‘Our goal is promotion’ — Neal

Date published: Thursday, April 2, 2015
ADAM Neal expects Oldham to be “there or thereabouts” when RFL chiefs compile the League One honours board at the end of the season.

Once a full-time pro with Salford, and with 45 Super League games under his belt, the 24-year-old prop didn’t know what to expect when he signed for Roughyeds last autumn after taking a year out.
It was a leap into the dark. He was apprehensive after being out of the sport for so long; he had never previously juggled rugby with a day job; and he was to be playing two levels down from Super League.
Fast forward five months, a pre-season, three friendlies and four cup-ties and Neal says he is enjoying his rugby more than he has done for years.
And he thinks Roughyeds have as good a chance as any other team in League One — and more than most — of winning promotion to the Championship.
“That’s our ultimate goal for the season,” says Neal, who will wear the No 10 jersey which Jason Boults came to call his own.
Boults will be a hard act to follow, but Neal has shown already, in his handful of games here, that he can fill that punishing prop role with commitment and distinction.
Talking ahead of the 22-match League One programme that starts at Rochdale tomorrow, Neal said:
“It took me two training sessions to know I had chosen wisely and signed for the right club.
“We’re a comparatively young group, but I don’t think there will be a better squad in League One; bigger squads perhaps, but I doubt whether anybody else has more quality than us.
“Our win at Barrow said a lot and even in defeat at Sheffield we matched them in the second half and there were aspects of the game in which we were as good as them.
“We’re a good team, but it’s no good talking the talk; we’ve got to prove it on the field.
“That’s our challenge. We’ve got to play to our potential and we’ve got to make it count.
“On a personal note, I’m chuffed I came Oldham. And I realise that I didn’t enjoy my final two years at Salford as much as I should have done.
“I nearly signed for Swinton, but we played them pre-season in a friendly and it struck me then that there was no way I would swap what I have at Oldham for a life with the Lions.
“It was tough getting used to being a part-time pro (he works full time as a personal trainer at a gym in Walkden) but I’ve got the hang of it now and it helps enormously because I’m comfortable here and I couldn’t wish to be working for two better coaches than Scott (Naylor) and ‘Spanner’ (No 2 Lee Spencer).
“They are pointing us in the right direction and I’m finding that Scott is one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked for.
“I didn’t really think I’d be on a learning curve coming to Oldham —- hope that doesn’t sound conceited — but I quickly realised that Scott can teach me a lot and that I can only become a better player while I’m working for him, which is what I want.
“It’s very different to Super League and you have to adapt.
“Super League defences are in your face before you’ve had time to blink. You’ve got a little bit more time to think in this division, but you still have to make the right decisions.
“There’s a lot of quality in League One and with the current trends regarding loan and dual-reg signings the standards are going higher and higher.
“Like all the clubs in this division we’ve a rocky road ahead of us, but I think we can win it, I really do. To finish in the top two is a realistic target.
“With youth comes ambition and we all want to be playing in the Championship and testing ourselves on a regular basis at that level.
“There’s a lot of improvement in us yet and we believe we have the squad to put it all together and to go all the way.”