As one of the great characters in club rugby has decided to move aside and let a new generation of coaches take on the job of leading the Club back into the National League, it seems appropriate to document his time here through the thoughts of those who worked closely with him.
Arnie has been a massive force (in more ways than one!) in the development of our senior squad and the statistics created during his time at Hoppers are outstanding.
Paul Arnold joined the Club as player/coach in 2017 and played in thirty seven games for Preston Grasshoppers, scoring three tries, all of which were in League Games.
CLUB RECORD WHILST UNDER HIS COMMAND
During his five seasons (one being completely cancelled due to Covid-19), Arnie steered the ship through one hundred and eight League games plus the two Lancashire Cup-Ties against Blackburn and one successful final versus Widnes.
The records for this period read;
Two promotions, one as Champions another as Runners-Up.
Seventh place in the return to National 2 season and sadly one relegation. Also, the 2022 Lancashire Cup Final victory is now secured which adds the cherry to the top of the cake.
As for the results record, it reads; sixty seven wins, thirty seven defeats and six drawn games….not a bad record!
Thirty four players made their 1st XV debuts whilst Paul was in charge and numerous Club records were broken:
- Highest points difference in an away game (78).
- Highest points tally in a home game (99).
- Six, ‘nil scores’ against the opposition in a single season.
- Most tries scored in a League match (15).
- The longest run of winning games (14) twice.
- Longest undefeated sequence of League games (17).
- Longest undefeated run of away League games (12)
- Longest run of away game victories (10)
- Most League game points in a season (1105)
- Longest run of games without opposition scoring a point (3) (300 minutes)
- The longest run of games won at Lightfoot Green (14)
- The longest run of games unbeaten away from home (13)
PLAYERS’ PERSONAL HOPPERS RECORDS UNDER PAUL ARNOLD AND HIS TEAM.
- Ally Murray became the most capped League player for the Club (235)
- Toby Harrison, Christian Taylor, Alex Hurst, Matt Lamprey (2) and Jordan Dorrington (2), have all scored Hat-Tricks in away matches.
- Jordan Dorrington, Ben Dorrington, Sam Stott, Craig Proctor and Matt Lamprey (2) have all scored Hat-Tricks in home matches.
- Matt Lamprey, Scott Jordan and Niall Crossley scored Hat-Tricks in a single game.
- Matt Lamprey and Jordan Dorrington have scored four tries in an away game.
- Sam Gale is only the second player to score four tries in a League game at Lightfoot Green.
- Matt Lamprey is the only player to score five tries in a League game at Lightfoot Green.
- Tom Davidson was the last player to score three points with a Drop Goal.
- Matt Lamprey holds the record for most League tries in a season for Hoppers.
- Matt Lamprey’s current tally of 80 League tries for the club is just one short of Oli Viney’s record of 81, but with a scoring rate of 80% is by far the best ever for Preston Grasshoppers.
Arnie liked to have a good view of the game and the weather didn’t seem to matter as he made the rooftop his own personal eyrie………..
Speaking to many of the players and backroom staff it is obvious that there has been a very special relationship.
‘I think that when he came in we built a squad to win a league. But just because you build a squad it doesn’t mean it’s going to play some good rugby. Arnie got those lads playing a brand of rugby that was exciting to watch and good to be part of in the backroom, and from the coaches’ point of view, everything he asked them to do they were delivering
Squads have a shelf life and it’s a tough league up there in National 2. The second year in, we didn’t quite have enough all round and it was really tough. Whether it was coaching, playing or off-field, he’s re-invented them. We were promoted, then relegated and now we’re promoted again this season.
He’s re-invented and rebuilt the squad, using some of the same players but what Arnie does better than other coaches I’ve seen here is integrate new players quickly.
In terms of having Arnie at the club, he’s going to be a big miss. First and foremost, he’s a good lad and what he brings is a real sense of fun to everything he does. He’s been a pleasure to work with.’
