OLDHAM Rugby League Club is on the up off the field – now to get it on the up on it.
But new coach Sean Long feels he has what it takes to achieve promotion from League One, with the move to Boundary Park likely to boost the Roughyeds’ IMG grading score, which clubs will be judged on from 2025.
Some 21 new faces, many of whom have Super League and in Elijah Taylor’s case Test experience, have come through the entrance door as the club seeks promotion.
Away from the action, sponsorship is up 700 per cent, giving Oldham a major boost.
And Saddleworth’s Mike Ford, who led the club to Boundary Park from the Vestacare Stadium, is already looking further ahead.
He signed most of the new players, with Long’s agreement, after ticking three boxes – having talent, character and surviving three separate references.
Ford said: “Sean 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 about 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 met fans at Boundary Park and is excited about what is being seen as a new dawn for Oldham.
He said: “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.
“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.”
Club chairman Bill Quinn added to the anticipation ahead of the League One season, which still may or may not feature Newcastle Thunder.
He also revealed plans to work on Melrose Playing Fields in Chadderton are ongoing.
He said: “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, Hollinwood ARLFC and the local community.”