Hoppers coach ready for ‘daddy of all’ games

Hoppers old boy Lewis Allen faces his former club this weekend
Hoppers old boy Lewis Allen faces his former club this weekend

Paul Arnold is relishing the prospect of coming up against his ‘rugby dad’ tomorrow.

The Preston Grasshoppers player-coach takes his high-flying outfit to derby rivals Rossendale – who just so happen to be managed by his old mentor Mark Nelson.

Arnold was a team-mate of Nelson at Orrell early in his career and then played under him for many years – the pair enjoying much success together with both Fylde and Lancashire.

When Nelson left Woodlands in 2015 – he was replaced by Arnold.

“Rossendale is a massive game for the club and for me personally,” said Arnold.

“I will be coming up against Mark Nelson, who has been a mentor to me during my career. He’s like my rugby dad. He’s looked after me since I was 21-years-old.

“I played with him at Orrell and I’ve had some great times with him at Fylde and with Lancashire. It will be interesting going up against him.”

To add even further spice to the affair, only six points separate the two teams in the North Premier Division, with Hoppers in second and Rossendale fourth.

The fixture also sees former Hoppers star Lewis Allen come up against his old club following his acrimonious departure from Lightfoot Green over the summer. The fly-half is in Hoppers’ top-10 all-time leading points scorers – a stark warning to Hoppers to not concede too many penalties tomorrow.

“Rossendale are very good side and have got some good players, who I know well from playing alongside with Lancashire,” said Arnold.

“Coming up against Lewis Allen adds a little bit of extra spice to it as well. He’s a great player – we will have to keep an eye on him.

“He has a deadly boot as well – a big reminder to us to make sure we keep our discipline.”

Other ex-Hoppers players on the Rossendale roster include Jack Ward, Dominic Moon and Reece Tomlinson.

Hoppers will choose from a squad made up of the 18 involved against Kirkby Lonsdale two weeks ago, plus returning backs James Fitzpatrick and Jake Squirrell.

There is a battle of the top two in North One West at Powderhouse Lane when Vale of Lune host Wilmslow.

Vale top the table with six straight victories. Full-back Jordan Dorrington and flanker Evan Stewart return for the hosts.

After their mauling at home to Coventry last week, Fylde face a National League One relegation-zone battle at Hull Ionians.

Hoppers (from): Hurst, Jordan, Stott, Akrigg, Fitzpatrick, Crosley, Ward, Hunt, Squirrell, Moulding; Mabaya, Millea, Altham, Madden, Tripper, Arnold, Roddy, A Murray, Gale, Lamprey.

Vale: J Dorrington; Hall, Owens, Higgin, Jacques; B Dorrington, Swarbrick; Ferguson, Powers, Pillow, Fellows, Foxcroft, Ayrton, Stewart, S Wallbank. Replacements: Cowey, Rainford, Ramwell.