No excuses this time. A year after coming up short, Great Britain’s men have promotion to the A Division on their minds when they begin their European Under-20 Championship campaign in Sarajevo.

To come back from Bosnia with second tier status once again, admits head coach Tim Lewis, would be a huge disappointment.

His team opens its challenge on Thursday with a game against Portugal, before facing Finland, Luxembourg, Norway and Czech Republic in quick succession.

It is a rigorous schedule, one which will test a side that has relied heavily on the inside-out combination of San Antonio Spurs draftee Ryan Richards and Caja Laboral understudy Devon van Oostrum in the build-up.

Mackay is determined to do better than 2010

“It’s tough to play five games in a row in any competition, but at that level there’s a lot of intensity and you’re in unfamiliar surroundings with high temperatures, so it’s tough,” Lewis said.

“But we’ve got ourselves in a position to compete, and we’ve done a lot of strength and conditioning work to get ready.

“It’s five games, we can’t change that, we just have to take each game as it comes, and at the moment we’re not looking past Portugal.”

It is a lesson learnt from 12 months ago when GB were presumed certainees for promotion, only to miss out. There has been a heavy turnover of players in 12 months, with a number who have made themselves unavailable amid pleas of collegiate commitments.

For the handful who tasted disappointment last time, there are points to prove.

“We’re out to get revenge,” returning centre Ali Mackay underlined in an interview with the new issue of MVP Magazine.

“It was disappointing to come away sixth when we felt we should have been in the semi-finals and taken it from there.

“The tournament system was stacked against us. We lost once in Round 1, won all three games in Round 2 and still couldn’t win our group. We were sick at that. It was a horrible feeling when we knew we couldn’t get there.

“So this year, we’re out to prove our worth and get promoted.”

GB go into the tournament on the back of two laboured defeats to Belgium last week in Essex after a series of positive showing. Weaknesses were exposed in those final friendlies, Lewis concedes. But they have been addressed, he hopes.

The 2011 edition now has to go out and prove it deserves to join their male counterparts at the highest level.

“We’ve played Portugal, Finland and Norway in all the age groups I’ve coached over the last seven years and we know what their styles are,” Lewis confirms.

“But any team on any given night can produce a performance that will surprise teams, and we need to be ready for every game.

“At the moment we’re bothered only by own performances and playing to our capabilities. We need to take care of our own game.”

Read a full interview with Ali Mackay in the new edition of MVP Magazine – available to order now.

Pics: Dan Wooller


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