HOPE a decision to go back to their roots can pay off next year for Oldham St Annes as their aim can be summed up in just one word – promotion.
And if any of the hill running sessions are anything to go by, coach Paul Ashton can sit safe in the knowledge that 2019 will be a success.
About 40 lads, both first teamers and Under-18s, have been plodding up and down Tandle Hills on a Saturday morning after pre-season training started early.
And Ashton, whose side will have four more fixtures after three new sides – Batley Boys, Hensingham and Heworth – were admitted to National Conference League division three, is in no doubt that the good times are just around the corner.
He also says new faces could yet arrive at Higginshaw Road, as well as some familiar ones on a more regular basis.
He said: “Next season’s aim is definitely promotion.
“Everyone is now 12 months’ older, meaning they’ve had a year together and they’re more mature in their bodies.
“We decided to strip things back to look at the long-term and that can only be beneficial.
“I’m not one of those coaches who wants to win at any cost – I want to make sure the club is right for the next 10 years.
“Dom Bryan is back after missing all of last year with a torn pectoral muscle while Harry Warhurst is back training now, he’ll be a good addition.
“There’s another couple of lads too who struggled to get over because they were at university. Now they’ve got jobs and can commit more than they did.
“I hope to get three more new faces but I’m sworn to secrecy as they’ve just started new jobs and are yet to find out if they can commit.
“We’ve done two hill sessions as well as heavy weights in the gym. Everyone has been great – I’ve had a couple of excuses thrown at me but I’ve heard them all before.
“And once they’re there, they enjoy it. It’s the thought of doing it that fills them with dread.”
Ashton admits the extra trips to York for the Heworth game and Whitehaven, Cumbria, to face Hensingham will place an extra strain on St Annes’ finances.
But while admitting the new make-up is good for rugby league, he admits they will be steps into the unknown.
He added: “Teams coming in are hard to judge as they will have been playing in the Yorkshire League or the Cumbrian equivalent.
“It’s hard to know what they will be like.”