Sheffield Steelers: What a difference a year makes as Aaron Fox’s men prepare for Coventry Blaze

It seems an ice age since Sheffield Steelers had their first meeting of the regular campaign against Coventry Blaze, last season.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 10:12 am
Updated Friday, 6th September 2019, 10:39 pm
Sheffield Steelers' Jonathan Phillips faces off with Brett Perlini

It turned out to be then-coach Paul Thompson's final match at the helm, and the club has been through seismic changes since.

On Saturday night, captain Jonathan Phillips, one of the players to have survived the personnel transformation over the last 12 months, will lead Sheffield against Blaze in the first match of the 2019-20 League season.

And the winger says there is little comparison between Aaron Fox's side and the one taken over by Tom Barrasso, last term.

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"I think the players that Foxy has brought in - the experience throughout is huge" said Phillips.

"We have got players who have played in some big leagues and have been go-to guys in those leagues, too."

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The skill level "is very, very high in this team," he said, adding though they had to get the starts of games better than they have achieved so far at the Arena.

The team lost in the Challenge Cup away at Nottingham, but Phillips said they had gone through a short training camp and were "kind of learning each day.”

"I think the one thing is we have a team that is willing to learn and learn from their mistakes" he said.

It was "massively important" to hit the ground running in the League, said the Great Britain skipper.

"You see who wins the league in the past and it has always been within a point or two points, regulation wins, so those points could be the difference come the end of the season.

"We want to be fighting right to the very end at the top and all those points are massively important.

"The (new) boys know the League is the big one to win here."

Last season's league curtain raiser fell flat - 9,252 fans watched Sheffield tormented by the likes of ex players Eric Neiley and Andreas Valdix, then of Milton Keynes Lightning.

Fox's men will be keen to start off on the right foot against Coventry, who won 5-3 at Guildford Flames in a friendly last Sunday, having been shut out 0-3 at home to the same opponents 24 hours earlier.

On Wednesday, Blaze recorded a 7-4 victory in their final pre-season game against Manchester Storm in Altrincham - so they are clearly comfortable on the road.