Despite protest David John to be on Indian team bench

London: Pressure from hockey officials eyeing the Olympic squad manager`s position notwithstanding, physiologist David John is all set to be a part of the team bench during the Games here.

John`s initial nomination as team manager had caused controversy in India as several hockey officials criticised the appointment of a foreigner to that position, prompting Hockey India to amend his status to "Stand-in Manager."

Hockey team officials on Friday said placing exercise physiologist John on the team bench in place of a "decorative" manager is a professional decision in the largest interest of the squad.

They felt the controversy about a foreigner`s appointment as manager was just a petty effort by some sports officials, who were angling for the manager`s position that would place them in the spotlight.

Team officials, not wanting to be identified, said those opposing John`s nomination as team official did not understand the practical aspect of the appointment as it allowed an extra professional on the team bench during the Olympic Games.

The protest within Hockey India`s power structure forced the HI to appoint Clarence Lobo, one of the team`s coaching staff, as the manager and downgraded John to his assistant`s position. But that was just to silence the critics and spike protests.

Come Monday and John would be on the bench in India`s opening Olympic match against former champions The Netherlands. He would take that slot as the team manager, but in fact would be assisting chief coach Michael Nobbs, who like John, is an Australian.

John, who doubles up as a bio-mechanist and a fitness trainer, has had a long-standing professional association with Nobbs as they have worked together for nearly three decades.

Team officials said Nobbs considers the inputs from John of vital importance. "In such a big tournament an extra professional on the bench will benefit the team more," he said.

Eight-time gold medallists India are making a return to the Olympic hockey competition after missing the 2008 Beijing Games due to their failure to qualify.

Several changes occurred in the Indian team management over the years before Nobbs stepped into the national team coach`s position last year, and John became part of the support staff soon after.

Nobbs has said the Indian team is striving to give a good account of itself in the Olympic Games, where the country has not made the semifinals since winning the last of their eight gold medals in the boycott-hit 1980 Games in Moscow.