Hawes hails massive step forward for Wimbledon

© Frank Uijlenbroek

Wimbledon coach Ben Hawes described his team’s pair of victories over German opposition last weekend in Eindhoven as another “massive step forward” for the club.

The west London outfit only emerged from the regional conferences to the English Premier League three seasons ago but have since landed silverware of some sort in each campaign.

And, with a 3-1 win over UHC Hamburg and and a shoot-out success against Mannheimer HC in Eindhoven, they became the first English club to reach the FINAL4 since Reading in 2011.

Speaking about their run, Hawes said: “In just our second year in the EHL, we came in with expectations. Last year in Amsterdam, it was hope but this year we expected to compete and felt the top eight was definitely where we belong. Anything better was a bonus!

“It was a tough game against Mannheimer but I felt we should have won it in normal time, especially when they were down to nine men and we rushed our decision-making in and around the circle. In the end, to score all five shoot-outs under that pressure is a massive testament to the guys who stood up.”

Looking back on their stunning rise through the ranks, Hawes is quick to praise the vision of his Director of Hockey who oversaw much of their early progression. It included getting an Olympian like Hawes on board, initially as a player, to buy into the project they had in mind.

“It started with Ben Marsden and he got a few of us in when we were in the lower divisions. There was a real vision to firstly make the Premier League in England and then, within one year, we had won the playoffs.

“We’ve done that twice now and won the league as well. It’s come pretty quickly but we’ve invested a lot of time and energy in where we are at.

“Our facilities are probably miles behind where we are in terms of performance but if you had the choice, you would probably prefer being in the FINAL4 of the Europe!”

His side topped the English league’s regular season to guarantee a return to the EHL next season for a third campaign. This weekend they battle to win the playoffs title for a third successive season.

After that, they will have a tricky six-week break from competitive action before the FINAL4. Phil Roper, Ian Sloan and Henry Weir will depart next week for the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia.

As such, Hawes has plenty of plans to iron out in the coming weeks.

“This is a total step into the unknown. First we have playoffs this weekend and then we will start thinking ahead and preparing the guys as best we can. It's totally new for us, the club and this group of players and they absolutely deserve to be there after this week.”