Phantoms new player-coach, Chris Allen, met up with club directors on Sunday and our reporter, Bob Hillier, was on hand to chew the fat over his plans for next season ……
There’s been quite a turnover of coaches here in recent seasons, what are you going to bring to the role that’s different this season ?
“For starters I’ll be a player-coach so it’ll be different and I’ll obviously be focussing on both roles. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for me but I’ll be working very hard and I’m very pleased with the team we’ve been able to put together and I’m expecting great things from them. I’ll be on the ice as a player and looking to play well every week on top of the coaching duties and if I can deliver as much on-ice every week as I believe I can then that’s going to help us too. I’m really excited about getting started !”
So if you had a choice, would you rather be player-coach or just a bench coach ?
“I’m very happy with the role of player coach and that’s the role I applied for. I’ve wanted to do this for a few years now but haven’t been given the opportunity. Being player and assistant coach at Telford last season was a start but, obviously, this is a much bigger role and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
What’s the situation about getting any additional players in ? Obviously the situation at Slough has freed up James Morgan and James Hutchinson’s move to Scotland didn’t work out – is there any chance of those guys featuring next season ?
“To be honest, at this point in time I can’t see it. It was unfortunate that Hutch didn’t get the break he hoped for in the Elite League – he deserved the chance – and I still hope he gets the chance up there …… if not then I guess we might be seeing him lining up against us next season ! As for Morgs, I don’t know what went on in Slough and it’s too bad that he’s had to leave there. Everything has to be done within a sensible budget and if something works out such that guys like that can join the team then that will be great but I really don’t see it happening and if it doesn’t, I’m very happy with the team that we have already put together.”
What’s your hockey philosophy – what do you expect from your teams and what can the fans expect next season ?
“Well they can expect each and every player to go out and work as hard as they can every week, solid D and a bit of excitement at the offensive end of the rink. Special teams is going to be huge – I’m really going to focus on playing good defence and having a good penalty kill and powerplay because, at the end of the day, special teams will win us a lot of games and I want us to have one of the best penalty kill and powerplay units in the league. Having Wally in the nets is going to give us a real chance in every game so if we can put pucks in the net at the other end then we’re going to win a lot of games. Players like (Dean) Tonks is going to bring a lot of excitement to the team – you can bank on him doing a few things you won’t have seen, Bochna’s got a lot of speed and offensive ability and of course Zee and G who we know are going to deliver on each and every night. We’ve got a real strong core to the side and I think fans are going to really enjoy the team we’ve been able to build.”
You mentioned Jeff Glowa there, what is Jeff going to give you as captain for next season ?
“To be honest, he gives you everything, each and every night. He wears his heart on his sleeve and I don’t think he takes a shift off ….. ever ! He’s a great guy on and off the ice and that’s why I made him captain – he’s a leader and players want to follow a guy like that. If you watch Gladiator, he’s the Russell Crowe type of character that you want to lead you into battle and his appointment is, I’m sure, a popular one across the team.”
What’s your objective for next season …… what will you be pleased with as an achievement ?
“To be honest, I don’t think we’re going to look too far into the season just yet – we’ll just take one step at a time. We’ll be looking to go out and get some early wins under the belt and then go from there, taking it all month by month. The mindset will be to make the top four or five by the end of the season and anything better than that will be great but a top four or five and the end of season finals will be what I’m looking for. On paper I think we have as good a team as anybody so it will come down to how we perform on the ice and that’s down to myself and the players.”
I understand the club are looking to upgrade the match night experience with some talk of big screens around the rink on match night.
“Yes, there are certainly some positive ideas being discussed to make sure we give the fans a great night out and that’s important as the fans pay to watch every week and if we can give them some entertainment in the breaks then that’s a good thing. We want fans leaving the rink having had a great night out – whether they be long standing fans or newcomers – and its great that we are looking to make things happen in this area.”
Focussing on a few of the players on the team next season – who are you looking forward to playing with ?
“To be honest, all of them. I’ve signed each and every player for a specific reason and they are all key parts of the jigsaw I have in mind and I can’t wait to get them out on the ice to see if it all comes together as I’ve imagined it will ! I’m definitely looking forward to the whole experience and I know a lot of the guys I’ve signed are really excited too !”
Dean Tonks ….. do you see him as a kind of straight replacement for Tom Carlon ?
“Tom’s a great player so I’m not going to say anything negative about him and Tonks is a great player too. Dean’s coming up from a lower level last season so, obviously, he has a lot to prove and ther’ll be critics out there who think he’ll fall short but I’m sure he won’t and I’m going to give him the opportunity to play and show what he can do and I believe there are a lot of positives he’ll bring to the team !”
…… and what about Erik Bochna ? What will he bring to the team ?
“I haven’t seen Erik so I’m going on what players are telling me about him. They say he’s got real speed and can score goals and that’s what we need ….. and if he can play a bit of D as well as scoring then we’ll have a great player. Obviously, he’ll carry some pressure leading the second line with James (Ferrara) and Warren (Tait) but the three guys should compliment each other and I really look forward to seeing them in practice and in games together.”