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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

THE RAIDING PARTY: Nearly ready for the off

THERE is not long to go now until we get to see our new-look squad in action. While the rest of us have been huddled around our fires keeping warm, the boys have been training hard three times a week for the past month or so.

Chatting to our coaching staff of Darren, Phil and Dean, they seem to be really pleased with the way it is going on the training pitch, and from what little I have witnessed there seems to be a really good camaraderie right across the squad.

They have what is loosely termed a “bonding session” planned for this Friday and they can then enjoy Christmas with their families before Holty punishes them for enjoying themselves too much over the festive period. I must admit I feel sorry for the poor dears!

Seriously though, I would like to wish all our coaches, players, backroom staff, volunteers, supporters, sponsors and, of course, my fellow directors all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

Nowadays, this time of year sees something of a lull in proceedings both on and off the pitch, but this has not always been the case. Back in the day, Christmas was one of the busiest times of the playing calendar, with competitive matches routinely held on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day right up until a decade or so ago. Going back to the 1950s and beyond it was commonplace for matches to be played on Christmas Day itself, something which is unthinkable in the modern era.

The last time we played a meaningful game on Boxing Day was in 1999 when we entertained Whitehaven (winning 31-4 in front of a 1,637 crowd).

Incidentally, our current head coach Darren Holt kicked three goals and a drop-goal in that match while his assistant Phil Atky grabbed a couple of tries. Another scorer that day was a young Mike Whitehead.

Our last competitive match on Christmas Eve was in 2000, a 38-24 victory at Chorley Lynx. That match was watched by just 488 paying customers. Again Darren (three goals) and Phil (two goals) were among the Barrow scorers.

Even I cannot remember the last time we saw action on Christmas Day, but I can tell you that it was back in 1959 when we played Workington at Craven Park and lost what was apparently a drab encounter in appalling conditions 5-2. Just 1,962 supporters made the effort to attend that game. My fellow Raiders historian Steve Andrews tells me that according to the match report it had been snowing prior to the game; was freezing cold; the pitch was like a swamp; there were sleet showers throughout the match; the quality of the contest was understandably abysmal with the reporter noting that Barrow never, ever looked like scoring a try. Other than that it was a classic!

Tommy Dawes kicked Barrow’s solitary goal that afternoon. To add to the woes of the players, just 24 hours later (Boxing Day) they travelled to Blackpool where they once again finished as losers (11-5) in front of just 1,000 hardy souls. Happy days!

Today’s little darlings will not have to leave their families at the height of the festivities but they will still be training hard and watching their calorie intake as they prepare for our first friendly on Sunday, January 6, when Keighley are the visitors to Craven Park (2pm kick-off). That game will be upon us before we can blink, especially with Christmas to break the boredom of waiting for it to come around. It is now just 18 days away – yippee. And remember …. the future is bright; the future is blue and white.

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