Several hard news lines emerged from the Roughyeds’ recent fans’ forum, most notably that sponsorship already received for the 2024 season is already seven times greater than last season.
No figures were given, but chairman Bill Quinn said the board was delighted with the sponsorship received up to now, given that the club was heavily in debt when the new people took over and that one of the board’s priorities was to stabilise the club’s financial situation.
Managing director Mike Ford assured fans that replica kit would be available in time for Christmas and revealed that supporters would get their first glimpse of the ’new’ Oldham as early as Boxing Day in a pre-season friendly at Keighley.
It was also stated, writes ROGER HALSTEAD, that Oldham would be playing a Law Cup game against Rochdale Hornets at the Crown Oil Arena on a date still to be fixed and that these Law Cup games were hugely important, given that they had been going for more than 100 years and were an integral part of the history of both clubs. As last season’s winners, Oldham had paid for the trophy to be refurbished and valued by a Blackpool firm, which had confirmed that it was “the real thing” and was worth a lot of money. The trophy, originally donated by Rochdale MP, Mr A J Law, for annual competition in pre-NHS days with all receipts going to the infirmaries of the two towns, was on view at the forum.
”We’ve won it more than Rochdale", said former club chairman John Chadwick, “and we’ll win it again next time too.”
Of the 28 players already signed — most of them for two years — only seven were here last season and the entire squad was introduced individually, starting with new head coach Sean Long, the former St Helens and Great Britain half-back.
Said club chairman Bill Quinn:
“These are exciting times. We’ve got the head coach and playing squad in place for 2024 and beyond and we are developing Melrose for varied use by us, by Hollinwood ARLFC and by the local community..”
Mike Ford, who signed most of the new players, said he couldn’t wait for the arrival of incoming team boss Sean Long because other clubs were also chasing many of his targets and at the time Sean was still under contract at Featherstone. Long knew what was going on, though, and was in full agreement. Each of the new signings had to tick three boxes — they had to have talent; they had to survive three separate references; and they had to have great character.
“Sean (Long) will have a tough job in gelling a brand-new team. We wanted to recruit a top-end Championship club after looking at Keighley, who won 20 out of 20 in League One, scored more than 1,000 points, flew into the Championship – and came straight back down. When we go up next year – and we will – we will be aiming for the top end of the Championship . . . no doubt bout that !
“I want every kid in Oldham to want to play for Oldham, like I did all those years ago. We have come a long way in a short time and I’m proud of that."
Long said he was “made up” by taking over at Oldham. He added:
”Everything Oldham are doing excites me. There’s a buzz around the place and as far as I’m concerned the long-term target is Super League."
He added: “I’m a rugby nerd – and I want to see us back to the time when Oldham were beating Wigan and the like up at Watersheddings. My coaching philosophy is to work hard, to enjoy it and to put a lot of focus on defence. If we do a good job in defence it will enable us to play good, attacking rugby in the right end of the field. I don’t go for structures, but I rely heavily on systems. Structures can be restrictive, but you can move in and out of systems so that if, for example, somebody sees something up the short side, they can play what’s in front of them and then go back into the system.”
He said he would be relying on his experienced players to help him.
In reply to questions from the audience, the top table said Beth Sutcliffe’s appointment was a huge forward step as far as the club’s women’s team ambitions were concerned; season tickets and prices would be out soon; the players had been measured for kit and the order would be going in right away; the squad was a big one with a nice blend of youth and experience and the dual-reg arrangement with Wigan Warriors was still in place.