Leeds Knights secure coach Ryan Aldridge on new deal to help realise their ambitions

COACH Ryan Aldridge has committed himself to Leeds Knights until at least 2024 declaring he wants to make it the team every British player wants to come and play for.

By Phil Harrison
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 2:09 pm

News that the 43-year-old will be returning on a two-year deal to Elland Road will delight players and fans alike, considering the job he did on an interim basis after replacing Dave Whistle in January.

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He steered the Knights to a fourth-place regular season finish in their first-ever NIHL National campaign, although they ran out of steam in the play-offs when failing to win any of their six games.

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Ryan Aldridge has agreed a two-year deal to stay on as head coach of Leeds Knights. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Having spent his time travelling to and from Leeds during the last three months of the 2021-22 season, Aldridge will now relocate to the area with his family from his hometown of Swindon.

It follows talks with owner Steve Nell - who he previously worked for at Swindon Wildcats and the Okanagan Hockey academy - about his role essentially becoming a full-time position.

To fulfil that, Aldridge needs to be close by in order for him to help the team progress the way he and Nell want it to.

“For myself, I want to make Leeds the place where every British player wants to play and that might take one, two, maybe three years,” said Aldridge.

BENCH IMPRESS: Ryan Aldridghe (far left) instructs his players during a brief break in play during a game at Elland Road. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento.

“Our crowd are absolutely bonkers and I mean that in an amazing, good way. Having been in that building last season, you just know people are going to want to play there.

“I believe the potential here is endless and not just because of the hockey. The whole city, the way that everyone gets behind their sport, behind all the sports, I don’t think there is anywhere else like that in the country.

“It’s absolutely amazing and to be a part of that and trying to help build something that’s going to be part of that - it’s going to be very enjoyable.”

MORE – Leeds Knights owner Steve Nell on the first 12 months and his plans for the 2022-23 NIHL National season

HAPPY: Leeds Knights owner Steve Nell. Picture: Steve Riding

There’s no pretending Aldridge’s decision to move himself and his family nearly 200 miles north was an easy one, but the potential to build something special in a city on the up, allied to a deal keeping him at the club until at least 2024 will all have helped.

His long and successful working relationship with Nell will also have been another factor.

Ryan Aldridge (far left) had a positive impact on the Leeds Knights players after coming in midway through January. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento.

“We’ve known each other a long time and we have a relationship that most people don’t really understand,” added Aldridge. “We can be quite frank with each other but we get on very well.

“I trust him 100 per cent and I think he trusts me the same - we’re both going to do what is best for this organisation.”

For Nell, there was only one man he wanted for the head coach’s position, particularly given the positive impact Aldridge had on the players when he first came in.

Another attraction for Aldridge to stick around was the prospect to get more time on the ice during the week with the players ahead of and during next season, with Nell fully supportive of his coach’s requirements.

“It’s great news he’s coming back,” said Nell. “I was very, very keen to bring him back on a permanent basis.

“It’s a big decision for him, moving his family to Leeds. He’s had to take time to think that through and have all the discussions that he needs to and I’m just really pleased that he’s coming back.

“He did a great job with the players during the time that he was with us last season.

“The players took to him, but it’s not just about liking a coach, it’s about respecting a coach and he’s got the respect of the team.

“I genuinely believe that, give him a season, give him some proper time to work with the team, that team will just get better under him.

“He’s an honest person, he’s going to work his backside off to make the club better, make the team better. He’s committed to his players.

“He’ll stand up for his players and back them, but he’ll also drive them hard and expect them to do the job they should be doing.”