James Shanahan shocks Old Albanian with decision to move to Blackheath at the end of the season

James Shanahan will leave Old Albanian for Blackheath at the end of the season. Picture: DANNY LOO

James Shanahan will leave Old Albanian for Blackheath at the end of the season. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

James Shanahan has shocked Old Albanian Rugby Club by announcing he will leave Woollams at the end of this season.

The player-coach made the announcement after speaking to management as well as players and coaches on Tuesday night.

He will move to league rivals Blackheath after accepting an approach from the south London club.

In an emotional email he spoke of his affection for the club and explained his reasons for leaving.

He said: “This was an extremely tough decision to make, not just for me but for my family too. OAs has been a huge part of our lives since 2010.

“For me coaching is about a journey I can take a team on, not just a week-to-week winning strategy but a long term vision of achievement. I achieved that at Cambridge and then joined OAs as director of rugby in 2010 to help sustain National Two rugby and then on to National One.

“At the time that National One ambition seemed absurd to many but with Rory and Bruce allowing me to steer the club we achieved this on my second season with a stunning 16 game winning run.

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“At that point we didn’t want to just be a club that bounced up and down the leagues but to be a force in National One.

“I wanted a top-six finish and that year we finished fifth and achieved 96 points.”

He moved briefly to Plymouth Albion, at the time a league above in the Championship, which “didn’t work out as I wanted”.

A return to OAs followed as he rediscovered his hunger for the game and despite relegation, the club bounced back at the first attempt.

And they have done well on their return to the third tier of English rugby, where they currently lie ninth.

And Shanahan’s decision comes after arguably their best result of the season, defeating Loughborough Students on the road on saturday.

However, he now feels the time, and the destination, make it the right moment to leave.

He said: “Blackheath are a hugely historic club they have a new ambition and drive that I think I can help them with.

“I was approached by Cambridge last season and rejected an offer which I hope shows that this isn’t a decision I take on a whim. Those that may think it’s about money I can assure you that it isn’t, that’s not a motivation for me.

“I wouldn’t wish the burden of further progression through the leagues on this club, and I would never want to taint the wonderful memories I have of my time by continuing too long and becoming an uninspiring coach.

“I’m totally committed to finishing the season in style and pushing for top eight, which on a small budget compared to most in National One is a huge achievement for the team.

“I will do all I can to help make sure the right man/men come in to keep OAs a strong National One club.

“I love OAs and what it’s allowed me to achieve and how it’s welcomed my whole family and I only have great memories.

“Sincere thanks to all supporters, members, sponsors, coaches and players over the last six seasons that I’ve been here for making this journey possible and a great one.

“Onwards to Saturday.”

Saturday’s game sees OAs take on Birmingham Moseley at Woollams with a 3pm kick-off.