‘I’ve often heard in the past that players didn’t get talked to by the coach, I’ve not heard that this time so communication between the coach and players has been better. The players have worked better as a squad, there’s more of ‘team mentality’ rather than an individual one and from that point of view it’s been good.’
‘Arnie’s brought a big presence to the club. Every week, standing in the dugout, we’ve had a lot of fun and yet the intensity that he brings is second to none but the enjoyment he also brings is unique. The quality of the coaching he has brought to the team has made for a successful season and now we have topped it off with the Cup.
From an S&C point of view, he’s let me run it as I have wanted, he’s a great believer in ‘do what you’re good at’. As a result the lads looked much fitter and stronger and that has filtered down from above with Gareth and Arnie allowing me to achieve what we have done from a physical point of view.’
‘I want to start by saying that it’s a shame that I will have only had one season with Arnie. He’s been great to work with especially from my side of things, the medical side. Normally you get a lot of friction between our two departments and he’s been great, working alongside me, not against me. The way he has passed on his experience has been very important for me and we’ve always been able to have a good laugh.’
‘First, and foremost, I’ve made the transition from being a player to a coach, and then back to a player coach under Arnie’s tenure and whilst I’ve not always seen eye to eye with him (he is 6’6”), I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with him. He was a player coach and then a coach too and he’s passed on lots of tips on how to improve as a coach and as a person as well. He’s shown me the importance of understanding the people who are involved here. The lads and everyone else come down here give a lot of time and you don’t know what type of day they’ve had in their work or their life, so making sure that what we do is fun is important.
Saying that there’s more to life than rugby allows players to go out and play freely so you’re not playing within yourself because you’re not worried about making a mistake.
From the squad point of view, he’s driven standards. He’s also always worked on our strengths and not pointed out the weaknesses, the forwards’ and backs’ play has been the strength of the squad and that builds up positive reinforcement for the players, that they are doing something well week in, week out which has created and maintained confidence within the players and has been reflected on the field.’
Ally Murray – Club Captain
‘Arnie has played in the second row and he’s given me a lot of knowhow about things I can do in open play, where to work, where to be and where to dip in or out, just preserving my workload across a full season, not just individual games. I’m really appreciative of every little nugget he’s given me and although it may not have meant much at the time, three or four games down the line it will click and you think, yes, that’s why he said that.
Across the five seasons he’s brought a lot of experience and a lot of fun. He’s a great guy to have in the changing room even when he is shouting at me and kicking water bottles about! He’s going to be sorely missed and I’m glad we won The Lancashire Cup for him to show the respect he deserves.’
Sam Stott – Team Vice Captain
‘Having a coach that has given me honest feedback, whether that’s because I’m playing well or what I need to improve on, it’s allowed me to focus on areas of the game and how I can best influence the team week in, week out. The relationship I’ve had with Arnie since day one has been great because I give him feedback and he gives me feedback and ultimately that’s the best way to improve anyone’s game, it’s to be honest and allow a player to work on the correct areas of his game and not give them false sense of hope.
I think it’s just the culture that Arnie’s created that the squad’s bought into. Rather than just a group of players who’ve come from different clubs, we are all part of that ethos that is Preston Grasshoppers no matter where it is that you come from. If you don’t buy in then you don’t fit into the squad, and the person that led that up was Arnie.’
‘As a coach, he’s worked with me for just about half my playing career and whilst we’ve had fall outs, we always got over it and been stronger as a result. For the team, he’s brought back that intensity that we lacked in the year we were relegated. Because we finished in the top six the season before, there seemed to be a sense that we could walk it but this season everybody has bought in to what he wants us to do which has given us the success.’
‘He’s given me an overview of the game, shown me that you can’t have an insular view and that you need to look at the game from an outside perspective and mature as a player. For the first season I was a young number 10 and in the second season we got promoted, that was great. Now I’ve come back, he’s given me a new lease of life, more confidence. He’s allowed me to play my own game.
As a team, I think he’s just grown us. When we first came together we had a really good squad but we didn’t have the cohesion. This year we now have that cohesion, he likes to call us a pack of hyenas and I completely agree, the drive and determination plus the desire to work for each other has been fantastic and it’s got us where we are.’
