THERE is a certain local touch to Sheffield Steeldogs’ roster, with the IceSheffield outfit boasting no fewer than eight home-grown players in their ranks.

Swindon Wildcats player-coach Aaron Nell can boast a similarly impressive record of talent development – with seven of the club’s 19 senior squad players born in the town.

Development bragging rights will therefore be on the line this evening as Swindon contest their penultimate National League fixture before Christmas away at Sheffield.

With the Steeldogs adding proven attacking players to their ranks since the season started, 30-year-old Nell appreciates the fairly stiff task that awaits his troops off the back of Sunday night’s confidence-denting defeat to Telford Tigers.

Nell said: “Sheffield are a team that has played really well, although they have a couple of injuries at the moment.

“Their players are strong, and you’ve got to be aware of them. Every game at the moment is tough for us, and Sheffield will be a tough game to win.

“Travelling up north on the Friday before Christmas is never ideal, but we’ll travel in search of two difficult points.”

The Cats have a rare Saturday off, before Bracknell Bees host Nell’s title-chasing team at the John Nike Leisure Complex on Sunday.

Bracknell have struggled in the newly-formed National League since it was reintroduced in September.

The Berkshire club has secured only 21 points from their first 24 fixtures. But Nell insists a team can never be judged by its league ranking.

He said: “You can never judge a team by their league ranking.

“Telford are the top team, but they’ve won a lot of games by the odd goal. Bracknell have had a lot of close games too.

“I’m sure they will have big ambitions to be higher in the league. They’ve made a couple of signings in the last month or so – players that are capable of scoring goals.”

Away from hockey, Nell is pleased to see the festive period spark its traditional injection into the public’s interest in skating.

Numbers at the Link Centre for public skating have picked up in recent weeks, and Nell hopes the Cats’ next home fixture against Bracknell on December 28 can benefit from it.

Nell said: “The rink was very busy with members of the public skating. Naturally, it gets more popular around Christmas time.

“Dancing on Ice then airs in the new year, so interest in skating increases. At the moment, the interest in ice skating and ice hockey is on the up – certainly in our town.”