I was delighted to announce the appointment of Paul Arnold as the new Preston Grasshoppers Head Coach this week.
‘Arnie’ comes to us from neighbours Fylde where he has done a good job in a testing league.
Trying to compete against the “money clubs” in National One is getting more and more difficult for provincial clubs, so retaining the club’s status for another year is an achievement that shouldn’t be underestimated.
I am also pleased with how we handled the situation and the way we have conducted ourselves during Paul’s move to Lightfoot Green. Hoppers and Fylde are fierce rivals and in the past the movement of individuals between the clubs has caused relations to become strained.
For those who like a gossip and to spread rumours, there have been no such issues with Paul’s move to us.
We were aware that Paul was becoming a free agent, that he was free to speak to interested parties and we spoke to him about our role. Having agreed a deal, we then informed Fylde of our intention to appoint Paul.
Given that it was a sensitive time of the season for all, out of respect for our neighbours we held back from making an official announcement until Fylde had secured their status. That was done last weekend and we were therefore able to announce Paul’s appointment this week.
Whenever you make an appointment you get those who are positive and back you, whilst you also get those who question your decision.
That scrutiny comes with the territory.
I know what Paul will bring to the club. And at this point in our history, his skill-set, character and approach tick all the required boxes.
A larger-than-life character with a positive attitude and a good understanding of the game at this level, he will also be a key component in the recruitment of players to Lightfoot Green.
In the past he lured players from Lightfoot Green to the Woodlands. Whilst at the time I was unhappy about losing those players, it is again something that goes with the territory.
At the end of the day, the players bought into a vision that was sold to them and they were enthused enough to make the switch. That is how you recruit.
I am glad we are now on the same team in that regard.
We both know the local rugby scene and we know the type of players we feel we need to add to the squad to rebuild for next season. We are working hard in that respect.
We have a clear idea of what we need to add to the squad and have targeted those individuals accordingly. We have a young playing squad in place but we need more experience in the ranks. The mix hasn’t been right this season and the results have been there for everyone to see.
You can use as many clichés as you want at times like this. A “clean slate” or “fresh beginning” might both be descriptions of where we are at.
The challenge to us all now is to clear our heads of this season the moment the final whistle blows in this weekend’s final league game against Wharfedale.
The moment it does the focus will all be about next year. We learn the lessons, we draw a line under what has gone and we move on.
Anybody who can’t do that, or is unable to energise themselves to what is now required, might find they receive short shrift from me and the rest of the incoming coaching team. That goes for those off the pitch too.
Energy-sappers gorge themselves at times like these. I have no time for that.
Perhaps how I carried out my previous role during my time at Lightfoot Green will not be how I go about things this time around.
Trying to be all things to all people usually results in covering a lot of ground but perhaps not to the detail those areas require.
My focus will be totally on shaping our readiness for bouncing back at the first attempt. The mindset must be right across the club. Anyone who thinks we only need to turn up next season to be successful is wrong.
We must embrace who we are and what we want to be. We will be a big club in the division and therefore a target for a lot of clubs who will be playing in league rugby for the first time. They will see us as a scalp and be desperate to cut the mighty Hoppers down to size.
As a group, we have to understand that but more importantly thrive off it. Quite simply, our desire must be greater than theirs. Yes, we might be a ‘cup final’ for some opposition but we will have 26 cup finals of our own.
It will take a certain type of player to be brave enough to handle that. Those that cannot will struggle to make the impression I and the coaching team are looking for. So, there is a big summer ahead for everyone at Lightfoot Green and I cannot wait for it to begin.