OXFORD, UK – After completing their pre-season fixtures with a 5-1 loss at home to Bracknell Hornets this weekend, defenseman Andy Cox is looking forward to another season in an Oxford City Stars jersey.
It is fair to say that the last few seasons have been a roller coaster ride for the City Stars and their fans.
The lows were well documented but last season the team lifted the National Ice Hockey League South 2 title to the delight of everyone involved with the team, including Andy Cox who is now in his twelfth season with the team.
“Being part of a winning team is always a great feeling and being part of a winning team at Oxford where I have played most of my hockey throughout my career is even better” explained Cox, who first appeared as a fresh faced Stars rookie in 2001.
“The support we received last season is the best I have seen for a long time at Oxford and I’m sure that is all to do with the fact that the whole team was made up of local players from the Oxford area along with the fact we were winning”
“On quite a few occasions we had a bigger travelling fan base with us than some of the home teams had in their own rinks”
Despite the success of last year the club opted not to take promotion to division 1 to mixed reactions from across the UK hockey community.
An increase in standard and most importantly an increase in fixtures was not a challenge the management of the Stars felt could be bridged at this point in time, meaning that the team face another season in the lowest rung of competitive hockey.
“I did say when asked for my opinion what I would have preferred to be playing in NIHL1 but only if it were viable for the club to continue and avoid the closures that we have previously experienced” admitted Cox, who started as a forward but now plays on the blue line.
“With it being so difficult to obtain a major sponsor for the team in the Oxford area there was always a concern that if we were to step back up we would be in the same situation as before and be uncompetitive”
“With that in mind I am very happy that we have decided to play in the NIHL2 and look to retain the league title”
“It’s also great to be back at Oxford and now being one of the senior players bringing some of the youngsters through into the team from the juniors”
Since making his debut in 2001, Cox has always iced for his home town team aside from two seasons where the club didn’t start or finish a league campaign.
The first was a twelve month spell with Milton Keynes back in 2002/3 and the latest a half season with Streatham Redskins in 2011/12.
“I really enjoyed my time at Streatham and all the lads were great to be around and obviously when Oxford folded I wanted to continue in NIHL1 which is why I headed to London” explained Cox when asked if he had considered moving clubs this season.
“But being that far away from Oxford every game is then an away game in itself, which is not ideal when trying to juggle work and hockey”
“So when some of the senior players (that had signed elsewhere due to the closure of Oxford) decided to return to play NIHL2 it was a no brainer as I’ve grown up with all of them and it’s always good playing in a team of mates”
One familiar face to Cox is of course Player Coach Darren Elliott. Dubbed as ‘Mr Oxford’, Elliott is a face that seems to have been icing in an Oxford jersey forever despite being only 33.
Add in fellow Oxford stalwart James Clarke and its fair to say that between the three of them, they have probably made more appearances in a Stars jersey than the rest of the squad put together.
“Dazz has always been a pretty influential player at Oxford and has spent most of the time being team captain” said Cox on his relationship with his team mate turned coach.
“With this said, the transition from player to player/coach has been quite natural for him, whether he will agree with me I’m not sure as I know how hard coaching can be and the time he has to commit to ensure we remain successful”
“But it’s been good as Elliott really does love the club and desperately wants us to be successful”
Success will arguably be harder to come by this year as the Stars look to retain their league title against some pretty tough opposition.
“I think it will be similarly as competitive as last year with the likes of ourselves, Peterborough, Bristol and the Isle of Wight all up there” Said Cox when asked who the Stars main challengers will be.
“Along with the addition of Haringey of course who believe they will be too. However I can assure you we’ll be doing everything we can to retain the title”
Oxford City Stars face off their league campaign with a home league fixture against Basingstoke next Sunday (8th September).
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