Surbiton ready to battle as fight for Premier Division title hots up

Surbiton may be in a tussle to retain their Men’s Hockey League Premier Divsion title, but they are more than up for the fight.

The club have lost just once this season and three consecutive victories are keeping them top of the league on goal difference ahead of Hampstead & Westminster ahead of Saturday’s trip to Reading

It may look like things are getting awfully close, but team manager Matt Jones understands the different challenges for his team as defending champions.

He said: “In all sports, to get to the very top is a challenge but to maintain that superiority and keep winning requires another unique element from players and the management team.

“That is an understanding of how we got there in the first place and also the mentality to churn those performances week in week out, irrespective of any challenges you may be facing.”

Surbiton have won the league for the past two seasons, but this season they have faced another challenge with a number of their players representing Great Britain at the FIH Pro League, a global hockey competition.

This has led to a number of changes for Jones to make in his preparation for matches, but he is proud of the quality of players he can call upon when his international players fly all over the world.

He said: “It’s a fabulous reflection on the depth and the calibre of the players coming through our club, who are being given ample opportunity to work with the senior squad.”

Last week, in Surbiton’s 4-1 win over Holcombe, Jones gave a debut to Charlie Neat and it was another indication of the importance the club places on its youth.

He claimed: “Charlie is just yet another one of a long line of juniors.

“He’s shown promise and he’s worthy of representing his country, as he has done at his age group.

“Charlie ended up getting quite a few minutes in that game, and looked every bit a Premiership National league player, and it’s no surprise to us that he put on a very good performance.”

In contrast, this week saw stalwart William Marshall retire from international hockey after a career of 177 caps for Scotland and scoring 19 goals for them.

He will continue to be a part of Surbiton in a playing capacity and Jones paid tribute to the Scotsman.

He said: “William Marshall has been an amazing servant to the sport of hockey and particularly to Scotland.

“He’s in his early 30s and he’s played hockey for a very long time but it does take its toll both in terms of the body and impacts you outside of hockey because of the sacrifices you have to make.

“But he has been a great servant for Scottish hockey.”

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