In the next in a line of interviews, we sat down and spoke with fan favourite and long-time servant of the Wildcats Stevie Whitfield about how preparations for the upcoming season and his predictions for the pre-season games with Bracknell:
BC: Stevie, pre-seasons are familiar to you in Swindon but after winning two trophies last year, do the preparations feel any different this time around?
SW: “It does feel different approaching the new season after the success we had last year. There is more expectation on us as players, we’ve set the bar now and we have to match that level next year. A successful season used to be if we were there or thereabouts come April, now if we don’t pick up silverware then it’s been a failure. It will be exciting to play with that kind of pressure and I think the team Aaron has put together will deal with it.”
Tyler Plews, Sam Jones, Adam Harding are three new faces this year, not a massive squad overhaul but a competitive team nonetheless in your opinion?
“I think in terms of strength in depth it’s the strongest Swindon side I’ve been a part of, and that includes the EPL. Nowadays we rely on more British talent and some of the new arrivals has made our British depth even stronger. In terms of the D core I think it’s definitely the strongest we’ve had.
Anytime you bring players in from higher leagues or different countries they can help teach us things and I think having Tyler and Sam on the D will teach things to everyone on the team. I’m looking forward to being a part of that and helping the likes of Ben Nethersell even more. To be honest we can all learn new things, even Neil will pick things up, he’s still young enough to develop his game some more!!”
Alongside the ‘new’ faces we have some arrivals who know the club, guys like Adam Harding and Michael Crisp – how important will it be to have that familiarity in the locker-room?
“The best thing about bringing these guys back is they will fit into the team from day one. Guys like Adam, Crispy and Loris know what we are all about and that will make it so much easier in training camp. They’re all good guys and after a couple of weeks it’ll feel like they never left.
I’m really excited to see what Hards is like now. He’s been through the most important part of his career and I think we’ll benefit from that this year. I read the other week an interview where he said he’s changed his style a little bit and I can’t wait to see him back on the Swindon ice!”
We asked Eddie this earlier in the week, but what do you expect the opening set of games with Bracknell to be like?
“It’s all change in Bracknell as most people know. They’ve brought in a lot of the championship winning team, including the coach. Most years I’ve been here we play Bracknell in pre-season but this year will be by far the hardest test we’ve had against them. If their team clicks I think they’re going to be right up at the top of the table in March. Obviously, we have goals to be at the top as well so it will be good to jump in with such a difficult set of games.”
Finally, how are your personal preparations going for the new season?
“This time of year is where we take it up a notch in the gym, we’ve had a few weeks of on ice sessions as well. The first few are always a shock to the system but I feel I’m back at a level I’m pleased with. On the whole it’s going well and each session will get better. I’m still getting really excited about playing and I cannot wait for September to come around and we hit the ice properly.”
This time of year we take it up a notch at the gym and we’ve been on the ice for a few weeks now as well. The first few sessions are a shock to the system but I think I’m at a spot where I think I can at least pretend to play ice hockey again!! It’s going well and things will only get better each season. I’m still getting really excited about playing and I cannot wait for September to come around again.