PAUL Rowley believes every club in the Kingstone Press Championship would want Martyn Ridyard in their side.
So it’s not surprising the Leigh coach was desperate to sign up the ex-Leigh Miners playmaker on a full-time contract for 2015 and beyond.
“It’s good to know the club has got that faith in me,” said Ridyard. “I was in the last year of my contract and there was talk of full-time contracts in 2014.
“I have to admit it did start to play on my mind, wondering if the club were going to look at someone younger for next season. But when the club spoke to me and explained I was part of their plans, it gave me a great confidence lift.
“Now it’s up to me to reward the club with some good performances and I believe we have a squad capable of finishing in the top two.”
The financial rewards for a top two finish have been well documented and at the moment the Centurions players are upholding their part of the bargain. Leigh currently top the Championship after six straight wins although they’ve had a couple of close shaves in recent weeks.
“A win’s a win at the end of the day,” said Ridyard. “We were not firing on all cylinders against North Wales but they are a tough side. A couple of weeks ago we had a tight game at Keighley but we proved we can play for the full 80 minutes.”
Ridyard arrived at Leigh in 2009 and has been involved in two Northern Rail Cup Final successes. He is approaching 1,000 points for the club and also closing in on 150 appearances.
Like so many Leigh players before him he learnt his trade at Twist Lane with Leigh Miners and was a pivotal player in several trophy winning sides in the late 2000s.
As a Leyther there is inevitably extra pressure on him to deliver. Leigh fans love to see a local lad do well but they’re also often easy targets when things start to go wrong.
“I definitely feel that,” said Ridyard. “Leigh lads always get more stick than the rest when performances aren’t up to scratch. That’s gone on for a long time but you accept it.
“There is pressure on us all to deliver this year because of the strength of the squad. One bad game and you’re out. You only have to look at the quality of players who aren’t in the first team squad to realise that. Players like Andy Thornley who didn’t even miss a tackle in the preseason games and Jonny Pownall who I rate as one of the best wingers in this league.
“The players who have come in this year have really boosted the squad. I’ve been particularly impressed with Oliver Wilkes who exerts a calming influence on the team and Jake Emmitt who works so hard and you can see why he has played so many games in Super League.
“Then you have someone like Liam Kay who is playing on the wing at the moment but is a half back. You can play him anywhere and he is a danger. He frightens defences with his pace and is someone who could play anywhere on the field and pose a threat.
“We’ve also got some young lads playing well in the reserves like Lewis Foster.
“The pressure’s on everyone who has that first team shirt but it’s good. We know we have to keep working hard in training in order to keep getting results.”