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Greyhounds ready to fly out of the traps

PUBLISHED: 16:40 02 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:25 07 September 2010

FACING THE FACE-OFF... Hounds owner Jan Bestic (left) and head coach Lee Mercer are ready for tyhe start of the campaign this weekend.

FACING THE FACE-OFF... Hounds owner Jan Bestic (left) and head coach Lee Mercer are ready for tyhe start of the campaign this weekend.

HARINGEY Greyhounds owner Jan Bestic is pinning his hopes on this summer s young recruits as the Alexandra Palace club prepare to compete in a fully professional league for the first time. The Greyhounds start their campaign...

By Ian Cooper

HARINGEY Greyhounds owner Jan Bestic is pinning his hopes on this summer's young recruits as the Alexandra Palace club prepare to compete in a fully professional league for the first time.

The Greyhounds start their campaign away at Chelmsford Chieftains on Sunday, having spent their summer busily adding to the side that finished rock bottom of the second tier of the national pyramid last season.

As well as bringing in new players from London rivals Streatham Redskins, the Hounds have introduced several youngsters, and Bestic believes they will play a crucial part in the club's chances this season.

"Certainly the league is much stronger this year, it's a fully professional league for the first time so it's certainly going to make a difference, but I think we've added some real quality to the side this time," said Bestic.

"It's going to be a lot tougher but we'll just have to wait and see how it pans out. We've picked up quite a few players, all really young and lively, so it should be a really exciting season for the crowd."

Bestic has labelled the tough trio of Chelmsford, Invicta Dynamos and Wightlink Raiders as the teams to beat, and feels the division's 'big three' will provide the stiffest competition.

Among the fresh faces arriving at the north London club are Nathan Webb from Streatham - who played for the Greyhounds in 2004/05 - along with Perry Richardson, also from the Redskins, and Owen Murphy from Lee Valley.

The Greyhounds have also had to cope with the loss of goalkeeper David Wride, acting quickly to sign experienced goalkeeper Russell Coker, while Blair Dubyk has also moved on over the summer.

Coker has played for both Slough Harrier Hawks and Basingstoke Buffalo, while another option in goal is 16-year-old James Tipple from the Greyhounds' youth system.

Bestic is adamant that his side have done all they can to avoid a repeat of last season's relegation nightmare, which saw the Hounds win just five of their 25 games and finish with a goal difference of -72.

That meant Haringey, managed by former player Lee Mercer, were relegated in March. But they earned a swift reprieve when the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) expanded the English National League from eight to 10 teams, offering the Greyhounds their place back.

Player/owner Bestic accepted, and immediately decided to hang up his skates for a season to concentrate on preparing his club for the forthcoming campaign.

Now he is warning that the Greyhounds face a tough challenge from professional sides with full-time players, a luxury that his side do not have.

"In some ways we are already at a disadvantage in that those teams are able to pay their players and we can't," he added. "I've been harping on for ages about wage capping and I think that's the only way to be honest, it's unfair on the other teams otherwise.

"I would expect the same teams to come to the fore this time around, but until you start playing it's difficult to know just how hard the league is going to be."

n THE Greyhounds have launched a new online ticket shop in time for the new season. Match tickets are free for children and £5 for adults. Visit www.haringeygreyhounds.co.uk for more information.

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