THERE will be few surprises waiting for Kenny Bain when Scotland take their place among European hockey’s elite this week for the first time in 14 years.

Promotion sealed on home soil two years ago has presented the 29-year-old with a belated opportunity to play in the Euro Hockey Championships A division at the seventh time of asking, something he has aspired to since his first appearance in the B event back in 2007.

While the setting will be new, however, there will an air of familiarity about each of Scotland’s three group opponents in Antwerp.

Bain knows all about the Netherlands, in particular. He has lived there for almost a decade as a professional hockey player and has experienced playing either with or against many of those he will line up against in Scotland’s third match. Stopping them, though, will be another matter.

“I’ve known a lot of the Dutch guys for a while now,” he said on a brief visit home for a training weekend with the Scotland camp. “The Netherlands are always really tough to play against and they have some really talented players. Their coach Max [Caldas] is a good friend of mine which adds an extra edge to it. They’re hockey mad there so there’s a real expectation going into this tournament. The winner also qualifies for next year’s Olympics so that's another added incentive.”

He is virtually a local now himself. With a six-month-old daughter, Romy, in tow, and his coaching career taking off, the former Kelburne player does not envisage moving back to Scotland any time soon.

“I’ve been here almost 10 years now so it’s amazing how time flies. I’ve signed a new two-year contract with my club Hurley and I’m taking on a coaching role with the youth team and also training the women’s first team twice a week.

“I want to keep playing for as long as I can but I’m looking to the future, too. I’m settled there, especially with my daughter being born. I don’t see me coming home to Scotland in the immediate future. There are too many opportunities here to stay involved in hockey.”

Heightened interest in Germany at the Euros comes in the form of Bain’s partner, Julia Mueller. Now retired from international hockey, Muller captained Die Danas and played in three Olympic Games. While she may be able to deliver intel on the German squad, Bain is confident she will be rooting for Scotland.

“Julia is coming to Antwerp with Romy to watch us and she’s going to be supporting us and not the Germans,” added Bain. “So I’m not sure how that will go down given she’s a former captain of the national team! But it will be good to have them both there.”

Then there is Ireland who will provide some competitive Celtic spice to the group. The Scots played their neighbours recently in two warm-up matches – Bain scored in one – and again he has ties to the squad.

“The Irish coach is a Dutchman called Alex Cox, and his wife, Marsha, and Julia are best mates. They’ve got a wee baby too so we often have play dates with them. So there’s always a connection. That’s just Dutch hockey for you. And also because I’ve been around the international scene for a while now. I’m nearly 30 so almost a veteran.”

With little funding to support an extended pre-tournament training camp, Derek Forsyth’s squad have had little opportunities to train together. But with players representing Great Britain and at major clubs throughout Europe and England, Bain hopes the Scots can put in a decent show against some of the best countries in the world. Finishing sixth in the eight-team event and avoiding relegation would count as a huge success.

“We’re going in as underdogs as the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament,” he added. “We’ll go in aiming to get to the semi-finals but we know how hard it is going to be.

“Getting to compete against the big teams in the world is like Scotland’s Olympic Games and sixth place would be the equivalent of a gold medal for us.

“I’ve been counting down the days for two years and now it’s finally here. I can’t wait.”