Fareham have appointed their former goalkeeper George Harris as head coach to succeed Ben Barnes, who has stepped down at the helm of the recently relegated National Hockey League South club.
Harris will need little re-introduction at Fareham, having played at Henry Cort for seven years prior to dipping his toes into the coaching side of the game with local South Premier Division outfit Winchester.
Discussing his Fareham return, Harris said: “It’s a huge challenge taking over from Ben at Fareham, where I spent some of my most enjoyable times in the game and where I have been lucky enough to make some life-long friends.
“The opportunity to come back and be able to put my own stamp on the playing side is too good to ignore.
“It’s a close-knit family club with a great volunteer base and a good crop of young players coming through in the next few years.
“I’m looking forward to building a team that those youngsters will aspire to and to create an environment where they can tap into the enormous amount of experience already in the existing squad.
“Of course, winning a few games generally helps with that.”
East or West ?
Harris, whose Winchester side narrowly staved off relegation from the South Premier this past season, will inherit a Fareham squad destined to drop down a rung on the hockey ladder, having finished bottom of the National South Division with only two wins.
They await confirmation from England Hockey whether they will play in either Conference East or West hockey next autumn.
Harris acknowledges that his immediate and most significant task is to ensure that most, if not all, the club’s talented stream of young players remain at the club.
“I need to speak to a few of them and try and tie down a couple who may be tempted by offers elsewhere,” he said.
“We need players who are proud to pull on the black Fareham shirt and are 100 per cent committed to the club if we are to achieve our goals.”
Harris had intended to retire from playing when he left Fareham at the end of the 2017/18 season, but Winchester’s depleted resources forced him out of his technical area and back between the posts again.
Winchester flirted with relegation all season, eventually finishing third from bottom of the South Premier League.
Harris said: “It was a huge effort by that group of players to get some crucial end-of-season wins. I’m immensely grateful for the effort the players put in and the spirit they showed to get over the line.
“However, as soon as I knew Fareham were interested in having me back there was only one place I wanted to be having previously played for seven seasons there.”
Outgoing head coach Ben Barnes believes Harris will be a success at Fareham.
“George was an obvious choice and first on my thoughts to take over. He knows the club, was a Fareham great during his spell between the sticks and has played with many of the players and most certainly will have learned a great deal in his two years at Winchester.
“I’m very pleased he has agreed to take over, I am sure he will do a great job and keep pushing the club forward.”
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