With the Kingstone Press Cider National Conference League in its fifth season as a summer competition, the league is arguably more competitive than ever writes Oliver Roby.
Though Leigh Miners Rangers cleaned up last season, taking home the Conference Challenge Trophy alongside a table-topping NCL campaign and Grand Final success, the departure of Paul Whitworth from their first team coaching set up has seen Allan Coleman solely in charge, and he is keen to temper expectations ahead of 2016.
“We just want to make sure we don’t get relegated,” says Coleman.
“The league is so tight we don’t know what to expect – we’ll just aim make sure we stay up then build from there.
“This season will definitely be tough,” he added. “We obviously won everything last year so we’re the team to beat in many ways, but it’s a fresh challenge for us all.
“Paul Whitworth has moved to a different role with the club, so I’ve got Stuart Pugsley on board and Scott O’Brien has come in as a player-coach.
“Scott (the NCL’s 2015 Player of the Season) was looking to retire at the end of the last campaign but he’s made himself available to play for this year, although he’s keen to put the coaching badges he’s worked for during the off season into practice.
“A new face is always good for a team and the lads have responded well to what we’re doing together – I can’t wait to see what they can do on the pitch.”
Miners finished the season just two points clear of second-placed Siddal, who they overcame 22-20 in a dramatic Grand Final to complete their historic treble, but Coleman predicts an even more competitive Premier Division this time around.
He said: “There’s going to be a lot of quality in the division this year.
“Pilkington Recs will be right up there, as will Wath Brow and Siddal.
“Kells are quite rightly favourites for the league. They’ve only come up this year but they are a fantastic side with a fantastic coach who deserve to be playing at this level.”
Leigh Miners Rangers get their season underway today (Saturday 12 March) when they welcome Rochdale Mayfield to Twist Lane, kicking off at 2:30pm.