Wimbledon bank on experience for European challenge

by HWC member Mike Haymonds in the Daily Express
Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

WIMBLEDON, led by coach Ben Hawes, fly to Eindhoven on Wednesday for their second taste of European club hockey at the Euro Hockey League KO16 tournament at the home of the newly formed Oranje-Rood club.

Hawes said: “Last year at the same stage we came up against one of Europe’s top performers Amsterdam and lost 1-3 but we have that valuable experience behind us.”

This year they face an equally tough challenge on Saturday against the German champions UHC Hamburg, who have won this competition three times since its inception in 2007/08.

A win for Wimbledon would take an English team into the KO8 (quarter-final)stage, for the first time since Reading in 2013, where they will play either the Germans Mannheimer or the Spaniards Club Egara and ensure two English teams in next season’s competition.

Hawes confirmed they will travel with a fully fit squad with Phil Roper having recovered from a facial injury sustained on Great Britain’s recent tour to South Africa, Ian Sloan back after a knee issue and Ben Arnold after a minor hamstring injury.

Roper and Sloan join Michael Hoare and Henry Weir as Wimbledon’s members of the GB centralised training squad.

Wimbledon have enjoyed a highly successful domestic league season, losing only one early game and lifting the title for the first time with a margin of seven points over Holcombe.

Next weekend they will aim for the double when the Final Four Championship play-offs in the Olympic Park see them opposing Hampstead & Westminster in one semi-final while Holcombe and Surbiton are in the other.

“But this weekend our focus is on Europe,” Hawes said.