Goals across all four lines can drive our Elite League title hunt says Sheffield Steelers’ skipper

This is the feeling Jonathan Phillips wants again, in 2019.
This is the feeling Jonathan Phillips wants again, in 2019.

Jonathan Phillips embarks on his 13th League season at Steelers on Saturday feeling confident his new-look side can reproduce some of the glory days of earlier in his record-breaking Sheffield career.

The club's most successful captain believes goals - hard to find so far in pre-season and their one serious game - will come from all four forward lines.

And he hopes that starts this weekend, against Milton Keynes Lightning, home and away.

"I think this team has a lot of good shooters, a good mixture of everything. Josh Pitt is going to get a few, Justin Buzzeo, the Ruperts will score - in fact it will be spread out across the lines.

"Going back earlier over the years when we have won it (the League) we've sometimes not had guys in the top five or ten (league) scoring. It was spread out. We could be looking at that again."

The 36-year-old first won the title with Steelers in 2008-9, where the goals came from the likes of modern-day team-mate Robert Dowd, Joey Talbot, Ashley Tait, Jeff Legue, Doug Sheppard and Ryan Finnerty.

According to the "Steelers Stats" website, Phillips is one point off 400. But that's not hugely significant to the winger.

"Is there a stat for 400 blocked shots?" he said. "It really doesn't matter to me.  As long as I can contribute. Ofcourse you try to score and get points, but really it's about doing the best for the team that I can."

As for Sheffield's chances in his 13th season, he said: "It will be good to see the other teams to get a feel what we are up against. But this club is not going to sign a team that isn't going to compete for trophies. On paper we have a really good chance. We will put demands on ourselves and our aim is to go for every single trophy. It's as simple as that."

Phillips said last Saturday's Challenge Cup loss at Nottingham was down to defensive lapses and the fact the largely-new team hadn't adjusted properly from an injury-strewn camp to the hostile environment of Panthers-land.

"Maybe nerves got to us a little bit too." he said. "It was a big atmosphere and, having looked at the video of the goals-against, they were all our own doing. In that sense it was a valuable learning exercise.

"But there is a chemistry and this is a good group. These are hard-working guys who want to give the club and the team their best efforts.

"The loss is certainly not something we are over-thinking. We're not: 'Oh God, what's going on?' it's quite the opposite. The mistakes we made are easily managed and ones we've learned from."

*On Wedneday night, Milton Keynes hammered Coventry Blaze 9-3, in a friendly.