How Sheffield Steelers' siblings can succeed in EIHL

Ashley Tait says Sheffield Steelers' two brothers must stick to the basics and earn the trust of their new coach if they are to succeed at the highest level in the EIHL.
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Sam Jones after a season in the second flight NIHL, played for Fife Flyers last season before being headhunted by Aaron Fox.

Then his brother Adam, who had two seasons at Basingstoke Bison, was selected by Fox in the recent draft.

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Tait is player-coach at Bison but his 296 games for Steelers means he has a special affinity with the club and wants the Jones' duo to succeed in South Yorkshire.

"I had Adam for two years, he had intended to join Fife for 2020-21, but obviously the climate dictated that didn't happen" said Tait.

"Sheffield is a different prospect to Fife, but I think he'll do alright.

"He is dependable, strong, got a decent shot; for me he was my best defenceman; playing 35-40 minutes a game, in all situations."

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That speaks well of the player's stamina and Tait says: "He is still pretty young (25) and if he makes a mistake, which he will do especially stepping up a level, he will try and make up for it with his work rate.

Ashley Tait.Ashley Tait.
Ashley Tait.

"He doesn't mind getting his nose dirty, he'll fit in quite well, I think."

Tait has played against Sam and says: "He's a bit more offensive than Adam; Adam likes to get up in the play but he's not near Sam in that.

"Adam is more concerned about his job in the defensive zone rather than joining the offence. Sam gambles a little bit offensively.

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"Technically, both skate pretty well which is a good thing as a Dman."

Adam Jones.Adam Jones.
Adam Jones.

So can Tait see the pair blossoming at the reigning Challenge Cup champions?

"Yes, if they do the basics well - if they concern themselves about that and do them well - they will be fine. All the other stuff will start to take care of itself.

"If they are dependable defensively then the coach is going to start to trust them and give them ice time and responsibility.

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"As a player you want to be doing a bit of everything, but for a coach you want the players to do the job they have been brought in to do."

Sam JonesSam Jones
Sam Jones

Earn the trust of a coach and they will progress, he said.

"This sounds horrible, but I joked with someone that I hope it doesn't go well for Adam at Sheffield as I want to bring him back again next year!

"It is a difficult thing: people ring for a reference and you don't want to screw someone over but at the same time you don't want to set yourself up for a fall either.

"Obviously, Adam had aspirations to go to the EIHL. And it is sort of my job to get players to that point and in the shop window so someone can take a chance on them."

Tait looks back fondly at his five with Sheffield.

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"They were great times, especially the first few years, when Matty (coach Dave Matsos) was bedding into the job. Then there were issues with ownership, Matty and Mike O'Connor had stepped away and Paul Ragan took over. It was a tumultuous time, so many ups and downs but enjoyed immensely.

So who was the best player he iced with?

"That is so hard. Steve Munn was an unbelievable stay-at-home defenceman who just shut guys down, we had Jody Lehman, who was never the best goalie in the league but when it came to it, he knew how to win.

"Then there was Tom Sestito, Ben Simon, Steve Birnstill - his skill set was outrageous.

"There were a lot of players and they all had something that you would take, overall Jeff Legue doesn't always get talked about like that but look at that speed, his shot, he certainly had a great eye for goal."