent Team GB for the third time.

Despite only rejoining the programme recently, Albery - who has Head Boy at the Leys School in Cambridge - captained the side for periods in 2022 and 2023 in Ames’ absence.

“Captaining the team is something I was hugely proud to do,” said Albery. “I wouldn’t say it’s something I think much about - someone has to be out there wearing the armband!

“In roles like captaincy and head boy, you need to have people behind you and on the same page and want to follow you. It’s not something I think about that much but it’s a role I enjoy and when you have a squad like we do, it makes it really easy.”

Head coach Paul Revington has overseen a transformation in the team, instilling an attacking philosophy and leading England to the final of the EuroHockey Championships.

Team GB begin their campaign against Spain on 27 July, with reigning world champions Germany and reigning European champions Netherlands looming large in Group A.

The pool also features France and South Africa, with the top four sealing progression to the quarter-finals.

“I think you can expect a few surprises from us,” said Albery. “In the past, people wouldn’t have put us down to go all the way. But we’re really confident in the way we’ve been playing and I think we’re capable of going and doing something special.”

Aldi’s Nearest & Dearest programme helps maximise support and minimise potential distractions for athletes so that they can focus on their performance and make the most of the unique opportunity to compete on one of the world’s largest stages.

Albery’s family will be out in force in the French capital, giving the defender a chance to repay all of their sacrifices over the years.

“My girlfriend, my parents and sister were the people who told me to keep going when I was doubting it myself,” said Albery. “They weren’t going to let me give up and that support network has been amazing over the last three years. I’m forever grateful for them and it’s going to be wonderful to have them all in Paris with me.”

Aldi are proud Official Partners of Team GB & ParalympicsGB, supporting all athletes through to Paris 2024