Noel Speed will not rush to change
New Whitchurch rugby head coach Noel Speed will continue to give local talent the chance to flourish.
Speed has stepped into the lead role at Edgeley Road following Scott Study’s switch to Midlands One West rivals Hereford. And he has no plans to abandon the policy of developing young players which has served the club so well.
In an away victory at Hereford just before lockdown, Whitchurch’s entire squad of 18 were products of the club’s mini and junior section.
That source of pride and inspiration continues on to new head coach and former player Speed, who was Sturdy’s lieutenant for three successful seasons, which included an unblemished Midlands Two West promotion and two commendable fourth-placed finishes in a competitive Midlands One West.
“In the last game we played at Hereford all 18 lads had been through the mini and juniors, at the club since they were 14 or 15 years old,” said former back row Speed, who works full-time as a coach at Sale Sharks academy.
“There was no-one that wasn’t through the youth section, I don’t know the last time that’s happened.
“The plan is to keep local lads playing for the club, we won’t be signing any players. It’ll be keeping the ones we’ve got and transitioning the colts into the seniors, using our time and resources there.
“I can’t envisage anyone leaving. We’ve got a good group who’re not yet too old, the right side of 30, all late 20s and have been playing in the first team for six or seven years. They’ve got good experience but are not over the hill yet.”
Sturdy also coached Whitchurch’s colts, a role that will now be taken by Max Pridmore, alongside leading the second team.
Speed added: “We’ve got lots of young lads coming through who want to play for the club.
“Last season, Nathan Horton won three awards – players’ player, coaches’ player and vice-
president’s player – it was his first year of senior rugby so that proves we’ve got some good young lads.
“I want local lads that enjoy playing for the club, that’s the ambition. Whatever league that takes us into or not then so be it.”
Speed worked closely alongside close friend Sturdy and sees his appointment to the hot-seat as a natural progression for the club.
“Scott did a great job,” he said. “We went down three years ago and have come back really strong from that.
“In many ways it was probably good, it gave us a chance to get used to winning and people realised they enjoyed it. We’ve carried that on.”
Speed has already moved to hand the captaincy to youth graduate Danny Nicholas after fellow local lad Jonathan Cope had to pass on the responsibility due to increasing farming commitments.
But the new head coach envisages few other changes to his playing ranks.
Speed feels Whitchurch have just fallen short in the big clashes in the last two seasons, which hampered their bid to make a serious push for promotion to the Midlands Premier.
But he reiterated that, while the club would not turn their nose up at promotion, it is not the number one priority.
“I think our problem over the last two years is, we’d come to the important games in third or fourth place and play first or second, a must-win game if we were going to challenge at the very top, and we’ve lost those games,” Speed said.
“We’ve been really consistent but have lost the big games that determine you coming fourth or second.
“Whether we go up or not, it is an ambition, but what’s more important is we get as many lads wanting to play for the club and then it takes care of itself after that.
“We certainly won’t be throwing loads of cash at it or chasing it. If we do go up, it’ll be doing things right.”
Speed is planning for a late July return for pre-season, in line with government guidelines, and the club hope to organised a friendly with Shrewsbury at the end of August, with league action under way in September, subject to instruction from the league.