Well, after more than a year the time for talking is over and tomorrow sees us play our first competitive match since March 7, 2020!

Barrow Raiders will be visiting Bower Fold, Stalybridge in the Betfred Challenge Cup first round and you can watch the match live on Our League.

We played our second and final pre-season friendly last week against Halifax and we were much better than the week before. I said last time that after such a long time off it was always going to take a period of time to adjust back to the rigours of full contact and so it is proving.

Barrow have some good players and I have no doubt they will be fully focused on causing an upset.

For our part we need to make sure we don’t let that happen and put in another improved performance from last week when several players really showed up well and no doubt put themselves into Matt Diskin’s thinking for selection this week.

With a bigger squad this year to deal with there will be a few players disappointed for sure but we have already noticed in training that the increased competition has made some people step up their game, which is what it is all about. If players know they are not guaranteed a spot they will certainly make sure they earn one.

With matches until May at least behind closed doors we are hoping again for another big following online and, although it certainly isn’t the same as watching live, it is at least a way of watching the lads as we start the season.

Interestingly enough I have had some emails from people this week who live far and wide and are now able to watch the team unlike before so it is definitely a plus in that regard.

The Challenge Cup this year is a strange one. We play round one this week and if we win we already know that we will play the winner of Swinton or Newcastle away.

In addition the first two rounds of the Challenge Cup are also the first two rounds of the 1895 Cup which provides two clubs with the opportunity to play at Wembley in July.

Now all Oldham fans know, only too well, that we have never played at Wembley so there is an added incentive for us to do well this week.

The cup always provides an opportunity to dream of that big day out and this year even more so after everything we have all been through.The added bonus of course is that, if all goes well, fans will be able to attend. See, even after all these years I can still dream.