Preview: Menís Premier Division returns this weekend

Opening weekend preview: Men’s Premier Division
This weekend sees the start of the 2019/20 Men’s Hockey League and Investec Women’s Hockey League seasons with the other Conferences starting the following weekend of 21-22 September. 

Following a gripping campaign in 2018/19, we’ve taken a look at what looks set to be another action-packed year of domestic hockey in the Men’s Premier Division with a club by club preview:

Fixtures, Sat 14 Sep:
Brooklands Manchester University v Wimbledon (12pm)
Beeston v Hampstead & Westminster (2pm)
Holcombe v East Grinstead (6pm)
Old Georgians v University of Exeter (6pm)
Reading v Surbiton (6:30pm)

Having finished third in the regular season in 2018/19, Beeston were unable to make it to the Grand Final after falling to a narrow 2-1 semi-final defeat to eventual winners Hampstead & Westminster. Finishing four points clear of fifth placed Reading, Beeston will be looking to apply more pressure at the summit of the table with the return of Sam Apoola and addition of young Stuart Kentwell adding to an already strong squad that includes Adam Dixon and Ollie Willars.

Brooklands MU
Brooklands will be keen to improve on last season’s record of six wins, eight losses and four draws. Despite finishing eighth, the side were only five points off fourth placed East Grinstead and will hope to gain ground with talented youngster Eddie Way, who captained England’s U21s to silver at the 2019 Junior EuroHockey Championships, joining the team. 

East Grinstead
Taking the final place at League Finals after finishing above Reading on goal difference in 2018/19, East Grinstead were defeated 2-1 by Surbiton at the semi-final stage. With a strong core and key players including the likes of Wesley Jackson, Lewis Prosser and Ross Stott in their side, East Grinstead will be looking for another League Finals appearance this season. 

Hampstead & Westminster
Crowned champions in 2018/19 with a 3-1 victory over Surbiton in the Grand Final, Hampstead & Westminster have shown that they will be a force to be reckoned with. Boasting a supremely talented squad including Matt Guise Brown and Sam French, who both scored in the final to seal victory over Surbiton, Hampstead will aim to replicate last season’s success story.

Only three points away from a place at 2018/19’s League Finals, Holcombe will be hoping they can better last season’s sixth placed finish. Boosted by the addition of former England and GB international great Barry Middleton, combined with the signing of Mark Gleghorne, Holcombe will be looking upwards.

Old Georgians
Storming into the Premier Division after an unbeaten season in the Conference East division before winning all three games at the Play Offs to secure promotion, Old Georgians will be an exciting proposition. With some superstar additions to their team including Ashley Jackson, George Pinner and Liam Sanford, Old Georgians will hope to make waves in their debut season in the top flight. 

Having just missed out on a League Finals appearance on goal difference, Reading will be hungry to secure a top four place in 2019/20. With international pedigree in the team from Wales’ Owain Dolan-Gray, Reading have a young squad which will face a testing opening match against Surbiton.

Despite topping the 2018/19 league in the regular season, Surbiton were defeated by Hampstead & Westminster in the Grand Final. Having only picked up one loss in the regular season and with Alan Forsyth finishing as the league’s top scorer for a number of years on the trot, Surbiton will be looking for more of the same and silverware this season. 

University of Exeter
Finishing ninth, ten points adrift of Brooklands MU, the University of Exeter will be looking to bridge the gap this season. Having only picked up three victories in the regular season, the University of Exeter were able to avoid relegation at the Play Offs and will have to find their footing quickly to avoid another relegation battle this season.

Finishing last season in seventh, five points shy of fourth placed East Grinstead, Wimbledon will be eager to kick on and look to climb the table in 2019/20. With the addition of Rhys Smith, Wimbledon have an array of talented young players including Jack Waller, Ben Francis and Ed Horler, combined with some experienced heads including England and GB defender Michael Hoare.

For more information, including the details of pre-season player movements, click here

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