New player-head coach James Morris outlines his ambitions as Havant Hockey Club get set for season opener

Player-head coach James Morris is eyeing a promotion charge in his first season at the Havant Hockey Club helm.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 10:08 am
Updated Friday, 24th September 2021, 10:09 am
Havant player-head coach James Morris, left. Picture: Keith Woodland (190921-26)

Morris, who took on first-team managerial responsibilities earlier this year, is putting in final preparations for his opening competitive fixture in a new role as Havant head to Sevenoaks for their National Division One South curtain-raiser on Sunday.

Havant's appointed player-head coach has had plenty of time to settle into the position following the premature end to the 2020-21 season in November.

Back then, Havant sat bottom of the National League Division One South table, with just one win from six fixtures.

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Scott Rawlings is one of several new players brought in by Havant this summer. Picture: Keith Woodland (190921-275)

But Morris believes with the additions he's now brought in, increased squad depth and a different look to the management structure - which sees Craig Duffy installed as his player-assistant coach - there's plenty of reason to be optimistic heading into the new campaign.

Morris said: ‘My aspirations are high, my hopes and targets are high, I think with the group we’ve got we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to push for promotion and put ourselves in the question.

‘The difficulty is kind of keeping that in check, it’s been such a long time since we played competitive hockey, although the feeling is good in training and there are glimpses of how good we can be, I’m trying not to get carried away because I don’t know what anyone else is doing.

‘This weekend will be a good challenge for us, it’ll be a good test, it’ll also be a good marker for us to see where we’re at.

‘Hopefully we’re on the right side of that and I believe with the talent we’ve got then we will be.

‘We’ve got to work hard for it but this weekend will be a good chance to see where we’re at.’

Morris has added seven new faces as he aims to turn Havant into challengers for a return to the top-flight this term.

Goalkeeper Andy MacDonald has arrived, along with Danny and Scott Rawlings - brothers of remaining squad member Jamie Rawlings - Toby Blong, Ekam Bachu, Luke Smith and Tom Crowson, who has won caps for England and Great Britain at under-21 level and was playing in the Premier Division with Beeston last term.

Although Havant have lost Polish trio of goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski, Maciej Janiszewski and Eryk Bembenek.

But Morris believes his summer recruitment puts the first XI in a strong position heading into the new season.

He added: ‘We’ve managed to acquire some brilliant hockey players from all over the place, really.

‘There are lots of local lads, some young lads have come through the club system, which has helped, and some from a bit further away.

‘We’ve currently got a squad with a great deal of depth, there’s a lot of competition for places, which makes my life a bit tricky with decisions for selection, but I’d rather be in that position than I would be scratching around for players.’