AFTER the traumas of last season where Olton could have seen both of their first teams relegated from the National League, there was a lot of work done in the background to ensure that we were in a much stronger position this year.
The Ladies recruited Olympic star Sally Walton from Bowden in Manchester as player/coach. Sally, a local girl, has brought a new belief and skillset to the team and they had some sparkling results against similar sides in the run up to the new season. Kate Brough has returned as captain after having a baby, and Lucy Aldred returned to us from Oxford Hawks. The squad looks to be a very balanced, fit and focussed one.
The Men took a different approach, also obtaining the services of a new player/coach, in the form of Mark Wadsley from Premier League Beeston. They also registered four players from local rivals Cannock, two more from Beeston, plus players from Belper, Loughborough Students and Boden. They bring a new dimension as they have Premier League experience. They have also recruited some excellent juniors who have Midland 1st XI experience so the future looks bright. Like the Ladies they had some very good workouts including games against Premier League opposition.
Saturday the 17th September was the first League weekend and it was going to be the day that would tell us if all the plans and training had worked.
First up were the Ladies at home to Bristol Firebrands. With a decent number of spectators, the girls put on a superb display, winning their opening match 4-1. They looked in control for most of the game, which bodes well. Next Sunday they travel to Exe in Devon.
The Men were at home a couple of hours later against Midland rivals Leek. Again is was going to be a test as to how the preparations had gone. In their case they ran out comfortable winners 8-0. The potential of this new squad, a mixture of new and existing, and young and old, was obvious to see. It was one of those performances that make anyone excited about the prospects for this season.
Next week will be harder with a trip to Durham University on Saturday and a Cup game at home against Berkswell 2pm at Grange Road on Sunday.