MARK Cottingham takes sole charge of an England pool team for the first time at this year’s Euro-pean Championships, which start today in Bridlington.

And after being part of the side that reached the semi-finals of the Nations Cup last November, when he was joint-captain, Cottingham says winning the tournament should be their aim this time around.

Cottingham skippers the England men’s B2 team at a six-day event that features the best blackball pool players from across Europe – age groups range from under-18s to seniors.

“We have got pretty much the same team as we had for the Nations Cup in Malta,” said Cottingham. “There are a couple of new players but, if anything, the team is stronger this time.

“We exceeded all expectations in November and because of that we are expecting to do better in Bridlington.

“We know what’s ahead of us this time and I think we’re better prepared for it, and with a good team we can go on and win it.”

On being the outright captain on this occasion, he continued: “The first time I shared the captaincy because it was the first big event for everybody in the team.

“To be captain on my own this time is an honour.”

The tournament will include a round-robin team event and singles matches, with Cottingham hoping to improve on his run to the last 16 in the individual competition in Malta.

The men’s B group features nine teams in all – two from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and one from Ireland.

Teams from France, Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Catalonia and the Shetlands are also in Bridlington to battle it out for the top prizes.

Cottingham added: “The Irish teams are going to be very strong. Both have a lot of new players in their teams who are very good.

“But that doesn’t mean a lot because they won’t have played in the environment of a big tournament before, like we have.

“It’s a bit like having a noisy crowd from a big darts event around loads of pool tables.”

Play starts on Saturday and you can follow the European Championships at