JAIMIE Longmuir believes his Newcastle Vipers players have a rosy future – even if their club might not.
The general manager says watching the Vipers is like seeing Newcastle United play with nine men every week. But he is confident their thankless task will be justly rewarded this summer.
The Vipers are fighting for their existence, massively outnumbered every weekend by a combination of injuries and an Elite League transfer embargo.
Longmuir is full of admiration for the squad, led by rookie player-coach Danny Stewart, and thinks rivals are starting to notice too. So even if the Vipers do not survive into next season, he does not expect them to be short of offers.
“They will be in demand for sure because they’re very young as well,” said Longmuir. “Now people are seeing we’ve got some very good players. Given a full roster I think this team would have done very well this year. The way they’ve conducted themselves I think they’ve got a very good opportunity in the future to get the rewards they deserve, whether that’s in Newcastle or elsewhere.
“They’re honestly a phenomenal bunch.”
But Longmuir reserves his biggest praise for Stewart. In his first season as a coach the forward, 32 last week, has been playing out of position to cover for shortages elsewhere.
“The job Danny Stewart has done is exceptional,” said Longmuir. “The fact we’ve been pulling off wins with such a depleted roster is incredible.
“It’s effectively like asking a football team to start every game with nine men. I guarantee you if Newcastle United had to do that they would lose more often than they won. Danny in Dundee played for seven-and-a-half minutes straight, out of position in defence, which is amazing.”
Whereas most teams rotate three “lines” of players performing in short, sharp bursts, some weeks Newcastle have not had enough players for two because the league have stopped them adding to their wage bill.
“It would be very easy to use what’s going on as an excuse for poor performance,” Longmuir conceded. “It’s a bad situation, but it is what it is.
“It’s frustrating for me, the guys are having to work twice as hard as everyone else and we’re putting them at a disadvantage every night but their work-rate is phenomenal. That’s why I felt so strongly that we needed new players before the transfer window closed. Last weekend we had none of our two-way players available, which meant we had only nine skaters available. It’s a disgrace asking players to do that.
“We managed to somehow get a win on Saturday, which was phenomenal. But then we played a play-off rival (Dundee Stars) on Sunday night and you’re at such a disadvantage.”