Whitley Warriors have appointed former GB international David Longstaff as their new player-coach.
Longstaff, who has won over 100 caps for his country, began his career with Whitley back in 1989 when he first appeared in a competitive match in the old British League as a teenager.
He went onto have a hugely successful spell with Warriors during the early to mid-nineties and was even able to tally over 100 points in a single season in the 1994-95 campaign when ’Lobby’ picked up a colossal 110 points in the 44 appearances he made.
During his time with the Warriors, Longstaff was selected for the national team at under-18, under-20 and senior level.
He then went onto ice for a host of top clubs both in the UK such as the Sheffield Steelers, Newcastle Vipers and Guildford Flames, as well as playing for some prestigious sides on the continent in both Sweden and Switzerland.
He also had a hugely successful international career with Great Britain, playing in numerous World Championships and Olympic qualifying campaigns during a lengthy career which has spanned four decades.
Longstaff said: “I’d been with the Guildford Flames in the English Premier League for about the last five years and just felt it was time to move closer to home.
“I’m good friends with Simon Leach and when I was speaking to him he mentioned he was planning to step down as Warriors coach at the end of the 2014-15 season.
“Things went on from there and I’m delighted to be coming back to Hillheads as the club’s new player-coach.”
On his coaching experience to date and thoughts on the NIHL North set up, he added: “As far as coaching experience goes, I was involved with the coaching for the GB national team when Tony Hand was head coach of the senior set up and I’m really looking forward to coaching the Warriors on a day to day basis.
“It’ll be a learning curve for me, but over the next couple of weeks I’ll be speaking to a lot of players and we’ll go from there.
“I saw Warriors play the Widnes Wild in the play-off game at the end of last season and I’m really looking forward to working with the young players in the Whitley set up on a regular basis.
“There are lots of good up and coming players in NIHL North set up and I’m really looking forward to coaching my home town club.”
Former coach Leach, now part of Warriors’ off-ice operation, said: “The signing of David is a great capture for the club.
“His career speaks for itself and all of our players will surely benefit from this.
“This is another fantastic stride the club has made and I am certainly looking forward to seeing David back in a Warriors jersey.
“We have seen players sign for other NIHL North teams from higher leagues but none of David’s calibre and experience.
“This addition should send excitement right throughout the whole of NIHL North.
“David will bring his own style and fresh ideas to the table and this will give our players a chance to learn and benefit from one of the countries best ever performers.
“As a lifelong friend and on behalf of our club, I would like to welcome David home and wish him all the success going forward.
“We now believe we have assembled a solid group of people all supporting each other to help change the clubs fortunes for the better.”
Warriors’ team general manager John Crammond added: “Once we were made aware that David was available, with the total support of the rink management, we have been able to secure David as our player-coach, which is a massive accomplishment for the Whitley Warriors.
“I am absolutely thrilled that we have managed to get David back into a Warriors shirt.”
In the coming weeks Warriors will be announcing the make-up of their 2015-16 playing roster.