Bensons thoughts to the season ahead

Date published: Saturday, March 10, 2012

TONY Benson, Oldham’s Kiwi boss, believes he has the squad to finish top of the Co-operative Championship One campaign that starts for Roughyeds at Workington this weekend.

“Our goal is to be No 1”, said Benson, who is under no illusions about the size of the task.

“It will,” he added, “be a cut-throat comp — by far the toughest and most competitive since I came to England six or seven years ago.”

Ten clubs will go to the starting gate, each chasing promotion to an extended Championship by finishing in the top four and thus leaving behind an expansionist third tier of ten which will include four new clubs.

Northampton and Hemel Stags will be there plus two more newcomers, still to be announced.

They will be joined by any six from the following: Oldham, Barrow, Doncaster, Gateshead Thunder, London Skolars, Rochdale Hornets, North Wales Crusaders, South Wales Scorpions, Whitehaven and Workington.

Added Benson: “None of us will want to be in the third division in 2013.

“It’s hard enough now because of all the travelling, but there will be a lot more next year.

“Promotion will be seen as the way out, and that’s what will make for such a fantastic competition over the next few months.

“Some clubs have already spent a lot of money, relatively speaking, and have put together really strong squads.

“Every team in the division must be respected. Nobody can be written off this time, and no club will walk away with it like Swinton did last year.

“Look at London Skolars for one. In the Northern Rail Cup they beat South Wales, where we drew, and then went on to shock Halifax, so what does that say about them?

“I see every team as a serious threat.

“The Cumbrian teams have recruited heavily and I think it’s great to have two strong clubs in Wales — a real boost for the game.

“South Wales will be hugely advantaged because of their strong links with Wigan Warriors.

“Whether it’s fair I wouldn’t like to say, but they haven’t broken rules and they have done well to acquire the relationship.

“I expect North Wales to be strong, too.

“We have talked to one or two players whom we couldn’t afford, and then they go on to sign for North Wales.

“They haven’t been involed in the Northern Rail Cup, but they are riding along under the radar, keeping their heads down and getting ready to mount a serious challenge. Of that, I have absolutely no doubt.

“From our point of view I am more than happy with the squad we have assembled and I believe firmly that we can go all the way and finish top.

“Our budget isn’t the biggest, but we have decided — unlike a lot of clubs — to invest in scholarship and reserve teams and bring through our own players, many of whom are now established in the first-team squad.

“We are a tight-knit group and we seem to gather strength from adversity. I’m quietly confident we can do well.”