ELLESMERE Port Rugby Club’s first team have been challenged to secure a top-half finish this season, writes JOSHUA POWLING.
After two straight mid-table finishes, club chairman Paul Watkinson has said it is a “minimum requirement” to break into the top half.
He added: “If we can field our strongest team throughout the season, we have the potential to be challenging at the top.”
Watkinson is hoping that a crop of young players and a new coaching staff can fire the club up South Lancs/ Cheshire Three.
He has brought in former players Andy Dibble and Ian Johnson to replace previous head coach Dave Layder.
Watkinson said: “In Andy and Ian, we’ve got two RFU-qualified coaches and veteran rugby players themselves. They understand the players, are friendly with them, and can get the best out of the lads.
“Pre-season training has been good so far, but we could do with some more numbers, which is always an issue.”
The duo have 25 years experience each with the club, and have brought in ex-Wirral RFC man Harry Millington to toughen up the players during the summer.
The last few years have seen Ellesmere Port focus on developing young players and then introducing them into the first team, with Watkinson attaching a premium to home-grown players.
The team’s relative youth may have handicapped them in previous seasons, but he now feels the current crop are ready to reach the next level in performance.
Watkinson said: “As a club we’ve had a couple of tough years, but the younger players have come through in numbers, and they’ve been bloodied, earlier than we’d have liked, but at least a lot of them now have experience in first team rugby, which is an asset.”
The chairman is banking on young players like Niall Grant, James Callaghan, Rob Finlay, Jim Shinton and Nathan Quinn stepping up to the plate in 2010.
They will start their season on September 4 against local rivals Capenhurst.
They finished above us in the league, so it will be a good test for us, and to see where we are in our preparations,” said Watkinson.
“We won narrowly at home, but then got well beaten away, so it should be a cracker.”
Ellesmere Port Rugby Club raised £350 for Help for Heroes at the club’s annual charity sevens event, the Alec Dale Sevens, on Saturday.
The club hopes that the employers of one of their players will match the money, taking the total to £700.