Photo: Kevin Slyfield
It’s the turn of the Bracknell Bees in the spotlight today in our season preview series. Long-serving Bracknell forward James Galazzi (now in his 9th consecutive season for the Bees, and 14th consecutive season across all Bracknell clubs) takes a look at what’s in store this season.
The Bees have been in a bit of transition for the last couple of years since PSM released control of the licence. The first year in the EPL was a struggle while the directors battled to get the club back on a stable footing with limited funds. Last season provided the club a chance to restructure within the new league set up and one where we were no longer cut adrift at the foot of the table well behind the rest, based on players and resources. Overall, I believe there was a bit of a feel-good factor returning to the Hive where we managed to win more games than we lost, and we saw the return of play-off hockey. Whilst we’ve always received unconditional support there did seem to be a bit more joy around the rink as we won more games before and we saw more home-grown talent on show. The biggest successes for me was the emergence of some of these younger players in the team and the opportunities they got. Ultimately, as a team we don’t feel we had a successful year on the ice. We would have liked to have finished in the top 4 and progressed to the Coventry weekend in the play offs so there is a lot of room for improvement. When we were at our best we were a match for anyone but all too often we didn’t find that consistency – which was down to major injury and suspension problems. Losing Shaun Thompson and Scott Spearing to long term injuries had a negative impact on the team as did losing Frankie to suspension. Even if part of that was self-inflicted it was still a big loss to the team.
For 2018-19, we’ve got a year of this league under our belts, we’ve got a new head coach and a number of new faces in the squad, so we have some renewed optimism for the year and are expecting to be challenging every night in all competitions. We’ve got a big squad full of quality which should enable us to adapt for all situations. I don’t like putting goals down on paper especially in public, but we’ll be going into every game with the mind set of walking away with 2 points and we’ll see where that takes us come the end of the season. Despite a lot of what has been written this summer, we are the Bracknell Bees, we’ve got a rich history and our own identify and that won’t be forgotten but obviously as a group we’re aware of Doug’s success with Bison last year and we’re all going to be working hard to try to emulate those successes and bring some silverware back to Bracknell.
Obviously in hockey no two years are the same when it comes to team mates. Something always changes and as a hockey player you become used to that. However, this year we have seen a bit more of a turnover than is normal and whilst that is really exciting for this year there are friends that have moved on that will be missed. Our former club captain Matt Foord has moved on and there is going to a big hole in the dressing room. I’ve known Foo for more years than I haven’t, having played a bit of juniors with him and then of course for the last 7 years with the Bees. He’s an infectious character that always managed to put a smile on your face even through some of the toughest nights. More than that though, I will miss taking his money in cards. Also want to mention Alex Mettam. Mettsy is one of the genuine good guys in hockey and after 5 years together he’ll be someone I’ll miss having around, although I can look forward to games against the Bison now as I should be scoring for fun. Alex Barker is another who I consider a friend as well as a team mate and whilst we’ve played apart before it will still be strange not seeing his face on a weekly basis, and lastly, I want to mention George Norcliffe and Danny Ingoldsby. I feel we built some good chemistry last year. They both worked their socks off and I really enjoyed my hockey when we were on a line together. I would mention Carl Thompson but he was only ever part time so not sure if that counts 😉 but I will miss his little post gym red face which always brightened up a late night training session. Lastly, Josh Tetlow. I think we’ll miss him both in the room and on the ice, but everyone is excited for him to be getting a full time shot in the Elite League and its fully deserved. It’s great to have been able to see the start of his career, a young player come through, work so hard and to visibly see the development year on year. I’ve no doubt that if he continues this path he’s going to go on a be a top GB player for many years to come.
On the flip side, obviously there are several new faces coming in which makes for some excitement for the coming season. In terms of key players, the biggest is not a new face but the return of Thommo. One of the best 2-way players in the league and someone who can do it all. He will be a key player this year and will relish the additional support he has. As well as Thommo, The new imports coming in will play a big part. We saw Roman’s impact last year in Basingstoke. A tireless worker with lots of speed who will also be a key player for us. Another new signing but familiar face in Bracknell will be Vanny. It’s very rare to find such a talent in such a young player. He is one of the most talented players around and can help decide games on his own so it’s great to have him back in the black, white and gold this year.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Josh Martin continue his development. He’s been in and around the Bee’s squad for several years but even I was surprised just how good he was last year. He looked every bit a senior player and popped up with some very big goals for us. He’s got every chance now to continue that development and can go as far as he’s prepared to work. Another one I’m looking forward to watching is Aiden Doughty, he always caught my eye when we played Streatham. A big guy with plenty of speed and bags of skill. I thought it was a great move for him to show case his talent and I’m sure it’ll be a good fit for the Bees too.
Our squad is deep and balanced and we’re aware there are a lot of other good teams which we won’t be taking lightly. It’s important to remember at this time of year that hockey isn’t played on paper and the successful teams will be the ones who work the hardest and gel together the quickest so that is what we’ll be focusing on when we hit the ice.
Bracknell Bees start their competitive season with a repeat of last weekends challenge games as they host Raiders on Saturday 15th September before travelling to Kent to play Invicta Dynamos on Sunday 16th September.