Mark Gillingham speaks to us about how things are looking for the all-new NIHL team.
Things are starting to come together well at the Silver-Blades rink in Widnes, so we found the time to speak to the man in charge of making this team click on the ice, Mark Gillingham.
‘I’m really happy with how far along we are in our preparations for the season. We’re halfway through July, so we’ve still got at least a month and a half until our games get underway, but we’re already getting to a stage where we could put a team out on the ice to play a game. For a team starting from scratch, everything’s come together pretty quickly. We’re starting to put our tactical foundations in place, and we’re thinking of line combinations and things like that, things that other teams will be able to carry over from last season.’
With the weekly training sessions now strictly consisting of the signed players, and players who are interested in signing on, the Wild-ones are now starting to take shape and looking more familiar with the people around them as easily recognized by Mark.
‘The squad we’ve got in place now has very strong foundations, and I’d be confident putting the group we’ve got out against anyone in the league, but we’re still looking to strengthen in whichever ways we can. While that may involve trying to bring in a few more players who we’ve seen performing at this level, and who we’ve been impressed by, it will also certainly involve developing the players we’ve already got on board. We’re putting a lot of time into looking at how best to develop our players. It might be quite surprising for some, but there aren’t too many teams at our level who look to specifically develop their goalies, but that’s something we’re doing. Pete Bleackley has come in to work with the goalies, so they’re getting as much time doing goalie-specific drills as the skaters are doing skater-specific drills, and it’s already starting to show on the ice. Little details like that could make a huge difference over the course of the season.’
‘Since we’ve confirmed to the players that they’re part of our plans moving forward, there’s definitely been a strong team spirit starting to show through at training. It’s always going to be a challenge bringing in players from a number of different teams to a new setting, but we’ve been careful to select players who we know will gel well together quickly. We’ve got a real range of ages and experiences signed up, but they’re all fitting in well. While they’re getting on well, there’s still a competitive edge there of people fighting for places and ice time, which is healthy. That’s something else we’ll be looking to keep developing heading towards the start of the season, and anyone else we decide to bring in will have to fit in with the players we already have. Going forward, we’re going to keep working on the tactical side of how the team plays, as well as our fitness. It’s going to be hard work right up until we get out onto the ice for that first game, but we’ll be ready.’
As mentioned by Mark, development is an important part of any team, and Silver-Blades are very keen to submit an U10 team into the junior league this year, so we’re asking all who are interested to visit our Hockey Basics information page on the website.