Cox: I had unfinished business at Bracknell BeesBy Adam Lee
May 02, 2012
Gareth Cox will return to the Hive for a third season as coach, revealing that his work there will not be done until the team once again break into the play-off picture.
Bees have now failed to make the end-of-season competition for the last three seasons, two of them with Cox in charge.
And although the former Bracknell Hornets coach insists the club made great strides both on and off the ice last season, he will not rest until the ultimate goal of play-off qualification is finally realised.
Despite doubling their points tally from the previous campaign, it was still not enough for Bees to crash the play-off party this season.
But owners Stuart Robinson and Katie Eleftheriou were impressed by the progress made by Cox and his assistant Lukas Smital, and worked quickly to tie them down for a third season.
“I had a little bit of doubt about returning after not making the play-offs for a second season, but it was ultimately a case of unfinished business for me,” said the Bees coach.
“Lukas was never going anywhere else either.
“I have always said that we made good improvements last year, maybe not in our league position, but just about everywhere else we did.
“The club moved forward in a positive direction, so in some respects it was a good season – but it’s a results business.
“That therefore makes it hard to for people to see that the club is actually moving in the right direction.
“But we will get there if we continue to be secure with our money and build on the solid framework that has been put in place.”
Cox and Smital have already begun their preparations for the new season, and the coach revealed that he has tied down ‘90-per-cent’ of the players he wants to make up the roster when the new campaign starts in September.
Alongside the return of Cox and Smital, the club also revealed that forward Shaun Thompson, the 2011/12 player of the season, will ice next year, as will 21-year-old defenceman Sam Oakford.
Oakford originally left Bees three seasons ago to join Basingstoke Bison.
But now that he has finished his degree at Southampton, he is returning to the club where he progressed from a junior to a senior player.
Coincidentally Oakford, who has also starred for Great Britain at both Under-18 and Under-20 level, was coached by both Cox and Smital during his teenage years.
And Cox was therefore delighted to be reunited with his former player.
“Shaun had a great season and was one of our key guys,” he said.
“He has a lot to offer and there are still improvements he can make, but he is hungry and determined and is developing well.
“There were a couple of guys we wanted to target and Sam was one of the ones we wanted to get in.
“We coached him at Bracknell from Under-14s to Under-18s and he has obviopusly improved a lot since then having played in the EPL with Bees and Basingstoke.
“He’s got a lot of experience and talent and we are expecting a lot from him.”
The arrival of Oakford has thrown into doubt the future of fellow Brit defenceman Ricky Skene. Skene joined Bees mid-way through the season following the departure of Sam Waller, and became a vital part of the Bees blue line, and was also named the club’s best defenceman in 2011/12.
And Cox revealed that the club remain in negotiations with Skene, but are yet to secure his signature for the upcoming campaign.