Jon Cotton – March 2002

…and captaincy was the icing on the cake !

What a shining example Pirates captain Jon Cotton is to those ambitious, yet sometimes impatient junior players, just setting out on a hockey career. Few players make that gigantic step straight from the minors to senior hockey. Jon almost did it when he played for the Pirates at the age of 15 and actually scored a goal against Fife Flyers. But he was totally inexperienced and was soon on his travels honing his skills with two year stints at Bracknell Bees and Blackburn Hawks, before he found himself back at Peterborough.

“The first time I left Pirates I didn’t really feel I was wanted by the club probably because I was just a kid. It was the time Cam Plante and Trent Kaese were coaching. I decided to make a clean break and go and make a name for myself. Five years ago I came back because I always wanted to play with my young brother at senior level, but that only lasted one year, and we were discarded when Troy Walkington took over.

That left a bitter taste in our mouths. Between Darren and I we had scored 80 goals in a team that only won three games and we were local boys. But we went to Invicta for a couple of years with Mark Mackie and then on to Chelmsford for another two seasons. We don’t regret those decisions for we won a few trophies. They might not have been at the highest level, but winning is winning no matter where you are.”

Jon was overjoyed when Doug McEwen asked him to return to the club. “It was the opportunity to play with Darren again that had me jumping at the chance to make it third time lucky.”

He’s just finished the his second season back, holds the award for the Best British Forward of the Year, and just for icing on the cake, wears the team captain’s ‘C’ on his No 12 shirt.

“It’s been a long time coming, but the wait has been worth every minute. As a kid I only wanted to play for Pirates but I soon found it wasn’t going to be easy. It seemed every time my hopes were raised, they were knocked down again, and I was off playing somewhere else.

I’ve been around a few rinks, played under a few different coaches, and played with lots of guys still in the league. Every step along the way has added to my experience. I grew up at a very young age when I had to move away and take responsibility for myself.”

Now after 12 years, and only 27, Jon still has a good few years left and hopes they will all be spent with a successful Pirates team. He looks forward to a glory spell under the Mulvenna banner. Grit and determination, allied to club loyalty, are just the kind of qualities Glenn wants to see in his players.

“From the moment Glenn arrived he has changed the way players act and react. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. I’ve learned a lot from him in a very short while, and I’m sure that goes for other players as well. He’s a players’ coach and a coach you want to play for. He doesn’t scream and bawl, but I feel we’ll see the real Mulvenna when we start up again.”

Jon looks back on the season just finished with some disappointment.

“It was a long hard season with a lot of uphill battles, but already there are promising signs for next year.”

Happy with his form, he admits it was a lot better than the year before.

“I didn’t really enjoy my hockey that first year. In fact, I enjoyed it better this year when we were struggling than the year before when we were successful.

It was not about stepping up from a lower league, because I was confident of playing to BNL standards, but there were little things on and off the ice that made be unhappy. However I made myself a vow that I would come back again this year and show some real form. Now I hope I can keep it up and improve my game year by year.

Apart from a few extra sessions in the gym with Dave Llewellyn I didn’t really change much. It was all about my attitude. You’ve got to want to come to the changing room. This year we had a great bunch of guys, three-quarters were local lads from Peterborough. We had a good rapport, and with that kind of atmosphere in the dressing room you want to come to the rink earlier, and you want to play harder for the guys in the room.

Looking back we had a great start to the season winning all our six Findus Cup games. We didn’t really kid ourselves over that because both Cardiff and Hull were weak and Swindon was from a lower division. Our performance at Nottingham in the finals was something I would rather not talk about. We took a hammering from Fife and let our fans down badly.”

That came after Jordan Shields had been axed.

“I felt sorry for Shieldsy after his performance the year before, but joining up with Nick Poole never really took off. Nick, after that disappointing start, went on to be our most consistent player.

Both these players required an out-and-out goal scorer alongside them. Shieldsy proved it the season before with Todd Markus and Chris Jamieson. This year we did not replace Markus or Jamieson and Shields and Poole, with similar styles, suffered. Only when Ryan Moynihan arrived did Nick’s real talents shine through and the goals started to flow again.”

But Jon reckons that Pirates will not make the same mistake next season and sign big forwards with goalscoring ability.

“This year we were a lightweight team with Jesse the only one with real height among the forwards. The year before we had Todd Markus who could skate from end to end with three guys on his back… we missed that.

We also lacked a big physical defence this year. Compared to the year before we were constantly dominated, even in our own rink. While we only won four or five games at home this year, we only lost that number the year before. Peterborough can be an intimidating rink when we’ve got a big squad, and playing good clean hockey. It’s a rink that no team wants to come to and play in.”

Proudest moment of the season for Jon was being unanimously selected as captain while on the bus to Dundee.

“I enjoy it and I’m very proud to be captain of the Pirates. I was captain five years ago when we battled through to the end of the season suffering one defeat after the other. But it’s nice to get another chance. Whether I’m captain or not next season, I’ll just carry on doing what I normally do.”

He still holds high ambitions for Pirates.

“We proved last year you don’t have to have the biggest budget to be successful. With the right signings and the right team chemistry we were a period away from the playoff final, and with the confidence we had at that time, we thought we could beat anybody.

Knowing how Glenn Mulvenna coaches and the guys he would like to bring in, I really do believe we can make a big impression next season. It will be good to have him right from the start and with any luck we’ll be able to compete with the big boys and maybe push a few along the way.

If anything I would like Pirates to reach the Findus finals at the start of the season and come up against Fife again. It would be a totally different ball game because we were so under-strength and a big disappointment to the fans last time. I would enjoy that.

And I would like to see our fantastic fans get something really big to cheer about. We probably won’t win the league against teams like Dundee Stars. But from what I hear we’ll have a very healthy team next year. Hopefully we can back Glenn up with a workable budget and a big sponsor. The players know there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes like with Shipmates. The players do appreciate all that for it shows the fans have the team at heart and will do anything to make them better.”

Thanks to Ian “Scoop” MacFarlane for the interview !