THE Commonwealth Games may have been more glamorous and higher profile but it is this week’s EuroHockey qualifier that will define this year for the Scottish men’s team.

Fresh off the back of a Birmingham 2022 tournament that delivered high-scoring contests if not the results Scotland wanted, Derek Forsyth’s side now welcome Wales, Switzerland and Gibraltar to Uddingston for a four-team series.

To the winners goes a place in next season’s elite European Championships alongside hosts Germany, Belgium, England, the Netherlands, and Spain among others. Second and third will go into the second-tier championship with the bottom side going into EuroHockey Championship III.

Only once in the past 17 years have the Scots dined at the top table in Europe – in 2019 – making even getting back to that stage an achievement in itself. Gibraltar this evening and the Swiss on Saturday will pose their own problems but it is the match-up with the Welsh – 16th in the world to Scotland’s 19th - tomorrow night that will likely define who claims that solitary qualifying berth for next summer’s hockey jamboree in Mönchengladbach.

With players on both sides turning out for clubs in England and the two nations having clashed fairly regularly over the years, an air of familiarity will hang over this one. And goalkeeper Tommy Alexander predicts it won’t be for the faint-hearted.

“It was always said that the Commies in a way was our build-up for this qualifier,” he said. “You weren’t going to get a better experience by way of preparation for the three massive games we’ve got coming up this week. And this is going to be huge.

“A EuroHockey qualifier might not have the glitz and glam of the Commies but this determines next year and what level we’re going to be playing at. In the old relegation/promotion format it was really tough to bridge that gap to the top six European nations. At least now you get a regular chance of getting to the A tournament and that’s all you can ask for.

“All three games will be tricky but in terms of ranking then the Wales game is the cup final. It’s never a pretty game against them, it’s always a proper battle. I’d say we’re a bit more of a free-flowing side and they’re a bit more of a dogged team. It’s a good clash of styles and we’ll need to turn up from the first minute.

“Plus we know all their players and vice versa so that shapes things a bit too. A lot of the guys from both countries play in England so there’s a lot of crossover in club hockey. Whenever you play Wales you really want to stick it to them. And then you meet them and they’re actually really nice guys!

“It’s a good set-up at Uddingston so hopefully being at home will be an advantage. Having that local support behind us should play a part.”

Scotland provided plenty of entertainment for fans during the Commonwealth Games but couldn’t deliver results alongside it on their way to eventually finishing ninth. In the group stage they led New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan at various points but didn’t hold on to win any of them. Alexander knows they will need to defend far better if they are to get the victories they need this week.

“We competed really well and put in some good performances but we also learned a lot of lessons from the Commies,” he added. “Game management was the most important one. When you’re in those good positions you’ve got to find a way to finish matches off. We scored a lot of goals so that wasn’t the problem. It was more that we also conceded too many at important times in each game. We can’t afford to do that this week.”

There will be no break for Alexander post-Euros either. The 32 year-old is about to enter his fifth Bundesliga season having swapped one Hamburg club for another, Club an der Alster, last year. Co-founder of Iconic Goalkeeping, his life is now made in northern Germany.

“I’ve been living there for four years now,” he added. “I have a goalie coaching company, a girlfriend and two cats out there so I’m quite settled in the city now. And my German is slowly but surely getting better too so I can’t complain.”

Tickets, priced £5, for this week’s games are available from: