Leigh Miners Rangers are riding the crest of a wave, currently top dog in the Kingstone Press National Conference League. Joint first team coach Allan Coleman chatted with Dave Parkinson about the state of the amateur game and how 2015 is shaping up for the Twist Lane club.
The club has had two wonderful cup runs, first of all progressing to Round Five of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and then recently winning through to the Final of the Conference Challenge Cup having twice won the competition before.
They also claim the best home record of the National Conference League so far and have shown some great form in the bread and butter competition to sit two points clear of Rochdale Mayfield at the time of writing.
Allan was quick to remind me that his side has won nothing yet. “People have asked in the past and I’ve said, nothing is won in May, nothing is won in June, and I’ll say the same for early September.” He continued, “We’ve just got to take one game at a time. Our home form is tremendous and I think we are the only team not to lose. We’ve set our targets on that and have two more home fixtures to go. If we can win them we’ll not be far off, but we’ll take one game at a time.”
It is a mantra I’ve heard plenty of times over the last eighteen months, more often than not, from the mouth of Centurions head coach Paul Rowley and Coleman speaks highly of the Leigh organisation.
“They’ve been great for us this season and I don’t think they fully realise the value of what they have done for us.” More on that later.
Reflecting on performances in the league, Allan said, “If you look at the start, we were winning everything at home and just couldn’t win away, we were getting pipped by two or four points, now we’ve turned the corner and our away form is as good as anyone in the division, so that combined with the home form - that’s why we are up there. We’ve got to keep that form going.”
There is a steely determination about the affable Coleman as he pinpoints where Miners year took a steep upward trend.
“I think the result that turned our season was beating Siddal away. They are a team that is always in the top three and they will be this year. Not many win at Siddal. That day and after it, we came away a different team. I think we believe more. Where in the past we’ve thought we are a good team at home and it will take a good team to beat us, but when we won there I think that people thought, you know what, I think we can win anywhere and I think that’s what we’ve got with us now.”
It was certainly the case in Miners most recent game where they established a 16-6 half-time advantage only to then trail 16-18 and have to win the game all over again at Wigan St Pat’s. Despite Pat’s putting everything into their second half, Miners climbed from the canvas to deliver a knock out blow, winning a thrilling encounter 32-22.
When Allan and Paul Whitworth took the reigns at Leigh Miners, several detractors suggested having two men in charge would never work. Those same people may be choosing different words now.
“It is a joint thing, straight down the middle, we do everything together and I honestly think that if I had taken the job on my own, I wouldn’t be doing it now and I think Paul is the same. I think it’s a two man job, I really do. I know it’s a first and people said ‘that’ll never work’, but it’s certainly worked for Leigh Miners. It’s very good to have two people doing it because it’s a big commitment and it’s very hard with amateurs compared to professionals, because in a professional environment, it’s a job to them, they have got to do it, where the amateurs don’t have to do it.”
A real labour of love.
Allan continued, “So to get the best from people in that environment, I really think you need two people. It’s great working with Paul and it works really well.”
Now back to the Centurions, who have switched several of their Reserve Team games to Twist Lane this season. On more than one occasion, coaching staff have made themselves available to Leigh Miners, offering advice and expertise.
“I want to thank Paul Rowley, Neil Jukes, Paul Anderson and Derek Beaumont. What they have done has been invaluable. There are little things in the professional game where we’ve sat down with them, we took our players over and they explained how to get at teams. We took that away and worked on it so hard. It’s helped the players because they want to be affiliated with Leigh, Leigh are doing so well, I just think it’s massive and as we saw on Saturday, we’ve got Leigh Centurions jerseys at every game watching us and I hope that we can return the compliment. If we are to be successful it is the details like that we will look back on and thank Centurions so much for.”
It has stood the club in good stead so far.
Miners have games coming up against East Leeds (away) and Hull Dockers (home) but before then, they will be hoping to continue their league form with victory over West Hull at Twist Lane this Saturday (September 12 - 2.30pm kick-off).