Naylor’s faith in youth repaid

Date published: 20 May 2014

THE Oldham team that snatched a last-gasp 31-30 win against York at the weekend was the youngest fielded by Roughyeds for years.

Since coach Scott Naylor arrived at Whitebank 18 months ago, he has never been afraid to pin his faith in youth.

But never before had he sent such a fresh-faced team into battle. Senior players Jason Boults (30), Sam Gee (27) and Mark Hobson (27) weren’t included in the side to face York, which resulted in a 17-man squad with an average age of 22 - including three 20 year olds in centre Jon Ford and forwards Nathan Mason and George Tyson.

Eight of the 17 were 22 or under, with 26-year-old winger Dale Bloomfield the oldest man in the side.

"Age is immaterial. What matters is ability and attitude. That applies to young players as well as older players,” said Naylor.

"If a player is good enough he's old enough. I would never hold back a player because of his youth if he matches the other credentials."

When he succeeded Tony Benson as Oldham boss in the autumn of 2012, Naylor appointed a right-hand man, Lee Spencer, who had spent all his coaching career in youth rugby. He quickly showed his allegiance to the Roughyeds’ youth policy by plucking Phil Joy, Steven Nield, Danny Langtree and Kenny Hughes from the second team.

The pattern has continued this season with the arrival of 19-year-old centre Edwin Okanga-Ajwang and four forwards who are not much older — Paddy Mooney, Alex Davidson, Tyson and Mason.

Richard Joy (20) is the latest under-20s player to sign pro forms and others are understood to be making a big impression on coaching staff.