GB have group ready to step up in the future, says Black

Great Britain's Martyn Rooney, Dwayne Cowan, Matthew Hudson Smith and Rabah Yousif celebrate taking bronze in the men's 4x400m relay final at the World Championships, one of the successes that helped the team hit their medal target (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire).
Great Britain's Martyn Rooney, Dwayne Cowan, Matthew Hudson Smith and Rabah Yousif celebrate taking bronze in the men's 4x400m relay final at the World Championships, one of the successes that helped the team hit their medal target (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire).
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British Athletics’ performance director Neil Black has said he will continue to ignore his critics following the World Championships.

The athletics chief launched a passionate defence of Great Britain’s performance after they hit their target, despite Sir Mo Farah being the only individual to win medals.

Every relay squad reached the podium over the weekend – with the men’s 4x100m squad becoming world champions – as the hosts claimed six medals, two of them being Farah’s 10,000m gold and 5,000m silver.

It ensured they scraped their medal target of six to eight, but it was still met with criticism from ex-Olympic 400m champion Michael Johnson and Jessica Ennis-Hill’s former coach Toni Minichiello.

But Black will ignore any detractors and insisted he will plough on with the job.

He said: “People say and do what they do. I haven’t read or looked at anything – that’s my style and way of protecting myself.

“But I’m aware that people will be chatting s*** everywhere and saying all sorts of things. That’s cool. Say what you want. Do what you want. We’ll carry on performing and that’s where the motivation comes from.

“Yes, of course you are nervous, you are apprehensive, and you are aware of people’s views. But we were massively confident – it was just a matter of how many relay medals we would win, how many close calls there would be in individual events.

“The relays have come up trumps, Mo came up trumps. A load of other people came so close.

“Next year and in 2019-2020 it will probably be a different combination, but we all can see that there is a group of young people who have stepped up, gone so close and are ready to step up in the future.

“All logic would say to carry on with a similar approach. You apply a consistent progression to these athletes and every one of those guys who have finished in the top eight and finished fourth are capable over the next two or three years of actually stepping up. I understand that people will go, ‘who is going to replace Mo and Greg (Rutherford) and Jess?’ That is not our concern. We are looking to replace them. We are looking to produce a team of athletes who are capable of performing at this level.

“I think you have seen the beginnings of those. We have three years to Tokyo. Tokyo is our primary aim. So, we are really generally very confident.”

With the squad in a transitional phase – Farah retires from the track this month – they had five fourth-placed finishes, including Laura Muir in the 1,500m and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake in the 200m.

Black, though, is not prepared to lower the targets and thinks they are fair.

“We are not looking for comfort to be honest. Obviously you look back and reflect on the post-Olympic and Paralympic year. You look back at the trends,” he said. “Before the start of the competition I was thinking, ‘did we get carried away with a bit of euphoria?’ But actually you step back and say, ‘we have brilliant talent in this country’.

“We have brilliant coaches, supporting those athletes. Coaches being developed, supporting those athletes. The targets are about right. We should be performing at that level.”

Rutherford, too, has backed the next generation of British athletes to deliver, but echoed calls to improve standards for coaches.

The 2012 Olympic long jump champion is optimistic after the World Championships in London ended on Sunday.

Rutherford missed the championships with an ankle injury, but believes the new breed can cope.

He said: “After Kelly Holmes retired and that era I think we thought, ‘where are the medals going to come from?’ It was a big thing when we got the London Olympics and then all of a sudden we came through in London and we had a great time.

“We’re in a situation where that’s the same as it was before. We may have a couple of down years as the youngsters establish themselves, but – especially in the sprints where we’ve taken a lot of flak – we are incredibly lucky to have a lot of strength in depth.

“We have had a lot of people making finals and being on the cusp of it happening. I’m still excited about the youngsters coming through.”

But Rutherford agreed coaches need more support to help them bring through young athletes.

Performance director Black has said British Athletics is looking into plans to increase the number of elite level British coaches having appointed a high-performance coach development manager.

Rutherford said: “It seriously needs to be looked into and Toni (Minichiello) has been very outspoken about it.

“There needs to be more to ensure the young British coaches are in a position to have the ability to maintain and bring through good athletes.

“I travel to America for my coaching, Mo travels, we’ve had other great athletes in the past who have had to travel for coaching. We need to be attracting the top coaches to the UK again because the talent is here.