MIKE Backhouse is optimistic a combination of experience and youth can pay dividends for Roose Pioneers as they prepare to return to the North West Men’s League in 2019.

Recent years had seen the Redwaters club struggle in the old Cumbria League, followed by operating the senior side in the Barrow & District League after the county competition collapsed.

But under the guidance of ex-Barrow Raiders player Backhouse, Chris Larkin and Dan Cargan, Pioneers swept all before them in the area competition last year, going unbeaten in the league and winning the Top Four play-off.

With a burgeoning youth section and some dual-code players joining from Hawcoat Park too, Roose have decided to step back up to regional level for 2019 and player-coach Backhouse believes it is the right time to make the switch.

“We’ve got a lot of older lads in there who played in the North West Counties several years ago who are coming towards the end of their career, and have families and commitments,” said Backhouse.

“They’ve put us in Division Three, which is slap-bang in the middle, so I think it’s going to be a good league for us to get the older lads in and not too strong to faze the new lads coming in, so I think it’s a great decision.

“ This is a learning ground and I think we’re in a good league where young lads are not going to be out of their depth.

“It’ll be a good league for them to learn in and hopefully the older players will stay around the club to form an A-team for those 15s who are not quite ready for open age.”

Roose’s decision to join the North West competition means they will not run a Barrow & District team this year, although the plan is to reintroduce an A-squad to give everyone plenty of game-time.

There is an informal agreement in place for Pioneers players to turn out for Hindpool Tigers A this year and Backhouse stressed the importance of a reserve side.

“That’s what we need to do, we need to start the roots and the A team is the route to the first team,” said Backhouse.

“I remember when I stepped up and played two or three years with older players in the A-team, and learnt a lot so when you stepped up to the first team you had a good grounding.

“At the moment, with one team, it’s a bit sink or swim and it’s a step too far for some young lads, but you’ve got to keep them involved.

“As an older player, I’m willing to step aside and let that young lad in because he’s not going to learn from watching.”