New Vipers coach facing first battle
DANNY Stewart has begun his tenure as Newcastle Vipers player-coach with a flurry of emails – but the Canadian’s most pressing job will be to persuade captain David Longstaff to stay at the club.
The Vipers’ recruitment campaign was on hold while they found a replacement for coach Rob Wilson. But now 31-year-old Stewart has been appointed, they can press ahead with plans for 2010-11.
Already he has been scattering emails across the ether to his contacts worldwide, but Vipers fans will be anxious to see one player already at Hillheads stay there.
English Premier League club Guildford Flames have approached Longstaff about joining them next season. General manager Jaimie Longmuir is relieved his club can now make a case to keep the 35-year-old former Whitley Warrior, now in his second spell with Newcastle.
“David’s obviously a premier British player and Guildford are always looking to strengthen their British contingent with only four imports allowed in their league,” said the Scot. “I know there’s been some contact.
“David’s obviously got to look after himself as well. If we’re able to do something to keep him, great. If not, things change for everyone.
“The relationship between David and the club is excellent.
“David was up front with us and it’s just a case of seeing where things go now. Until we had a coach we couldn’t make a decision – but now we’re in a position to do that.”
Certainly if Longstaff does leave, it will not be in a huff. Contrary to reports, he was not overlooked as Vipers coach.
“I know there was a lot of speculation, but David never applied for the job,” Longmiur stressed. “I don’t think David wanted to look at coaching at this stage of his career, he just wanted to concentrate on playing.”
Now Stewart’s appointment has freed up the logjam in terms of making on-ice decisions, things have got moving again in a whir of activity – and Longmuir has been impressed by the new man’s enthusiasm.
“Already he’s been firing emails back and forth and his enthusiasm can only be good for the club,” he said. “It keeps everybody on their toes.
“Now we’ve got somebody who will talk to guys with the club. He will have total autonomy to sign and re-sign whoever he wants so long as it fits in the budget.”
Despite having identified centre Stewart early on, the Vipers took their time appointing Wilson’s replacement. And Longmuir revealed his case became stronger with every check they put in place.
“To be honest, he was the guy we’d identified from the outset because of the feedback we’d received from people like Paul Thompson, his coach at Coventry Blaze,” he said. “When we heard he was interested, we were delighted.
“We met Danny at the play-off weekend, then we showed him around the area and the region really sold the club to him. Then we did a formal interview and he came across really well.
“We’d heard a lot of good stuff about him, and whenever he played against us he was always a real thorn in our side. He was a guy you hated to play against, but would love to have on your team.
“Guys spoke really highly of his leadership skills. He certainly has that in spades. He makes people accountable.
“From our point of view we’re all on the same page and we want to deliver an entertaining team game in, game out. We’ve got to use the strengths of our home venue to suit. It’s got to be a physical team to deliver.
“Danny’s played at Whitley Bay as well so he knows what should be successful there. He’s happy with the venue, so that was another big thing for us as well.”