British No1 Drinkhall promises an exciting show in Portsmouth

Olympic ace Paul Drinkhall
Olympic ace Paul Drinkhall
James Cockle (red) alongside team mate Chris Widman (blue) in action for Wightlink Warriors.

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PAUL DRINKHALL has promised fans an exciting evening of table tennis, when he paddles up in Portsmouth later this month.

The 22-year-old British No1 is on international duty as the Mountbatten Centre plays host to England’s must-win European Championship qualifier against Netherlands on November 20 (7pm).

And the Team GB ace, who recorded an impressive second-round victory over highly-rated Singaporean Zi Yang at the London Olympics, is excited to compete in front of home support once more.

He said: ‘I am looking forward to playing in Portsmouth in front of a home crowd.

‘This year we have had the Olympics and the World Cup in England and to have the continued support of a home crowd is amazing.’

The match against the Netherlands will mark the halfway stage in the qualification process for the 2013 JOOLA European Championships in Schwechat, Austria.

But England haven’t had it all their own way in their bid to secure promotion to the tournament’s prestigious Championship division, comprising Europe’s top 12 teams.

Having looked on course to qualify, after beating Slovakia 3-1 in their opening fixture, England came unstuck against a competitive Romanian team – a game Drinkhall missed while on club duty for German side Werder Bremen.

And defeat to visitors Netherlands is simply not an option for England.

Drinkhall said: ‘It’s a game that we simply cannot afford to lose.

‘Realistically there are four teams (England, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia) who can win the league and qualify for the Championship division.

‘If we win our four remaining matches, we know that gives us a strong chance and that is what we will set out to do.’

With so much at stake, Drinkhall and his England team-mates – fellow Olympian Liam Pitchford and national doubles champion Daniel Reed – could be forgiven for playing out a controlled, tactical battle against their lower-ranked Dutch opponents.

But the Middlesbrough man insists the Mountbatten Centre crowd are in for a treat.

He said: ‘People will see three very exciting players, not safe players, who all go out to win.

‘They are going to see some excellent table tennis.’

And Drinkhall is bullish in his assessment of the team’s future prospects.

He added: ‘English table tennis has an extremely bright future.

‘We are a young team who are all continuing our development by living and competing abroad, practising day-in, day-out against the best players in Europe.

‘We just have to keep working hard on our game and keeping a high-level of performance throughout all of our matches – and that starts against Netherlands.’

Tickets are still on sale for England’s important European Championships qualifier against Netherlands and can be bought on the door at the Mountbatten Leisure Centre or over the phone on (023) 9262 6509.