Stability the keyDate published: Thursday, September 17, 2015
THIS is the third year in a row that Oldham are 80 minutes from promotion and most of the players who were beaten in the last two Grand Finals will be tested again in Sunday’s ‘Promotion Final’ at Whitebank.
If experience counts in a final, Roughyeds will be well equipped to face Keighley in the biggest game ever played on the compact little ground at Limeside that Scott Naylor’s men regard as a fortress.
Jon Ford, Lewis Palfrey, Kenny Hughes, Phil Joy, Josh Crowley, Danny Langtree, Michael Ward and Liam Thompson played in both finals against Rochdale and Hunslet.
Richard Lepori, Sammy Gee and Adam Files also figured in 2013 while Adam Clay, Steve Roper, Gareth Owen and George Tyson played in last year’s final.
Those who played in both are at the end of their third season at Oldham. They’ve grown up together.
Naylor and Lee Spencer, each under contract for two more years, have been behind them every step of the way.
Said chairman Chris Hamilton: “There’s a lot of stability there. We’ve kept the core of the squad together for the last two or three years and collectively they’ve developed.
“They’ve matured as a group and as individuals. We’ve won a few games this year that we would have lost previously.
“Scott (Naylor) deserves a lot of credit. He came in and brought his own way of thinking into the coaching side. He is what he is — a very good coach — and that’s why we decided to give him an opportunity.
“He brought in a lot of lads he and ‘Spanner’ (Spencer) had worked with at Salford. They’ve all done well this year in an incredibly tough competition.”
Hamilton has been at the helm for 18 years and has seen Roughyeds lose six of the last eight Grand Finals in the third tier.
But they’ve never had a better chance of going up than this year, having earned the right to home advantage in this winner-takes-all play-off on the back of 13 consecutive league wins.
He added: “I dare to dream, but there is a realistic slant on it. I still have doubts because of our previous record, but we’ve put ourselves in a good position and there’s no reason why this group of players can’t finish the job.
“If they do, it will give me immense pride and it will be a monkey off the back of the players, coaches and everyone associated with the club.
“It would then give us an opportunity to test ourselves at a higher level. That’s what we’re in it for.”
+ Fans must not go on the pitch at the end of the game, insists ground-safety Phil Black. He wants post-match presentations and lap of honour by the winners to run smoothly with all spectators behind the boundary walls.