No targets for Old Albanian says Shanahan despite Blaydon romp

Old Albanian's player-coach James Shanahan is not setting any targets for his team this year. Pictur

Old Albanian's player-coach James Shanahan is not setting any targets for his team this year. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

James Shanahan is making no predictions about how Old Albanian will perform in National One this year – despite a stunning start away at Blaydon.

The player-coach saw his side pick up all five points in the 35-3 win but says the goal this season is just to play as close to their potential as possible and simply enjoy their rugby.

He said: “We didn’t [set any targets] last year either. We said we just want to enjoy our rugby and this year we want to add a bit more structure to our game.

We said we’ll enjoy it again, enjoy each other’s company and if we play to our potential we’ll test anyone, even if we may not win them all.

“It’s a hard league. There are about six teams capable of winning it while the others are much of a muchness. Until you get six or seven games in, you don’t know.

“But if we can finish in the top half, I think that will be an amazing achievement for us with a small squad and small budget.”

Victory in the North East was a perfect way to mark their return to National One, the third tier of English rugby.

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But Shanahan knows that was just one game in what will be a tough season.

“We’ve got a tough start,” he went on. “I think Ampthill next week will be pushing for promotion and then we’ve got Rosslyn Park, Plymouth and Darlington back-to-back away and Cambridge, who beat us twice last year.

“So we’ll see but five points away from home is a great start. If we can get a few more wins and not be playing catch-up in January and February, we should be ok.”

He admits that despite the result, there is plenty to work on ahead of the visit of Ampthill to Woollams on Saturday.

He added: “Our set-piece didn’t function and we need to improve that because Ampthill will be physical.

“Our defence was outstanding against Blaydon but I don’t want to be defending like that every week so we need to work on our set-piece.

“Once we got into our flow and kept the ball, we looked dangerous and managed to break them down.

“I think the scoreboard wasn’t a fair reflection as it was probably a closer game. It felt more like a 10-point win at most but it’s a great start and I’ll take it. A lot of teams will go there and struggle.”