Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Scottish hockey: Western Wildcats hopes for league title repeat

Western Wildcats have set a target to regain the Scottish Premiership title, but they will have to do that minus top marksman Andrew McConnell who scored over 50 goals last season and has been snapped up by German side Harvestehuder, writes Nigel Duncan.

New coach Steven Percy said the Auchenhowie combine will now have to balance those goals across the squad this season.

On the plus side, Iain McFadden has been recruited from The University of Edinburgh and Craig Wallace has joined from Uddingston with Cameron Banks being added from Glasgow University.

Percy said: “We’ve added some additional depth to our squad as well as a few youth recruits. The goal is to win the league but also to be successful within the end-of-season play-offs to achieve the 23/24 EuroHockey League spot.

This season the Scottish Cup and play-off winners travel to Barcelona to face Czech champions Plzen Litice and either Dutch giants Kampong or Bloemendall in this year’s EuroHockey League.

Percy added: “The goal is to win a game and be as competitive as possible in the second match.”

Reflecting on last year’s domestic competition, he said: “The margin for league success was razor thin, basically the two matches against Grange.

“We know how important each match is and have been training since mid-July to be ready.”

Warm-up matches against Watsonians (a 6-3 win), then a trip to Manchester to face Bowden (a 2-1 defeat) and Brooklands (a 5-1 win), have been undertaken so far and Western face Clydesdale this weekend.

Percy said: “Pre-season has been challenging with some players committed to the Australian League in Perth, but we welcome them back soon as well as some others who have been married and have been on honeymoon. We grow stronger each week.”

Imrie aims high

The University of Edinburgh men’s hockey club have challenged Grange and Western for silverware in recent seasons, but coach Hamish Imrie, pictured above, has a massive job on his hands this term as he will have to drastically reshape his squad.

It’s a perennial problem for student teams because of the high turnover due to graduations and educational placements.

Imrie reports that a number of his regulars have now left including Robbie Croll, a key element in past successes, who has signed for city rivals, Grange, one of Imrie’s former clubs before he played abroad in Belgium for Royal Antwerp and in Germany for Harvestuder. He also had a spell with Beeston in England.

The player, who has scored 20 goals in 35 appearances for Scotland, was once signed on an S Form by Edinburgh-based football team, Hibernian FC, and took over from former Olympian, Graham Moodie, at Peffermill. He has done a fine job with the squad.

The former Fettes College pupil has guided the students to two third place finishes in the Scottish Premiership, promotion in the 2022-23 season to the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Premier League and wins in the BUCS Vase in 2022 and 2023.

Edinburgh-born Imrie said: “We will have between ten and 12 newcomers into the first team squad which is a total shift for us.” 

Total Hockey

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