Simmsey column: We’ve kept the best of British at Sheffield Steelers

Davey Phillips and Ben O'Connor
Davey Phillips and Ben O'Connor

This week’s news that Davey Phillips had signed a new contract has been added to with the confirmation that the irreplaceable Ben O’Connor will spend a further two years in the orange of the Steelers.

This ensures that Steelers retain the required quality and reliability in British players to accompany the imports being assembled by coach Paul Thompson.

With Messrs Ferrera, Kirk and Shudra all included the Steelers do have a very useful back-fill of talent that should ensure their roster size for a number of seasons to come.

Some questioned the signing of Davey Phillips 12 months ago – Paul Thompson wasn’t one of them. He had worked with Phillips both at the national team level and of course with the Coventry Blaze when luring him back from a year in the American League.

It’s true Davey didn’t have the best of times in Manchester, a then first-year organisation.

Thompson knew though that under his wing and in the surroundings of the Steelers’ locker room that the Hull-based blue liner would be a very useful tool in the Steelers toolbox. And he wasn’t wrong.

Robert Dowd and Ben O'Connor

Robert Dowd and Ben O'Connor

Phillips didn’t miss a game in his first year in orange.

He scored some big goals but more importantly was a physical presence and a reliable member of the clubs defence. As the year went on Phillips became more important, played more minutes and in more important situations.

Signing him back was as simple decision as Thompson will have to make all summer.

Well maybe there was one easier decision, that was offering a new contract to Ben O’Connor.

Above I used the word irreplaceable, is there a better word I could have used? I don’t think so.

If either Phillips or O’Connor had have left in the summer the Steelers would have had to replace them with import blue liners, that would have meant no fourth line import on the Steelers roster next season and a serious dent in the depth of the forward line up.

Benny is high-risk, high-reward and we love him. He does things other players can’t think of doing let alone trying it for themselves. He gives you something special. He and Cardiff’s Andrew Hotham were the two outstanding offensive defencemen in the Elite League last season.

O’Connor is a little like Robert Dowd, they have that something extra, that something that has us on the edge of our seats.

A team is like a good cake with many ingredients, all important. Davey Phillips, Jonathan Phillips, Luke Ferrara are all important parts of the mixture. The cake falls apart without them.

Benny is the sweet topping, Dowdy the chocolate sauce...those two boys are naughty but so, so nice. That’s we buy their shirts, that’s why we love them has we do. Another key to the recent Steelers’ success is the British core, that group that control the dressing room.

All under the supervision of the wily old fox captain Jonathan Phillips, as the younger pups that bring the energy, the life, the humour and then the accountable to this great team.

I wouldn’t swap our British contingent for those at any other club. On the ice or off it we have the balance just right. ‘Swing low sweet chariot,’ the signings this week of Davey Phillips and Ben O’Connor yet again cement the Steelers desire and intention of being at the top once again next season.