Solent aim to survive

Solent aim to survive

04 Sep 2013 | David Carr/Pro Hockey News
 

After a number of successful seasons on the Isle of Wight, Alex Murray returns home to Solent & Gosport as he looks to help his side improve on last year’s poor season.

 
 
 
 

After playing his entire junior hockey on the south coast with Gosport, a move to the Isle of Wight was always an option that tempted the Southampton born forward.

It was a tough start to his senior hockey career in 2005/6 season when he broke into the struggling Solent & Gosport Sharks English National League team as a teenager, but Murray had enough confidence in his ability to try and make a step up early on in life.

“I went to the Island for one reason; to play for the Raiders in the EPL” said Murray who was 18 at the time. “I had been over for a trial at the age of 16 with the Raiders when Picks (Andy Pickles) was Head Coach, things weren’t quite right then and maybe I was a bit young, but it was always my ambition to go back and try again. Initially I signed with the Division 2 side the Tigers but it wasn’t long before I got my chance with the Raiders and I never looked back”

Murray back home (Paul Shergold)

Murray back home (Paul Shergold)

“It’s funny how things work because initially Azza (Gareth Endicott) asked for two players to skate with the Raiders, and Roy Meadows (coach of the Tigers at the time) chose Kent Johnson and David Webb. I was a confident lad and to be honest I was in disbelief that I wasn’t asked. That weekend Tigers played Bristol in a friendly Kent got injured I took his place at practice on Tuesday and the rest is history. My Island experience was one I will never forget”

Murray went from strength to strength as a player in the Raiders side, especially when Player Coach Jeremy Cornish took control of the team in 2009/10. The former Gosport youngster matured to hit 21 goals and 46 assists in the league, and then went onto post two consecutive plus fifty point seasons and pick up a league winner’s medal.

It was a remarkable rise to prominence in the Raiders set up for Murray who was one of the less glamorous names on the roster coming from a small club like Solent & Gosport.

“My little stint with the Raiders in the EPL taught me about respect” said the 24 year old.

“I was and still am a very confident person and would always speak my mind to any one, however the likes of Colesy (Jason Coles) and Robo (Andrew Robinson) soon taught me a thing or two”

Success on the Island (Nicky Craft)

Success on the Island (Nicky Craft)

“Now I’m more careful about whom I speak my mind too. The last few years at the Raiders I was in a more mature leadership role, which I relished and enjoyed. However the most influential person during my time on the island would be Steve Gannaway, his knowledge and experience helped mould me into the player I am now. He would always be the one to let me know what I was doing wrong as well as give me confidence when needed. Ganners had respect from every player in the league and I think that is a credit to him”

With this all in mind it was a surprise to see Murray depart the Island this summer as Coach Cornish opted to reshuffle his roster to continue the solid improvement of a Raiders side that will once again be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.

“It’s a real shame things ended the way they did but the coach had different ideas this year and I wasn’t a part of his plans” admitted Murray. "It was a real surprise to me and maybe my downfall as I was very close to Corny through my time on the Island. I look back and think maybe I was too comfortable and it ultimately cost me. That said the lessons I learnt whilst on the island where invaluable and I will never forget my time there”

Whilst Murray was enjoying his time on the island, Solent & Gosport were slowly rebuilding their team after a couple of horrendous seasons at ENL level left them short of players and inspiration to compete at that level.

They have risen again and in 2012/13 they were promoted to NIHL 1 and battled through a tough season before eventually finishing bottom of the league.

Murray against his brother last season (Steve Baker)

Murray against his brother last season (Steve Baker)

“Initially I was delighted when they got promoted, I went and watched the game when they won promotion and I was so happy for so many friends as well as the club who deserved their chance” explained Murray when asked if it was hard to watch his old club suffer. Last year was a reality check for the club, the difference between Div 1 & 2 is very similar to the gap between us and the EPL so in fairness they gave it a good crack, just lacked depth within the squad. I wouldn’t say it was hard to see them suffer it was almost needed for them to take the next step and try to establish themselves in this league. The Club have some very talented players who could make it onto any team in the league. What I was happy about was seeing so many old team mates competing at this level”

This coming season the Solent & Gosport Devils will be looking for a gradual improvement, with Murray not the only solid signing heading to Planet Ice Gosport.

"Signings like myself would have been pointless if they lost key guys from lasts year’s squad” said Murray, who was prolific at junior level for the club. I’m delighted that ‘Goose’ Steve Gosset joined me at Gosport although he came over for his own reasons but I was elated none the less. Goose gives you 100% every shift and gives you that gritty style that all teams need, he will most probably lead our 3rd line with youth around him and won’t let anyone in the league take advantage”

Ganners an inspiration

Ganners an inspiration

“He adds toughness to the team as well as a vast amount of experience at this level and above, I feel he needs ice time, when Goose is playing regularly he is hard to play against, and is a confidence player. We have also brought in some youth from Guildford in the likes of Simon Hobbis, Ollie Denis & Luke Tull; although young they bring energy to the team as well as a willingness to learn. I can see them, especially Simon playing EPL in years to come. Hobbis is a young defender who reads the game well who also shows calmness on the puck. The new import Peter Chrenko is just what the club needed, I see so many traits in Peter similar to that of Jiri Hanzal which is a good thing, he has a great snap shot, quick release and will catch keepers unaware, he is big and strong and will suit the small ice pad”

The small ice pad is a condition both Wightlink and Solent & Gosport have had to get used to, however Murray believes that it isn’t always an advantage to either team.

”I think there are advantages and disadvantages of playing on the small ice pads” admitted Murray. "You have to be tougher on the smaller pads because they are more physical games; due to this you are stronger as a team and a player. However despite the extra strength, we lose a lot of speed which is a downfall on the big ice. Understanding this and adapting your game away will help you. You have to make your home ice a fortress and a place that away teams don’t want to play at. Fans are very close to the action and you are always in the game on the small ice pad, there is nowhere to hide. Another advantage is your puck handling skills, players that traditionally play in small rinks will develop good hands and an eye for a pass in a confined space. This leads into the disadvantage of regularly playing with your head down which could have its own consequences. Overall I think there are more negatives and you rarely find players who grow up playing on these types of ice pads moving on up the hockey ladder”

Solent Captain Kris Abbott

Solent Captain Kris Abbott

Devils Coach Will Francis and the club opted to take the EIHA’s survival offer on account of Oxford City Stars refusing to take promotion after last season’s morale sapping experience the club have shown real heart and determination to give NIHL 1 another go.

“I think a successful season for the Devils would be survival, I have a sneaky suspicion we won’t be given another life line from the league” said Murray. "All the club needs is a season to establish themselves and grow, they have had a certain amount of sponsorship but will need more to compete in this league. The likes of MK and Cardiff haven’t announced any players yet but we are not licking our lips at this fact as we know every team will be competitive and we have got to win games at home regularly. We don’t want to roll over against the top teams and need to stay in games to keep the confidence levels high”

Solent & Gosport Devils start their league campaign against Cardiff NIHL Devils on 8thSeptember in Gosport.


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