No Tinkerman tag for Tom as he looks to new season

Tom Watkins believes small adjustments will pay big dividends for The Tigers next season, as they look to defend their English Premier League title.

The county men finished the previous campaign with an 18-point gap to second place, as they dominated both the league and British Challenge Cup.

But a summer of intense transfer activity has seen other teams strengthen their rosters, with a number of sides bringing in strong import forwards.

Watkins, however, has refused to make wholesale changes, with Phil Hill arriving from Sheffield Steelers and Joe Graham from Manchester Phoenix.

He said: “I really like the team I’ve got this season and of course, we’ve made some minor adjustments, with Scott and Rupert leaving. They performed well for us last season.

“But in Phil Hill, we’ve got an exceptional player who is in very good shape. He plays extremely well on a smaller ice pad and he’ll be a big plus for us.

“You don’t play at the top level, or with the GB team – like Phil has for so long – unless you’re a very good player. He’ll be a very good impact player for us.

“Phil will bring an element that we were missing a bit last year. He’s a good, physical forward who is strong on the puck.

“Joe Graham is a guy that a lot of people underestimated when we signed him. He was on a title-winning team in Manchester, with a small defensive core.

“I see Joe as a great, gritty player who does the little things well. He is also able to put points on the board, so I am really excited to have him here.”

The county men return to action on August 29th against hosts Bracknell Bees in the Red Hockey Cup, before the return fixture in Telford the next day (6pm).

A lengthy off-season has also seen Watkins bear down on his existing squad, with fitness one of the priorities in a detailed summer programme.

He added: “We’ve looked at some of the videos from last season and made some major improvements with the players here during the summer.

“We’ll have a lot of guys who will be more confident, stronger and quicker next season. I think those minor adjustments will help the team a lot.”

Watkins, who was announced as Head Coach of the GB under-20s programme during the summer, is well known for his “one game at a time” approach to coaching.

That outlook culminated in the EPL title and British Challenge Cup last season – and he’s in no mood to change for the upcoming campaign.

“You always take it one game at a time and to be honest, most other coaches are the same,” he said.

“If you start looking too far ahead, you will struggle. We do plan a month ahead and set expectations in terms of points, or whatever.

“But you can’t prepare for a match in two weeks time. You always start with the task of getting ready for the next game.”

Elsewhere in the English Premier League, other teams are likely to present Telford with a much tougher challenge, in terms of retaining their titles from last time out.

The Tigers chief added: “A lot of sides have got some good, explosive talent up front, but at the same time they are perhaps they are a little light in defence.

“Every team will have their weaknesses, but there is a lot of depth across the league. It will be interesting to see what adjustments they make.

“It’s great to see ice hockey stay in Hull. They have got some loyal, vocal fans up there and it’s good to have a tenth team in the EPL. They’ll be in for an exciting season, that’s for sure.”

Click here to buy tickets for the upcoming home friendlies against Bracknell Bees (30th August) and Manchester Phoenix (September 5th).

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