The Men’s Premier Division returns to action this coming weekend. After a summer packed with international hockey, attentions now turn to the upcoming domestic season. The Hockey Paper’s #watchyour1s campaign, aims to get more people involved with supporting their teams and in an attempt to help raise that interest and with the curtain raiser just days away, here’s a look at some of the more notable Premier League transfers and how they might shape things for the season ahead.
After picking up the Premier League title last season, Hampstead and Westminster have been busy in the transfer market, adding to their squad depth as they aim to defend their title but also make their mark in their first EuroHockey League campaign. They have kept the bulk of their successful squad but added a few players as coach Kwan Browne looks for a ‘new edge, every year getting better and better, going further and further.’
Welsh internationals Jacob Draper and Hywel Jones have joined from Birmingham University and Cardiff and Met respectively whilst Belgian midfielder Gaston Golstein, a former Lewes player, has also made the move to Paddington Rec. German forward Götz Mahdi, who has ten years’ experience in the Bundesliga for Nürnberger Hockey Club, has also signed.
Undoubtedly, most eyes have been on newly-promoted Old Georgians. Their signings last season caused quite a stir as they brought in a host of big names as they sought promotion to the Premier League for the first time.
A side which already boasted the considerable goalscoring talents of Sam Ward and London 2012 Olympian James Tindall, as well as former Great Britain star Dan Shingles has now added Ashley Jackson, fresh from a year in the Hoodfklaase and a successful return to the international arena. They haven’t stopped there, however. Andy Bull and Tom Carson, both join off the back of a phenomenal season in the Belgian league with Beerschot. Great Britain goalkeeper George Pinner has also made the move. William Carter-Keall has come over from the University of Exeter and there is a trio of signings from Reading. Matt Richards moves from Sonning Lane alongside the Great Britain internationals Liam Sanford and Lee Morton.
The talent in that group is frightening and all eyes will be on their opening game against University of Exeter to see if their squad of galacticos can gel and get their season off to a winning start.
Surbiton, last year’s runners-up bid farewell to one of their stalwarts of the last few years: Welsh international Lewis Prosser has moved to East Grinstead. They have by no means been quiet on the recruitment front, however. 11 new players have been registered to Surbiton at the time of writing. Great Britain international Jonty Griffiths, who joins from Wimbledon is probably the most notable of those signings. Interestingly, Surbiton have also added two new goalkeepers to their ranks with Ore Ogunlana and Welsh international Jack Tranter coming in.
Beeston, semi-finalists in last year’s playoffs have also been busy, although perhaps the most notable of the transfers involving the Bees is the departure of Great Britain international Mark Gleghorne to Holcombe.
Sam Apoola, who cut his teeth in his younger years at Beeston, has returned to the club after spells at Leeds and Bowdon. He is one of ten new arrivals to the Nottinghamshire outfit this summer.
East Grinstead, the other semi-finalists at last year’s play-offs have also seen a high-profile departure: Great Britain international and human highlight-reel Rhys Smith has moved to Wimbledon. The side from Saint Hill have seemingly gone for proven Premier League experience this season with the aforementioned Prosser coming in from Surbiton and being joined by former Holcombe star Richard Lane. Wales international Joe Naughalty – a former East Grinstead player, has returned to the club from Brighton.
Reading, who were the ‘best of the rest’ in last year’s table have lost a few players, with a trio going to Old Georgians, as mentioned above. However they have brought in seven new faces including Jamie Rawlings, who makes the step up from Fareham. With Jason Lee and Danny Newcombe forming the coaching team, Reading will be confident their side can hit the ground running and get their season off to a flying start.
Holcombe finished down in sixth place last season and as well as adding Gleghorne to the side will also welcome back the great Barry Middleton after a spell playing in New Zealand. Australian International Jeremy Edwards, a Commonwealth Games gold medalist has also joined; giving Holcombe that dash of international quality they hope will fire them back into the top four this season.
Wimbledon endured, by their lofty standards a tough time during the last campaign. They have strengthened their ranks with the capture of Rhys Smith from East Grinstead as well as Dom Bowden, also from the Sussex side. Ronan Harvey-Kelly and Dylan Swanepoel have also made the moves to Wimbledon from Loughborough Students and Oxted, respectively.
Brooklands MU had a season to remember last time out. At one point they were flirting with the top six before slipping back into eighth place in the end. David Flanagan had a stunning year in front of goal, scoring 15 times. Retaining his services was a must for Brooklands and they have done that. The signing of Eddie Way – a former Great Britain U21 captain, from Birmingham University looks to be a canny one whilst the return of James Sutcliffe after a spell at Beeston will undoubtedly boost Paul Gannon’s side as they fight to better their eighth place finish of last year.
BOSH! SIX RUNS! 🏏🏑 pic.twitter.com/iAAYPW99nW
— Galvanised Hockey (@GalvanisdHockey) October 11, 2018
Last but by no means least comes the University of Exeter. As you’d expect for a university side, the turnover has been high at the Nando’s Arena. At the time of writing, no fewer than 18 new players have been registered for Exeter. One of the standout signings looks to be goalkeeper Taylor Seager-Green, who impressed, especially in the indoor campaign for Surbiton last season. Exeter stayed up via the playoffs last season so will be hoping that this season they can move away from the foot of the table.
Week one fixtures:
14 September 2019.
Brooklands Manchester University vs Wimbledon
Beeston vs Hampstead & Westminster
Holcombe vs East Grinstead
Old Georgians vs University of Exeter
Reading vs Surbiton
A huge thank you must go to Colin Pike, Surbiton HC’s press officer. He has painstakingly collated all the player transfers from across the different clubs and provided a comprehensive guide to a number of different hockey journalists. Not for the first time, Colin’s contribution to promoting the domestic game in this country goes above and beyond the expected levels.