Thanks for the memories as era ends at Old Albanian but club left in ‘good place’

James Shanahan takes a hit. Picture: DANNY LOO

James Shanahan takes a hit. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

James Shanahan has said it was a tough decision to leave Old Albanian Rugby Club as the curtain came down on his time at Woollams.

He is heading off to become head coach at divisional rivals Blackheath.

But he does so with plenty of fond memories.

He said: “I’ve had two spells here and they’ve both given me a love of rugby. To come here and coach and be part of a club that is really friendly has been great.

“But now I’m looking forward to the challenge of Blackheath. They’re a big club and I believe I can help them achieve their goals.

“It was a huge decision and I didn’t take it lightly. We started talking after New Year; we had three meetings so it wasn’t an off-the-cuff thing.

“It was a tough decision because OAs have been so welcoming. But I felt I needed a challenge and to go to somewhere where I could impose myself and I feel Blackheath is that club.

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“I just feel maybe I’ve done as much as I can here and took them as far as I could. It was tough and it was hard to tell the players and the club but after chatting to my wife “I felt this was the best decision for me and for my career.”

Shanahan is not the only one leaving Woollams with a number of players either departing or retiring.

But he believes that his replacement, Gavin Hogg, who he helped interview, will keep the good times going.

“He’s a good coach, has a good pedigree and he was a really strong candidate when I interviewed him,” said Shanahan.

“I like his style of play and he’ll be a good fit here.

“A few boys are retiring and a few others are moving but that was always going to happen. This group have been together for eight seasons and stayed the same.

“Three of four have come in and out but three-quarters of the squad have been here for those eight years. We’re quite close-knit and stayed together; I think that’s why we’ve done so well.

“So it will be tough next season with the boys retiring and leaving but with the close link with Saracens and Gavin, who’s a really good coach, I think they’ll be in a good place and I wish them all the best, except of course for the two games against Blackheath, as everyone always says.”