East Grinstead’s new recruits on how playing Premier Division hockey at university will help them with next challenge, writes Harry Croft-Baker
East Grinstead are seeking to improve on last year’s result of 10th by bolstering their squad with an injection of top youth talent. A big intake has come from fellow Premier Division side University of Nottingham, which accounts for five new signings.
The likes of goalkeeper Olly Smart and Isaac Farrant are ready for a new venture at a club which has found it tough going in the new split league structure but still thrive indoors.
“What was most appealing to us about EG, on top of their obvious history and friendly feel, was the atmosphere that is created around the games,” says Smart, “and that comes from having a stand and a clubhouse by the pitch. And of course, the EG Faithful.”
A common talking point surrounding the premier division is how to increase attendance at games and improve atmospheres. EG is one of the few clubs that has consistent attendances and support at games, developed through their supporter’s group.
The EG pair also revealed how playing university hockey has shown them how important it is to have consistent support and a consistently lively atmosphere at games.The boisterous and competitive atmospheres created at games are certainly something that is unique to the university competition.
Farrant says: “At Nottingham we were consistently getting 150+ down to games. And a record crowd at Big Bucs Wednesday of roughly 1,500 or more people. Continuing to have a great atmosphere at games and having the crowd behind you is something I really look forward to continuing at EG.”
The pair say their experiences gained through being a university side in the top flight and how the lessons learned will help them through the coming year.
“It’s an extremely valuable experience,” adds Smart. “Playing against the country’s top players is a level of experience that you don’t get from playing junior international or in university competitions and will be something that is extremely useful for us going forwards.”
The facilities and staffing that universities provide is unparalleled within the English domestic game. Access to coaching staff, physio support, analysts and an S&C coach accelerate development, says Smart
“It is definitely as close you can get to being a professional hockey player without being contracted,” he notes
In recent years It has often been disputed and is a common topic of conversation as to whether university sides should be within the Premier Division.
“Universities, at the level of development the domestic game is within England at the moment, should definitely be in the premier league,” says Smart.
“We have shown we can compete at the top level and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be in the Premier Division.”
Further, the atmosphere that university crowds bring to games should be seen as a positive for the league.
“It’s what many of the other clubs strive for,” says Farrant. “Universities creating exciting and lively atmospheres around games should definitely be seen as a positive within the hockey community.”