‘He’s given me much more confidence in my rugby ability, also improved my skills and taken my game from a young man and turned it into an ‘alright’ rugby player. As regards the squad, he’s not taken himself too seriously and after the two losses that we had, everyone’s been part of a tight-knit group and he’s brought the best out of people.’
‘Coming from Rugby League, I was coming to a brand new sport and it’s taken a lot for me to adapt my game. Arnie has enabled me to do that, he’s challenged me every step of the way. He’s given me targets and has been quite critical if I haven’t met them but he’s been honest with me and that’s what I like. That honesty has allowed me to develop my game and become quite a competent Rugby Union player, especially from where I was, so I feel I’ve come on a real journey with him. Without that honesty, that straight-talking feedback, I don’t think I would be where I am today.
As for the squad, compared to last year I think we’ve all just enjoyed it a little bit more. I think he’s not taken himself too seriously, we haven’t taken ourselves too seriously but we’ve known what we needed to do, we’ve all had our aims and objectives and I think that by enjoying the rugby first and foremost, both on a Tuesday and a Thursday, and then on a Saturday, it’s allowed us to get out there, do a job and get back to where the club belongs.’
‘I think that personally, working with Arnie, has made me a better player. As a person he brings enjoyment to training and matches and his honesty has been absolutely unbelievable. I’ll miss him greatly.
With the squad, I think that he’s concentrated on bringing in youth from the mini-juniors and the colts and bringing that togetherness in the group so we try and do things together outside of rugby and try and grow as a team because this is only the beginning. No-one’s leaving, people are staying, people are coming back who have left so I think Arnie’s left a great mark of togetherness among the players.
‘As a player, he’s certainly toughened me up. He’s been very honest in his criticisms but he’s also been very positive. When I’ve played well he’s been quick to give a slap on the back or a high five to say ‘well done’, but in the same breath he’s been very forthcoming in his explanations being very truthful when I’m not in the team and why I’m not in the team. So as a player, to hear that, it’s toughened me up a lot.’
‘I’m grateful to Arnie because this is my first year in senior rugby, coming off the back of university rugby, and he’s instilled a lot of faith in me as number ten this season. He’s brought on my game in leaps and bounds along with Byron at the start of the season and he’s really an all-round ‘good bloke’.
He’s brought the group together, there’s a lot of camaraderie, a lot of banter on and off the field which is good for player morale. He’s built a really important winning mentality as he doesn’t accept second best and that’s filtered down onto the team. The team record reflects that attitude and I wish him all the best.’
And the last word goes to Director of Rugby, Gareth Dyer
‘First and foremost Arnie has become a great mate and we’ve shared a lot of laughs and good (and some not so good!) times. But that is part of life’s rich tapestry and he’s always been a positive voice and influence when I’ve been more of the grumpy one! His big smile and handshake every time you see him always makes you feel warm and I’ll miss that regular interaction we have had.
On the rugby front, he’s been superb for the club. He was an outstanding player and although he was coming to finish his playing days at Hoppers, he still showed his class on several occasions. His show and go at Lymm will always live in the memory as will him rolling back the years when we beat Hull Ionians who were top and went up that season. He has been an honest and open presence with the lads. I know he’s always wanted to try and improve players and I know everyone has enjoyed working with him.
He’s been a big character with the supporters too and he’ll always be welcome back at PGRFC. I hope he, Emma and the kids look forward to spending that extra time together and I look forward to catching up with them too! A friend for life, just what rugby is about.
Time moves on, and the Club also moves on. We now have a new coaching team and a whole new set of opportunities which makes the anticipation of the new season even more exciting.
The rugby at Hoppers is in a good place thanks to all the volunteers who work at all levels with all the teams but the Head Coach always has to set the example. Arnie did just that………. Thanks mate.
Article by John Le Page.
Facts, records and other details, Mike Forshaw
Pictures by Mike Craig and Eden Valley Media