Benson Reflects

Date published: Wednesday, August 10, 2011

TONY Benson, longest-serving coach in Championship One, talked today of his three “totally different” years at Oldham and of his admiration for chairman Chris Hamilton’s strong leadership.

Describing his boss as “the club’s rock”, Benson said stability at the top and the chairman’s support of his staff made his job easier and set Roughyeds apart from some of the clubs he had worked for previously.

The New Zealander joined Oldham in September, 2008 and of all the coaches in Championship One only Doncaster’s Tony Miller, who succeeded Ellery Hanley in December of that year, comes close to matching Benson’s length of tenure. The Roughyeds coach has also put in a longer stint than seven of the 11 coaches in the Championship.

Tony BensonIn 2009 and 2010 he led Oldham to within one game of promotion, losing each time in the play-off final, while this year Benson’s men are all but mathematically assured of a play-off spot despite losing several players with long-term injuries.

With three games to go, they need one point from a possible nine to clinch their place and they won’t require that if South Wales fail to win at Swinton Lions on Sunday.

“Each year has thrown up different challenges,” said the Kiwi, “but, in varying degrees, we’ve come up with the goods and we are laying down strong foundations with Phil Costin’s new under-18s squad and John Hough’s exciting under-23s. In recruitment and player development Houghie is doing a great job.

“In 2009 we lost a clutch of players mid-season to Barrow and the next year we again reached the final despite starting late in rebuilding the squad on a much-reduced budget.

“This year, our first full season at Whitebank, we again brought in a significant number of new players, but we have also seen the successful promotion of several younger players from the reserves.

“I’m lucky because I have both a supportive chairman and a backroom staff who are second to none.

“Chris (Hamilton) has never refused a request. His attention to detail is spot-on, which clears me of administrative worries, and he has structures in place so that everyone knows what the club is about. Players like that environment. They know where they stand.

“Paul Hulbert takes a lot of strain off me on the football management side; Rachel Johnson, the physio, has been with us for a few years and so have Ian and Dave, my statisticians, Stability counts for a lot.

“I’m also fortunate to have the support of loyal fans who have stuck with us through thick and thin.”

Hamilton said: “Tony isn’t the division’s longest-serving coach by accident. He’s a good coach and he works hard. He’s also a good club man, who has bought into what we are trying to build.”

Prop Bruce Johnson, out for weeks with a hand injury, is due back soon, while Luke Stenchion (back), Mark Brocklehurst (foot) and Danny Whitmore (back) are under treatment in the hope that they will be fit for weekend.

The reserves are at home to Dewsbury on Saturday (2.30pm) and the senior side goes to Rochdale on Sunday (3pm) seeking to complete a hat-trick of derby wins this year.

The Supporters’ Association (ORSA) are doing a sponsored walk to Spotland with all money raised split between ORSA and Dr Kershaw’s Hospice. To join the walk, report to Whitebank at 9.30am on Sunday for a 10am start.

A collection will be taken en route which is as follows: Whitebank Road, Elm Road, Hollins Road, Frederick Street, Manchester Street, Featherstall Road, Rochdale Road (to the Rochdale boundary), then Oldham Road, Drake Street, Manchester Road, Dane Street, Mellor Street, Edenfield Road, Wilbutts Lane.