Surbiton head coach Todd Williams has slammed England Hockey’s scheduling, which means his side have to wait nearly a month before facing Reading in the Premier League play-off semi-finals.
After losing 1-0 to Chichester Priory Park last Sunday in the semi-finals of the Knockout Cup, Surbiton’s next match is against Reading in their play-off clash on Saturday April 16 at Lee Valley.
Although the Australian is well aware this applies to all teams in the play-offs, he feels the break doesn’t help anyone and form is virtually irrelevant going into the crucial clash.
He said: “I wish it wasn’t so long a break, to the extent I don’t think it does anyone any favours.
“The point should be made that teams should be given the opportunity to play on the basis of how they finished the season, which obviously won’t be the case.
“As it is, we’ve got around a month break which isn’t going to be reflective of the team’s form to how they finished the season which doesn’t make much sense.”
Surbiton ended the regular season strongly with three consecutive wins, including a 2-1 victory against play-off opponents Reading, which saw them finish second.
Despite beating Reading twice already this campaign, Williams knows his opponents will provide a stern test and warned of the threat GB internationals Simon Mantell — with 199 appearances for England and GB to his name — and Tom Carson will pose.
He said: “They’ve done really well, a lot of people were writing them off but Andy Watts has done a great job coaching them.
“They have some very good senior players who are very smart and in a play-off match, that almost doubles their value.
“You’ve got the Mantell brothers [Simon and Richard] and Tom Carson who on their day can all win a game on their own and are a force to be reckoned with.”
Williams was satisfied with his team’s showing in the regular season, which was in danger of imploding following three defeats straight after the winter break.
However, despite the positives he wants to improve on last season’s 2-0 play-off semi-final defeat to Wimbledon.
He also lauded junior players Zach Wallace, 16, Harry Gough, 15, and Evan Kimber, 17, who have all been given a chance in recent weeks and thinks his side are better prepared for the play-offs this time round.
He said:”I guess it could have been better as we were joint top going into the break. But our philosophy this year was all about being better in the play-offs and first getting there.
“We’ve spent the last few weeks spending time investing in three really promising juniors who have all shown they have the potential to be genuine impact players in the play-offs.
“I would say we are more prepared. Last year we weren’t very happy with how we played in the play-offs but we are more pleased with our preparation and have done more to make us a better team.
“We’ve finished strongly and unearthed what we think are three promising juniors.”
Seeking Surbiton’s first league title since 2001, Williams said that other than GB international forwards Chris Grassick and, the league’s top scorer with 21 goals, Alan Forsyth, David Beckett will be key for his side.
“The two GB boys will be massive for us, they are top players and have done really well in the national programme so we are really proud of them,” he added.
“But David Beckett has probably been our best player this season and I definitely think he should be back in the national set-up. These three will be a critical part of us playing well.”
Image courtesy of Tim Reder, with thanks