Sheffield Steelers’ coach Aaron Fox explains why he was so keen to bring back defensive duo

SO far, Sheffield Steelers’ head coach Aaron Fox has concentrated more on getting his forwards all in line ahead of the 2021-22 Elite League season.

BACK FOR MORE: Defenceman Davey Phillips is back for a sixth season with Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.

But today sees him switch his attention to the other end of the ice after securing the signature of two Great Britain internationals.

Both Davey Phillips and Sam Jones will be familiar to the club’s fans, having impressed both during the behind-closed-doors Elite Series in Nottingham and in May’s World Championships for GB in Latvia.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It is Phillips who will return to South Yorkshire for a sixth season as a man on a mission, looking to end his and the team’s wait for a regular season EIHL title.

INCOMING: Aaron Fox, Sheffield Steelers head coach, believes Davey Phillips and Sam Jones will again prove key additions. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

Phillips last won the top-flight’s most sought-after trophy back in 2014 with the Belfast Giants, two years before the Steelers last lifted the title under then head coach Paul Thompson.

Phillips arrived for his first season in Sheffield the following summer and, although he won a playoff title in his first year and added a Challenge Cup before the pandemic brought about an early end to the 2019-20 season, it is the regular season championship which Phillips covets the most.

“We’ve not won the regular season league title since I’ve been here and that is my main goal this season,” said Phillips.

“You obviously want to win them all, but, realistically, you want to win that league championship. It’s been five years now and that is a long time for a club like Sheffield to go without it, so I’d like to help put that right.

Sam Jones, in action for Great Britain at the World Championships in May. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“When we won it in Belfast, there were two things behind it - the main one was consistency, every game means something, you can’t take a game or a period off. It sounds cliched but you can’t afford to be giving up two points at home to a team you know you should be beating, those are the games that come back to bite you on the backside at the end of the season.

“And the other things is that you need luck with injuries. We were very fortunate, we barely had any injuries - certainly no long-term ones.”

Jones was originally signed last summer only for the 2020-21 season to be cancelled but, in the Elite Series, he proved both to himself and Fox that he had made the right choice when deciding to leave Fife Flyers, for who he played the previous season.

“The Elite Series showed me what an organisation I was joining,” said Jones. “You can tell that in Sheffield it is all about the hockey. You get to the rink for training or a game and everything is done for you, so all you have to think about is playing.”

Head coach Fox believes he is getting two top quality D-men back on his roster, having seen them excel against world-class opposition in Riga.

“We all know what Davey brings to the table, he is just so solid and keeps the game simple,” said Fox. “Sam is a talented two-way D-man who I really liked in the Elite Series. He should only get better and more comfortable as the season goes on.”