Western looking to feel at home in hamburg

Scottish champions Western Wildcats can lean on a little bit of insider knowledge in Hamburg but will be looking to make their own mark this week as they return to the EHL for the first time in 14 years,

The city has become a second home to a large Scottish diaspora for the past few years with the likes of Tommy Alexander, Cameron and Jamie Golden, Amy Gibson, Laura Swanson and Struan Walker plying their trade for local clubs at different times.

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For Western captain Rob Harwood, he says some of his international team mates have given him a heads up when they land at Harvestehuder THC on Saturday to take on the host club.

“We have chatted to them a little bit!” he told the EHL website. “It is good to get some inside information on what HTHC are like and the atmosphere.

“Their quality is undoubted and there’s some really strong players in there. They will be tough, quite physical, well organised. We will have to be well organised ourselves and defend really strongly if we are going to be in the game.”

In that sense, it gives the Wildcats some grounding of what they will encounter, an important factor given this is new ground for many of the panel. Jack McKenzie and Johnny Christie both lined out on this stage with Kelburne as did goalkeeper Gavin Somerville over a decade ago.

“It has been a long time coming, a real rebuild process over the last 10 years or so,” says Harwood who joined the club when he was eight-years-old and has been there ever since. 

“There are still the old guys kicking about the club who are pleased to see us back there. Our coach Vishal was part of the squad back then so plenty of stories from then and he has been trying to hand over some wisdom from those times! 

“He outlined how great an experience it is to play in and, for a lot of the guys, the highest level of competition they will play in and how proud the boys can be in the club.”

“We are a little bit inexperienced in the EHL; we do have Jack McKenzie, Johnny Christie and Gavin Somerville who have all represented teams in the EHL but for the rest of us, it is a new experience. Given the status of the squad and the number of guys in national teams, we are used to playing in big tournaments and that will stand us in good stead.”

And their spectacular 2021/22 campaign should also hold them in good stead. They went unbeaten in all local competitions – both indoor and outdoor – to win a plethora of titles, including the Scottish league, cup and championship and finished second in the EuroHockey Club Trophy II.

Since then, Niall Somerville has retired and Andrew Webb and Owen Jenkins-Garcia moved to London for work. McKenzie and AJ Lochrin have joined the panel which also features internationals Callum Duke and Andrew McConnell and Under-21 Scotland players Andrew McAllister and Fraser Moran.

They have begun their title defence in strong fashion with three wins from three, conceding just once in victories over Hillhead, Erskine Stewart Melville and Uddingston, form Harwood hopes to see this weekend.

“It is our first representation in the EHL in a long time so we hope to give a really good account of ourselves and enlighten people on the level of the domestic league in Scotland which sometimes doesn’t get the best reputation. Hopefully we can show some good stuff.”


EHL Men’s KO16 will be available for broadcast across the globe from September 29 to October 2, 2022 via the following outlets