Wimbledon Hockey Club hungry to make championship finals after recruiting ‘strong’ team

Phil Roper believes Wimbledon Hockey Club will be mixing it up at the business end of the table this season as they prepare to build upon last year’s work.

Last season Wimbledon finished a solid sixth in the Premier Division of the NOW: Pension’s Men’s Hockey League after promotion in 2012/2013.

As they prepare to embark on their second term, England and Great Britain player Roper believes the club must aim even higher, with a spot at the season’s ending Championship finals a bare minimum.

The team have been strengthened by a number of additions, including Roper’s international teammate James Bailey in goal and Ian Sloan, also of the England Hockey Centralised Training Programme.

Pensions Men’s Hockey League team photo

And with champions Beeston and East Grinstead having ruled the roost in recent years, Roper believes it’s about time Wimbledon added themselves to the mix.

“We’ve done some really good recruiting this year, we’ve got some nice strong young team and we’re looking to cement a fourth or better finish with the team we’ve have,” said Roper, whose open their campaign with a trip to local rivals Hampstead and Westminster on Saturday September 13.

“We think that it is a realistic aim. We are always trying to build or get better and we’re really hungry to make the championship finals.

“We’ve got a couple of really good players that have come in, Ian Sloan is a really good young talent from Loughborough looking to cement a place in the centralised programme.

“Also James Bailey has just joined, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper which is always amazing to have.

“Our main aim over the next three, four years is to get our name amongst the top teams and really push on and be feared by anyone who plays us.

“It’s important to get off to a good start so we looking forward to the game against Hampstead and Westminster.”

Roper himself will start the season full of confidence following a summer which saw him achieve his biggest international success to date with bronze with England at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

And after returning to hockey this week after a short break, the 22-year-old was already targeting more silverware at the Champions Trophy in India this December.

“I’m feeling pretty good after three and a half weeks off, it is quite rare to have that amount of time off and it was good to regenerate after a really busy summer,” he added.

“Having recently come into the programme and been fighting for my place, I got picked for the Commonwealth which was massive for me and then to come away with a medal was amazing.

“The next two years are huge in our build up and what we do in trying to get a medal at Rio. “Everything is focused on that, from the Champions Trophy this year and then going through to Olympic qualification, we’ve really got to push on and keep winning medals.”

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Major transfers:

Wimbledon –

James Bailey Level: England, GB From: Reading To: Wimbledon England No2 goalkeeper moves to playoff rivals

Ian Sloan Level: Soon to qualify for England and GB From: Loughborough Students To: Wimbledon Ireland international who has deferred from international hockey to qualify to play for England and Great Britain leaves relegated Students to join playoff contenders Wimbledon

Holcombe –

George Pinner Level: England, GB From: Beeston To: Holcombe England and GB No1 goalkeeper moves to Conference side Holcombe to chase promotion

Nick Catlin Level: England, GB From: Reading To: Holcombe England and GB star moves to conference side Holcombe to chase promotion

Iain Lewers Level: England, GB From: East Grinstead To: Holcombe England and GB star moves to conference side Holcombe to chase promotion

Allan Dick Level: Scotland (Retired) From: Holcombe To: Southgate Goalkeeper announced his retirement from international hockey over the summer steps in to fill the big shoes of retired goalkeeper Chris Hibbert

Hampstead and Westminster –

Harry Gibson Level: England U21 From: Loughborough Students To: Hampstead and Westminster England U21 goalkeeper moves south from relegated Loughborough Students to join H&W influx of new players

Andy Hayward Level: New Zealand From: Howick Pakuranga To: Hampstead and Westminster New Zealand penalty corner specialist, who scored 6 goals at the world cup moves to join influx of new players at H&W

Pau Freixa Sureda Level: Spain From: Atlètic Terrassa To: Hampstead and Westminster Spanish star makes the move from Cataluña to Hampstead and Westminster

Harry Slater Level:  From: Reading To: Hampstead and Westminster Experienced Premier League midfielder moves to join Hampstead from Reading

Nick Page Level:  From: Reading To: Hampstead and Westminster Experienced Premier League performer moves to join Hampstead from Reading

Matthew Botha Level: Ex-South Africa From: Royal Antwerp To: Hampstead and Westminster Ex South Africa international adds to Hampstead recruitment

Richard Alexander Level: Former England and GB From: Wimbledon To: Hampstead and Westminster Having taken the job as Head of Hockey at Merchant Taylor’s School, the distinctive “Ratman” moves to Hampstead after a successful spell at Wimbledon.

