BARTON RFC skipper Matt Bird is wary of the threat posed by Stoke Old Boys on Saturday week – but believes his squad is better prepared than ever for the upcoming Midlands Four West (South) campaign.
The Holland Sports Club-based outfit were saved from relegation last season after teams further up the ladder folded, but they did switch from the North division to the South, meaning much shorter journeys this campaign.
Bird said: “I am delighted with how our pre-season has shaped up.
“We have been on the training ground since late June and have trained twice a week and added a Saturday morning boot camp, starting at 8am, and the attendances have been excellent.
“The team will be fitter than ever this season with the extra training sessions, and we have benefitted from the expert knowledge of Ian Lancaster and Lee Coton in the coaching team – they have pushed us hard over these months and will continue to do so right up to the big kick off and beyond.”
Bird now hopes the meticulous preparation will pay off on Saturday, September 14.
“I have done a bit of research into Stoke Old Boys and they will be no mugs coming to Holland Sports Club for the season’s opener,” said the Barton skipper.
“Stoke will be strong up front and the set pieces on the day will be key.
“It is vitally important that we get the season off to the best possible start with a positive result as the following two weeks will see us on the road against Woodrush (league) & Ashfield (National Cup).”
Barton have lost the services of Matt Cox, who has moved out of the area, but have retained the vast majority of last season’s squad.
Bird said: “We have seen three to four new players join us and they have settled in really well and will be a good addition this season for our squad.
“We are fortunate that other than a couple of players leaving we have managed to retain existing numbers and improve on our squad depth.”
The Barton skipper is also buoyed by a brace of Staffordshire RFU Sevens tournament wins, and top three positions in two further competitions.
He said: “This shows the quality of players we have in our squad as we regularly beat teams from leagues above.”
Towards the end of August the Hollands Sports Club outfit took on Cheshire League sides Bowden and Altrincham.
Tries from Martin Woolston and Bird salvaged a 10-10 draw from 10-0 down against Bowden, before a battling 10-0 defeat in their second game of the day.
Bird said: “The team spirit in our first away trip was the best I have seen at Barton and with our away form indifferent last season this is key to our success this year.
“I am confident with the hard work we have put in over the summer we are now going into this season better prepared than any other.”
Barton remain on the lookout for new players from juniors right through to veterans. Training takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7pm.
For information contact chairman Dick Titley on 07958 022 499.