Off Season Update

Date: 29 May 2017

In recent weeks, the club has announced several new signings to the playing squad for the 2017/2018 season. New faces have also been added off it as the club moves to ensure that incoming Head Coach Paul Arnold has the back-room team he needs for the upcoming campaign.

As is the norm these days, lots of rumours do the rounds in the “silly season” and no doubt a lot of these stories are usually just that.

To ensure our supporters and members are kept fully up to speed with developments, we caught up with Head of Rugby Operations Gareth Dyer to discuss where he believes the club has got to in its off-season preparations, what he believes is still to be done and ask him to put some of the rumours doing the rounds to be bed.

Q: So, then Gareth, a busy few weeks back into your role at the club?

GD: Yes, it’s been a predictably busy time. There has been much to sort out and the period from March to the beginning of pre-season is always a busy time for those of us off the field.

Q: How satisfied are you with what has so far been put in place off the field for next season?

GD: I am happy with the work we have done to date. We have a brand-new coaching team in place and one that I feel will be able to manage the demands of a large senior squad for next season. It was essential that we got a bigger coaching team in terms of the number of persons involved and one that can manage a range of ability and experience across the squad.

In addition to the coaching team it was also important to ensure we have a strong support team around the coaches and I am delighted that the likes of Mark Taylor, Ian McFarlane, Ade Jebb, Craig Steel and Andy Donovan are going to be involved next year. No one should underestimate the work that these guys do and they have all been working incredibly hard in tandem with the coaches to prepare for next season.

I am also delighted that Tom Peterson is going to be part of this structure for next season. First and foremost, Tom will be playing but we feel he is someone who can also be developed in a coaching role.

Q: You’ve announced several new signings on the field. Should the supporters be expecting some further additions to the playing squad?

GD: Yes. We know where we feel we need to strengthen our squad so that we have the right options to take into next season. We will also be running the rule over a few trialists in pre-season too.

Q: Will there be any departures from last season’s squad?

GD: The nature or the beast is that there is always movement in and out at any club between seasons. We have said goodbye to Ryan Glynn, Christian Taylor and Will Hunt whilst Rhodri Mayor’s loan spell from Macclesfield finished on the last day of the season. He has therefore returned to his parent club.

Ryan joined us on a short-term deal and was a positive presence over the final months of the season. He was the ultimate professional in the way he conducted himself on and off the pitch and we thank him hugely for his efforts and his advice. We wish him all the very best for his future.

Christian was one of three senior squad members who were out of contract at the end of the last campaign. We were aware that Christian was always likely to return to be closer to home and it is likely that he will be joining a club in the Cheshire area. Christian has conducted himself very impressively during his time at the club and this was no different when he informed us of his plans. We wish him all the best.

Will Hunt is part of the Scotland Under 20 squad and on the back of that he is being given an opportunity to join the Glasgow set up. It’s a great opportunity for Will and he of course goes with our best wishes.

Q: In terms of the other players out of contract have they committed themselves for next season?

GD: Yes, we have reached an agreement with the other two players who were out of contract and they will be part of the squad for next season.

Q: So, there is a level of stability in the squad to take into next year?

GD: When I came back to the club I was pleased to find out that the majority were on contracts beyond the end of the last campaign. So, our county players and senior players such as Lewis Allen, Pete Altham, Niall Crosley, Ally Murray, Chris Roddy et al will all be involved next year.

At the end of the day, I am someone who wants players to be happy to commit to this club and be excited about what is now ahead. We are building a strong structure that will challenge the players, improve them as players and just as importantly develop them as people.

The conversations I have had with the players confirms there is a real determination to ensure next season is a far more positive experience than the last campaign. The collective attitude of the playing group has impressed me, I expect a big improvement in all areas.

Q: Have there been any approaches to players from other clubs?

GD: Obviously when you suffer a relegation it is probably to be expected that players will consider whether they want to remain and be part of the effort to bounce back. I am sure some players have been asked about their intentions, I am not naïve to what goes on.

But I am also on record as saying that I am not someone who is afraid to use the rules and regulations out there to protect the best interests of this club and my players. Far too many individuals operating in the game believe that the rules do not apply to them and they can do what they want.

It is my responsibility to warn and educate players as to what the realities are of playing at a semi-professional level. To that end, at this club we will invest in all areas to make the playing experience as strong as it can be. From the coaching setup to important support such as the medical support and training facilities, we will cover all those bases. Player welfare is an important consideration and something I take very seriously.

Q: Finally, what message do you have for the supporters?

GD: I would just like to thank them for the support they have given me since I returned to the club. Next season we will be in a more regional league and one of the benefits of that is that I expect to see a large travelling support at matches when we go away from home.

To that end and in support of our supporters club the “1869 Club” we will be hosting an open forum later in the summer to further outline our plans and give the members and supporters the opportunity to ask questions to myself and the coaches about next season. We will confirm in due course when that will take place.

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