Telford Tigers coach Tom Watkins says it’s been “ridiculous” getting his team together for the NIHL Spring Cup.
The Shropshire side begin their campaign against Raiders this weekend, starting at home on Saturday before heading to Romford for the reverse fixture on Sunday.
And last season’s NIHL National League winning coach spoke of his sympathy at not being able to help the players out who couldn’t get themselves a club.
“Getting the team together has been absolutely ridiculous in all honesty,” he said. “We found out on 2nd February there would be some level of competition and as a club, we hadn’t done anything since May/June regarding recruitment.
“We had actually finished the recruitment for what would have been a normal 2020/21 season and we were aware of discussions about getting back on the ice.
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“We didn’t want to say to the players just yet and dangle that carrot again because there was always the risk of taking it away again because that had happened a few times already.
“With the Spring Cup starting, I had around 40-50 messages from players who were desperate to play and those are who you feel sorry for.
“I thought it was the right thing to do to honour the agreements I’d made with the players I’d signed previously so exclude anyone wouldn’t have been wise.”
As the build-up to their long awaited return continues, Watkins is glad to be among the team and being back in the rink after such a long absence.
But he believes that with the teams all having significant periods of time away because of the pandemic, it could level the playing field.
“Everyone’s in the same boat and for us, some of our guys haven’t skated for around 10 months,” he added. “We’re one of the clubs who didn’t put anything on over the summer or provide any elite status training around Christmas time.
“A lot of them have only recently come back to training again and by the time the Raiders game comes on Saturday, we’ll have had five sessions so you’ll see it’ll be about playing as quick as we can and utilise the full length of the bench, which will be key.
“Whoever we play is going to be tough, but I’m sure it’s going to be entertaining. I don’t think it necessarily matters who is winning or losing this competition. It’s more about getting our league started again, reigniting the interest and finding some development time.
“It’s going to be interesting and it’s going to be fun, being back behind the bench again. It’s been rewarding being in the rink in the last couple of weeks and being able to be around your team-mates.
“While we’ve been away, there’s been that worry we lose the fans, the players and sponsors from the game so it was important we get started again.”