We catch up with new Spartans captain Nick Manning, to dig a little deeper, and find out his thoughts on the team, hockey, and anything else he wants to talk about….
Captain this year Nick, tell us how that came around, and your thoughts on the job?
I’m not entirely sure to be honest. Greg asked me my thoughts on being an Assistant shortly after the trials, which came as quite a shock in itself having never really been considered in that light during my time with the Spartans. Then with Offord making the decision to move up to EPL level shortly after that, the role was left open & Greg asked me my thoughts on giving it a go. I was slightly reluctant at first but have really enjoyed the role since taking it on. I haven’t changed too much, just tried to set a better example than I maybe did previously. Things seem to be going pretty well so far!
For our new supporters, give us a run down on your career to date
I’ve played for Sheffield through the entire junior set-up, from U10’s-U19’s, starting back in 1995 with my first Hockey School coach being Mr Newton himself. I was lucky enough to be part of very successful teams throughout, winning numerous leagues & championships alongside a number of players who have since gone on to play EPL, EIHL and Senior GB levels. In 2005/2006, I moved up to the Spartans during my last year at U19’s, & their first year in existence. I’ve been there ever since, as one of only three that have played for them from then until now (Joe Millard, Will Barron). I’ve also been very lucky in travelling all over the world as part of Midlands, England and GB University teams over the years.
Who has influenced you over the years?
There have been lots of influences, who have influenced me in lots of different ways; parents, teammates, coaches, etc. Too many to name I’m afraid.
What did you make of your own performances in 2009/10 and what expectations do you have of yourself ahead of the new campaign?
2008/09 was a disappointing year for me personally, so 2009/10, although not brilliant, was a definite improvement, getting back to scoring at a point a game. Consistency was lacking though, and that’s what I aim to improve on this year, especially now I’m playing a more prominent role.
There have been a number of changes to the squad since last season, including a new coach. Does it make your role as captain more difficult given the quantity of new faces now in the squad?
I don’t think so. If anything I think it maybe makes it easier. As I said earlier, I’ve not really been seen as or considered a senior / example-setting player in previous seasons, so hopefully the new boys coming in won’t be aware of any possible (or probable) reputation that may otherwise have gone before me. We’ve all had a good pre-season together & gelled as team, which I think has shown in both our performances and, more importantly, in our results so far.
This year’s new Northern League, give us your thoughts
When it was first announced I’d be lying if I said I was ecstatic about the prospect of travelling up to Scotland for four games in an already busy season. Since then though, I’ve come to think the league could be a big success, giving teams ENL1 & 2 such as us the chance to test ourselves against two very strong Scottish teams in Fife & Solway. We have all had a look at each other at the pre-season tournament in Newcastle & the competitive score-lines there suggest the league will be closely contested throughout the year.
Any up and coming young Sheffield players you have got your eye on?
Ever since I’ve been involved with the club, the strength of the juniors has always been exceptionally strong & that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon. The ‘problem’ being, as it has always has been with Sheffield, is that the senior teams are also very strong, in depth especially. This results in opportunities being limited for the younger players coming through to play up, which can potentially hinder the growth of their talent. Having said that, the sheer strength of Sheffield’s junior system means there will always be players coming through that will force their way into the team, use it as an important stepping stone & no doubt go on to play at a higher level in the future, as many have done before. Shaun Wild has already shown he can more that hold his own at this level at just 16 years of age, & I’m sure will be one of those such players.
What does the Sheffield Spartans captain enjoy doing away from Hockey?
Nothing too exciting… I play golf & football when I can. I’ve become quite successful at & take great pleasure in taking my teammates’ money at cards on the way to & from away games. And I’m pretty good at drinking too much… True story.