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Nearly 400 Phoenix fans turned out to the Cresta Court Hotel to catch a first look at the Phoenix shirts for the new season.
The evening opened up with announcer Pete Hagan introducing owner Neil Morris and coach Tony Hand, MBE.
Neil and Tony have been together since April 19th 2006 and the club owner talked about the special relationship that has evolved since then. A question was asked about who has the most stress and both men said it was the other one. Neil deals with the problems encountered with gaining sponsors and ensuring the team survives financially and Tony has the job of putting together a competitive team capable of winning trophies.
Tony said: “Manchester is a fantastic place to work. I have a great relationship with Neil and if any problems arise, I have no hesitation talking them over with Neil. I feel there is a special relationship between Neil, myself, the players and the fans.”
Moving on to the team-building for the new season, Tony said that he was very pleased with the way things have gone.
“We have a stronger team than last year. Also faster and more physical. I was disappointed we were not able to defend our title last year and I am building a team to win it back this season.”
Neil Morris commented: “I am happy with the team-building. The make -up is balanced, more physical and we will not be pushed around like we have been in the past.”
Moving on to the reason for the gathering, the new shirts were rolled out for the fans to see.
Phoenix will be icing a sledge hockey team and their kit was modelled by Terry Shaw. This was followed by the Trafford Metros’ home and away kits donned by Sean Day and Robin Crebbin.
This year, the club ran a competition to design the team warm up shirt. Many designs were submitted and a panel of judges decided that the black, red and white design of Mike Newton was the winner. The new shirt was modelled by James Archer, who then presented the shirt to Mike.
On to the main event, the senior team shirts for the new season.
The league home and away shirts were shown off by James Neil and Stephen Fone with the cup shirts paraded by Andy McKinney and Scott McKenzie.
Approval was universal, there were some very good comments from the floor and the queue to buy the shirts grew by the minute.
The huge audience was then treated to the news of Luke Boothroyd committing himself to Phoenix colours for a 5th season. The roof nearly came off the building when Neil Morris announced him, proving what a popular young man he is with the Phoenix Faithful.
A Question and Answer session followed, with Neil and Tony answering questions from the floor.
Here are a few of the questions:
Q: To coach Hand – How proud were you of last season’s team who got so close to retaining the title despite an horrendous injury laden season?
A: Very proud. It is a difficult thing to ask players to go that extra mile every game, to cover for injured colleagues. I could not have asked any more from my players and they responded magnificently. Yes, I was very proud.
Q: To coach Hand – Are you going to play next season?
A: I would very much like to be part of the team next season. We have a younger team and I will also need to be there for them as a coach. On the other hand I don’t want to end my career after the one major injury I have ever had. Neil and I will monitor the situation and will make a decision in the next couple of weeks.
Q: To Neil – What was it like to knock the Steeldogs out of the play offs?
Before Neil could answer, a comment from one of the players at the back: “Normal, just normal.”
Q: To Neil – With teams like Swindon arranging a lot of friendlies, will we be having more than just the War of the Roses?
A: It is a difficult situation. The southern teams all arrange to play each other, mainly because it cuts down travel costs etc. That just leaves us, Sheffield and Telford. To be honest, most teams will only play two pre season games as we do.
The evening wound down with Mike Davidson winning one of the brand new shirts in a raffle and the players mingled with fans, signing autographs and chatting about the upcoming season.
An excellent night was rounded off with an offer from Neil Morris.
He said: “I need to sell 4 more season tickets to make it a round 400. If anybody can commit to buying a season ticket in the next 24 hours, they can have it at the early bird price.”
The fans left the hotel buzzing about the new shirts, the re-signing of Luke Boothroyd and the really positive nature of the whole event. Roll on September.