AS the countdown begins to the big kick-off against Workington Town at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday, February 17, head coach Scott Naylor is upbeat about the size and quality of his squad; about team performances in pre-season; and about the bookies’ verdict that Oldham are favourites to win Betfred League 1.
With no game this Sunday, February 10, he has cancelled Saturday morning training and given his 24 players the full weekend off — the last chance they have of a weekend break for several months.
They will be in again for big-match preparation on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, followed by Captain’s Run next Saturday and then the 2019 Betfred League 1 opener against fellow promotion aspirants Workington at the Vestacare the following day, kick-off 3pm.
After beating Championship sides Barrow and Rochdale and going down narrowly at Swinton Lions (four tries apiece) in warm-up matches, Scott is banking on his new-look squad repeating that form when it really matters and in front of a sizeable home crowd.
“It’s great to be at home on day one, but we’ve got to make it count. I’m sure we are good enough to start the season strongly, which we need to do,”
said the Roughyeds boss, now gearing up for his seventh season at the rudder.
Unlike many coaches who would prefer not to see their side tagged as favourites to win the competition, Scott isn’t worried about it one way or the other.
“It’s not a problem. I certainly don’t mind it. It’s of little consequence really.
“Personally, I think Newcastle should have been made favourites.
“At the very least I think we’ll be in the top three or four, but you’ve also to look at who is spending the most money.
“Of the teams that are generally expected to form the top four — Workington Town, Newcastle Thunder, Doncaster and us —- Newcastle are spending the most and Workington are also spending more than we are.
“Last year the two sides that spent the most money (Bradford Bulls and York City Knights) went up comfortably so it will be interesting to see what happens this time.
“Any successful side needs to avoid a lot of serious injuries and have a bit of luck. We need to turn last season’s narrow defeats into wins but it’s a long season with a couple of cup competitions thrown in for good measure, so we’ll need our share of luck and a fair crack from the match officials.
“Given all that we’ll be there or thereabouts.
“I’m very happy with the squad we’ve assembled. I said I wanted 24 or 25 and that’s what I’ve got. Nobody else will be coming in now, but I’ve got a solid squad that’s full of good lads and they’ve already shown what they are capable of in the warm-up games.”
Town come to our town having finished higher than Oldham last year and having earned the distinction of beating Bradford home and away before losing out to them in the play-off final.
Like Roughyeds, they have made no secret of their promotion intentions.
Coached by Leon Pryce, a good friend and former playing colleague of Scott, the Cumbrians are currently on a high as they look forward to hosting games in the 2021 World Cup and playing in a new stadium to be built by the regional council and shared with the town’s football club.
Make a date now to watch Oldham v Workington Town at the Vestacare Stadium (3pm) on Sunday, February 17. It should be a cracking start to a 2019 promotion campaign that is rich in promise and expectation.