Amy Gibson retires from international hockey
After 134 caps and fifteen years’ worth of international tournaments, Scotland goalkeeper Amy Gibson has retired from international hockey.
She explained, “It feels like a good time to retire. I’ve been part of the squad for a long time, and had injuries recently, and my motivation for training isn’t there anymore. Now is the time for me to move on and cheer on the team as a fan.”
Amy earned her first cap in 2008 at the age of 19, and it came as a surprise to the young goalkeeper. Scotland had two established goalkeepers in Carmin Dow and Abi Walker, however the latter’s involvement in GB allowed the young Gibson to join up with the Scottish squad.
It was a memorable debut in the snow in Germany. “I remember we all had blankets at the side of the pitch and the Germans played in trousers,” Gibson recalled.
It had always been her ambition to play for Scotland, and when coming through the Glasgow School of Sport, it was always on her mind. She said she felt destined to be a goalkeeper since having a Jim Leighton goalkeeper top as a child. Gibson added, “After dreaming about it for so many years, to make my debut was really cool. It was a brilliant squad, Keith Joss was the coach, Linda Clement was the captain, Cat Ralph was amazing, and Sam Judge was scoring all the goals. Carmin was super friendly, I spent a lot of time with her. It was just a great experience despite the snow!”
Gibson’s first tournament wasn’t far away; it was at Champion’s Challenge in Dublin. “Gordon Shepherd was the coach and it had been decided beforehand that I’d play two of the games – a group game and a knockout game. I played against the USA and my heart rate monitor went through the roof.
“It was another awesome experience. We won the bronze medal, which was incredible. It wasn’t normal for us to win something like that. The whole experience drove me on to try and become the number one.”
Subsequent retirements of Abi and Carmin saw Gibson take the opportunity to become goalkeeper, and things moved quickly. One year later, in Dublin, she played every game in the tournament. Gibson explained, “I was the next goalkeeper in line, and it gave me a great opportunity. I already had a little experience, and I was able to develop in the role – not a lot of goalkeepers get to do that. Being number one comes with a lot of responsibility, but I loved it. I always wanted to play and to have it become true brought pressure, but when you’re young, the pressure doesn’t feel like it does when you’re older.”
Amy says that with experience she became more vocal over time, and grew in confidence. It gave her the courage to move to Germany and grasp the opportunities hockey offered her.
Glasgow 2014 saw Gibson play in her first Commonwealth Games. Having been a travelling reserve for the previous Games in Delhi, the prospect of a home Games was one that she was not going to allow to pass her by. “It was exciting to be part of Delhi as a reserve, but it made me so determined to be part of Glasgow. The experience of 2014 was fun, though the hockey wasn’t great. We felt it was an opportunity missed.
“The hockey was frustrating, and personally it ended badly as I finished with what turned out to be a MCL injury. We only had one goalkeeper and Sarah Robertson almost had to suit up and play in goal. Off the pitch, the experience was incredible though. It’s definitely one to remember.”
Gibson was part of the GB programme at this time, and it offered another tremendous learning experience. She recalled, “Playing for GB was an ambition, but it wasn’t one I expected to happen. It was good seeing something different, and working with Maddie Hinch who was wonderful. It was thrilling to be there, and I learned a lot.”
In a Scotland shirt, the women’s team were enjoying a superb period of sustained A Division status. It was an incredible success for the squad to retain their position amongst the top teams in Europe for many years in a row. Gibson said, “We’d been a yo-yo team for many years, so it was great to have these competitive matches for so many years in a row. It was such a fine line. We were always on the cusp of being really competitive, but also having to compete against relegation.
“Having a target like that, and to achieve it, was amazing. The way we pulled together as a team to achieve these things was special.”
2018 brought around the next Commonwealth Games and saw Gibson and the squad compete in the Gold Coast. “Gold Coast was my favourite one. The weather and the vibes even had Derek Forsyth smiling! It was a unique experience.
“The women’s and men’s teams grew up together and there was a good bond between the squads. It was great living on the same street in the village. The hockey wasn’t bad either, though we were disappointed to draw with Canada. All-in-all, it’s a tournament I’ll never forget!.”
Gold Coast was quickly followed by another home tournament when Women’s EuroHockey Championship II came to Glasgow. It brought another huge success for Gibson and the squad, when the Scots won gold and gained promotion back to the top tier of European hockey.
