Jonny Caren already had some idea of the size of the task awaiting him as he stepped into his new role as the head coach of the Scottish men’s hockey squad. Attending the funeral of his predecessor only served to further underline that.

Derek Forsyth was a colossus of the game in this country, having worked with the Under-21 squad before stepping up to lead the senior team for more than a decade. After stepping down he took on a new role as performance programme manager having previously been at the helm at Paisley club Kelburne during their period of domination of the Scottish domestic scene. Both of Derek’s sons, David and Alan, became full internationals, while his wife Lynn is the current Scottish Hockey president.

Forsyth’s recent sad passing was mourned all across the hockey world but was most keenly felt at home. That a gathering of 500 attended the funeral in Glasgow, Caren among them, demonstrated the respect and affection with which he was held.

“I knew I had big shoes to fill coming into the role but going to Derek’s funeral blew my mind about how many people he touched during his whole time in Scottish hockey,” he said. “Talking to people afterwards you realised how much he meant to everybody. There won’t be anyone else in our lifetime that creates a legacy like Derek did.

“My job is to continue that legacy and add my own bit to it if I can. Virtually everyone in our squad Derek had some input into their careers at some point. It’s a real sad loss for Scottish hockey but the guys all know how much he wanted them to succeed. That was the message I got from him when I last spoke to him. And the players will all want to keep doing that in his memory, I’m sure.”

Caren is just two months into his role but it has been a hectic introduction. The former Ireland assistant and Under-21 head coach has been quickly getting up to speed ahead of the European Championships II that begin in Dublin today.

A three-match Test series against Wales in Cardiff last month allowed the Northern Irishman to become more familiar with the players he has inherited, while five younger ones will also get the chance to win their first caps during the tournament that sees Scotland placed in a group with Switzerland, Italy and Turkey.

“It’s been all systems go in the seven weeks since I started the job,” he said. “But it’s been really enjoyable and everyone has been really supportive, from the players, to the support staff to everyone at Scottish Hockey.

“I’ve loved from afar the work that Scottish hockey has been doing over the last couple of years. I reached out to Chris Duncan [the women’s team head coach] a while back to say that, as an outsider looking in, you could see that the organisation was really starting to get its act together to move forward. And you can see that on the pitch as well.

“I’ve competed against Scotland during my time with Ireland and the quality of players for such a small nation is phenomenal. So I was very excited when I got that opportunity to take the role. There are a few of the players who have taken a pause in their international careers due to life and work commitments but among the young ones coming through there’s some serious talent.

“At these sorts of tournaments the expectation is always there to go and win. That’s from my side as a coach but I also know how competitive this group of players are. I just ask that we hit our potential and if we do that it should result in winning the tournament.

“It’s probably one that means more to the other countries as it’s part of the Olympic qualifying process for them but in our minds it’s the first step in trying to fight our way back to the A division.”

There is an ironic twist that Caren’s first major engagement since becoming Scotland head coach should take him back to the country where he forged his reputation. With many of his former Under-21 charges now in the Irish senior team, it will also help should the teams go on to meet later in the tournament.

“Developing the younger ones is something I pride myself on as a coach and that will be a big part of my role going forward. A large part of the Ireland squad came through their 21s that I ran for eight years so we should know them well if our paths cross in this tournament!”