Wombles to fly the flag for England this weekend

Phil Roper in Wimbledon action

Wimbledon head into the heart of the lion’s den this weekend as they travel to Amsterdam to take in their first ever match in the Euro Hockey League (EHL.)

With the crème de la crème of the continent’s clubs heading to the Netherlands to battle for a place in the next round the draw was always going to be tough, but the Wombles have been handed an especially taxing assignment, facing the hosts, Amsterdam H&BC.

Great Britain star Phil Roper is relishing the prospect despite the challenge they face:

“If we had been offered a slightly easier draw for KO16, of course would have taken it, but it’s such a huge opportunity to play Amsterdam in their own stadium in front of hopefully a large crowd it should be a great challenge. We want to put our stamp on the competition and hopefully we can let our quality show on the big stage.”

Wimbledon are making their debut in the competition, making them the 58th different club to take part the world’s premier club competition. Despite the club being novices at this level, the Wimbledon squad has an abundance of international experience with no fewer than six of their team coming from the Great Britain central programme. Michael Hoare, Henry Weir, Roper, Ian Sloan, Ali Brogdon and James Bailey are all set to feature. Brogdon has played in the competition before, turning out for Belgian outfit Waterloo Ducks whilst Bailey has not only experience of the EHL, but also previous for knocking out Dutch opposition. In his stint with Reading, Bailey was hero, saving crucially in the shootout to dump Rotterdam out in 2013.

Wimbledon, the reigning English champions have had a patchy season by their lofty standards but secured the fourth qualification place at the domestic playoffs at the tail end of the season. Their form has been good in recent weeks and Roper hopes they have timed it just right:

“We have been improving throughout the season and are hoping to peak for the Euro Hockey League. There is a lot of excitement around the club about our debut season in the EHL; we have great support from all areas of the Wimbledon club, plus we have a lot of talented hungry players fighting for competition so it makes for an exciting month.”

With plenty of international stars in their ranks, plus some outstanding club players, the team’s strength in depth could be the key to competing with the Dutch giants:

“We have a strong squad, so having players to come in and have an impact on the pitch when we are away is great. I think the more high quality players you have in a training environment is only going to improve the standard so it can only be a good thing.” said Roper.

Fans of hockey will be able to watch the EHL live on the EHL website this weekend. With three German and three Belgian clubs taking part it is a great chance to get a sneak peek at some of the international talent who will be present this summer at the men’s Hockey Champions Trophy in London. For details on how to be there, click here.