She said, “The Euros in 2019 were brilliant. I love playing in Scotland and the number of fans who came to support at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre was crazy. It was a great vibe, and Scottish Hockey did a fantastic job organising and hosting the tournament.
“That team was kinda new. A lot of young players came into the squad and it was a good mix between youth and experience. The staff were amazing too – it was little things like Vikki Bunce organising a games room for us at the hotel, which was such a nice touch. Winning the tournament was incredible, I’ll never forget it.”
Covid struck and saw Gibson stuck in Germany. The Scots were given approval to compete at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam, and when the squad met up in the Netherlands it was the first time Gibson had seen her teammates since before the pandemic. She explained, “I drove to Amsterdam from Hamburg and there were new players in the team that I’d never actually met before. We just stepped out onto the pitch and got on with it, though it didn’t help that we were up against the Dutch. Despite all the challenges of Covid, it was a really good experience.”
Amy’s final Commonwealth Games arrived the following year when Birmingham 2022 took place. Scotland women finished up sixth after some fantastic performances.
Looking back, Gibson said, “I knew it was going to be my last Commonwealth Games, and I also knew it was possibly my last matches for Scotland. I ended up not retiring but the awareness that it was probably my last chance to do something in the Commonwealth Games was on my mind. I felt a lot of pressure. We all knew we had the opportunity to achieve something, and other than one game we did really well. We had a good performance throughout the tournament, and everyone bought into the tactics and targets. Birmingham was really good.”
Gibson was glad she didn’t retire after Birmingham but knew the EuroHockey Championships in Monchengladbach would be her last. It was a tournament that saw her end on a truly outstanding performance in her final match for Scotland. A string of sensational saves, including a penalty stroke, helped the Scots to a victory over Spain to finish up the tournament.
Gibson recalled, “A lot of players will look where they’ll hit the ball when taking a flick, but she just stared into my eyes. So, I just stared into her soul! To beat a top ten nation in Spain was incredible and shows what we can do.
“It was a shame that we had a couple of poor performances earlier in the tournament, which cost us. In the end, we were so happy to win that last game, and I think it sets the team up for the qualifiers and a chance to go back to the A Division.”
Scotland Women Head Coach Chris Duncan said, “When you reflect upon the international career of Amy Gibson, there are not enough superlatives to do justice to her impact. Her personality, humour, passion and performance have been quite simply exceptional. Her knowledge and hunger to learn more about the game, the ability to drive others to demand better on the training pitch, to her cheeky grin after pulling off another ridiculous save are characteristics which made her one of the best goalkeepers of her generation.
“In a career spanning an incredible 14 years, three Commonwealth Games, five EuroHockey Championships, and countless other tournaments as a leading member of the national side. She was goalkeeper of the tournament in the victorious home side in 2019 in Glasgow, as Scotland secured EuroHockey ‘B’ Division victory in front of a sell-out crowd at Glasgow Green, Captained Scotland against France in summer 2023, and above all, an immense performer and standard setter throughout her entire career.
“She was Vice-Captain of Scotland through her final tournament and in true Amy Gibson style, ended on a quite simply out of this world performance against Spain in her final game, as she kept Spain at bay with save after save, alongside a masterclass of penalty corner defensive calls, and saved a last gasp penalty stroke to secure an historic victory for Scotland against a top 10 side in tournament competition in decades.
“Amy has been an outstanding performer, passionate leader, standard setter, and confidante to many, but above all, represented Scotland with pride and a desire to constantly improve.
“We will miss her greatly in the group but know that she has set the standard for others to follow and wish Amy all the luck in the world in her future career endeavours.”
Amy has been supported by so many people throughout her career, and she is grateful to everyone who helped her along the way. She said, “I’d like to thank my first hockey coach, Alan Auld, who told me about the School of Sport. Thanks to Susan Arrans, Euan Miller, Chris Kane, and Gavin Sommerville who coached me at school.
“Thanks to my clubs, Lomond Ladies and GHK who started me off, and to Clydesdale Western. I want to thank all my Scotland coaches; Keith Joss, Gordon Shepherd, Jen Wilson, Chris Duncan, and all the assistants over the years.
“Thanks to Der Club An Der Alster and my German family.
“A huge thank you to my family, and Gavin Byers for putting up with me!”
“And last but not least a big thanks to Jimmy Lewis. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without his help and guidance, the best coach in the world!”
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