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Legend Doug is new Bison boss
THE BASINGSTOKE Bison have pulled off a coup by signing Doug Sheppard as their new player-coach.
The 35-year-old Canadian led the Slough Jets to English Premier League play-off glory less than two weeks ago – but he could not turn down the chance to return to Basingstoke.
Sheppard led the Bison to their best-ever finish in the Elite League in 2006-07, and he feels he has unfinished business at the Basingstoke Arena.
“I did not want to leave when I did because I was really enjoying it, but new owners came in and wanted to change things so I had to move on,” he said.
“I have a good relationship with the fans. I think they appreciate hard-working teams and that is what I will be looking to create here.
“I have always wanted to get back to Basingstoke and this was an opportunity I could not pass up. I really enjoyed my time here and it feels like home.
“Basingstoke was the first place I came to in England, and I am thrilled to be back where it all started.”
Sheppard has a perfect record as an EPL coach, having guided Slough to play-off success at the end of his first season in charge, and he is keen to bring the glory days back to Basingstoke.
“The support is as big as for any other club in this league, and I would love to deliver some trophies because the fans have been starved for a few years,” he said.
“I really think that I can build a team to give them what they have been waiting for. I want to be competing for trophies straight away and battling near the top of the league.
“I have not thought too much about specific players yet. I’m sure there will be a few that I look to retain but I will also bring new players in.
“I need to find the right balance but I’m hoping to have a few signings ready to announce next week.”
Planet Ice managing director John Neville, who made the decision to bring Sheppard back, is delighted to have secured his number one target to replace Steve Moria.
Neville said: “Doug is a proven winner at this level. He is renowned for putting together hard-hitting, exciting teams and I am delighted that he sees joining the Bison as the next challenge in his career. I think he can do a very good job. He has had a good couple of seasons at Slough and knows the league very well.”
Forward Sheppard, who scored 30 goals and contributed 50 assists for Slough last season, has signed a one-year deal at the Basingstoke Arena, with an option for a second year.
Bison fans will get the chance to meet the new coach at a special event being held at the Basingstoke Arena next Wednesday (7.30pm), when he is expected to unveil his first signings.