DANNY Bridge and three Oldham new boys – Declan Kay, Dan Abram and James Worthington – will all have special reasons for playing star roles when Roughyeds defend the Law Cup against derby rivals Rochdale Hornets at the Crown Oil Arena on Sunday, January 12.

The traditional pre-season derby has never been regarded as a ‘friendly’; more of a final with silverware on offer and intense bragging rights up for grabs among rival fans based only a few miles apart either side of the M62.

The 2020 version, little more than five weeks away, will be no different and caught up in it big time will be the Roughyeds’ four former Hornets players, Bridge, Kay, Abram and Worthington.

Second-row forward Bridge, who is expected to be one of Oldham’s key men in the Betfred Championship challenges that lie ahead, scored 16 tries in 24 appearances for the men in red, white and blue back in the League 1 campaign of 2015.

Kay, full-back or wing, was at Rochdale in 2018 and 2019, first on duul-reg from Warrington Wolves and then on contract.

He came to Roughyeds last August, initially on loan to the end of the season, at which point he signed a new deal for 2020 and became a fully-fledged Oldham player.

Worthington, a young centre, was on loan to Rochdale last season from Wigan Warriors but is now on contract at Oldham and, despite his youth, is expected to show up well in the Championship.

Abram, who plays full-back, half-back or hooker, was at Rochdale last season after starting out at St Helens, spending a year in Australia and then returning to the UK to see service with Barrow, Whitehaven and Hornets before following in his dad Darren’s footsteps and signing for Oldham.

Law Cup 2020 will be a nostalgic occasion for Darren Abram, who played at Rochdale before joining Oldham and later returned to Spotland as head coach.

Now his son has signed for Oldham – and he will watch him playing against Rochdale, where Darren enjoyed considerable success as a pacy, try-scoring centre before moving across the M62 and joining Rochdale’s derby rivals.

The inter-town links don’t end there. Hornets coach Matt Calland dropped the curtain on his illustrious playing career by turning out for amateurs Oldham St Anne’s where he also did a lot of coaching.

And ex-Wigan hooker Martin Hall, who has returned to Rochdale in a managerial capacity, is an Oldhamer whose long and glittering career began as a youngster at Watersheddings.

Hall played hooker for Hornets in one of the best derby games of the modern era.

It was on Boxing Day, 1989 and Hornets won 24-12 in a Second Division game at Spotland which attracted a massive crowd of 8,150.

The derby rivals were involved in a neck-and-neck race for the Second Division title, but Hull KR pipped both of them to win it with 50 points. Hornets and Oldham were second and third respectively, each with 48 points but with Hornets enjoying a better for-and-against points difference.

Oldham, from third, beat Swinton and York at Watersheddings in the play-offs to face Hull KR at Old Trafford where they won a thriller 30-29 to lift the Second Division Premiership.

Leading Oldham players that season, all of whom played in the Boxing Day derby at Rochdale, included Gary Hyde, Charlie McAlister, Des Foy, Brett Clark, Mike Ford, Richard Russell, John Fieldhouse, Keith Newton and John Cogger.

Rochdale fielded a back division that included Shaw lad Mark Lord at centre and the

brilliant John Woods at stand-off.

In the forwards were players of the calibre of Paul Gamble, Hall, Neil Cowie, Dean Lonergan, Tony Humphries and Paul McDermott.

Oh for a crowd of 8,000-plus in five weeks time! The local sporting landscape has changed beyond recognition in the last 30 years and club officials on January 12 will be happy if they get 800 through the turnstiles.

But one thing is for sure – the passion, intensity and undiluted desire from both teams will be just the same as it was back then when Lonergan, Woods, Gamble and McDermott scored tries for Hornets and Paul Lord and McAlister replied for Oldham.