Vale all set for big kick-off

Dan Baines has returned to the Vale of Lune.
Dan Baines has returned to the Vale of Lune.
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Ever since incoming Director of Rugby, Phil Stott, announced at the club’s AGM that plans were in train to make the Vale of Lune a local club for local players there has been a palpably buzz about the place that increased in volume as the new season approached.

In a veritable hive of activity, words were turned quickly into deeds with the return of Dan Baines from Sale Sharks and Sam Wallbank following his brief spell at Preston Grasshoppers.

Sam Wallbank for Preston Grasshoppers in their game against Darlington MP

Sam Wallbank for Preston Grasshoppers in their game against Darlington MP

Ben Dorrington, who played for Hull RUFC, returned to his roots but unfortunately he picked up a knee injury at Whitehaven which has temporarily put him on the sidelines.

Behind the scenes the election of Fergus Owens as Senior Coach has begun to take effect, with numbers turning up for training showing a pleasing increase, in addition, some experienced former players have been shaking the cobwebs off their boots, and they have been joined by a profusion of younger players making the transition from colts rugby.

When it was revealed that the former England coach Brian Ashton would be involved with the coaching staff, interest was piled on interest, and extra impetus was added to an already bubbling cauldron.

An exhilarating atmosphere is currently swirling around the Vale but feet must be kept firmly on the ground.

There is a real danger that the giddy bar of expectation is being raised too high, too early, because make no mistake North One West can be fiercely competitive and the coming season’s incumbents look particularly strong.

Two victories in pre-season fixtures have put the Vale camp in good heart but the real test will take place on Saturday at Powder House Lane when local rivals, Kirkby Lonsdale, will be the visitors.

This is a dream opening with a bumper partisan crowd is expected to fill the Lane.

There is a great deal at stake in addition to the banking of early league points, local pride is an important consideration and the Vale will not need reminding that Kirkby finished above them in the table in fifth against the Vale’s eighth.

Since the first meeting between the two clubs at league level in the 2008/09 season, eight games have been played with the Vale winning five and scoring 270 points against 87.

But statistics can be tossed into the dustbin where derby games are concerned, raw emotions take over when the whistle blows, time for considered reflection and intellectual niceties go onto the back burner.

It is probably also unwise to make too many judgements until after the first four games of the season.

In the Vale’s case, after the Kirkby Lonsdale fixture they travel to promoted Eccles, followed by a home game against promotion favourites Birkenhead Park and ending the month at Wilmslow.

The field normally takes a couple of months to sort out the pecking order and even then the odds can change dramatically.

But from a Vale point of view September should provide the answers to some questions and resolve some issues.

*Vale’s other senior sides also begin their league season with the A team travelling to Rochdale in what is going to be another very competitive and testing Bateman BMW Premier League.

After being relegated last season the Vikings begin life in Division Four North of the Rogerson HomeServe+ League with a home game against Blackburn 3.

The B team finished fourth in the Raging Bull League Division Five North last season and will visit Chorley seconds.