New Delhi: Terry Walsh's sudden exit as Indian hockey team's chief coach seems to have left a long lasting effect on the players, who said they were missing the Australian's services ahead of the FIH Champions Trophy.
The players were univocal in their praise for Walsh but said they won't let his departure affect their performance in the December 6-14 event to be held in Bhubaneswar.
"Walsh was a very good coach. The recent results have proved that. The combination of Walsh and Roelant Oltmans (High Performance Director) was good too. Oltmans is still with us and we are training accordingly to the plans drawn by them (Walsh and Oltmans) since last year," striker Ramandeep Singh told PTI.
"However, I don't know much about what the authorities are planning." Walsh, who replaced fellow Australian Michael Nobbs in October last year, had expressed his desire to return to India after he left the country unceremoniously following breakdown in his contractual talks with Sports Authority of India and Hockey India.
Hockey India, however, has shut the door on him and accused the Australian of financial irregularities during his stint with USA Hockey. HI President Narinder Batra made it clear that the federation no longer require his services.
"Walsh is a much better coach than Nobbs in every aspect. The way he looked after the team, communicated with us, did the planning and hardwork. Eventually, these are the things that count. He was very happy with us and we were very happy with him," added Ramandeep.
But the Indian players are slowly getting to terms with the reality that Walsh, who recently guided them to the Asian Games gold after 16 years and a rare 3-1 series win over world champions Australia in their own backyard, is no longer with the team.
India captain Sardar Singh opined with Ramandeep that Walsh was good coach but he chose to look at the positives ahead of Champions Trophy, saying the team's morale remains high despite the Australian's absence.
"There is no doubt that he (Walsh) was a very good coach. All I know is that his one year contract was over and he left. SAI and Hockey India would know more on the subject," he said.
"The team atmosphere has been good and we are training the same way as we did under Walsh. Oltmans has also been around for a longtime and that is helping us," said Sardar.
India take on Germany in their opening match of the eight-nation tournament and Sardar said the home team aims to maintain its level of performance which it demonstrated in the Asian Games and Australia.
"We will try to maintain the level we have shown of late. It is the last tournament of the year so we want to give it whatever we have. The win over world champions Australia gave us a big boost but we still have a long way to go in becoming one of the top teams," the ace midfielder said.
He insisted the team has been able to prepare well despite the off-field issues. "We have been busy in training. There has hardly been any time to read the newspapers. We are basically working on how to be consistent through out 60 minutes. You must have seen we did not make the mistakes of the World Cup in the Asian Games and Australia, mainly conceding last minute goals," Sardar said.
"Having said that, technically we have a long way to. We can't be our 50 per cent one day and 90 the next day. There is still lot of time before Olympics so the boys are determined to improve. Little things like how to hold the ball right before the hooter, how to create scoring opportunities. These things make a lot of difference," he said.