How they're shaping up: Men's Premier Division

How they're shaping up: Men's Premier Division
The England Hockey League resumes this weekend with clubs, players and spectators facing fresh challenges both on and off the pitch.

Coronavirus has impacted at all levels of the game and the top-flight is no exception, with pre-season routines and the signing of new players disrupted.

But that hasn’t stopped many clubs from bolstering their squads and doing their best to get match fit.

Under the new format all teams play each other once before the winter break and then the top six will play off for the championship and the bottom five to avoid the drop.

The revised format is to dovetail into a busy international calendar culminating in the rescheduled Olympic Games in the summer of 2021. 

Here’s a breakdown of the comings and goings at clubs in the Men’s Premier Division as clubs prepare for week one.

Reigning champions Surbiton have brought in Scottish forward Jamie Golden from Menzieshill as well as defender Tim Nurse from Team Bath Buccaneers.

But they will also be boosted too by the unexpected availability of Zach Wallace and Alan Forsyth, whose moves to Holland have not happened because of Covid restrictions.

Surbiton 2019 LF

They will also be boosted by the return to full fitness of Brendan Creed after almost a year out with a knee injury, and with pre-season friendlies with Wimbledon, Hampstead, Old Georgians, Reading and Oxted under their belts Surbiton are expected to hit the ground running when they host Brooklands MU on Sunday.

T1 Championship winners Beeston have signed several new faces, with the highlights being Lucas Alcalde, a speedy forward from Barcelona who is returning to Beeston while studying for a masters’ degree at Nottingham Trent University.

They also have former Loughborough Students player Tom Crowson on their books after he returned from a year in Holland with Almeerse, as well as Irish forward Ollie Kidd from Lisnagarvey, who is also studying at Nottingham Trent University.

But the expected signings of Vikram Sandhu and Sukhi Panesar are on hold, the Canadian-based duo being unable to travel because of Coronavirus restrictions.

Beeston 2019 LF

Hampstead & Westminster coach Kwan Browne is pleased with his summer signings, who bring maturity and fitness in equal measure.

27-year-old Mo Gandhi joins from Club an der Alster in Germany and brings experience of the EHL with Beeston and Southgate. Similarly, former Beeston player Joe Sharp has many years of top-flight experience.

James Sutcliffe joins them from Brooklands MU, the former England U16, U18 and U21 midfielder bringing experience that belies his 23 years, while Reading’s Adam Miller is expected to add to their squad too.

Wimbledon have brought in a raft of quality signings including East Grinstead’s David Condon and Liam Ansell, as well as Rory Patterson who played in Germany with Grossflottbeker THGC and Peter Scott from Reading.

But they will have to do without GB ace Ed Horler who has joined Racing Club Bruxelles in Belgium, while Peter Friend and Ryan Kavanagh have left to join Premier Division newcomers Oxted.

Welsh forward James Carson joins Old Georgians from Belgian side Beerschot and brings bags of experience from stints at Reading and the University of Exeter, while adding GB and England star Chris Griffiths to their ranks will make them a formidable side.


Old Georgians head to Holcombe for their first match on Sunday and will face a side boosted by the signing of England U21 goalkeeper Ollie Payne, who will compete for the starting slot with South African Richard Curtis.

Another England U21 player, defender Sam Hooper has joined Holcombe from Exeter University. South African forward Ryan Crowe has also signed – although will miss this weekend due to quarantine restrictions.

Also missing for Holcombe for the first few games will be Tom Moore, who broke his thumb in pre-season training.

Division One South champions Oxted begin life in the top-flight with a short trip on Sunday to East Grinstead, now coached by former Oxted coach Tim Deakin. Oxted’s new signings include Wimbledon duo Peter Friend and Ryan Kavanagh as well as Cameron Heald from Team Bath Buccaneers.

Division One North champions the University of Durham have a bye in week one because of the new 11-team league format – giving former Southgate player Freddie Britt and Thomas Croft-Baker from Havant more time to gel.

And Brooklands Manchester University welcome Alex Holmes into their squad from the University of Durham, as well as Hampstead & Westminster half back Peter Makin.

You can follow the action including live scores at https://englandhockey.altiusrt.com/ or click HERE.

Arrangements for spectators at clubs will vary depending on their individual circumstances. Anyone wishing to attend a game is advised to check with the home team before travelling.

FIXTURES

Men’s Hockey League (Sunday, 20 September):

Premier Division
East Grinstead v Oxted 14:00
Holcombe v Old Georgians 14:00
Univ of Exeter v Hampstead & Westminster 14:00
Surbiton v Brooklands MU 14:30
Wimbledon v Beeston 14:30