London Blitz chairman aims to bow out by regaining British championship

London Blitz's Julian Ikeme (centre) and Tom Shennan (right) in pre-season training

London Blitz's Julian Ikeme (centre) and Tom Shennan (right) in pre-season training - Credit: Archant

There should certainly be no lack of motivation for London Blitz as they prepare for the start of their new season next month.

The Finsbury Park club are determined to prise the British American Football Association title from the grip of their fiercest rivals London Warriors, who snatched the crown from them last year.

As well as reversing the result of the 2013 Britbowl, when the Warriors triumphed 26-23, there is an extra incentive for Blitz chairman Ed Morgan to reclaim the championship this season.

Morgan, 31, has played safety for Blitz for the past seven seasons after joining them from his hometown club Gateshead Senators, but has decided that the 2014 campaign will be his last.

“You get to the stage where you want to be at peace with the fact that your body’s telling you to stop playing,” Morgan told the Gazette. “I’ll be finishing after 14 years and I’m absolutely desperate to go out with a win.

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“The rivalry with London Warriors will be stronger than ever, I’d say. In some ways it can be emotionally draining when you’ve been coming back looking to defend the title.

“This year we’re not champions and that’s actually been a real motivator for us – you can see how hungry the guys are in pre-season.

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“They’ve shown the right mindset and effort and it’s really important for us to keep that going. We’ve got that feeling that we’ll be coming back stronger as a team this season.”

The north London club, who lost a number of their defensive starters due to retirements a year ago, suffered a further blow when their quarterback and GB Lions player Fred Boyle, also had to quit through injury.

That means that former GB Universities quarterback Joe Thompson will take over as first choice for the 2014 season, while Blitz have bolstered their defence by signing Jamie Charles from Glasgow side East Kilbride Pirates.

Their other new addition is wide receiver Blair Gordon, who moves to London after a spell with Seinajoki Crocodiles in Finland.

“When things are going well, quarterback is a great place to be and Joe’s going to step up to the plate this year,” said Morgan, who took over as Blitz chairman in 2012.

“It’s up to the rest of the team to rally around him and take responsibility. Jamie will really add something on the D-line this year and we’re pleased to have both him and Blair on board.”

As well as their bid to regain domestic supremacy, Blitz compete in the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Champions League, a European tournament that they won in 2011.

The European campaign gets under way with a trip to Templiers Paris on April 19, while their opening BAFA fixture takes place just over a week later, against South Wales Warriors at Finsbury Park athletics stadium.

Blitz also go into the season with a newly-established development squad and a junior programme for 12 year-olds and upwards to play both contact and non-contact versions of the sport.

And Morgan views the growth of that programme as clear proof that the sport continues to enjoy a healthy renaissance in the UK, with Wembley Stadium now hosting three regular season NFL fixtures each year.

“The NFL is in a similar situation to football’s Premier League,” he added. “They can’t grow any more in the market they’re in, so they’re looking to grow internationally and they’re putting more money into that.

“You can now see more of the sport on TV and the whole Americana thing is popular again – you can see that in clothing stores and also with the number of people in London who play basketball, for instance.

“Our junior programme’s thriving – there are more kids interested than ever before and that’s good news for us.

“It’s very important for us to let people know there’s a thriving American football team in the area, representing the borough and the city.”

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