Preview: OAs welcome coach’s old club

James Shanahan in action for OAs. Photo by E G Baldwin Photography

James Shanahan in action for OAs. Photo by E G Baldwin Photography - Credit: Archant

LAST Saturday’s trip to the Forest of Dean, and to a warm reception by Cinderford, was denied by our extended Winter, writes Brian Quinn.

As a result Albanians will have to extend their season by a week to accommodate this fixture which (hopefully) will take place on a firm playing surface and will be bathed in sunshine.

Coach James Shanahan was not surprised at the disruption caused by the unseasonal conditions.

“The climate is not as predictable as it was so we can now expect this sort of cold snap.”

Predictably he also had an answer to the problem.

“Move the rugby in from the cold to the Summer,” he said.

But did he not feel this was too radical a step in what has always been a conservative sport?

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“Not at all”, he continued. “Just look at the potential advantages. The game is far faster than it ever was, all helped by far better pitches. Modern players enjoy playing in good weather and their performances would surely improve.

“I don’t ever remember a game called off because there was too much sunshine and clubs’ revenue would not be affected by cancellations. Spectators wouldn’t have to brave freezing conditions to watch their favourite sport so it’s a fair bet cashflow would improve across the board.

“Finally look at the massive improvements in Rugby League since they took the decision to switch to a warm weather season. Nobody in our sister sport wants the uncertainties of Winter any more.”

Albanians are left hoping next weekend’s fixture against Cambridge can take place as planned and Shanahan had plenty of positive things to say about his old club.

“In many ways they’ve had a traumatic season, often the way when so many problems pile up at the same time,” he said.

“Obviously it’s been a while since I was involved at Volac Park but from what I can see their coaching setup is now on a firm footing and there has not been a massive exodus by the players despite their league position.

“Loyalty is a wonderful thing and we can expect nothing less from Cambridge. They’ve had some heavy defeats this year but in the middle of all that they beat Fylde in their own back yard. You have to respect that.”

What of next weekend’s encounter?

“Predictions are notoriously difficult but one thing is certain: Cambridge will be no pushover.

“Any Albanian expecting an easy ride will be disappointed and we must treat this game as a top of the table clash. They host Ealing and Blaydon between now and the end of April and nothing would prepare them better for these league leaders than to put one over on us. Only our best will do.”

No unexpected injury problems have been reported so far this week so A’s expect to field a strong side. There have been two narrow victories of late against teams not far above Cambridge in the pecking order but the spectre of Loughborough still looms in the background.

Albanians will be hoping for a more consistent performance on Saturday against the ‘Blood and Sand’. Kick-off at Woollams, 3pm.