Western Wildcat Kaz Cuthbert so proud to lead Scotland on home soil

Kaz Cuthbert (front left) will captain Scotland at the EuroHockey Championship II in Glasgow
Kaz Cuthbert (front left) will captain Scotland at the EuroHockey Championship II in Glasgow

Proud hockey star Kaz Cuthbert says captaining her country in a major tournament on home soil is as good as it gets.

The Western Wildcats player-coach will skipper Scotland in the Women’s EuroHockey II Championship which gets under way at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre on Sunday.

Promotion to the top flight of European hockey is the prize of offer to the top two sides in the eight-team, week-long tournament.

And the 31-year-old says the inspiration which home support will bring can help drive the Scots on to glory in the same way as it did for the men’s side in similar circumstances two years ago.

She said: “There’s no greater privilege than to captain your team but to captain your team at home stirs up everything.

“You do get emotional because you’re just so proud to be out there with your team, buy also in front of a home support. It’s something you don’t get every day.

“It’s going to be amazing and I’m very privileged to be in that position, but I am nowhere without my team so it’s just phenomenal for us all to be standing out there.

“It’s exciting to be at home and everybody loves it.

“We’ve got lots of friends and family coming to support us and there’s a sense of confidence because you know the turf, you know they layout, you know how everything’s going to run - it’s putting our stall out and saying ‘you’ve got to come and beat us on our home turf.

“You never under-estimate the benefit of home advantage. The boys did it two years ago and it was a fantastic event.

“They had the exact same, a European Championship trying to get promoted up to the top division.

“The home support was phenomenal and they absolutely smashed it so we’ll be looking to replicate that.”

Kaz will be joined in the squad by two of her Milngavie-based Western Wildcats team-mates Becky Ward and Kate Holmes.

Scotland open their campaign against Ukraine on Sunday before facing Austria on Tuesday and the old foes Czech Republic on Wednesday - it was a 1-0 loss to the Czechs which relegated the Scots from the top flight two years ago.

The top two from each of the two groups - the other section comprises Italy, Wales, Poland and Turkey - go through to the last four with the two semi-final winners earning promotion, as well as the chance to each other for the gold medals.

Kaz and the Scots go into the tournament confident, but still taking nothing for granted, after an encouraging build-up.

She said: “We just finished training camp there at the weekend and played a couple of gamnes, against the development squad and under-16 boys.

“We were also in Ireland the week before and played a three-test series against them. We won the final game which was a really good marker for us because they were the World Cup silver medalists.

“We recently played in a Hockey Series final and beat Ukraine 4-0; not that we would ever underestimate anyone but we’re pretty confident going into that one.

“Austria are a tier below so again we would expect to go in there pretty confidently.

“We played the Czech Republic and it went to running penalties after a draw, which we ended up losing, but we had pressure and all the play and if we can be as clinical as we know we can I don’t fear the Czech Republic.

“It would then be all down to the crossover play-off.”

Success at next week’s event would not only be celebrated nationally but would also continue a remarkable year for Western Wildcats, at domestic and international level.

In February the Wildcats men became Scottish indoor champions for the first time and in April the ladies won the Grand Fibnal to qualify for Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

And since the end of the club season Wildcats players have earned international recognition, and enjoyed success, across a variety of age groups.

Kaz said: “There’s myself, Becky Ward and Kate Holmes in the senior squad and while the boys’ teamn hasn’t been announced for the Euros but there’s definitely two or three Wildcats in contention there.

“But what was really brilliant this summer was that Catriona Booth was captain of the girls’ under-21 team which also included Rachel Bain and they won their Europeans to get promoted.

“And we also had two boys - Andrew McAllister and Andrew McConnell - in the under-21 boys and they also won their Europeans.

“It’s been such a fantastic summer not only for Scotland but for Wildcats and we can’t wait for the season to start. It’s been a phenomenal year.”