WE have now set the return to training dates of Mid-November and once the players come back on site the sense of anticipation for the Championship season will be ramped up.

We have put a lot of faith in the players who gained promotion but hope that we have added a sprinkling of real quality to make a big impression on the league.

Make no mistake it is going to be a tough, competitive division and a real challenge to compete but at the same time there is the mouth-watering prospect of some top-quality clashes. I have set the coaching staff the target of a top seven finish so that we are well placed should Super League 2 come to fruition. I realise this is a tough ask.

Although we have significantly increased our playing budget, mainly be rewarding those players who took pay-cuts after relegation in 2019, we understand that there are several clubs spending significantly more.

If we are competitive, continue to grow our crowds, make the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium something of a fortress and make some progress in improving our road form then I would see that as progression. No pressure then!

Off the field the financial pressures continue to be exerted and we need our events programme to be relentless. It is to the credit of director Jack Fawcett that he hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal, and we continue to offer events for the public. Christmas parties are on the horizon, and we have invested in décor befitting of a wedding venue. We are hoping that this is the sort of venue that those office parties will attract.

The stadium itself continues to be a drain on our finances. We received a prohibition notice for the state of the Clive Street wall, and we are currently pricing up the cost of a replacement of a section. We are under no illusions that it will be five figures at least.

Without giving too much away we are hoping to make an exciting announcement about our Ladies team very soon, but we also appreciate that we don’t have enough dressing rooms when it comes to playing double headers.

With the expansion of virtually all areas of the club we find ourselves desperately short of storage and meeting space. The bars, catering and merchandise all need areas for stock that we simply haven’t got now. A lot of off-field team are now office based in College House, but we need space for meeting rooms.

The fact we are starting in January, and inevitably the weather will mean the loss of the Hindpool Road roof which will be more sharply felt than the games in the summer months, then lots of investment is required.

I guess these are all growing pains that we should expect for an organisation that has doubled in size and turnover in the last few years.

All the investment that is needed for Craven Park then leads you to the question as to whether a new ground would be a better option. I’ve always said that I had an open mind about that but that I wouldn’t sign a deal that didn’t allow the club to generate income.

I look around the town centre and I’m dismayed by the number of empty shops, and you can see that empty shops lead to lack of visitors that lead in a downward spiral to more empty shops. It could be that a new stadium is the catalyst for investment and a turnaround in fortunes for the town.

It would need some ambitious minds to come together from the council, major employers and the professional sports clubs but I believe our town needs better than it is currently being served by its leaders.