By RJ Mitchell
DAN TRAVERS has urged our all-conquering Women’s Badminton team to play with “no fear” when they travel to Łódź, Poland for the finals of the 2024 European Women’s Team Championships.
The Scottish Badminton legend was left highly impressed as our girls swept all before them in their Group 4 qualification section defeating hosts Azerbaijan, Slovakia, and Estonia without dropping a single tie.
Travers, who was national coach in 1997, and also a former president of Scottish Badminton, has no doubt that we have the quality to trouble the best when the action gets underway at the Sport Arena Łódź from February 14-18.
With our women’s team joining defending champions Denmark, hosts Poland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Spain and Turkey in the draw, Travers reckons no one will fancy taking on our Tartan Terrors.
Dan said: “First of all I am absolutely delighted for the girls to have qualified for the finals and in such impressive fashion.
“I know how tough it is to make it to a finals as we were close on two occasions when I was national coach and just came up short.
“The girls have certainly more than achieved my hopes and ambitions, the first thing I looked at when the draw was made was that it was a long way to go all the way to Azerbaijan and that the journey and everything associated with it would be draining for them.
“So I just think it is brilliant for the girls and it will be great exposure in the finals but what I would urge them to do is to go there and give it 100% and most importantly of all – play with no fear.”
Dan, the 1986 Commonwealth Games Men’s Doubles gold medallist, when he partnered Billy Gilliland, also believes the value of the experience gained in Azerbaijan will prove priceless for the likes of Lauren Middleton who clinched the decisive victory against Estonia on Saturday morning.
He said: “It has been a great experience for the younger girls and they will have benefitted massively from it all and especially Lauren Middleton to win the decisive match.
“Lauren is a lovely mover and is a very nice player but she was in a situation where she had to handle the pressure and after she dropped the second game it didn’t get any bigger than having the full qualification hopes resting on her shoulders.
“So for Lauren I hope she will hopefully have come through and learned an enormous amount. Playing in a team event for your country, well there is nothing like it, especially if you are winning.
“It would have been an expensive trip for the union but with the outcome it really has been justified and now they have the finals to look forward to, so well done to the girls.”
Dan also had warm words of praise for the women’s doubles top pairing of Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance and he said: “For me Julie MacPherson is a terrific player and every time I watch her I get more impressed and she has developed a very strong partnership with Ciara and they were so solid in Azerbaijan.
“There was no messing about, they just got the job done and I loved that.”
Concluding on the girls finals rites of passage Dan said: “It is just a good team and the great thing is they are still quite young and that bodes well for the future. The finals will be tough but we will be in there competing and these girls are scared of no one.
“They will just have learned so much from this trip and I’m sure Poland can’t come soon enough for them!”
Meanwhile at Milton Keynes there was heartache for the Scottish Men who just failed to make it out of Group 5 subgroup 1 when they lost the decisive opening encounter 2-3 to Ukraine.
However as Dan rightly pointed out there were a huge number of positives to take from the 4-1 finale success against Slovakia that bodes well for the future.
The former World No.2 Men’s Doubles ace said: “I’m just really disappointed for the boys; they are working very hard and it’s a bit disheartening but the men’s game is really tough at the top level.
“But I don’t think it is a big blow, obviously they will be gutted, but I think we are just short a wee bit in depth in the singles and that is because our singles players right now are young guys, still developing and progressing and they will have learned so much from last weekend.”
Turning his microscope on the positives that point to a bright future for our men the great Travers said: “Without doubt this will have been a brilliant experience for young Matthew (Waring). To get the chance to make his full debut at 17 in the European qualifiers, the whole aspect of being away with the team will have been a huge learning curve for him.
“But then he has also acquitted himself really well, first losing a tough three-setter and then getting his first victory for Scotland against Slovakia – well that will be massive for him. So he can take a tremendous amount from the experience.” “
Dan also pointed to the return, ahead of schedule from a career threatening injury of three-time national singles champion Callum Smith and he said: “If Callum had been fully fit, in terms of match time, it could have been a different story.
“For me Callum is the No.1 but he is still on his way back to full fitness; he just played his first tournament in six months after the ankle injury the week before in Wales, so there is no way he would be at full match fitness.
“He has done really well to get back to this level as quickly as he has after a major injury like that and now he needs to aim for the next level.
“Obviously he lost his first match in the third set and that was a tough one where he was tested physically but he did really well to come back and win against Slovakia.
“Singles at that level is all about having the fitness and then you need the desire, you just have to want it more than they do.
“But first of all you have to have the fitness level to compete right to the end and well done to Callum for busting a gut to make it back in time and he can build on this.”
There were also multiple positives for Dan to take from the doubles as he shared: “It has been a great experience for Adam (Pringle) to be playing with Matthew (Grimley) and then pairing up with Jack MacGregor and getting the win against Slovakia, so we have great depth there.
“With our men’s doubles there is not a lot of difference between the first pair in Alex (Dunn) and Adam (Hall) and the second pairing in the Grimley twins.
“You look at the Grimleys winning those back-to-back doubles titles in Ireland and Wales, men’s doubles is really tough but we have two very good pairs and now a third one with Adam and Jack starting to progress and that is very promising for us.
“The gap between them and the second pair of Chris and Matthew (Grimley) is closing and if they get more exposure they will only continue their improvement and move to the next level.
“So we are very solid doubles wise in the men going forward.”