East Grinstead –

Paddy Smith Level: England, GB From: Cannock To: East Grinstead England and GB goalkeeper moves to East Grinstead to challenge himself in EHL

Chris Griffiths Level: England, GB From: Loughborough Students To: East Grinstead Relegated Loughborough lose their captain who has just broken into the Great Britain central squad

Cannock –

Rob Farrington Level: England U21 From: Loughborough Students To: Cannock England U21 star moves from relegated Loughborough to cup holders Cannock.

David Harris Level:  From: Khalsa To: Cannock North conference player of the year and scorer of 18 goals last season rejoins Cannock after one-year absence

Surbiton –

David Beckett Level: England, GB From: Cannock To: Surbiton England and GB star who struck 13 goals last season leaves cup holders to join playoff contenders Surbiton.

Lewis Prosser Level: Wales From: Gantoise (France) To: Surbiton 2011 Hockey Wales player of the year returns from France after a busy summer including the Commonwealth Game

Nick Cooper Level:  From: University Of Exeter To: Surbiton West conference top scorer last season with 22 goals moves up to the Premier League

Rupert Shipperley Level: Wales From: Cardiff and Met To: Surbiton Brother of England and GB’s Zoe, the Welsh international adds yet more depth to Surbiton squad

William Marshall Level: Scotland From: Sheffield Hallam To: Surbiton Scotland star who impressed last year for relegated Sheffield Hallam and during this summer’s Commonwealth games heads to Sugden road

Beeston –

Jamie Cachia Level: Scotland From: Sheffield Hallam To: Beeston Scotland goalkeeper who starred at Commonwealth Games replaces Pinner at Beeston.

James Gall Level: England U21 From: Surbiton To: Beeston One half of the promising Gall brothers moves to Beeston as he is starting at university in Nottingham

Reading –

Tommy Alexander Level:  From: Indian Gym To: Reading Goalkeeper steps in to compete for the place vacated by James Bailey.

Canterbury –

Stephane Panigoni Level: France From: FC Lyon To: Canterbury French international defender moves with teammate to Kent side

Edgar Reynaud Level: France From: FC Lyon To: Canterbury French goalkeeper makes the move to battle with Diccon Stubbings for the No1 jersey

Juan Martinez Penalver Level: Spain From: Sardinero (Spain) To: Canterbury Spanish defender joins the European contingent at Polo Farm

Team chances:

Team: East Grinstead Last season’s playoff runners-up have returned to European competition after a year’s absence. Captained by former GB star Glenn Kirkham and boasting plenty of international talent in their ranks they will be one of the pre-season favourites

Team: Beeston Reigning champions have lost star goalkeeper George Pinner but still have their core of internationals including Adam Dixon, Ollie Willars, Ben Arnold, Tim Whiteman and Harry Martin

Team: Reading New Head Coach Andy Watts aims to bring his side back into Europe after failing to qualify for the first time in over 20 years.

Team: Surbiton Todd Williams’ side have recruited well with plenty of firepower added to an already potent strike force. Aiming to improve on their third place in last year’s playoffs.

Team: Canterbury Lead by Trinidad and Tobago legend Kwan Browne who  remains one of the best players and best coaches in the league.

Team: Wimbledon In their second season in the top flight Wimbledon have added England star James Bailey in goal and will call on Phil Roper, who impressed at the CWG to fire them to playoffs

Team: Hampstead and Westminster After two disappointing campaigns, Hampstead have made some stellar signings, the most eye catching being that of Blacksticks’ star Andy Hayward who netted six goals at the World Cup.

Team: Cannock All change at Cannock as new coach John Bell aims to build on their NOW: Pensions Men’s Cup win last season and move the team up the league.

Team: Brooklands MU Back after a 1 year absence from the top flight after relegation in 2012-13 Brooklands’ brand of attacking hockey and the penalty corner goals of Peter Flanagan will cause teams plenty of problems.

Team: Southgate Back after one season away from the top flight, new coach, South African Jonty Robinson steps in after the legendary Chris Hibbert retired last season.

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