Kris Abbott ended his 22-year wait for silverware and roared: Now let’s have a real crack at division one.
The Solent & Gosport Devils skipper got his hands on the National League south division two trophy on Sunday as his side returned to their Forest Way home having wrapped up the title with four games to spare.
And the hosts ensured it was a night of double celebration – hammering Wightlink Tigers 9-3 to maintain their unbeaten record this campaign before parading the cup in front of their home fans.
For the Devils it ended a frustrating wait for promotion, having missed out on the title in heartbreaking fashion last season despite finishing level on points with top side Slough Jets.
For the experienced Abbott it ended an even longer wait.
‘I started hockey here at under-10s level and this is first thing I’ve ever won,’ he said.
‘To come back here and be reunited with a lot of the same lads after we’ve gone away, played for other clubs and had families, is a great feeling.
‘I’ve been back for four years and to finally win it after finishing third, third and second makes it all the sweeter.
‘It’s great to get my hands on a winners medal after 22 years of playing.
‘A lot of hard work has gone into it and the players have all stuck around, which has been the key to it.
‘The manager Paul Fitzpatrick has kept us all together and the longer you play with each other the better you become.
‘It’s not just about winning, it’s the promotion to the league above and a better quality of hockey that really matters.’
The prospect of taking on division one opposition next season is one that is already exciting Abbott and his team-mates. And he doesn’t believe they should be overawed by the step up in class.
He added: ‘There’s no point working so hard to go up if we don’t have a real crack at it next season.
‘There’s close to 50 games a season up there, so we know it’s going to be a struggle but we’re up for it.
‘Some of the boys have played at that level before – probably half of us “older” guys.
‘But we also some have good youngsters who have played higher levels as well, so we’re well set.
‘Next year our rink is going to be packed and the away teams will bring massive support with them.
‘It’s fantastic for the club, the rink and for us boys to play in that kind of atmosphere – bring it on.’