The stage is set and the platform is there for the taking.
Ashley Jackson’s return to Holcombe Park on Sunday is a mere sub-plot to one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of the weekend in the English Premier Division; and not just for the two sides’ respective league positions.
Opting for a move away from boyhood club East Grinstead to join Holcombe HC in their debut season in the National Premier League last summer, Jackson helped fire the Kent side to the summit in the regular season, earning their inaugural place in the European Hockey League in the process.
After still being a part of the Holcombe group through pre-season and the first two league games, the two parties went their separate ways, with Jackson opting to return ‘home’ to E.G having taken time to reflect on his hockey after the Rio Olympics.
Very much a fan favourite in his early time at Holcombe, Jackson’s re-signing has galvanised an East Grinstead side that currently sit 3rd in the league after a string of impressive results.
With fellow Great Britain International and former Holcombe player Nick Catlin currently travelling, Jackson has taken the midfield reigns, including scoring both goals in a crucial 2-1 victory at home to early pace-setters Beeston.
The hosts on Sunday, fresh from their European exploits a month ago, have returned to the top of the league after winning their game in hand at Loughborough Students last weekend and go into the game on the back of 3 consecutive league victories.
Speaking ahead of the crucial clash, Holcombe Manager Keith Martin is well aware of the threat posed by Great Britain’s all-time leading goal scorer; “Ashley returns to Holcombe this Sunday after taking time out post Rio and deciding he would rather return to East Grinstead after just one season. Holcombe are well aware of his strengths but also his weaknesses so it will be an interesting encounter on Sunday afternoon. Holcombe of course already have two other ex EG players in their squad this weekend in Barry Middleton and Iain Lewers.”
East Grinstead’s early season form has shown them to be an all-round strong unit and the talismanic Jackson has helped to provide the additional quality required to compete for a playoff spot in England.
Typically understated, Jackson is relishing the opportunity to return to Holcombe Park this weekend; “I’m looking forward to, hopefully, a really good game and playing against some of the guys that I had a good season with last year.”
That “good season” will not be forgotten around Rochester on Sunday afternoon but rest assured that come 2pm, it may just be temporarily ignored.
NOW:Pensions Men’s National Premier League
Holcombe HC v East Grinstead HC
Holcombe Park, Rochester