Junior Raiders bring in Saunders as head coach as Pitchley steps back

PUBLISHED: 10:00 31 July 2020

Mark Saunders has been appointed as head coach of Romford Junior Raiders (Pic: Raiders)

Mark Saunders has been appointed as head coach of Romford Junior Raiders (Pic: Raiders)


Romford Junior Raiders have appointed former Bracknell Hornets head coach Mark Saunders to take over as Ben Pitchley steps back to focus on the junior programme.

Saunders, 34, Hornets to fourth place last season but was left without a club due to the John Nike Leisure Centre in Bracknell closing down.

Pitchley moved quickly to bring in the young coach and Saunders is excited by the project that he has been handed for the upcoming season.

“It’s been a tough couple of months with Bracknell going the way it has done, not the situation anyone wanted, me either as I was really close to being sorted with the Hornets roster wise, but these things happen,” he said.

“I was speaking to three other teams, but Ben offered me the head coach position and it was a no-brainer really knowing him from England and Conference. We’ve worked together closely for four years, so I know him really well and I know the programme.”

Netminder Tom Annetts has already joined the club but the new head coach has a few other targets to help out while he is keen to develop the youngsters already signed up.

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“I’ve got three or four players I’m hoping to bring in with me, which hopefully will strengthen us,” Saunders added. “But it’s a very similar set-up to how it was at Bracknell, my job is to develop the younger players in that stepping stone between juniors to NIHL 1 and National.

“Guys like Tommy Huggett have been through the programme at Romford and will now be with Raiders full-time.

“I know how they want things done and it’s what I’ve done at Bracknell. Josh Ealey-Newman, Zach Milton, and a couple of younger guys dipped their toes last year and hopefully this year will get jobs with the Bees.”

Pitchley, 47, has stepped aside to focus on junior development and the club’s upcoming coaches but is confident Saunders is the man for the job, adding: “He works with me at England and Conference level, so I already know what he can do.

“Mark built a good team at Bracknell and they played the same style of hockey we did, and he wants to continue with this approach.

“It frees up my time to do more with the junior club recruitment-wise at the younger age groups and also watch more of JJ’s (Raiders) games.

“It gives me a chance to watch more games and see what else we need to be doing as a club to develop our players and allows me to assist with the further development of an up and coming young coach.”

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