London Blitz look to the future as they launch British championship challenge
PUBLISHED: 12:11 09 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:11 09 April 2015
London Blitz are hunting their first national championship in three years – but they also have one eye firmly on the future this season.
The Finsbury Park-based club have lost out to rivals London Warriors in the last two British American Football Association finals, the second of them by a narrow 10-8 margin.
But, along with a burning desire to sample a taste of BritBowl glory in September, Blitz – who begin their BAFA National League Premier Division South campaign on Sunday – are also looking to advance the process of bringing through the next generation.
For the first time, the club have set up a B team that is competing in the National League Division Two South, with the aim of acting as a bridge between their successful Under-19 side and the elite squad.
Team manager Stewart Peisley told the Gazette: “One of the problems we’ve encountered in previous years is there’s been a big gap for anyone coming up from youth level to the elite squad.
“It’s proved difficult to find game time and help these guys to develop in a way that does them justice.
“So the idea is to give opportunities to the players that aren’t quite ready for the elite squad now and eventually they will be stepping up and filling places in the first team.
“Jason Henry, who is co-ordinator of our junior programmes, has been doing a brilliant job developing the younger players and we do have a few moving up this year. It’ll be exciting to see how they progress
“For the elite squad, we would consider it an extremely disappointing season if we didn’t finish in the top two. To lose by just two points last time was gutting and we’ll obviously be looking to reclaim the title this year.”
The new Blitz B team took an early lead in their inaugural match last weekend, away to Wembley Stallions, but ended up going down to a 13-6 defeat.
Meanwhile, the elite side – who have recruited a total of 14 new players since the end of last season – kick off against London Olympians at their temporary base at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield.
The game had to be switched because flooding earlier in the year left the Finsbury Park pitch unplayable, although Blitz are hoping to return there in time for their next home league fixture in May.
“There are always going to be a lot of changes year to year, but we do still have a strong core of people who have played for Blitz in recent seasons,” said Peisley.
“We’ve lost a few as well – including our chairman Ed Morgan, who has retired from playing and he will be a big loss.
“But we’re fortunate to be based in London as a lot of people are here for work reasons and that helps us to recruit.
“The Olympians were one of the top teams in the last decade – they’ve had a bit of a decline since then but they always provide good opposition and we’re excited about playing – that’s why everyone’s involved.”
As well as the domestic league, Blitz are again participating in the IFAF Europe Champions League, a competition they won in 2011 and Peisley says that reaching the ‘final four’ weekend in July will be the target.
French side Aix-en-Provence Argonautes are the visitors to London in the first group match on May 2 before Blitz travel to face Madrid Osos Rivas a fortnight later.
“We first entered Europe in 2010 and it was such an awakening for us when we went to Carlstad and got completely battered,” added the Blitz manager. “But we went away, learned from that and won it the next year.
“Since then we’ve been working hard and using the European experience to grow the club. We’d love to make the final four this year.
“Both Provence and Madrid are good teams but, as we showed last year against Nice, when we play at home we can beat anyone. It’ll be a big challenge for us, but we’re optimistic.”
Tickets for Sunday’s game at Hatfield, which kicks off at 2.30pm, are priced at £5 for adults and £2 for students. Entry is free for spectators aged 16 and under.