J Davidson sponsored Manchester Phoenix announced two more players for the 2013-14 season at their shirt launch event on Sunday. British forward turned defender James Neil returns for a 5th season with the club and young forward Jack Watkins joins Phoenix from Dundee Stars.
Neil, 23, from Nottingham, played for his hometown clubs, Panthers, Leopards and Lions from the 2004-05 season before signing on a two way contract with Phoenix in 2009. He initially signed as a forward but converted to the defence in the 2011-12 season.
James has represented Great Britain at under 18 and 20 levels, winning 1 gold and 2 silver medals at the World Junior Championships. He has iced in over 200 games for Phoenix and is an established member of Coach Hand’s blue line corps.
Press Officer Jim Piper caught up with James at the club’s shirt launch and he had this to say: “I felt I had a good season last time out. It was great to get more responsibility on the penalty kill. Coming back was a no-brainer for me. Manchester is my second home and as soon as Tony called there was no doubt where I would be playing next season.”
Coach Hand said this about James: “James has got better every year as he settles in to the defensive role. I am looking for that improvement to continue. He works hard and is good in the locker room; a good asset to the club.”
Durham-born Jack Watkins, brother of Telford Tigers coach Tom, first played in the ENL in 2008 for north east club Whitley Warriors and moved to Coventry the next season, icing for the Blaze ENL and senior teams.
In 2010 he signed for Telford Tigers and iced 3 times for his previous club Coventry Blaze. The Elite League came calling again in 2011 and he moved to Hull Stingrays. Last season he made the long trip north to play for Dundee Stars. Jack has also represented Great Britain in the World Junior Championships at under 18 and 20 levels, winning a bronze medal in 2010. At the tender age of just 20, Jack is a young veteran of 145 Elite League games and 48 at English Premier League level.
Coach Hand commented: “Jack is a big strong lad with plenty of experience for his age. He will bring that experience to the club. He will get more ice time with us and will put up some good points for the team.”
Jack said on Phoenix TV: “ I felt I needed to be getting more ice time at this stage of my career and when Tony called, it did not take too long to sign up. I am really looking forward to playing in Manchester. I have never played against my brother Tom, so the games against Telford are ones I am excited about playing.”