Last season was a tough one to swallow for those connected to West Bridgford, suffering relegation hurts at the best of times but, with what they went through during the season, made it just that little bit harder.
A tough, Regional 1 North-East, both in opposition, and travel, saw the Nottinghamshire-based outfit lose their first six, before picking up their maiden win, in mid-October, at home to rivals, Paviors, this was followed, just a few weeks later, by their only, other success, in early-November when home to Scunthorpe.
Results, it would mean they’d finish bottom of the pile, just two wins from twenty-two, and some sixteen points off Paviors, second bottom, who were also relegated; for 1st XV Head Coach Gareth Kerr, and all at Stamford Road, the off-season is a chance to not only rebuild, but to freshen things up, ahead of a new campaign, this time in the Regional 2 North Midlands league.
Looking back at the exploits of last season, was tough for Gareth Kerr, saying: “It was very, very tough, for all of us.
“Not just the travel, but the standard as well; it was certainly a tricky one for us all.
“We’d lost a few players (before the season), due to expected travel, and through retirement, naturally, but we still went on to use more than sixty players during the season.
“Losing a couple of games by the odd point (Ilkley and Scunthorpe), credit to the lads for keeping going more than anything, but the season as a whole, it was just one of those things.”
Now though, and with the league constitution, and the fixtures, for 2023/24, released, Kerr et al can look forward, with renewed optimism, at the campaign ahead.
There’s more derbies, games a lot closer, and rivalries renewed, even if some clubs haven’t clashed for a number of years.
For West Bridgford, the new campaign kicks off with a home game against Tamworth, on Saturday 2 September, followed by the first of many, Notts derbies, seven days later, when they make the eleven-mile, round-trip, to Mellish.
“Moving forward, this is certainly far more local, with lots of teams closer (geographically) for us,” continued Kerr.
“Hopefully this also means we’ll see better crowds, at home, and away games, even for games against your Matlock’s, Long Eaton’s and Melbourne’s.
“Because of the fixtures, we’ll be looking at playing some games on a Friday night also.”
In preparing for the new campaign, the club have already made several signings, both on, and off-the-field, with that of Roy Reeve, and Rob Bell, joining the backroom team.
The club has also reverted back to the social set-up that was in place pre-covid, and employing a #EverybodyLoveEverybody philosophy, Kerr adding: “One of the main things we’ve done here is to re-jig the social team in order to get the ‘fun’ element back into the club.
“Other than that, the priority has been to keep the majority of last season’s squad, although we’re always going to lose some (Ellis Mee has joined Nottingham Rugby).
“We’ve made a couple of changes in the coaching team, so there’s always plenty going on behind the scenes.”
As for the season itself, and following the games against Tamworth, and Mellish, West Bridgford’s schedule (subject to change) sees a trip to Walsall in the game before the winter break (16 December), then hosting Wolverhampton on the return (6 January), whilst they are scheduled to finish as they begin, and the return fixture with Tamworth (6 April).
West’s 2nds will also see plenty of derby action in the new campaign, they taking their place alongside Keyworth, Mellish 2nds, Nottinghamians, Paviors 2nds, and Southwell 2nds, in the Counties 3 Midlands East (N); their new season, beginning the same day as the firsts, sees them on the road to North Hykeham (2 September), and finishing against the same side, at the start of April 2024.
“Although local, we’re opposing quite a few teams we’ve not faced for years,” Kerr explained.
“Sides like Tamworth and Mellish, they’re on the up, and Long Eaton should be good as well but, with our experience from the higher level, we’re hoping to go at it and get a great start to the season.
“We know there may be a target on our backs, but it should be a strong, competitive league, with lots of games to look forward to.”
Opening month fixtures for West Bridgford Firsts is – Tamworth (H, 2 September), Mellish (A, 9 September), Walsall (H, 16 September), Wolverhampton (A, 23 September), Newark (H, 30 September)
Opening month fixtures for West Bridgford Seconds is – North Hykeham (A, 2 September), Mellish (H, 9 September), Nottinghamians (A, 16 September), Rolls Royce (H, 23 September), Southwell (A, 30 September)
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @BridgyRugby the 2023 West Bridgford team.