Park head coach Wigham now hoping for better after great escape
PUBLISHED: 11:00 31 August 2018
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In an article from our ‘Engage’ supplement, Romford & Gidea Park head coach Jordan Wigham previews the new campaign
Romford & Gidea Park needed a great escape to keep hold of their London Two North East status last season, but this time around they have loftier ambitions.
The Crow Lane club had to win away to already-relegated rivals Old Cooperians on April 21 and after a tense derby contest, they eventually survived with a 22-19 victory to finish in seventh spot.
Park went from the bottom three to leapfrogging Chelmsford, Woodford and Cantabrigian with a final-day win, but no such close shaves are predicted this season.
Head coach Jordan Wigham has overseen a number of changes to playing and coaching staff and now into his second campaign in charge, he is excited about the challenges ahead.
He said: “We have spoken as a collective, as players and coaches, and we all believe there is a good atmosphere and real buzz and a desire to work hard in training.
“There is big competition for places here and we have designed our season to get the maximum out of every player.
“With the strength in depth we now have, we believe we can be at the top part of the table and if we perform the way we know we can, then we won’t be far off the top two or three spots.”
Park have made adjustments to their coaching staff and Paul Cook has come on board to replace Dave Gilmore.
On top of this, the London Two North East club have recruited a performance analyst for the new campaign and hope it will give them an edge.
Wigham added: “There have been changes to our coaching team and we also have number of new players on board.
“Steve Barfoot remains as our director of rugby and I am still head coach and will oversee the attack and conditioning.
“Paul Cook has taken over from Dave Gilmore, who has taken a step back for personal reasons, and Paul will look after the backs’ skills and development.
“Jeff Woods is also our scrum coach now and Aidan Mersh, part of our leaders group, will run the line-out.
“Elsewhere, Ross Skinner remains as sports therapist and we have a new addition in Sam Mullins as performance analyst.”
The 2018/19 London Two North East campaign doesn’t start until September 8, but Park have been hard at work for several months.
Wigham revealed most of the squad were back in following the 25-19 loss to Harlow in the final of the Essex Intermediate Cup back on April 28.
He added: “We had a really busy summer and we had the boys in after the cup final at the end of the campaign and sent them away with a programme to follow in the off-season.
“Because of this, when the boys come back in for June training they were looking really strong.
“Overall pre-season has been intense with lots of specific skills and a new game-plan to follow, but the boys have looked good so far and really sharp.”
Park have some new backroom staff and new playing personnel too, but there is consistency when it comes to the captaincy.
Micky James will once again be the man tasked with leading the side and he will be supported by a ‘leadership team’
Wigham added: “Micky will remain as our skipper and this will be his 10th season as captain of the first-team.
“He will be supported by Aidan Mersh and the leadership team of Karl Prestoe, Barney Savill and Ian Semain.”
On top of the core group Park had last season, Wigham and his coaching staff have recruited a number of exciting additions in the summer months.
While some are youngsters, even they have a chance to push for a first-team spot this term.
Romford’s head coach said: “We have a number of new players that will hopefully strengthen our squad. We have secured some fantastic signings with a mixture of experience and youth.
“Paul Cooper, a prop and also a capped England Deaf player, has joined and Mitch Ryan comes in to play hooker while Dave Kitenge is a new second row and he has National League pedigree.
“In the back row will be Billy Nelson while Tommy Sheppard and Jack Moran, after successful summers with Essex, will play at back row and full back.
“Back George Robinson signs for us after previously travelling in Australia while full-back Harry Walker joins from the University of East London after previously playing in the Kent Leagues.
“We have also welcomed back Reece Parr after a season out due to injury and he is like a brand new signing. To add to this, we have promoted a lot of our youth side, who have come of age and they now train with us and will push for a place in the squad.”