Quality roster gives World Championship selection headache to GB coach Pete Russell

SHEFFIELD STEELERS' captain Jonathan Phillips believes the Great Britain coaching team face a huge selection headache ahead of the World Championships in Budapest.

Jonathan Phillips (No 20, blue) scores against Lithuania in last year's World Championships in belfast. Picture: Dean Woolley.

A 28-man squad reported to Coventry’s Skydome Arena on Tuesday ahead of two international warm-up matches against Lithuania this weekend. Head coach Pete Russell’s team host Lithuania in Milton Keynes on Saturday (7pm) and on Sunday in Coventry (5.15pm).

After the weekend’s games, Russell will reduce his 28-man squad to 23 in order to contest the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, from April 22-28.

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Phillips is joined in the initial roster by club team-mates Davey Phillips, Robert Dowd, Ben O’Connor and teenager Liam Kirk, but acknowledges there is fierce competition for places.

“It’s a quality roster at the moment and the coaching staff will have some tough decisions to name the final 23 players,” said Phillips, part of the team that memorably won promtoion to Division 1A by winning the gold medal in belfast last year.

“Competition for places is intense as everyone wants to be on the plane to Budapest - the GB squad gets very few chances to meet throughout the season and so this training camp is a vital part of our preparations.”

Phillips, who had to settle for an Elite League play-off final runners-up finish after the Steelers lost 3-1 to Cardiff Devils in Nottingham on Sunday, believes warm-up games against Lithuania will prove an ideal test for the tough matches that are sure to come their way in Budapest.

“We seem to have some great battles with Lithuania,” said Phillips. “We may have had the upper hand in the last two years, but for a couple of seasons they had our number.”

Sheffield Steelers' Jonathan Phillips in EIHL action earlier this season. Picture: Dean Woolley
Sheffield Steelers' Jonathan Phillips in EIHL action earlier this season. Picture: Dean Woolley