SCOTT Naylor has dismissed rugby league pundit Garry Schofield’s view that Oldham will be relegated at the end of the 2017 Kingstone Press Championship season.
Writing in his weekly trade-paper column, former Great Britain captain Schofield tipped Hull KR to win it with Roughyeds finishing second bottom above derby rivals Rochdale Hornets.
Schofield said of Oldham: “They stayed up in 2016 when many, including me, tipped them to go down but they’ll face a similar fight this year and I fear they may not be successful. The re-signings of Adam Neal and George Tyson are bonuses but I don’t feel they have enough quality in their squad to be confident of finishing above the likes of Swinton, Toulouse or Sheffield.
“Scott Naylor has done a good job so far and my opinion is no slight on him, but I’m sure their fans would bite off your hand right now for a tenth-place finish.”
He said Oldham and Swinton proved him wrong last year by each surviving their first season, but they were aided by the collapse of Cumbrian clubs Workington and Whitehaven.
He said of Rochdale: “They’ve signed a lot of players, including their former star forward Gary Middlehurst (from Oldham) but I’m fairly sure they’ll be picking up the wooden spoon.”
He tipped the 12 teams to finish in this order: Hull KR, London Broncos, Bradford Bulls, Batley Bulldogs, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Dewsbury Rams, Sheffield Eagles, Toulouse Olympique, Swinton Lions, Oldham, Rochdale Hornets.
Naylor, who had many a battle with Schofield when they were rival centres in playing days, said Roughyeds had proved Garry wrong once — and they would do it again.
He added: “It’s nice to see a legend like Garry showing an interest in us. He has a lot of opinions about everybody else’s teams, but he isn’t always right.
“He’s entitled to his opinion — sport is all about opinion — but so am I. And I believe we’ll be stronger and better than last year. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t finish higher up this time.
“He’ll be wrong again, but in any event I don’t think what Garry says will have any bearing whatsoever on what Oldham do or don’t do in 2017.”
Newly-released attendance stats for the 2016 KP Championship show Oldham pulled in more home fans than London Broncos, Swinton Lions, Workington Town, Whitehaven and Sheffield Eagles.
With a Bower Fold average of 831, Naylor’s men attracted 200 extra fans per game compared with their 2015 League One average at Whitebank.
Said Naylor: “To finish seventh out of 12 and to have better attendances than two full-time clubs is testament to the loyalty of our supporters, especially so when taking into account that we were playing out of town.
“Before the start of last season a lot of Oldham people maybe had doubts about our ability to stay up, but the diehards got behind us in great style and helped us to bridge the vast gap in standards between League One and the Championship.
“We are moving in the right direction on and off the field and I don’t think it’s being over optimistic to suggest that our crowds will increase again next season to reflect the club’s gradual and steady improvement.”
Average 2016 attendances club by club: Leigh 4,260, Bradford 4,178, Featherstone 2,655, Halifax 1,713, Batley 1,271, Dewsbury 1,082, OLDHAM 831, London 830, Swinton 767, Workington 717, Whitehaven 716, Sheffield 626.