Thursday, 6 July 2017

Sunday's Coming: Swinton Lions

We’re going to start this week’s preview with a stat that’ll make you wince: it’s 25 years since Swinton left Station Road.

When the Lions locked the gates behind them for the last time, they ended a season in which they’d averaged a crowds of 3,000 per game. Two weeks ago when they produced a shock one point win over Halifax, Heywood Road hosted a crowd of 863 - which at this end of the competition is considered pretty respectable. How times change.

Fast forward to Sunday and Swinton come to Spotland running into a bit of form - just as Hornets appear to be running out of bodies.

Our club this week reported that eight regulars are in line to miss this weekend’s crucial derby - and it couldn’t come at a worse time.

Miles Greenwood (knee), Lewis Palfrey (neck), Gary Middlehurst (concussion), Rob Massam (knee), Jo Taira (hip), Jono Smith (deal-leg) and Gav Bennion (foot) are all on the treatment table, while Lewis Galbraith begins his hotly contested eight-game suspension. So best bring your boots just in case…

Having spectacularly tanked at Dewsbury, Hornets narrowly avoided the drop into the bottom three only by virtue of the fact that Swinton let their game at Sheffield slip away.

The Lions trailed 22-16 at the break, but had the game level at one stage, but fell behind - and then clawed their way back within two points, before Garry Lo popped up at the death the snatch the points in front of just 375 supporters.

Performance of the day came from four-try fullback Jack Murphy, while Chris Atkin hit five from six with the boot.

But while Hornets are having a bit of a confidence crisis on the field, Swinton are embroiled in an off-field crisis that has sent the rumours flying - fuelled by a series of club statements on the Lions’ financial situation following the settlement of a winding-up order last month.

Following a supporter’s meeting on 19th June, Club Chair John Roddy said: “… during our supporter forum the club outlined the difficulties we have experienced this season in respect of smaller gates than anticipated and long term injuries within the current squad which have put pressure on our cash resources."

"Despite enormous efforts by everybody connected with the club, to fill the gap, we now need to raise additional funds from club supporters to ensure our future stability and competitiveness."

The last week, Roddy stepped down. In a statement, Swinton said: “John Roddy has stepped down both as chairman and a director of the club, following discussion with the Board of Directors during the past week. The club wishes to place on record its sincere thanks for John’s input over the past four years, both in terms of time and finance, during which time the club has been promoted from League One and then established itself in the Championship.”

“Negotiations are currently ongoing with potential new directors, with a view to both stabilising the current financial situation of the Lions, and then moving the club forward.”

We held fire on our preview to try and include the outcome of yet another meeting on Thursday evening where a “… a full and frank disclosure of the club’s current position” was on the agenda - but we couldn’t find any reports on the meeting early today (Friday). We’ll update when we know more.

There’s no doubt that Sunday’s game could turn out to be a defining 80 minutes in both clubs’ seasons. A Swinton win could see Hornets drop into the bottom two (Depending on Oldham’s result v Featherstone): A Hornets win could see us leapfrog Dewsbury back into 8th (their result at Batley, pending). So, if ever Hornets’ 18th man was needed, it’s now. We need every last drop of effort and belief from everyone involved. And we owe ‘em one. See you Sunday.

And finally…

There will be a minute’s silence on Sunday as a mark of respect to Adam Cooper, the Culcheth Eagles Rugby League player who tragically passed away last week following a North West Men’s League fixture against Runcorn. The 31 year-old leaves his fiancee Michelle and three children. Swinton Lions has reported that Adam’s father Barry is a native Swintonian. Our thought are with Adam’s family, friends and team-mates.