Men's England Hockey League 2011 - Preview

Niall Stott East Grinstead vs Surbiton EHL 2011
The 2011-12 Men’s England Hockey League begins this weekend amid a pre-season of comings and goings in player personnel. With teams strengthening up to the first registration deadline, fans and players will be anxious to see how their clubs compare with the rest in their division. Here we preview teams throughout the league ahead of the weekend.

Beeston’s steady development bore fruit last season with a surprise Championships Final victory over East Grinstead which earned them the Premier Division title. The Nottingham based side have picked up Scottish international Gordon McIntyre (Kelburne) and Tom Pinnegar (Cannock), as well as venturing further afield by adding Jonathan Beckers (Belgium) and Patrick Schmidt (Germany) to strengthen their campaign as defending champions (pictured below).

Beeston celebrate winning their England Hockey League Premier Division play-off final 2011
East Grinstead, determined to return the trophy to Surrey this season, did not rest on their laurels, instead bringing in England & GB captain Barry Middleton from Der Club an der Alster whilst welcoming back Andy Piper from a stint in Spain and Will Arthur from Loughborough Students. Reading secured a place in Europe thanks to a 3-1 win over Surbiton in the 3rd/4th play-off; they welcome back England International Nick Catlin from Loughborough Students with team-mate Ben Carless joining too. Tom Woolvern (University of Exeter) also joins to add to the mix at Sonning Lane.

Having missed out on the chance to play in Europe, Surbiton have seen a number of players join their ranks including Tim Deakin and Alex Penney from Las Palmas, Fergus Dunn (FC Barcelona), Chris Borrett (Bowdon) and a return to the club for Jamie Ruiz. Bowdon, the last of the Championships qualifying teams last season, have complemented their squad with players including Sam Mee (Cannock), Geoff Price and Jimmi Hill (Deeside Ramblers) and Guim Ursul Colome (Spain) and Thorsten Kuffner (Germany) from the continent.

Hampstead & Westminster will be looking to improve on a sixth placed finish which saw them miss out on a Championships place by just two points last season. The Londoners have added depth to their squad in the shape of Inderpal Laly (East Grinstead), Rafael Lopez Jimenez (Indian Gymkhana) and Harwinder Chima who returns from Reading.

Sam Ward - Beeston
Despite seeing a number of faces leave Loughborough Students, they have added Sam Ward (pictured above) from local rivals Beeston and welcome back Carl Sitch from Harleston Magpies. Loughborough’s intake also includes a number of young players with Conference experience in a turnover of players.

Cannock has seen more players exit than arrive, but welcome Oliver Westbrook (Bournville) to the club and Paul Harris back from injury in a bid to avoid a repeat of last season which saw them flirt with relegation. University of Exeter returns to the Premier Division following a season’s absence, Maxime Cerrulus (Belgium), Frank Di Mercurio (Spain), Tom Cooper (Surbiton) and Matthew Laidman (Holcombe) bolster their squad ahead of a campaign to retain their Premier Division status. Southgate completes the division after their success in the Promotion Tournament; they have retained the majority of their squad with the notable addition of Spaniard Joan Elias.

Men’s Conference East is shaping up to be keenly contested with Wimbledon, Canterbury (pictured below against East Grinstead) and Holcombe all seeing a flurry of new faces. Holcombe saw 4 players depart for a Canterbury side relegated from the Premier Division, including the return of David Mathews. Over the summer Canterbury also added Kiwi Nathaniel Joy and welcomed Simon Hare back from University of Exeter. Holcombe, meanwhile, recruited Premier Division quality in Richard Lane (Cannock) and Stephane Vehrle-Smith (Hampstead & Westminster) as well as James Stedman from Old Loughtonians.

Canterbury - East Grinstead - Mark Pearn - EHL - 2011

Although last season was Wimbledon’s first in the EHL, the strength of their squad belied their sixth placed finish. This season, in a bid to change their fortunes, they see Christian Pryce and Alex Collins (Hampstead & Westminster), James Osborne (Loughborough Students) and Rob Pryce (Canterbury) all arrive with valuable Premier Division experience. City of Peterborough returns to the Conference East after a season’s absence; player/coach Gareth Andrew’s goals will be important to their bid for survival. Teddington’s return to the EHL comes after three seasons in the South Regional League, Warren D’Souza (pictured below in action for Reading against EG's Glenn Kirkham) drops down a division from Reading to aid their campaign.

Reading - East Grinstead - Warren D'Souza

Durham University suffered the cruellest of blows in last season’s Promotion Tournament, missing out on a Premier Division spot, on goal difference, despite finishing level on six points with University of Exeter and Southgate. Though they retain the core of their side they see a major turnover in squad this season including Tom Batchelor’s arrival from Guildford as well as Martin Lear (Deeside Ramblers). A major departure in pre-season from that side saw James Cachia link up with Sheffield Hallam. Cachia is joined by Brendan Creed (Bowdon) and Patrick Longson from relegated Harborne at Abbeydale to strengthen a side that ran Durham University close to the top spot last season. Brooklands MU are aiming to bounce back from their relegation from the Premier Division last season, having kept the majority of their squad. Preston joins the Conference North after finishing five points clear at the top of the North Regional League.

With no team relegated into the Conference West, Team Bath Buccaneers will be aiming for a repeat of the 2009-10 season – which saw them dominate the regular season – after finishing in second last season, eight points shy of University of Exeter. They will hope that penalty corner specialist Rufus McNaught-Barrington will add goals following his move from Sevenoaks. Guildford finished in third and will hope to challenge Team Bath Buccaneers along with a Havant side that has recruited internationally with Argentinean dual passport holder Rodrigo Elias Levy Favier and overseas player Sumeet Singh joining the club. Cardiff & UWIC and Lichfield both return to the EHL in the Conference West following two and four seasons away, respectively.

Opening Weekend Fixtures of the Men's England Hockey League

Saturday 17 September
Men's Conference East
Oxted  v Old Loughtonians  17:00

Sunday 18 September
Men's Premier Division

Beeston  v Surbiton  14:00
Bowdon  v Loughborough Students 14:00
Hampstead and Westminster  v Cannock  14:00
Southgate  v East Grinstead  14:30
University of Exeter  v Reading  12:30
Men's Conference North Start
Brooklands MU  v Preston  12:00
Deeside Ramblers  v Sheffield Hallam Civica 14:00
Doncaster  v Belper  14:00
Leek  v Barford Tigers  14:00
Olton & West Warwicks  v University of Durham 13:30
Men's Conference West Start
Bournville  v Fareham  12:30
Cardiff & UWIC  v Guildford  13:00
Havant  v Cheltenham  14:00
Lichfield  v University of Birmingham  15:00
Team Bath Buccaneers  v Whitchurch  13:00
Men's Conference East Start
City of Peterborough  v Canterbury  13:00
Harleston Magpies  v Holcombe  14:15
Teddington  v Indian Gymkhana  12:30
Wimbledon  v Bromley and Beckenham  14:00

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