Old Loughts look for National League return
PUBLISHED: 18:21 16 September 2016 | UPDATED: 18:21 16 September 2016
Men plotting promotion push
Old Loughtonians’ men are looking to return to the National League this season, following a traumatic 2015/16 campaign.
The tragic death of 22-year-old Tom Wilson was felt right across the hockey community last December and Loughts welcome Chelmsford to Luxborough Lane for their opening fixture this weekend.
Captain Ian Swallow, who returns from injury, said: “The young squad have retained the vast majority of players from last season and added a number of high calibre new players over the summer which it hopes will see it through following an emotionally difficult season in 2015/16.
“The men’s first team will be looking for promotion back to the National League, having finished fourth in the East Premier last season, in its first year out of the National League since the 1980s.”
Tom Stumbke, who led the team in Swallow’s absence, added: “We are looking to gain promotion back to the National League. We led the league at Christmas last year, but a loss of form and injuries to key players meant we missed out.
“Although we have signed a number of new players, equally as significant is the return of two key players from long-term injury.
“Our captain, Ian Swallow, returns having missed all of last season and Rob Bloss returns having broken his hand during our indoor campaign last January.
“Our new signings include George Lilley, who is returning to Loughts from Holcombe and brings vital Premier League experience.
“We expect St Albans and Peterborough to be challenging for the title as well as Harlestone Magpies, who were relegated from the National League last season.”
Old Loughts women are also looking to progress in the East Premier Division and are hpoing some fresh blood can help them achieve their aims.
Captain Chelsey Toms said: “We had one of the stronger defensive units in the league last year and now we’re looking to build on this further up the pitch to give us a solid standing.
“We’re excited to welcome some new Australian blood to bolster our forward line and I’m really pleased to see some of our homegrown youngsters pushing into the first team.
“They’ve been part of our highly successful colts teams and most are in the JRPC set-up so there’s a lot of raw talent stepping up this year.
“They bring a fantastic energy and we can’t wait to see how they’ll develop playing in this league.”
Loughts begin their campaign at Bedford and Toms admits they are looking forward to renewing some old rivalries, adding: “The tough games tend to bring out the best in us and we’re looking forward to the match-up with Ipswich, who are joining us from National League.
“And while we all love the local rivals, Norwich Dragons were good sports at our hockey tour ‘Fun in the Forest’ this summer so it will be great to welcome them back to Loughts.”
As a club, Loughts are looking to build and improve at all levels, with their Back to Hockey programme proving so successful they aer looking to run another.
A new initiative of social hockey sessions have also proved popular and will be continued on alternate Sundays, with fun, knockabout games for people of all abilties, age and gender.
Spokesperson Jane Blake said: “They’re a great chance for inter-team socialising and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere for newcomers. Even whole families get the chance to play together.”
The mini and junior sections continue to attract large numbers and the club will run three boys teams at under-12 level as a result.
Loughts are also making great efforts to build their Masters section, entering a Supervets League and Over-50 cup competition.
Blake added: “We are using our vastly improved website to good effect in the promotion of all our initiatives to attract and retain members.
“Having two Olympic standard pitches and a training pitch, plus a wonderful clubhouse, all at the same location, we feel set to offer the ultimate ‘hockey club experience’ ever.”
For more information visit oldloughtonians.co.uk and oldloughtonians.co.uk/back_to_hockey.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ilford Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.