Littler expects big year at Leigh

Leigh's Stuart Littler
Leigh's Stuart Littler

As one of Leigh’s longest serving players, co-captain Stuart Littler has experienced more highs and lows than most.

Last year he represented the players in crisis talks hours before a game against Batley when they were told they wouldn’t be paid as a cash flow crippled the club.

Yet a couple of months later he was picking up a Northern Rail Cup winners medal after Leigh stunned Sheffield with a sparkling second half comeback.

“We have been through bad situations and dark days in the last couple of years,” admits Littler. “Players have mortgages and families to provide for so it’s not nice when you don’t get paid for work you’ve done.

“But the club has come through it and we have a board of management and a board of directors who have new horizons. Now there is scope for progression to the Super League and everyone is ready to go.”

A Leigh Miners product, Littler spent 12 years at Salford where he made 329 appearances, scoring 112 tries before Ian Millward signed him at Leigh in 2011.

During his Salford days he was the player Leigh fans loved to hate - a pantomime villain who had the uncanny knack of nearly always scoring against his hometown club.

But now he is regarded as an elder statesman of the Centurions team. He has the intelligence to speak up for his team-mates off the field and the street savvy to stick up for them on it.

As a mainstay of the Ireland team, Littler didn’t get much of a break between seasons though he loved his World Cup adventure.

“The season comes round pretty quickly,” he said. “There have been lots of challenges during preseason and our principles have been set down. With the World Cup there was not much of a break to rest the bodies.

“We have played a few friendlies and now we are ready to go against Batley on Sunday.”

Littler has been impressed with the club’s close-season recruitment drive but has warned they may not click straightaway.

“We have got some new faces on board but we will take time to gel,” said Littler. “Hopefully we will get everyone on the field for the start because we have a massive year ahead.

“All the guys who are coming in offer something. At one end we have people like Oliver Wilkes and Sam Barlow who bring us great knowledge and experience.

“Then you have younger people like Jamie Acton and Liam Kay. I didn’t know too much about Liam until he scored a hat trick against us when he was with Doncaster last season.

“He has really impressed me since he came to club especially with his attacking skills.”