Aldershot & Farnham restart their South East Premier hockey campaign this weekend after the winter break – with coach Ian Jennings telling his players: It’s time to start winning again.
A&F have had a meteoric rise up the leagues, winning five promotions in six seasons.
They are now coming to terms with being just one more promotion away from the national leagues, although their whirlwind start of going unbeaten in their first five matches was halted when they lost four matches in a row.
They drew in their final outing before the festive break but Jennings wants to see improvement when they travel to Tunbridge Wells today (Saturday).
He would not be satisfied with a mid-table finish – he wants to see a winning mentality to then launch themselves into another promotion and into the national set-up inside the next two years.
“I have been delighted to see us so competitive when we have played the top four in the division,” said Jennings.
“I think perhaps we could have beaten two of those top four and we could have drawn another – but Old Georgians were simply a bit too good.
“The results have shown that we can compete in this league and if we can recruit more players we have a real chance.
“That’s why the second half of this season is so important. We have to show people we have a team with real intent and players can see it would be a positive experience to join us with a real possibly of getting promoted in their second or third year.
“I’ll be pushing the guys very hard to make sure we continue with the same discipline and intent right the way through to the last game of the season.
“I don’t want us to end up being like some teams in previous years who I have criticised because they have taken their foot off the pedal – they can’t get promoted, they are unlikely to get relegated and they just let the rest of the season play out. That’s not how I operate.
“We’ll be pushing as hard as we can for as long as we can and if other teams want to take their foot off the pedal that’s up to them, but we won’t.
“In my view, the league is split into three – there’s a top four, a middle four and a bottom four.
“I see us in the middle four and I want to see us finish the season at the top of that, and if we can be pushing to break into the top four, that would mean a very successful season.
“We aren’t too far away from being a club ready to challenge for promotion. For a lot of our players this is their first experience at this level and it has been a bit of shock to some – 25 per cent of my squad are under-17s. Next year they are going to be a lot stronger and a lot fitter and better hockey players.
“We want to be seen to be an attractive club to attract new players.
“I am immensely proud of our players. If you had sat them down six years ago and told them that in six years’ time they would be playing one level below the national league, they would have laughed. I don’t think they would have envisioned being at this level, and they have done it through a good work ethic, great discipline, wanting to fit into a structure and having a team ethos – it has been hugely exciting for me and I have been immensely proud of them all.
“Our biggest danger is other clubs looking at our players. One of my tasks is to convince them we are a team who can get promoted – I don’t want to be a run-of-the-mill league team whose players look to go to other clubs who may have a better promotion opportunity. They can achieve their ambitions with us.”