Rangers appoint new coaches

SEAN Whitehead has spoken of his excitement after he and Paul Ashton, both former Saddleworth Rangers’ players, have been appointed joint first-team coaches at Shaw Hall Bank Road.

The pair, who had previously coached together for three years at Oldham St Annes, are relishing the challenging of trying to revive the fortunes of the open-age team.

Whitehead, 55, said: “Paul and I were out of the game and, when we got the phone call asking if we were interested, we couldn’t resist.

“It is a great club, our club, where both of us have a lot of good memories.”

The pair take over from Ken Kerr who confirmed he is staying in Australia after returning home at the start of the pandemic to be with family.

They take over a team which is in the second division of the National Conference League, the third tier of the amateur game.

Paul Ashton and Sean Whitehead

It is far removed to when Whitehead captained the legendary team of the early 1990s to three National Cup wins from four finals and a National League title.

Whitehead was realistic in his ambitions for the club, pointing out others in the National Conference League have more financial clout.

“If we can take the club forward and leave it in a more healthy position than we took it over, we will have done our job,” he explained.

Royton-based Whitehead, who runs a roofing supplies merchants in Chadderton, explained the dynamics of his partnership with Ashton.

He said: “Paul does the on-field coaching and sets up training and I am the manager off the field dealing with the lads.

“With Paul doing the coaching and me the management, which can be involved, we complement each other and work well together.

“We have our disagreements but that is good in any relationship and ours works well.”

Whitehead added he and Ashton will be looking to bring in players to add to the core they already have.

He said: “We were short on numbers last year, especially as we have two open-age teams.

Paul, Terry Flanagan and Sean

“We have a few ideas and are going to be active in trying to bring in new blood which is needed.

“However, we won’t be afraid to put in young players as we did at Oldham St Annes.”

Whitehead is a figure steeped in rugby league. He had a spell at Swinton as a teenager but never made the first team.

After his hugely successful spell as a loose forward with Rangers he spent half a season with Rochdale Hornets aged 28 and played first-team rugby for them.

Whitehead returned to Rangers where his final game was for them against Shaw in the final of the Standard Cup. He has since coached some of the club’s junior sides.

He was also one of the four founder members of Oldham Rugby League Club which was formed in 1997 when Oldham Bears went out of business and remained involved as a board member until 2015.

Ashton also brings a wealth of experience to the table. He played for Rangers before and after a professional career at Halifax, Oldham, Rochdale, Keighley and Swinton.

The 41-year-old electrician from Royon also coached Oldham’s Under-21s to back-to-back finals.

He added: “This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. I have good memories from Rangers, and I owe the club a lot for helping me to sign professional. I’m really looking forward to getting into it.

“I have worked with some of the players before and they are excited that Sean and I are involved. We have had good vibes.”

Ashton, who said he and Whitehead work well together bouncing ideas off one another, added it will be a challenge for all clubs returning from the 12-month lay-off.

He said: “After Covid struck, rugby league has been on the back burner.

“It will take time to get back to normal and the first season we will be looking to get back playing and then build on that.”

Rangers’ president Terry Flanagan said: “We’re really excited to welcome Sean and Paul back to the club.

“We know it’s a big task to revitalise the playing side after Covid, but with support I’m sure they can put a smile back on faces and get everyone enjoying their rugby again.”

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