A FEW Oldham fans went to Barrow, but most will see Roughyeds in action for the first time this season in Sunday’s Law Cup derby against Rochdale Hornets at the Crown Oil Arena.
With a new head coach in Matt Diskin; a new back-up staff in assistant coach Brendan Sheridan, conditioner Tim Abeyie and physiotherapist Chris Melling, not to mention half a dozen new players, it’s all change for newly-promoted Oldham in readiness for the demands of the Betfred Championship.
Collectively, the six new boys — centre James Worthngton, stand-off Lewis Charnock, full-back Dan Abram, utility man John Hutchings and forwards Jode Sheriffe and Daniel Igbinedion — are sure to have big roles to play in the derby.
With the exception of Sheriffe, who was carrying a knock picked up in training, they all played in a 22-18 win at Barrow although Igbinedion wasn’t in action long, having only joined the club on New Year’s Eve and having had only one brief training run with the squad.
He is likely to get more game time on Sunday, while fellow forwards Sheriffe and Ben Davies, another who didn’t play at Barrow because of injury, will be monitored and checked out nearer to weekend.
At Barrow, this new-look Oldham side raced into a 16-0 lead inside 20 minutes and went on to win with four points to spare — an encouraging start but a low-key affair which served its purpose in giving most squad members their first competitive run-out, with serious contact, in three months.
The Law Cup will be oh so different. This will be a REAL contest on the field, full of pride and passion, while in the stands and on the terraces rival fans will be desperate for their favourites to come out on top and lift the trophy.
Oldham and their supporters hate to lose against their ‘nearest and dearest’ while Rochdale followers love nothing better than to hammer their derby rivals from the other side of the M62.
This year the rivalry will be more intense than ever, given the huge changes that have taken place at both clubs in the last few months.
Just like Oldham, Rochdale are also on the threshold of a new beginning, having been taken over by a new board and having gone from a fan-owned club to a privately-owned organisation.
A new board is in place, under the chairmanship of former Swinton Lions chief Andy Mazey, and coach Matt Calland is building a new squad with a mix of experienced campaigners and young hopefuls, several of whom are on trial from the Oldham area.
While Roughyeds were winning at Barrow, Calland’s young side did well to hold a young Widnes Vikings outfit to a ten-point win at the Crown Oil Arena.
New skipper Sean Penkywicz, brought in to guide and mentor the youngsters, scored twice in a 24-34 defeat.
Rochdale’s current trialists number 13 and include Oldham St Anne’s stand-off Matthew Whitehead, son of a former director of Oldham RLFC (1997) Ltd, Sean Whitehead.
Tney’ve also got others in tow from Saddleworth Rangers and Waterhead — and they’ll be encouraged by the fact that Hornets have already given contracts to three Thatto Heath players in Adam Hesketh, Andy Lea and Adam Carr.
Several of the Oldham squad — Declan Kay, James Worthington, Danny Bridge, Jode Sheriffe and Dan Abram — have played for Rochdale in the past.
Abram, whose father Darren played for both clubs, got off to a great start to life as an Oldham player with two tries and three goals against another of his former clubs, Barrow Raiders.
He would love to do an encore at Rochdale, while Kay, Worthington and Bridge will also be anxious to hit the heights on their old Spotland stomping ground.
It promises to be a cracker with a lot at stake in terms of a trophy, local pride, derby bragging rights and rugby league prestige in the neighbouring towns.