OLDHAM RL fans will be ready with a special ‘welcome home’ chant for Danny Langtree when he runs out at the Vestacare Stadium on Friday ahead of the top-four clash with Betfred League 1 leaders Hunslet.
Gerald Brierley, self-confessed Roughyeds fan and a senior presenter on Oldham Community Radio, has already been singing it on air.
To the tune of a well-known football ditty it goes like this: “Langtree’s coming home, he’s coming home, Langtree’s coming home.”
After eight years at Oldham, whom he first joined as a 19-year-old, the free-scoring second-row forward left the club at the end of last season to move up in the world with Super League outfit Hull FC.
He went with the best wishes of the club, coaching staff, fellow players and fans, who feared he would leave a big hole but were united in their belief that he deserved a break at a higher level.
In 148 senior appearances for the local club, ‘Langers’ had scored 70 tries, 21 of them in 2018 when he became Oldham’s highest-scoring forward in a single season in the new club’s 21-year existence, beating former hooker John Hough’s 17, set 18 years ago.
Hough has lived in Australia for several years but he’s back in Oldham on holiday over Easter and he plans to be at the game to renew acquaintance with a lot of old friends, including ‘Langers’ whom he coached in the reserves nearly a decade ago.
Langtree walked off with three individual awards at the end of the 2018 season — head coach Scott Naylor’s player of the year; club-man of the year (chosen by chairman Chris Hamilton); and players’ player of the year.
To be named top gun by his chairman, head coach and dressing-room peers was a glittering barometer of his value to club and team.
He said at the time:
“I wasn’t looking to leave Oldham, and I’ll never forget my time here, but when the opportunity came to go full-time with a Super League club like Hull it was something I couldn’ t turn down.”
Six months on, still without a Super League appearance on his CV and having been sent out to Doncaster on dual-reg to play in the same division as the one he had left behind at Oldham, he was both frustrated and more than a tad disillusioned.
He asked for and got his release — and Oldham wasted no time in beating off competition from Championship and other League 1 clubs to re-sign their former player and bring him home to the delight of their excited fans.
On forums and social media platforms his return has been variously described as ‘massive’, ‘brilliant’, ‘great news’ and ‘a fantastic day for the club’.
One fan tweeted: “It says a lot for the club that Danny wanted to come back.”
Another said: “I’m over the moon. Now for promotion to the Championship where this club belongs.”
With league leaders Hunslet here on Friday his return couldn’t have been better timed.
The men from South Leeds dropped their first points of the campaign when narrowly beaten at Whitehaven last time out, but they remained top, nudging out the Cumbrians on for-and-against points difference.
Both have eight points from a possible ten, then come four clubs on six in this order: Newcastle, Oldham, Workington, Doncaster.
The reality is that, having lost at Newcastle and at home to Workington on the opening day of the season, Naylor’s men simply can’t afford to go down a third time against opponents who are already two points ahead of them.
They will, however, be strengthened by Langtree and possibly by three who missed the loss at Newcastle — prop Phil Joy, who was given time off because his fiance had just had their first child; prop Ben Davies, who had a mouth wound; and full-back Ritchie Hawkyard, who was under treatment for a hamstring injury.
It’s so tight that Roughyeds could go joint top in victory or drop to as low as seventh in defeat.
Hunslet boss Gary Thornton is keeping fingers crossed that centre Ben Heaton, a player who needs no introduction to Oldham fans, will be fit to return to the side after injury.
Heaton, who lives in Rochdale, launched his semi-pro career at Oldham as a full-back before going on to serve Halifax splendidly for several seasons.
He moved to Hunslet this year but missed the 16-12 defeat at Whitehaven.
“With Nathan Chappell banned we’re a bit short in the centres, but I’m hoping Ben (Heaton) is going to be okay.
“We had a setback at Whitehaven but it was a minor one so hopefully we can kick on again at Oldham.”
Naylor, his opposite number, was furious that his charges let slip a 22-6 lead at Newcastle but he will be banking on a more polished and professional performance, plus the Langtree factor, to see his side across the line.