September 21 2014 Latest news:
By Richard Hayward
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Swiss Cottage-based Highbury Korfball Club are gearing up for a huge weekend as they head to the Champions Trophy tournament, hoping to win promotion and a place in the top tier of the national pyramid.
Highbury, who train at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, will travel to Whitgift School in Croydon to take part in the five-team round robin competition, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday.
They will face Manchester Warriors, Bristol Thunder, Birmingham City and Cambridge Tigers in four 40-minute matches, and on Sunday afternoon the team that finishes top of the mini-league will secure a place in the England Korfball League.
Highbury have plenty of experience of the Champions Trophy, having qualified during three of the last four seasons – but it has never worked out for the Reds, who have won just four and drawn one of their 12 matches in the end-of-season tournament.
However, club captain and top scorer Moses Hutchinson-Pascal thinks this year could be different.
“This is probably the best squad we’ve had since our first Champions Trophy,” he said. “If we play to our potential and can keep everyone fit then we have the ability to do well.
“The vast majority of the squad have played in high-level tournaments before and will know what to expect. It’s all about enjoying the experience and having fun - but it’s always more fun when you win!”
The bottom two teams have been automatically relegated from the England Korfball League and Birmingham City, who finished third from bottom, must now defend their place at the top table against their four challengers in the Champions Trophy.
Highbury have qualified from the London Regional League, while Manchester Warriors, Cambridge Tigers and Bristol Thunder have earned their spots in the Central England, South East and Western regional leagues respectively.
Two of Highbury’s opponents also boast experience at this level. Birmingham City won promotion through the Champions Trophy last season and will start the tournament as favourites.
Meanwhile, Manchester Warriors have qualified in four of the past five seasons but, like Highbury, they have a patchy record, with just seven matches in their past tournaments.
Seven of Highbury’s 15-person squad have played in the competition before, but they will be without their player-coach Andrew Speck, who will miss out on his fourth Champions Trophy appearance through injury.
Speck said: “We have the strength, depth and experience to put in a strong challenge.
“It’s hard to assess the threat of each side but each team has earned their place at the Champions Trophy and the only certainty is there will be no easy games.
“We need to focus on our game and, when we take this attitude onto court, what I do know is that we pose a formidable threat to any opposition.”