BARTON Hockey Club will be watching the EuroHockey Club champions Trophy at Loughborough University with added interest this weekend.
Ex-Barton player Katie Long will be playing for host club Leicester Ladies and Barton are hoping they will bring home gold.
They took on Royal Antwerp last night and face SPV Complutense today, 5pm push back, before taking on MSC Sumchank tomorrow.
Long is still involved with Barton through a number of areas.
“As soon as I got into hockey I straight away joined Barton with my sister,” she said. “It was a fantastic first club for me, where everyone was welcoming, friendly and supportive.
“There were a mixture of younger players and experience, and I can remember the adults really encouraging me to express myself. The support of individuals like Julie Manning was excellent in helping to nurture us kids.
“I had a great time and played there for a couple of years, even going back for summer league after I left.
“As my hockey developed I needed to push myself to a bigger club and be exposed to a higher level of hockey, which Barton were happy for me to do.
“I moved to Sutton Coldfield where I was privileged enough to play and train alongside hockey legend Jane Sixsmith.
“After a hugely successful U18 campaign, where we were crowned indoor and outdoor national champions, we also got promoted back to the Premier League.
I played one final year with the pinks in my first year of university where we were unfortunately relegated.
“I needed a new challenge and needed to play in the Premier League if I wanted to play junior and senior hockey.
“I took a huge leap and headed to the best team in the country, Leicester. It was a daunting decision whether to go or not, asking myself if I would get enough pitch time etc. In my first season we won the Cup and I played in the club Europeans. It was amazing.
“Leicester has really given me the platform to succeed, led by Chris Mayer for seven seasons and now his brother Dave for my eighth season – they really have inspired me and helped me to achieve great things with my hockey.
“I have been very lucky to have been at three brilliant clubs and it is with Leicester where I have achieved so much.
“The club Europeans this weekend will be a historic moment for the club, hosting the event for the first time ever. Off the back of receiving the freedom of Leicester, it would be fitting to end our season with a European gold.”
Also involved in the Club Europeans with Leicester Ladies is ex Barton Mens coach Vanessa Hawkins.
She coached the first-team for four years, even when she was part of the England Ladies training camps.
Sue Welch, Barton Hockey Club welfare officer, said: “Vanessa brought her experience to the club to coach the mens and passed on the knowledge she gained at England level to the players through the coaching sessions.
“Chris Mayer also has to be mentioned as much of my own coaching knowledge comes from Chris, who coached my team, Lichfield Ladies, helping them achieve the highest levels in the Midlands Ladies League when he was at the peak of this hockey career, playing for Great Britain and Cannock. His knowledge and enthusiasm are amazing and it clear to see that his involvement is why Leicester has done so well over the last decade, it is also great that the knowledge that I gained from Chris can now be passed down to the Juniors at Barton and I am sure we will soon be seeing someone reach the levels of Katie, Vanessa and Chris.”