‘Ropes’ ready for his Spotland return

Date published: Thursday, April 2, 2015
ANY derby-day sledging aimed at Steve Roper by Rochdale fans will fall on deaf ears.

“I won’t hear anything. I’ll be concentrating on my own game and on my team’s performance,” said Oldham half-back ‘Ropes’.
He will be back at Spotland tomorrow in Oldham colours for the first time since he left Hornets and crossed the great divide to sign for their biggest rivals in the early part of last season.
He ¬†played 86 times in Rochdale’s red, white and blue and in his five years in the Hornets nest he ¬†turned out in “ten or eleven” (his words) derby clashes, the last of them in the 2013 Championship One Grand Final when, at Oldham’s expense, Ian Talbot’s men lifted a trophy for the first time since 1922.
Seven months later Roper was a Roughyed, soon to establish himself at Whitebank as Lewis Palfrey’s half-back partner.
As such, he quickly became one of coach Scott Naylor’s tactical generals — a clever little player on whom Roughyeds rely a lot to create time and space for left-of-field strike players such as Jon Ford, Josh Crowley and Jarrod Ward.
Looking ahead to a date with his past, 28-year-old ‘Ropes’ said: “I’ve been eagerly anticipating this game since the fixtures came out.
“Turning up at Spotland will bring back a lot of memories, but I won’t be heading for the home dressing room, that’s for sure.
“I don’t know how Rochdale fans will react but, to be honest, I won’t be listening. My only concerns will be that I am playing well and the Oldham team is going well.
“It should be a cracking game. Rochdale will be tough to turn over, but whatever the outcome I am genuinely excited about our prospects for the season as a whole.
“We’ve got a lot of quality in the squad. Everyone is fighting for a place. Competition is intense and if you don’t play well you are out and you have to wait for another chance. That’s how it should be.
“Our pack is probably the best in the division — a top-notch unit that takes us forward and builds momentum which makes life for a half-back a whole lot easier.
“We just have to make sure we’re on our game and if we are we’ll win.”
Naylor won’t name his squad until tonight, but Talbot has already announced his 19 which include Irish international trio Brad Hargraves, Danny Bridge and Matty Haddon.
Tony Suffolk and Mike Ratu are back after clearing suspensions for striking in the Challenge Cup tie at Kells, while Lewis Charnock is on dual-reg from St Helens.
Hornets (from): Langley, Paterson, Bloomfield, Crook, Yates, McClurg, Thompson, Case, Suffolk, Tilley, Brooks, Bridge, Hargraves, Smith, Ratu, Hall, Beaumont, Charnock, Hadden.
* Ratcliffe Bars, the official Spotland Stadium function venue, will be open from noon, showing live sport on giant screens. Coach parties should ring in advance on 01706 646851.