Hockey; Old Loughtonians ring the changes

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The Independent Online


The new National League season starts this afternoon when Old Loughtonians entertain Bournville at Chigwell. With both teams featuring a number of new signings and the Old Boys under their new coach, Billy McPherson, Scotland's European Cup coach, the game is certain to attract attention. The remainder of the league programme is played tomorrow.

Nicky Thompson, Loughtonians' new captain, said: "Billy has produced a fitter squad and a well disciplined one."

Making their league debuts for Loughtonians will be the English internationals Jason Lee, Matt Sutton (who will be appearing against his old club), and Scotland's David Ralph who, following his performances in the European Cup, is certain to feature in Britain's Olympic training squad. Two Australian Under-21 imports, Steve Carter and Brian Feltham from Canberra Lakers, may find it difficult to make the starting line-up, although Julian Halls is a doubtful starter. Bournville will probably field Chris Dunn and Manpreet Kochar from Hull.

Two players hoping to rejuvenate their international prospects, Don Williams and Rowan Davis, have both returned to their previous clubs. Williams is back with Guildford from Havant, who are at home to Trojans. Davis returns from Polo Barcelona to newly promoted St Albans who play the second promoted side, Barford Tigers.

Cannock are another side who have been active in the market. They will include the English internationals Bobby Crutchley, from Hounslow, and Andy Humphrey from Hull, as well as the Welsh goalkeeper Chris Ashcroft, away to Havant, whom they have yet to beat in a league or cup match.

The Hampshire side have lost several experienced players but add the French international Olivier Camus and two England juniors, Robert Todd and Will Glover, to their squad - but the three-times champions will rely heavily on England's specialist at penalty corners, Calum Giles.

Reading have been busy with the recruitment of two English internationals: goalkeeper Simon Mason and the promising striker Mark Pearn. With Mark Hoskin and Charlie Oscroft returning after a year's absence abroad, they look strong challengers for the First Division title and should win their opening game at Indian Gymkhana.