Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sunday's Coming: Barrow Raiders

In March, Anthony Murray, stepped down after just five months in charge at Barrow. The Raiders' board appointed Bobbie Goulding to replace him.

Bobbie signs up for his new conservatory
Here at TLCRF80mins we knew then that this preview was coming - and that it'd be a tough one to write. Having been - particularly in his first spell - quite possibly Hornets most 'emotionally engaged' coach, he walked his usual thin line between enigmatic genius and timebomb.

Having come to a club on its knees, Bobbie gave us a team hewn in his own image: big on passion and energy, never knowingly beaten and a bloody rollercoaster of emotions.

Whatever your view of Bobbie - and he's possibly the most 'marmite' of rugby league personalities - he gave us the unforgettable win at Leigh, the home win against Halifax with the last play of the game and a famous victory against a Castleford side that considered it its divine right to beat all before it.

But - if a star burns brightest before it explodes - it was clear to see that both club and coach were on a terminal trajectory. While 'old' Hornets went on to shovel unthinkably large sums of money into contracts with mediocre players en-route to 2009's administrative implosion, Goulding departed - twice - and hit the self destruct button. The full details laid bare in this hard to read article from the Daily Mail

After losing the French national job in 2011 -  and almost his life in a 50mph crash in which his car left the road and overturned and hit a tree - he was persuaded by the Rugby Football League to undergo treatment for alcohol and drug misuse at the Sporting Chance rehab clinic in Hampshire.

Speaking on Talksport back in March, Bobbie said he owed his life to the RFL. "Without that call from the RFL I don't think I would be here now, I think I would be dead. I'm 10 months sober now and I'll never touch another drink or drug again. I've had a lot of chances and I've let people down, and I'm not going to let anyone else down."

And so, to Barrow, where the first bombshell Bobbie dropped was his intention to coax his 42 year-old body back into playing contention. I’ve signed a playing contract,” he said at the time. And he's serious.

“I’m serious. It’s not a mess about – I wouldn’t have done it if I thought it was, I’m serious in every thing I do."

But don't let Barrow's position at the foot of the table fool you. With two wins so far this season (away at a fast-fading Sheffield and at home to Batley) the Raiders have been competitive in pretty much every game and have four bonus points to prove it.

And even though Barrow have lost eight from the last nine games, we should know better than most how dangerous a Bobbie Goulding team given no chance can be. Thus far, he hasn't had to pull on his boots, but with Barrow slow to gain momentum this term the possibility might still be there.

Trevor Baxter, writing in the North West Evening Mail after Barrow went down 27-18 at Keighley wrote: "Bobbie Goulding could be edging closer to a playing return after seeing his side slip to defeat at Challenge Cup quarter-finalists Keighley. The Raiders coach must be sorely tempted to come out of retirement and add his vast experience to a side that came up short again at the crucial time."

"Having overcome a poor start to get within one point of their in-form hosts with little more than a quarter of the game to go, Barrow pressed the self-destruct button and conceded three further tries."

As always, life with Bobbie Goulding is never less than interesting - and he'll have his charges especially fired up on Sunday.  But - whichever side of the marmite divide you sit - Hornets really need to spoil his weekend.

Let's face it - Bobbie wouldn't want it any other way.