NIHL Feature – Interview with Sheffield Spartans Coach Chris Wilcox

DURHAM, UK – Sheffield Spartans have had a mixed start to the NIHL Division 1 season they currently occupy 5th position in the league table after picking up two wins and a draw from their opening seven games of the 2012/13 campaign. Spartans player/coach Chris Wilcox recently spoke to us about his Sheffield side and other NIHL issues.
“We have started a little shaky but we have had a fairly difficult start to the season fixtures wise. Although results haven’t gone our way I feel that every game we have improved and are gelling together as a team.
“Any big convincing win over any team (Spartans beat Trafford 8-1 last weekend) always makes life easier within the team and it proves that we can play extremely well when things click into place.”
He then went onto speak of his plans for the year and of the upcoming youngsters in the current Sheffield set up.
“Our main aim for this season is to be fighting for a playoff spot, I think with the team we have that can be achieved we just need to work hard and focus on our game and systems.
“We have a fair few young lads that could make a big impression at some point, most of the younger lads aspire to play at the next level and that shows in games and training which is great mixed in with our more experienced players.

“I think all the younger guys see this league as a stepping stone which can only be good for English hockey as they can learn their trade before moving up to the next level.”
Chris went to identify who he thought would be the top sides in the division this term and the player in NIHL hockey his side held in the highest regard.
“I personally think that Billingham will be too strong for almost everyone this year, everyone was talking about the big top of the table clash between them and Solway and the Stars ended up running out 5-0 winners! I also think that the rest of the league will be very tight.
“I don’t see that any one team is destined for relegation and the teams that have had a slow start are definitely not to be taken lightly. It makes it a great league, every game is competitive and teams can’t take nights off like they could in the past!
“Sutton have greatly impressed me though, they have picked up some very experienced players and some great youngsters and have played well as a team which makes the league extremely strong and competitive!
“Personally Adam Reynolds from Solway is the most difficult player to come up against. He is a player that could easily play at a higher level and makes games against them difficult. Saying that I think that every team has someone or a forward line to watch out for.”
The Sheffield player/coach then spoke of how NIHL hockey was improving and the reasons behind his side’s decision to solely concentrate on the league this season and not enter the cup competition.

“The level of hockey is really good now, there are plenty of players who have dropped down from the Elite league or EPL due to commitments/work etc. so it naturally makes it a better league.
  “I also think that EPL and Elite league teams have realised that the NIHL a good league and that they can benefit by having players playing in it which again makes guys work harder and see it as a stepping stone as opposed to a third tier league.
“There were a few reasons behind the decision to not play in the cup and one of the biggest was the cost. This year we have managed to reduce our playing costs by almost 70% but as all the players pay to play we thought it best not to add more expense and concentrate on the league.”
As the interview drew to a close Chris spoke of the rinks in the Spartans division.
“My favourite would be Billingham if only they would have made the dressing rooms bigger! I don’t have a distinct least favourite but at a push it would be either Telford or Blackburn.”
Thanks to Chris for taking the time out to speak to and we wish him and his Spartans team all the best for the remainder of the campaign.
Images courtesy of Chris Wilcox
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