Thursday, 1 June 2017

Sunday's Coming: Sheffield

Hot on the heels of our quite spectacular victory over Oldham at the Summer Bash, Horrnets head over to Wakefield to take on… er… Sheffield… er… Shwakefield Triniteagles, we guess.

Having also come away from Blackpool with a win (30-24 over Swinton), the Eagles thoughts returned this week to securing their long-term survival.

As dyed-in-the-wool League fans know, any news of a takeover of a club that includes the words ‘secret ‘ and ‘investor’ usually sits somewhere between bad news and bullshit.

But that’s the phrase coming out of Sheffield this week as the club faces continued uncertainty about its future. According to reports in the Sheffield Star and on the club’s own website, the Eagles continue to wait for news on two fronts: the un-named investor and their bid for tenancy/partnership in the proposed redevelopment of the old Don Valley stadium site.

The Star stated two months ago that “A mystery investor has pledged to build a £7 million stadium around the all-weather pitch if he gets planning permission for a £35 million green power plant nearby.”

Indeed, it appears to us that each depends on the other - no investor, no stadium / no stadium no investor - a somewhat uncomfortable chicken and egg situation that leaves the Eagles in limbo.

Last year’s ‘delayed funding’ from ‘an un-named sponsor’ almost saw the Eagles fold - and coach Mark Aston has revealed this week that the current ‘secret investor’ is the same party. When asked by the Sheffield Star to confirm that the investment is getting closer, Aston said: “I think the answer to that will probably be yes…”  - almost nearly probably certain, then. Perhaps.

Aston was able to confirm of his ‘secret investor’ that:  “I think if he doesn’t get the green light with the stadium then questions will be asked. It was said three or four years ago that this will be a rugby stadium. We will be mightily disappointed if that changes.”

But promises that the Eagles would be playing back in their home city next season remain in some doubt.

Whilst the Eagles are one of three bidders for the stadium, they have been reassured that if they are unsuccessful, the winning bidder must permit the Eagles to play there. But if they go there as secondary tenants, there is less of an imperative to complete the development  ahead of the 2018 RL season, leaving the club potentially homeless for another year.

And that could be one year too many according to Aston: “The big thing is about how we can get this club back to the city by 2018,” Aston told The Star. “That is a massive thing for us because if we are not back in the city by next year, I fear for the club. I am not entirely sure the authorities will let us play outside the city again, certainly not at Wakefield that’s for sure.”

It's a Stadium: honestly, it really is
As recently as March this year, stadium development body ‘Olympic Legacy Park’ were still claiming that Sheffield Eagles would end the swason playing at the new stadium - though aerial photographs suggest that there’s quite some considerable way to go before the site is useable. The one thing we do know is that the new stadium will have a plastic pitch, the laying of which began recently.

On the field, Aston still has his eye on a top four finish. Sheffield were comprehensively beaten at Toulouse a fortnight ago (45-20), having surprised pretty much everyone by winning the home fixture 32-14 way back in Round two, but last week’s win over Swinton sees them loitering in 6th place, six points shy of the top four.

Last week he said: “If we can get (that) momentum with Swinton, Rochdale, Halifax and Batley coming up, then at the end of that period I think that we’ll know whether we have a realistic chance of hitting the top four.

“We have to take it week-by-week but at the back of my mind, the next four games will potentially determine our season.” So - a big chance to put a dent in Shefield’s season.

Duane Straugheir: a proper veteran
Potential ’un-named’ recruits notwithstanding (there are a lot of ‘secret’ issues at Sheffield, it seems), the Eagles’ line-up should look pretty similar to the side that eventually sneaked past Swinton; PNG strike players Garry Lo and Menzie Yere continue to play despite long-standing knee injuries. On-loan St Helens full-back Jack Owens made his debut for Sheffield at Blackpool. In turn, the Eagles have released former Leigh utility back Eze Harper and former Melbourne Storm/Bradford Bulls half-back Dane Chisholm. Second row Duane Straugheir (that’s 'Straffer') missed out at Blackpool with a groin injury - not surprising, given that Wikipedia has him down as being 87 years old!

Hornets come into the game buoyed by a huge win at Bloomfield Road. Having had a pretty ordinary first half, Hornets produced a flawless second half performance that left Oldham chasing shadows - and made the Championship sit up and take notice. Once again the support was tremendous at Blackpool. As always, we urge you to stick a couple of mates in the car and get yourselves over to Wakefield, where a bit of noise could make this one feel like a home game and give the guys a boost.

If you are heading over, it’s worth noting that additional security checks will be in place at Belle Vue. Bag checkes and searches will be in place for all those entering the stadium. Sheffield have advised fans to allow time for these checks to be carried out and only to bring bags with them, if they feel it necessary to do so.

Belle Vue’s postcocde for your satnav is WF1 5EY. Directions we have are:
From the M62 take Junction 31 and take the A655 towards Wakefield. Turn right and join the A638, go under the railway bridges. Head straight on and you will see Superbowl 2000 on the left hand side. The Stadium is just beyond on the left. See you there.