EPL preview: Watkins wants players to stay focused

Telford Tigers’ boss Tom Watkins wants his players to forget about the club’s off-ice issues and concentrate on extending their record of 16 wins from 21 games so far this season.

Arrangements have been made between Telford brand owners and the General Manager, in cooperation with Watkins and the players, to allow this weekend’s games against Hull Pirates and Basingstoke Bison to go ahead as scheduled.

Interested parties have been coming forward looking to take on the team moving forward, but Watkins is keen for his players to remain focused on the job at hand.

“We continue to ask the players to show their professionalism and make sure they do themselves justice,” said Watkins.

“I don’t want us to come out of this situation in a few weeks time with regrets that we didn’t approach it in the way we should.

“Of course this is a difficult time to stay motivated, but that is a key factor in what we’re trying to do when we come to the rink to train or play.

“I can’t fault the guys for their work ethic and commitment over the last few weeks. They’ve been blocking shots during games and getting injured.

“I’ve always said that we’ve got a really great group of players and it’s in situations like these that you can grow in strength, should we come through this.

“I’d like to think this will stand us in good stead, moving forward, and help to show the excellent character we have in this team.

“I know teams have approached our guys – I have good relationship with my players and they tell me. They are all very good players, so I would expect that.

“But I will do everything I can to make sure I keep the core of this remarkable team together.”

Sheffield Steeldogs face Bracknell Bees on Saturday aiming for revenge for their defeat against Lukas Smital’s side two weeks ago.

The Steeldogs crashed to a surprise 3-0 loss on home ice and defender Tom Relf admitted they had been complacent against his old team.

“We just didn’t turn up – we thought it would be an easy game,” Relf told the Sheffield Telegraph.

“We were at home, we hadn’t had a four hour bus journey – we thought we could just turn up and play and win. We just didn’t get going.

“They have a short bench but they are very hard-working, very gritty. They come ready to fight for everything, they play hard each week.

“They have a good team – many people underestimate them, but if you take them lightly they will punish you. That happened to us the other week and we lost the game.

“On Saturday we know what to expect. They will be passive – they’ll want to break us down.

“We’ve been working on that in training and we’ll show up ready and determined to win. We need the points to maintain our top five ambitions.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Basingstoke Bison v MK Lightning
Guildford Flames v Peterborough Phantoms
Hull Pirates v Telford Tigers
Sheffield Steeldogs v Bracknell Bees
Swindon Wildcats v Manchester Phoenix

Sunday

Bracknell Bees v Guildford Flames
Manchester Phoenix v Sheffield Steeldogs
MK Lightning v Swindon Wildcats
Peterborough Phantoms v Hull Pirates
Telford Tigers v Basingstoke Bison

(Image permission: Steve Brodie)

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