Coaches Vow To Bring Stars Success
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars can today announce that their coaching team of Michael Bowman, Richie Thornton and Terry Ward will be back to take the helm of the senior Stars for their fourth season. The trio will operate on the same basis, with Player/Coach Bowman taking training and coaching the forward lines, whilst Thornton returns as Defensive Player/Coach. Director of Coaching Ward will be a familiar face on the bench during games.
‘Bomber’Â joined the Stars for the 2012-2013 season, taking over the coaching reins a season later when Simon Leach departed Billingham. Last season was particularly tough for the former English Premier League forward as injury took him away from the ice and onto the bench mid-campaign. Bowman expects much more fromÂ his Billingham sideÂ next time out as they look to bounce back from a relatively disappointing 2015-2016 season that saw them miss out on the playoffs for the first time since their inception as the Stars. Bowman explains:
“I’m not too sure what happened last season really, butÂ I think complacency was a big factor in us missing out on the playoffs. We went into a lot of games expecting to win and we were expecting to be in the playoffs, but by the time we realised it wasn’t just going to happen we had left it too late. We got it together trying to play catch-up and put some good performances in which helped us in the Cup weekend.Â The ambition thisÂ coming yearÂ is silverware again and the playoffs are a must. I think we need to change our mindset and have more urgency from the start of the season and every game, we need to make things happen, not just wait for them to.
From our forwards I think we need consistent goals from every line. We relied a lot on Dennis’ goals last season, and although we did have some other good contributors –Â Mikey Elder has to get a mention here – we only had four guys in double figures. So to improve I would like us to have more depth and if we get the signings we hope for we will have that.
The coaching set-up has been consistent for a while now – this will be my fourth season with the coaching board so most the guys know how I work and to expect lots of lines! Also many of the systems will remain consistent so for most it will be refreshing not to beÂ learning them from scratch. My spell on the bench last season taught meÂ that I much prefer to be playing! However it also showed me that I miss a lot while playing and need to use Terry and the other off-ice team members more. There’s no doubt that my playing is affected by coaching but I’m learning to combine the two and hopefully my scoring touch will return next season – IÂ had a poor year in the ‘goals scored’ column!
The League keeps on improving every year.Â I’m sure Blackburn will regroup and put together a strong team again. If Solway can start as they left off last season they will be right up there, as will our neighbours up the A19 who will look to improve again after their impressive season last year. I’m sure there will be no easy games. I’m really looking forward to making people forget what to me was a disappointing season last year by being at the right end of the table and bringing more silverware back to the Forum.”
Billingham defensive stalwart Thornton returns to lend his expertise to the Stars blue line contingent. A solid, smooth-skating defenseman himself, Thornton also chips in with vital points. A former Elite Leaguer with Newcastle Vipers, his knowledge and experience is crucial in developing the younger members of the Stars defensive unit. Thornton wants to see the Stars continue where they left off:
“Last season we were inconsistent. We dropped points in games where we were winning going into the third. We were tying and losing to teams by the odd goal at first but towards the back end of the season we were winning those games. We finished the season well and were consistent for the last ten games or so, but we needed that for the whole season. We didn’t really get going until late on, and that’s when we started to be on the right side of the odd-goal games. It will be the same again next season – the top six were so close last time around and I expect the same again.
We’ve got a lot of options defensively for next season. Hopefully we’ll have most of the guys back and we’ve got guys coming through the ranks too. I’ll be looking for that consistency that we had in the later games – get the puck out of our own end in the first cycle, don’t get stuck for long periods of time – but not just from the d-men, it’s the whole team’s responsibility which is something that we need to work on in general. In this improved League you get punished for the small mistakes that only two or three years ago you could get away with, but last year especially you just couldn’t.
For me personally, there’s always room for improvement. If you’re going to continue to play you need to bring something to the table. I am hoping that more of the guys coming into the team will play more of the minutes to give me more time to think about what’s going on on the ice, who to put out there and what to do.
Next year I’m looking at Solihull – they’ve proved that they can move up and compete, they can be as good if not better again. Whitley have proved they have got the right players and also the right sort of mentality and coaching. Solway came on so strong last year and marched towards the end of the season. Blackburn have lost players that at this level you could say are irreplaceable but they’ve got guys there to put out a good competitive team. But overall, with the right attitude and the focus we had at the end of last season, I think we may be the team to watch out for.”
Supporting Bowman and Thornton is Billingham legend and Director of Coaching Terry Ward. An often vocal presence on the bench, Ward has been an integral part of the club for over 35 years, starting as a netminder in the (very!) early Eighties. Ward is still heavily involved in all aspects of running the senior Stars, and is currently assisting his coaches and General Manager Allen Flavell in building next season’s squad:
“We had a really shaky start last season but Bomber really pulled it together and we had a great end to the campaign. We’re looking forward to carrying that on – Richie is going to take on a bigger role alongside Bomber so we’ve got massive amounts of experience there, we can’t wait to get started. We hit form a bit late in the day so the summer came at the wrong time for us! We got some great results in that final few games, no one else goes to Blackburn and wins, we have to take that going forward.
It’ll be wide open next year. We didn’t have the budget of other teams last season, but we had a great group of players who did us proud. We finished on a real high and the players areÂ looking forward so much to the start of the new season –Â we’re expecting good things.”
Flavell expressed his delight in securing the services of Bowman and Thornton once more, and also hinted at what may be coming over the next few weeks and months:
“I am in talks with plenty of players at the moment, and happily we are in a position to begin revealing our early signings. It is great to have Terry, Bomber and Richie back on board as our coaching team, they have a wealth of experience to coach the lads from front to back – a fantastic trio.”
Stars roster announcements will begin on Monday – keep watching the usual social media outlets and the web site for all the details as the squad starts to take shape. Also to come will be details of fixtures, season tickets and, of course, the now-famous annual Summer BBQ!